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The American Psychological Association (APA) has announced that it will be fighting against the "racism pandemic" that has apparently taken hold in the US. The association went on to suggest that racial inequities are deeply rooted in the country's past.
Theopia Jackson, PhD, president of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), stated that "every institution in America is born from the blood of white supremacist ideology and capitalism—and that's the disease." This sentiment falls in line with the APA's president saying that "we are living in a racism pandemic."
The association outlined three different levels of how it intends to remedy this country of its history and perpetuation of racism. These tenets are as follows: "broadly communicating psychological science on bias and racism, including through media interviews, blogs and podcasts; by developing actionable recommendations through an APA Presidential Task Force related to racial disparities in policing and police-citizen encounters, particularly related to the Black community; and by working to dismantle institutional racism over the long term, including within APA and the field of psychology."
The APA appeared to reveal that they are not, as a psychological organization, interested in objective data, but in data and information-gathering that will bolster their cause against systemic racism.
APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. PhD, stated: “APA has a long history of taking a stand on these issues, but we also know that we have our own issues as an association and as a field ... We have to look at our role as a discipline in perpetuating some of the things that are being protested. That has to be a part of our commitment.”
The association went on to say that they have information that backs up their claim that policing practices by certain areas of law enforcement treat black people more unfairly than white people. One of these studies was conducted by Jennifer Eberhardt, PhD, who reported that "reviewed body camera footage" showed that "police officers in Oakland, California, treated Black people with less respect than whites." However, it is unclear how the study was able to eliminate every other possible contributor other than race to arrive at this conclusion.
The APA has also deployed the buzz term of "implicit bias" as an effective way to both train and evaluate law enforcement officers. "Participants in APA’s first virtual town hall to address the racism pandemic also emphasized the importance of using psychological science to define terms such as 'racial justice' and to break down the many complex factors at play when a racist act is committed," the association reported.
Garrett Akinsanya stated that "psychologists in the field need ammunition to fight racism," adding that the field of psychology already has the answers.
Another aim of the APA is to bring more people of color into the field of psychology. The association reported that while 13 percent of the US population is black, this group only represents 4 percent of the psychology workforce, based on 2018 data from APA's Center for Workforce Studies.
“This discouraging statistic tells us that there is a problem in our field in academia of attracting and retaining students of diverse backgrounds, in particular African Americans,” APA President-elect Jennifer F. Kelly, PhD. said. “What this ultimately results in is an access problem.”
“Everywhere I go, I’m the only African American male psychologist,” said Dana Jackson, PsyD, a clinical psychologist based out of New York City, adding that he had never had a supervisor of color.
It has been reported that 38 percent of psychology graduate students in 2019 were from racial- or ethnic-minority groups, with 12 percent being black. This suggests that the demographics of the US population is more or less on par with the diversity within the psychology graduate departments. But the APA still believes that there is "room for improvement."
The APA has also expressed its interest in trying to "facilitate dialogue across the field about racial injustice, both within various racial-minority groups and across racial lines."
“It’s important for APA to be an example of how an organization can look at itself internally,” said organizational psychologist Catherine Learmonth, PsyD. This discussion is said to involve the so-called realities of "white privilege" and "white fragility."
There is also a push to install "anti-racism training"—something the APA has said is "a top priority."
“That should include being very clear about systemic racism and how this system is designed specifically to be invisible to white people,” said Shawn Garrison, PhD, an assistant professor and director of counseling services at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Finally, psychologists are expected to create healing opportunities for people of color that address "the cultural trauma that has been going on for the past several hundred years, the day-to-day racism-related stress and transgenerational trauma within families,” said Myra Miller, PhD, an environmental-conservation psychologist based in Santa Barbara, California.