Position Statement: AFTA Grieves AFTA Persists

Gregory Bateson (1979) relates a quasi-scientific fable: If you take a frog and drop it into boiling water, it will jump out.  However, if you put a frog in room-temperature water and slowly heat the water, the frog will accommodate the temperature increases, not jump out, and eventually boil to death without really noticing it.


As a community of people who care deeply for the well-being of families, we are all of us raging and resisting and surviving and refusing to accommodate these warming waters.  We are also grieving.

Last week we witnessed our nation’s newest Supreme Court Justice and numerous elected officials rage, seethe, spew and berate as they met a sensitively articulated account of abuse exclusively as a challenge to their presumed entitlement.  AFTA grieves with the countless women that have been subjected to gendered violence and sexual assault, with those that have taken the risk of naming their experience and those that could not, with those that have been silenced and those that have been heard yet denied justice.             

It’s been a year since thousands of families were devastated by Hurricane Maria, one of the “most massive disasters of any kind in modern American history.”   AFTA grieves with the families of the nearly 3,000 unacknowledged dead as well as those livin on without the provision of material aid or meaningful recognition of their experience.

Five months ago the Trump Administration ordered the separation of 2,342 children from 2,206 adults crossing our borders in search of asylum, driven by danger and sustained by hope.  It has been nearly 3 months since a federal judge ordered Immigration Authorities to reunite these families within 30 days.  AFTA grieves with the families of the 497 children still forcibly separated from their loved ones.

In April the government acknowledged “losing track” of 1,475 migrant children it had moved out of federal shelters after taking them from their families at the border.  Last week it was announced that the Trump administration has failed to protect an additional 1,500 migrant children they took from their families, moved to a federal shelter, placed with sponsors and then...“lost.”  AFTA grieves with the families of the these children who have been stolen from their loved ones.

This week our president proposed yet another immigration policy designed to terrorize immigrant families.  By restricting or denying families legally present in the U.S. access to public benefits sometimes essential for their survival, our elected officials confirm again their willingness to use humans as pawns for political gain.  AFTA grieves with the families of those living under the pernicious threat of separation and persecution.

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018 The United States Supreme Court voted to uphold the Trump Administration’s Muslim ban initiated six months prior, obstructing Muslim family members’ access to one another.  AFTA grieves with the families who have been denied their opportunity to celebrate births, mourn deaths, honor holidays, share meals, laugh, and embrace.

AFTA grieves with the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Jones, LaQuan McDonald, Rekia Boyd, Alton Sterling, Mike Brown, Charleena Lyles, Oscar Grant, Tanisha Anderson, Sean Bell, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Yvette Smith, Akai Gurley, Amber Monroe...and the many other families of victims of the state sanctioned violence that terrorizes black and brown Americans.

In 2017, 30 states proposed more than 129 anti-LGBTQ bills.  Twelve of these bills became law, restricting adoption access and legalizing various forms of discrimination.  We have already seen an onslaught of anti-equality legislation since 2017, including an executive order attempting to refuse trans citizens access to military service.  As these policy battles are being waged, we are witnessing a rise in unaddressed violence against trans-Americans.  The Human Rights Campaign reports that at least 28 transgender people were murdered in the United States in 2017, the most ever recorded.  2018 has already seen at least 21 trans citizens murdered.  AFTA grieves with the legally recognized and/or chosen families that are forced to endure this violence born of ignorance and fear in the face of change and possibility, among the many other unending slings and arrows of cisheternormativity.

Since January 2017, 25,323 lives have been lost to gun violence in America.  In that time, no gun safety legislation has been passed. AFTA grieves with the families of those that have lost their lives to gun violence.

AS family therapists and systemic thinkers, we long ago learned from families the importance of giving a name to the forces operating on us so that we might begin to understand ourselves as agents in our own lives.  AFTA proudly joins our colleagues at Family ProcessThe American Psychological AssociationThe National Assocation of Social WorkersThe Association of Black PsychologistsThe Galveston DeclarationCitizen Therapists Against Trumpism, and Psychology Today (among others) in naming the phenomena warming our waters as Trumpism, and the ideology fueling it as white supremacy.

Sarah Berland, LCSW                                    Victoria C. Dickerson, Ph.D.

Family Policy/ Human Rights Chair         President

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