The psychological community is responding to the riots and protests across the United States with harsh and inflammatory language; the president of the American Psychological Association (APA), which represents psychologists in the United States, accused the United States of harboring a “racism pandemic,” and the president of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) stated, “Every institution in America is born from the blood of white supremacist ideology and capitalism—and that’s the disease,” according to the APA.
Those statements were made by APA President Sandra Shullman and ABPsi President Theopia Jackson. Shulman stated:
We are living in a racism pandemic, which is taking a heavy psychological toll on our African American citizens. The health consequences are dire. Racism is associated with a host of psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety and other serious, sometimes debilitating conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. Moreover, the stress caused by racism can contribute to the development of cardiovascular and other physical diseases.
The impact of these repeated horrific incidents is inflicting trauma on the broader African American community. Research shows, for example, that compared with whites, blacks feel more negative stereotype threats and more racial profiling when interacting with the police.
Speaking in an interview with Saybrook University president Nathan Long, Jackson said, “We need our counterparts to have their own conversation; I mean good-minded white folk like you, Nathan, to have a conversation around the table with other white folks: ‘What is wrong with us? What is our humanity?’ And it’s not about activating shame or blame or white guilt; I’m not trying to do that at all; we cannot move forward as a nation until everybody does their part, to have their own in-kind conversations. White folks gotta talk to other white folks and get real about what is the dis-ease of white supremacy ideology in your life … Most folk in America ain’t ready for prime-time. They’re not ready. All those good Christian folks who say, ‘Oh, we’re post-racial, everything’s fine; they’re overreacting,’ you have played a role in this country going amok cause your silence is just as palpable as their ignorance stepping out there.”
“APA is addressing the issue on three levels: by 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 writes.
Shullman concluded, “APA has an evolving plan to contribute to the eradication of racism. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re committed to addressing this over the long term. We’re creating a plan that puts racism in the context of national and global issues, as well as the ongoing pandemic.”