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  • Writer's picturemasonsteng

Why I hate the term resiliency

Since my undergrad days the term resiliency has been used to explain "at-risk" populations and why some folks are able to successfully overcome their adversity. Since the 90s thousands of research articles, models, theories, and measurement tools have sought to understand and promote resiliency as a method of treating "at-risk" youth and communities. I could never truly articulate why I hated resiliency as a concept until the first year of my doctoral program when I read Shwan Ginwright's book on healing justice. To read more on the history of healing justice click here. After reading this I realized that I do not like resiliency because it puts the onerous on the individual to overcome the systemic racism and oppression that they experience. Resiliency does not critically examine the causes of "risk" in order to address them, instead resiliency says "hey some folks are successfully leaving difficult situations, let's research how they do that so that we can encourage others to do the same." I am of the opinion that clinicians, teachers, and researchers should partner with policy makers and activists in order to change the harmful institutions that create risk in the first place. Through the healing justice framework we should seek to not only heal ourselves and our communities but also the institutions that cause harm in the first place.


Today I read the following article in the Boston Globe. It is such a beautiful and thoughtful piece on why resiliency can be harmful. What do you all think?

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