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Silence Is Betrayal: Evoke’s Statement on Racial Injustice

Posted by Rick Heizer on August 26, 2020

772F724D B13A 4023 B74F FF258AE8F75BIt has taken some time for Evoke to make a formal statement regarding the racial injustices in our country. Theses injustices have always been here, and the recent footage of the abuse and murders of people of color along with the systemic oppression laid bare by the Black Lives Matter movement—lack of basic healthcare, higher infant mortality rates, stunted access to housing and jobs, dramatically higher rates of incarceration—have led our nation, and Evoke itself, to an inescapable reckoning.

I believe it’s fair for our clients, families, employees, and the professionals we work with to expect a statement from us. After all, we are providers of mental wellness which is regularly and significantly affected by the traumas and injustices our society inflicts. We also know that “silence is betrayal”1 and believe we have a responsibility to use our positions of privilege, both as individuals and as a company. Thus, it’s imperative we say something, and more importantly, do something. Over these last several weeks we’ve reflected and engaged in a process of learning and discussing within and without our company in determining how best to do this.

As a company committed to being clinically sophisticated, we sometimes feel there is an unspoken expectation that we know all and are doing it all. On the contrary. Often, after meeting an individual and telling them what I do for a living, they will say something like, “Wow, you must be a great parent.” To this I frequently reply, “No, my work just affords me the burden of knowing and seeing everything I’m doing wrong.” This is all too true. For us, being clinically sophisticated and innovative requires constant effort, listening, reflection, learning, and growth. Like Confucius once said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

As a company built on therapeutic tenets, we’ve always stayed true to our founding principles, one of which is, Do your own work. This is something we've been committed to as individual owners, as well as in the ways we support employees. Part of doing our own work is being intentional; knowing and understanding why we did and do the things we do. This includes taking an honest and humble look at our company, our intentions, and then being accountable to those intentions. Another part of doing your own work is “learning to love your horrible, rotten self.”2 For Evoke this includes earnestly seeking out our inadequacies and owning our faults and failures. We can’t continue improving and growing as a company unless we take the hard look inward at our deficits. While this is easy to say, it’s been hard to do. It continues to take a great deal of humility, time, and energy. It’s been overwhelming and intimidating, and I personally, as well as the company, have made several mistakes along the way.

To be clear: Evoke absolutely stands against the many injustices in our society and we will continue to declare just how unacceptable and detrimental it is to the mental wellness of those oppressed. Additionally, by looking inward we’ve learned just how much we don’t know and aren’t doing, and just how much we need to be accountable for that lack of knowledge and action. For us to make some external statement or declaration regarding the injustices in our society without also taking action internally is hollow, meaningless.

Thus, our statement regarding the injustices in our society starts with the action of us acknowledging our part in it. We are recognizing our implicit biases, learning how we have supported structural racism, and exposing our blind-spots that oppress, neglect, and overlook. We understand that the construct of mental healthcare and the foundation of our program was built on pillars that perpetuate a systemic failure, and that the road to creating a new trail of integration, accessibility, and inclusion is not yet built, nor will it be easy to navigate.

We have come to understand and acknowledge that our program was developed for a dominant culture and does not focus on serving BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities. We are learning we can do better in how we support our BIPOC students, families, and employees. We’re learning we can do better in how we listen to and address their trauma. We recognize there is a huge chasm of mental health support for BIPOC and acknowledge Evoke’s cost limits accessibility for many individuals and families in need.

We are committing to do our own work, to humbling ourselves, and to fully engaging in the uncomfortable and unknown. We are committed to disentangling ourselves from systems that exclude and oppress. We will continue to learn about, acknowledge, and then use our privilege to increase our awareness and educate others. We will continue to address our own trauma around injustices, privilege, racism, and biases in a way we haven’t before.

We are beginning the task of completely rewriting our curriculum (Journey Packet) and programming with the full involvement and influence of marginalized populations. We will continue to address accessibility limitations, providing more scholarships. We will work with more foundations and State and Federal agencies for funding. And we will continue our involvement on multiple fronts to achieve mental healthcare insurance coverage for Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare providers like Evoke. We will continually seek out greater knowledge in creating a safe and supportive space for marginalized participants, knowing historically we haven’t been as personally or professionally aware as we might want. We are committed to doing all this with the end goal of evolving as individuals and as a company to better ourselves, educate our employees and parents, and best support our clients.

We have been comfortable in the status quo for too long. It’s time for all of us to step out of our comfort zones, to face the challenges in front us with hearts of humility and a willingness to persist. It will continue to be hard, uncomfortable, and overwhelming, and we are committed to doing it because we believe it’s our responsibility. As the great James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


"When Silence is Betrayal". (2020, June 25). Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://rethinkingschools.org/special-collections/when-silence-is-betrayal/

Reedy, B. (2020). The Audacity to Be You: Learning to Love Your Horrible, Rotten Self. Monee, IL: Brad Reedy.

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