As a white, cis female, Michele Rattigan, MA, an associate clinical professor, is acutely aware of her privilege. Becoming a faculty member at a predominantly white educational institution made her realize that her lived experiences and perceptions are only one side of the story. “It opened my eyes to how within systems of care, oppression can specifically affect faculty, staff and students who are Black, indigenous or persons of color. I recognize that my charge is to help white colleagues to unpack whiteness in a space designed just for that,” Rattigan explained.
To that end, she started a white racial affinity group for faculty and staff of the Creative Arts Therapy (CAT) department and helped CAT students form their own. The groups provide a space for white people to understand and analyze the effect of white culture and white privilege without placing an emotional tax or a burden on people of color to teach them. The groups have been such a success that Rattigan met with other College of Nursing and Health Professions departments to encourage them to start their own.
Rattigan hopes as more groups form, it will lead to actionable steps to promote the diversity, equity and inclusion mission of CNHP and create a cultural climate where everyone feels welcome. “I want to continue to inspire others to see the urgency and necessity of white racial affinity groups for self-reflexivity as a starting point for change, to minimize harm and to do better as individuals and as a compassionate educational and healthcare community,” said Rattigan. “I’ve learned so much from my mistakes and microaggressions. One way to be a part of the change is to fail forward and challenge the status quo.”