The House Is Burning

Why Advocacy Needs To Change For Things to Change

Imagine a fire.

Imagine a crowd of people pontificating and talking about the fire while the house is burning. There is another crowd of people waiting for the fire to finish so that they can sell the land and build another house…hopefully it won’t burn again. There is a group of people who worked at the house but had front offices, they benefitted from the house while it was in business…now they talk about it (loyalty shift).

Firefighters arrive and we turn some of them away because we have imagined what the rescuers should look like. Some of the people have escaped and a child boldly proclaims how the fire started. Adults from the fire exclaim the complaints they’ve had and how they were not heard. The fire continues because we have decided that fires are part of the process. As terrible as the occasion is, we will continue on.

This is where we are. Namely in Applied Behavior Analysis.

In all the places academia, research, clinical, schools….it’s everywhere.

The house burn started with a smaller flame and smoke. We ignored it. And still are.

To bring this fire closer to relevance in our fields of study, the fire and flames ignored can be imaged in our respective clinical and academic towers.

Only this time we have added lexicon and diversity statements to our advertisements and postings, and when candidates arrived…we create smoke screens and move goal posts making it nearly impossible to chase the baton. And we end our searches with “we are trying” or “we can’t find people of diverse backgrounds.

This time we have moved the Chief Clinical Officer, who has a legacy of work mixed with racist and misogynistic behavior from one organization to another. We allow this person to mentor to socialize this behavior and continue these cycles of oppression. And we ask ourselves “how and why is this happening?”

This time we marginalize people in academia who are astounded by the socialized way we reward, applaud, and award people. We ally through hand holding and being an ear. And we wonder why we have a diversity problem…because we don’t realize yet that people have hands to hold.

When real questions are asked, we shun them. We provide ridicule when mistakes are made. And we edit the truth. Fire and smoke without water…creates more fire.

This house burn is not about buying businesses and not budgeting well. It’s not even about layoffs. Those are the flames or symptoms. This house burn is what we chose to ignore when we smelled smoke or thought the flame was not ours to put out (ownership and accountability).

This house burn is about not having a plan, strategy and dousing the flame with narcissistic mentorship, haphazard training, and no accountability to our mentors, friends, and colleagues. We have decided that articulating “we are trying” or “that’s really terrible” is enough to fan the flame. Atonement is just a word.

Our house burn is an entanglement of relationships where people cannot differentiate friendship from mentorship from supervision. It’s sprinkled with blind loyalty and fear. It’s resulted in a habitual acceptance of the visceral backlash. We watch this and apologize on behalf of ….

Blind loyalty and putting unprepared people in positions they should never have is flame behavior. This results in organizational waste, poor systems, and oppressive behavior. This flame-to-fire cycle will continue.

Meanwhile, in the autism ABA industry…we are working with children and families. And we expect people to thrive in our smoke.

Today, as we have the house burn in ABA. There is lots of talk and tell. Lots of “come over here to my house”…and our small flame of smoke. We have overused words like value and diversity with a socialized manner that looks and sounds the same (smoke).

This is evidence that we are still not listening.

 A few years ago, I had a meeting with a black male BCBA. He was a clinical supervisor. We met right after the news media covered the story about the black male therapist, Charles Kinsey, gunned down while on a community outing with a client. Having experienced parents, who masked discomfort about diverse staff in their homes with ‘goodness of fit’ wording, I asked him how he felt entering the homes of people where he felt their discomfort or feared his presence.

This black male colleague told me that if he were a firefighter called to save someone out of a burning house, he would expect that most people would want to be saved. Those that want to be saved, he would save. Those that denied him, he would walk away from. He knew the power of saving yourself while in the fire. He’s had protective gear on for the duration of his career.

But, why do we still have this fire? Why are we expecting the people to work with the weight of gear to protect themselves from the fire we flame? Why is our house still burning?

Some of us are not ready for this answer. These answers will require dismantling, fixing, and rebuilding.

  • Looking at who’s in leadership and why.
  • Looking at who our clinical advisors are and why.
  • Looking at who we invite and who we don’t.
  • Looking at why we question and when we accept.
  • Looking at why we need to speak for people who have been marginalized or wronged…when we need to speak to our colleagues about their(own) behavior.
  • Looking at why we don’t have systems
  • Looking at the organizations we uphold and the people who remain silent when our house is on fire.

Burning inside of a clinical house is never good. The service rendered towards vulnerable populations is the point, not the bottom line. 

Our house is burning…and talk, our try, empathy, and “oh no” are not the solution.

Think about what you would like to do.

What solutions do you have? If there were a Statement of Expectations what would be listed?

~Landria Seals Green

Founder, The Huddle Mentorship for Clinicians

Speaking Opportunity Availability: February 2023

(email: therapy@landriagreen.com)

Photo by Maxim Tajer on Unsplash
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