You'll never succeed: How to avoid the trap of negative self talk (#87)

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Jean Latting
May 23, 2023
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Dr. Kira Banks talks about her work with internalized oppression, what she calls appropriated racial oppression.

Highlights from this week’s interview

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.

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2:26 Jean:

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.

4:10 Jean

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?

5:43 Jean

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.

10:04 Jean

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.

15:27 Jean

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.

18:29 Jean

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.

21:07 Jean

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.

26:17 Jean

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.

33:37 Jean

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.

40:52 Jean

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 Banks Headshot

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

LinkedIn: DrKiraBanks


The views and opinions expressed in this or other blog posts at are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Leading Consciously. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. Recall a racist event experienced or witnessed by you. What was your emotional response?
  2. Have you developed any techniques to deflect racist talk? How often do you need to call on them?

Leading Consciously concepts and skills
covered in this blog post:

  • Test negative assumptions
    • Consciously test negative assumptions
    • Check to see if you are making cultural assumptions
  • Clear emotions
    • Avoid emotional suppression
    • Clear negative emotions
    • Build positive emotions
  • Bridge differences
    • As a nondominant, ferret out tendency toward internalized oppression or viewing dominants as beyond your ability to influence
    • As a nondominant, recognize dominants’ potential blind spots about the impact of their behavior

#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.