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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/an8g-nc30


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

“You wouldn’t understand, you are white”: Racial Sincerity and ACT (Anti-racist Clinical Training) through Performance and Film


african american


mental health

John Jackson (2005) animates a collective understanding of Blackness through the lens of performance studies focusing on the difference between authentic performances of Blackness and what he coins as racial sincerity- efforts and performances that intend to benefit the Black community. Sincere racial performances have everything to do with intention and the performer’s ability to (re)produce the real. This study focuses on how racial differences impact social interactions, both ethnographic and clinical, as a key theme that is often under-thematized in anthropology, and how racially sincere performances can (re)produce clinical encounters as a means of training mental health clinicians to broach conversations about racism. The responsibility to address uncomfortable truths about race and power relations in therapy lies with clinicians but is often placed on clients. Harrison’s (1997) “decolonizing anthropology” urges the field to more responsibly tell the truth about its relationship to race and to wider communities, including racialized and medical communities. Viewing truth through the lens of racial sincerity requires facing difficult and uncomfortable realities, making space for critiquing intentions that are meant to benefit Black clients but may actually cause harm, and addressing the systemic inequity which is reproduced when clinicians place their comfort (failure to discuss race) above their responsibility to create space for clients to cope with racial onslaught.  Non-textual/multimodal formats (i) demand a different kind of ethical responsibility towards the security/confidentiality/safety of subjects and (ii) provide a distinctive angle on the truths of our social world. The ACT (Anti-racist Clinical Training) study in the state of Washington used theater-based methods to train white clinicians to broach discussions on racism with Black youth clients. This roundtable will explore social dynamics between the actors/directors/co-creators, how uncomfortable truths are dealt with in the rehearsal stage, the ways in which Black actors were called upon to reproduce sincere characters, and the actor-facilitator-audience interactions during improvisation. We ask: How did incorporation of Black researchers, practitioners, and actors in the data collection, analysis, scripting, and editing of the short films problematize the sincerity of performances of Blackness?  How might the filmed performances have contributed to the intentions and performances of clinician trainees during the live improvisations?  The roundtable will be chaired by Dr. John L. Jackson, Jr and includes co-PI Jasmine Blanks Jones, Postdoctoral Fellow with the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship at The Johns Hopkins University, co-PI Noah S. Triplett, MS, Graduate Student in Child Clinical Psychology, University of Washington, Actor/Film editor Maryann Dreas-Shaikha, and invites the participation of the two featured Black youth actors and four practicing Black clinicians who served as dramaturgists and small group discussion facilitators for a scaffolded theater as pedagogy approach culminating in live improvisation where clinicians were able to practice having conversations about racism with trained Black actors. This roundtable offers implications for multimodal methods as creative approaches to addressing race and racism in cross-racial dyads with multiple levels of power and agency by documenting the processes by which the creators’ embodied practices facilitated greater discursive possibilities for themselves and their audiences.


Transcript English (automatic)

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