REDF Section Update: Don’t Forget to Connect

Anthony G. James Jr., Ph.D., CLFE, Section Chair-elect; and Yolanda T. Mitchell, Ph.D., Section Chair
/ Fall 2020 NCFR Report

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Part of the role of NCFR sections is to provide members with an opportunity to connect socially with individuals who not only understand their research but also “get” or understand them. That understanding creates a place of safety and comfort that provides, even for a moment, much-needed relief from a perniciously unjust world. This particular function of the Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Families (REDF) Section, we have learned, is particularly salient to section members because of the history and experiences of minority communities in the U.S., namely the experiences of racism. The ecological conditions that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with the public airing of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of law enforcement, just after law enforcement states away had killed Breonna Taylor, created a powder keg of race-based frustrations that exploded and resulted in civil unrest, both domestically and internationally. These events also triggered trauma, pain, disbelief, and hopefulness for many who feel the continual sting of racial injustice. That hopelessness, while understandable, can be corrosive and debilitating. For this reason, we wanted to share a perspective by one of our members, NCFR Past President William “Bill” Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, who reminds us of the need to connect during these difficult times.


Dear Fellow Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Families Section Members:

These are certainly troubling times. It seems inescapable that our nation is at a turning point in its history. Not the least of the serious questions facing us is: “Are we finally ready to get real and honest about the systemic racism embedded in our nation?” The fact that we must address this in the midst of a pandemic (and the health and economic consequences it is causing) only highlights the seriousness of this moment.

As I sat at my computer today, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with a mixture of anger, frustration, and sadness that quite frankly moved me to tears. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that the strength of the despair that washed over me was momentarily frightening, and yet it should not have been. I had felt it long before the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day. I had felt it when hearing about other Black men brutalized or murdered by police and vigilantes in recent memory. I had also felt it witnessing Charlottesville or children separated from their parents at the border. But what really frightened me was this sudden realization: “What if George Floyd’s death had not been captured on video? Who would know, or care?” It caused me to feel even more hopeless . . .

Then, my cell phone rang, and it was my friend and colleague from Atlanta. He had reached out to check in with me and return my earlier text to him. We spoke for only about 20 minutes, but afterward my mood was brighter and more hopeful. I felt like I could go on with my work and, later, I even found time for a long bike ride. That call got me thinking about how important it is especially during these troubling times to stay connected with one another.

The members of this section really need one another in ways we may never have in the past. The fact that we may not have the chance to physically meet in November makes it imperative that we not lose our connection to one another. Time and distance (as well as the demands of family and career) will certainly present challenges for many of us. But as I found out, a simple call or short email can make a real difference.

So, I would like to ask each of us to consider reaching out to at least two other members of the section in the next few days and over the course of the summer. In addition to contacting someone you know, I’d suggest that you consider contacting someone you may not know well, for example, a student or new professional at another institution, or a new colleague you met at last year’s conference. I can tell you from personal experience that your call, email, or text can make a real difference. It might even turn someone’s day from anger to motivation, or from discouragement to hope.

Stay healthy, and stay strong…

Bill Allen


We hope that Bill’s suggestion will serve as a reminder of the humanistic function of REDF membership. Let’s not forget to connect and to be a source of support for one another as we fight against the continuous stings of racial injustice. See you at #ncfr20.