The last time I blogged (about 9 months ago), it was also because of my dissatisfaction with the American Psychological Association. 9 months ago, I was extremely unhappy with the APA’s lack of response to the deaths of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling. I was confused; all I had been taught in my studies was that “psychology cared” about people of color. If psychology actually cared I wondered, why was psychology refusing to endorse Black Lives Matter? Why was psychology refusing to publicly acknowledge systemic violence against Black Americans?
I decided I personally did not want to be among the silent. I felt that silence in the face of such injustice was oppressive. I along with some other Black students and Black psychologists decided that if APA was unwilling to march for Black Lives, we would take it upon ourselves. We communicated with APA regarding our desire to do so and were largely met with resistance and confusion. It seemed as though those higher up in the APA did not understand why we felt the need to organize a Solidarity March for Black Lives. We received email after email about the “great things” APA was doing for Black individuals.
In my eyes, this is what separates advocacy from activism. Advocacy involves policy and affects the underprivileged through a trickle-down effect. Whether or not it even reaches those most in need is questionable at times. Though it is important and definitely has its uses, the weaknesses of advocacy are rarely addressed. Activism is built from the ground up; it is grassroots; it actively involves those most affected directly. Because activism is grassroots, it often highlights how unaware those in positions of power are; it highlights their privilege. That APA was confused as to why many Black psychologists were unhappy highlights the structural racism present within APA itself.
The organizers of the Solidarity March for Black Lives and I chose not to pay heed to APA’s palliative attempts to dissuade us from moving forward. We persisted, and I’m so glad that we did. I cannot do enough justice in describing the March here to the full effect it deserves so I will simply attach a link here for you to see for yourself. Though it was heartwarming to see the positive feedback we received from psychologists of all colors, genders, sexual orientations, and more, APA still has chosen not to endorse Black Lives Matter to this day.
APA also chose not to endorse the Women’s March on Washington as well. Though I myself had issues with the lack of intersectionality and lack of accountability when it comes to Whiteness that was evidenced through the Women’s March, I support what it tried to do in theory. Women’s issues are very important. Sexual harassment is real, Sexual Assault is real. The wage gap is real. Women’s struggles are real. Psychologists have unequivocal evidence to support the statement that being a woman in this country is an experience of oppression.
The lack of a stance the American Psychological Association took with regards to Black lives and women is why I will not march with them for science now. APA’s official partnership with the March for Science but not Black Lives Matter or the Women’s March delegitimizes the latter movements. Given the backlash Black Lives matter and feminism receives from wide swaths of the American public, APA’s delegitimization of both cuts deeply.
I feel psychology at its core, is the science of people. APA though seems to have forgotten that fact – perhaps it never really knew. I am flabbergasted that psychologists can get behind a movement for science but stay silent in a movement for “people.” Are we not in the business of science AND people?
One of my previous clinical supervisors oftentimes spoke about how psychology has never realized or even accepted its mission of nobility in advancing human dignity. This is how I feel now. Many psychologists will heap praise upon APA for standing up for science but I cannot bring myself to be one of them. When I hear the APA endorsing the March for Science, all I feel is the cold shoulder of the APA as it continues to remain silent on Black Lives and women’s rights.