By Tucker Paquette
Three members of the Springfield College community gathered in Dodge A&B on Nov. 11 to explain how critical race theory (commonly referred to as CRT) impacts their respective fields of interest.
Justine Dymond, a Professor of English at Springfield College, and Ashley S. McNeill, a Professor of Chemistry, were the two faculty presenters. They were joined by sophomore Amanda Simpson, a student in Springfield’s Art Therapy program.
Simpson had an abundance of information on not only the background of Critical Race Theory, but also on how this topic intersects with art therapy.
Critical Race Theory is usually taught in higher-education, according to Simpson, who added that an important element of CRT is how systemic racism is present in society in the United States, and how racism is rooted in various laws, institutions and policies.
“The goal of Critical Race Theory is to learn and unveil the systemic racism in America,” Simpson said.
Furthermore, Simpson came up with a definition of art therapy, saying how it is the process of making art that serves people in a therapeutic manner.
Connecting the dots between CRT and art therapy, Simpson explained how mental health research used to be funded by white people and done on other white people, and because of this, minority groups were adversely impacted by the white-person centered approach to research.
In fact, according to information relayed by Simpson from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ethnic minority groups aren’t as likely to seek mental health help compared to white people.
“It’s really beneficial if we view art therapy through the lens of critical race theory, because it can help us to create more diversity in the field in the future, and also to expand [a therapist’s] knowledge base,” Simpson said.
Switching gears to how Critical Race Theory’s effects can be seen in literature, Dymond shared some background on Native peoples, and how race-related issues have impacted them.
To illustrate the power of the aforementioned race-driven aggressions, Dymond shared a portion of “Whereas,” a poetry collection by Layli Long Soldier.
“Whereas” is a response to a Joint Resolution from the U.S. Congress issued in 2009 that was intended to serve as an apology to Native peoples.
Dymond emphasized how the poetry in this collection pushes back against the apology.
“There is a challenge to the very integrity of the apology through the poem,” Dymond said.
Moving along, McNeill focused her presentation on the ways in which objects can be racist, and she went on to share a few examples of this dynamic.
To begin her talk, McNeill detailed how a pulse oximeter can be racist, as the device can be inaccurate at times, specifically for people who have darker-colored skin.
McNeill explained that people get a reading from the oximeter, and if the reading is wrong, then they may not go to the hospital when they need to. This obviously is a significant, potentially life-threatening problem.
For another case study of sorts, McNeill shared something she heard from a science podcast about EEG’s (a test of brain activity that requires electrodes to touch one’s scalp).
When discussing how certain hairstyles (mainly those more often associated with Black people) make it harder for EEG’s to touch the scalp and thus be effective, McNeill outlined how the tests can be considered racist because the test doesn’t work as well on these hairstyles.
Luckily, according to McNeill’s resharing of the podcast story, a Black doctor was able to come up with an effective solution to the problem facing the patient with braided hair.
“This is why we need diversity,” McNeill said. “As a white person,… I couldn’t have been someone who would’ve come up with this solution, because I just don’t know about it.”
Photo: Dakota News