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During the Women and Psychedelics Forum, co-promoted by the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines and the East West Psychology Program of the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), held November 19 at CIIS in San Francisco, a member of the panel twice used the “n-word” while answering a question from the public. Following a concern voiced from the live stream, the forum organizer apologized. The panelist also took the microphone to explain her intentions and to apologize for causing hurt feelings.
After the event, through comments online and in dialogue with others, we were challenged to recognize that our attitude and lack of immediate response to the use of this racist term was problematic and did not sufficiently acknowledge or address the harm it caused.
As participants of the event who are committed to racial justice and who seek to stand in solidarity with women of color, we sincerely regret not saying something in the moment. While it is positive that an apology was made in response to the objection raised on the live stream, we acknowledge that it was not strong enough and did not provide a sufficient intervention; therefore, we acknowledge our failure.
We want to begin by recognizing that the use of this word by anyone with white privilege is always unacceptable in any situation, no matter the intentions. As such, the use of this racist term needed to be addressed publicly and the harm fully accounted for.
While there are times when it is appropriate to speak to white friends privately to help address problematic patterns of racism, there are other moments when an incident must be acknowledged publicly and addressed within the community. This is one of those moments.
At such moments, it is imperative that the focus be on acknowledging the harm that has been done and prioritizing the concerns raised by people of color. A focus on the intentions of the speaker, or justifications and explanations, are problematic. This only serves to reproduce whiteness and white privilege and decenters the concerns of people of color. It also fails to fully own the racist and harmful impacts that have occurred regardless of intentions.
We publicly apologize for our silence and our insufficient response, which served as acts of complicity with white supremacy. By not speaking out against the use of this racist term at our event, we failed. As white, educated, or otherwise privileged women, it is imperative that we challenge such moments. We apologize for our failure to enact essential antiracist practices, especially at an event designed to be an intersectional and safe space for women of color, where such a failure is especially problematic and contributes to the oppression and traumatization of people of color.
We acknowledge and take responsibility for harm to the people of color present in the event and those watching on the live stream. We acknowledge in particular the harm to Black people, given the historical anti-black legacy of this word.
We want to acknowledge that a more appropriate response would have been to speak up so that the harmfulness of the incident could have been named and so that the community could have spoken together to address and repair the harm.
Finally, as white, educated, or otherwise privileged women, we also acknowledge our inevitable blind spots. We want to make sure we understand all the implications of this incident so that we can be as fully accountable as possible in order to act more skillfully going forward.
To that end, we invite opportunities to hear the concerns raised by people of color involved in this incident more fully. While we welcome this dialogue, we also acknowledge that accountability requires seeking out writings by people of color so that we can better educate ourselves on these issues and so as not to put the burden of addressing white racism and educating white people onto people of color.
Guided by the perspectives of, and in dialogue with, people of color, we invite opportunities to work deliberately on cultivating anti-racism and challenging white supremacy as we grapple proactively with our privilege and our roles in the larger problems of racism within psychedelic communities. We also commit to creating these opportunities and to actively working to enact concrete and substantive change going forward.
In sum, we formally apologize for the harm we have caused. Recognizing how this moment exemplifies the ways white supremacy continues to shape psychedelic communities, we re-commit ourselves to doing better and to cultivating stronger anti-racist practices in order to build more racially just and inclusive psychedelic communities.
Based on feedback received after publishing their apology, the authors revised the original by adding this sentence: “We acknowledge in particular the harm to Black people, given the historical anti-black legacy of this word.” It was added to make sure to name the particular harm to Black people given the history of this word. The authors thank the members of the community for this feedback. Date: January 10th, 2018.