The American Counseling Association’s Antiracism Commission grew out of an action plan developed to acknowledge and address issues of racism and discrimination within the counseling profession. The commission was established approximately one year ago, and its commissioners were appointed not long after that to begin discussing, evaluating and proposing actions to help ACA dismantle systemic and institutional barriers within the association and the profession as a whole.
Counseling Today recently contacted Taunya Tinsley, who chairs the commission, and asked her to respond to a series of questions and provide ACA members with an update on the work that she and her fellow commissioners are undertaking. Tinsley, a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor, is the owner of Transitions Counseling Services LLC. She has previously served as president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development and as a board member for the Association for Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling.
For those who aren’t aware, can you briefly share some of the backstory of how and why the ACA Antiracism Commission was established?
Under the leadership of [ACA immediate past] President Sue Pressman, the Antiracism Task Force was birthed out of discussions related to an antiracism statement crafted by a team of volunteer members in the spring of 2020. After dialogue, discernment and wordsmithing, the ACA Governing Council issued a strong statement denouncing racism. The statement spoke out against the violence being experienced in Black and Brown communities. Many members who participated in the writing of the statement were dismayed by the number of police-related deaths of unarmed Black and Brown men.
Once the motion to approve the statement was ratified, there was an immediate call for a task force to be created that would provide ACA with clear guidelines to be utilized to address this growing concern. The call to create a task force was thus realized and voted in by the Governing Council. The ACA leadership proving that they were listening to a cross section of members and volunteers set into motion a strategy geared toward creating a task force that would in return draft an action plan that would ultimately give life to the statement.
The charge: It is our mission to develop an action plan by which counselors will 1) gain cultural self-awareness in relation to intrapersonal, interpersonal, community and global contexts, 2) enhance cultural competency and 3) provide evidence-based interventions and strategies that will empower counselors and others to facilitate action within local communities addressing racism and disparities that often lead to misunderstandings and/or violence.
The council selected [ACA President] S. Kent Butler to chair a 31-member task force of representatives from across the ACA membership and leadership. Over the tenure of the Antiracism Task Force, members diligently provided an antiracism action plan. The ACA Antiracism Action Plan was composed of one short-term and one long-term goal from each designated work group. The action plan was provided to ACA staff to be vetted for sustainability and projected expenses. Once the staff completed that portion of the vetting process, the short- and long-term goals of the action plan were brought before the Financial Affairs Committee, followed by the Governing Council due process, for the eventual adoption of the actions.
The action plan called for a commission to be formed to carry out the action plan and to further develop ACA’s response to systemic racism and discrimination within the association and throughout the counseling profession. The ACA’s first ever Antiracism Commission was established and formed in spring 2021 with goals to discuss, evaluate and propose actions that will guide ACA in breaking down systemic and institutional barriers that exist in the association and the counseling profession.
What is your role in chairing the commission?
My role in chairing the commission is to lead a very distinguished group of my colleagues to facilitate change around issues of racial injustice, systemic racism and how our association must address these challenges.
As part of my role, it is important that I assist with ensuring the efficient functioning of the leadership team (i.e., commissioners) and communicating accurately and transparently the mission, vision and strategic goals of the team as well as the performance of the team.
Furthermore, I ensure that the team members receive accurate, high-quality and timely information and reports to enable them to effectively monitor all aspects of the commission’s business as well as ACA’s Antiracism Action Plan.
Finally, as the chair and coach of the team, it is important that I assist with ensuring that the commission and team members operate to the highest standards of integrity.
What is the commission charged with doing in the immediate future? How about over the long term?
As stated, the goal of the commission is to discuss, evaluate and propose actions that will guide ACA in breaking down systemic and institutional barriers that exist in the association and counseling profession. The commission has been charged with establishing a new organizational culture and assisting with reviewing policies and procedures that are antiracist.
We are in an immediate and long-term position to create meaningful and lasting changes that reflect our moral integrity and values and that are consistent with [the core professional value stated in the ACA Code of Ethics of] “honoring diversity and embracing a multicultural approach in support of the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts,” specifically Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).
As we foster ongoing, authentic conversations and dialogues about race, racism and anti-Blackness, it is our hope that we can begin to eradicate long-standing systemic racism within ACA and our profession and implement antiracist policies, procedures and trainings.
Why are you personally drawn to this work?
I am personally drawn and committed to this work! It is my core belief that I am required to act justly and to apply love, mercy and grace when providing a ministry of care and counseling. We are in a crucial period in the history of our nation and in our profession, and I am passionate about helping to acknowledge racial and ethnic disparities that impact the mental health, and add to the disparities, of BIPOC and other diverse populations. In addition to developing multiculturally and social justice-competent counselors, counselor educators and leaders, we must strategically address the historical context of systemic racism in our association, the profession and the world.
Do you expect to encounter resistance in the work you’re doing to confront racism and discrimination in the profession? If so, how will you handle that? What keeps you from getting discouraged?
Yes, the world is full of well-intentioned individuals. People with this mentality often operate from a closed-minded stance and make this crucial issue personal to them as opposed to fighting institutionalized racism, behaviors and the systemic barriers that block the pathway of those whom they claim have a right to equity and justice.
I will handle this by meeting people where they are. I will continue to assist them with increasing their self-awareness and worldview knowledge while developing antiracist skills, techniques and interventions.
Hope and faith keep me from getting discouraged!
What one thing do you want readers to walk away knowing about the ACA Antiracism Commission or racism and discrimination within the counseling profession?
The ACA board has approved an action plan to tackle issues of racism and discrimination within the association and throughout the counseling profession. In addition, the ACA Governing Council appropriated more than $200,000 to support these efforts and chart our path forward.
As [ACA CEO] Richard Yep has shared with the membership, the “Antiracism Commission is serving as a guidepost for the work to which ACA has committed. Appointed by ACA Immediate Past President Sue Pressman and current President S. Kent Butler, the commissioners were selected for their demonstrated commitment to promoting racial and social justice in every aspect of their work.”
As the inaugural commission continues to grow, there will be opportunities for ACA members, divisions and branches to collaborate and partner to advance the counseling profession to ensure a safe, just and equitable space for our clients, colleagues and communities.
The 2021-2022 ACA antiracism commissioners are:
Taunya Tinsley, chair
LaTasha Hicks Becton