Dr. Kira Banks talks about her work with internalized oppression, what she calls appropriated racial oppression.
This week Jean interviews Dr. Kira Hudson Banks about internalized oppression and combatting negative self images. Below are highlights; for the full interview, read the transcript.
We’re going to talk about internalized oppression. When did you become aware of race?
2:37 Kira Banks
In Montessori, which was predominantly White. I knew I was different. Both my parents are Black, with a lot of time devoted to family, but I grew up in a White environment.
What motivated you to study race and internalized oppression?
4:25 Kira Banks
My lived experience and how people think of themselves in terms of race. I went to Mount Holyoke and learned from Beverly Daniel Tatum, who wrote Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?
What is racial identity development theory?
6:02 Kira Banks
How people make sense and meaning of race. Racism tells lies and myths about who we are, to Blacks (being inferior) and Whites (being superior). I don’t use the term Internalized racism, because it implies this is part of us. I prefer appropriated racial oppression, which is imposed on us. It’s hard to get rid of something inside us, but we get power from being able to push away something external.
This ties in with imposter syndrome, which we wrote about previously (see blog 14: How to avoid the trap of imposter syndrome).
11:18 Kira Banks
I am quite successful. I have a PhD and all sorts of things, I shouldn't have this thought that I'm going to be found out. And I still have to navigate it. It’s so powerful that although we are different generations, our stories are so similar.
What is ACT?
15:37 Kira Banks
Acceptance Commitment Therapy. ACT would say that we get fused, stuck to ideas about who we are. And they don't talk about it in the context of racism, I was the first to really think about an intervention around being fused with negative ideas around racism. Cognitive diffusion gets us to separate from the power of those negative ideas.
How do you use ACT?
18:44 Kira Banks
I developed an intervention involving writing down the negative thoughts, folding up the paper, and giving it a way. It gets it out of your head and loses much of its power.
I say “what you don’t control, controls you.” I think of it as getting habituated. If you’re afraid of snakes, it does no good to hide. Instead you want to be exposed in small increments until you can tolerate their presence.
22:23 Kira Banks
There’s also the inner bully, who is making fun of us. Name it. Describe it, what is it wearing, what does it sound like? Externalize it. My bully is named Kanye West because of how he acted when Taylor Swift won that award and he stood up and said, you didn’t deserve that, it should have gone to Beyonce.
Should people feel bad for holding onto prejudiced thoughts?
26:43 Kira Banks
It’s what you said earlier: Feel it, observe it, and release it. Holding those thoughts is not good, but becoming aware of them helps you get them gone.
Might this also be helpful with White people? They worry about being racists. And the have also been lied to about race.
35:46 Kira Banks
We tend to focus on inequities; we can be voyeuristic about these inequities. But we don’t look at why they’re happening systemically, structurally. I work with people of color; it’s not that I’m not interested, it’s that I don’t have the time to pursue the lies told to Whites.
I’m reading your article. If I’m expressing it correctly, you say that a racist event does not automatically lead to anxiety and depression. What causes it is an underlying feeling, of appropriated negative experience about yourself. This tell me it’s essential to teach children how to understand and approach racism, and how to externalize it. Trying to shield them makes them vulnerable to anxiety and depression when they inevitably experience a racist event.
Dr. Kira Hudson Banks
Associate Professor of Psychology
Dr. Kira Hudson Banks is an associate professor of psychology at Saint Louis University, where she co-founded the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity. She has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, with her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke.
Connect with Kira:
Podcast: Raising Equity
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#Dominant/Nondominant #InternalizedOppression #RacialEvent #AcceptanceCommitmentTherapy #InnerBully
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Banks, K. H., S. Goswami, et al. (2021). "Interrupting internalized racial oppression: A community based ACT intervention." Journal of contextual behavioral science 20: 89-93.
Sellers, R. M., M. A. Smith, et al. (1998). "Multidimensional model of racial identity: a reconceptualization of African American racial identity." Personality and social psychology review 2(1): 18-39.