Tag Archives: Race

REPOST – Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

From Psychology Benefits Society, a blog from the APA Public Interest Directorate • July 14, 2016 By By Erlanger A. Turner, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Houston-Downtown) & Jasmine Richardson

Note: An earlier version of this blog was published on BlackDoctor.org

There have been many changes within the criminal justice system as a means to deter crime and to keep citizens safe. However, research demonstrates that often times men of color are treated harshly which leads to negative perceptions of police officers. The recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas have exposed many individuals and their families to incidents of police brutality that reminds us that as a society work needs to be done to improve police and community relations.

In light of these recent events, many people have witnessed these traumatic incidents through social media or participation in marches in their cities. The violence witnessed towards people of color from police continues to damage perceptions of law enforcement and further stereotype people of color negatively. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (Geller, Fagan, Tyler, & Link, 2014), the authors reported that 85% of the participants reported being stopped at least once in their lifetime and 78% had no history of criminal activity. What is more concerning is that the study also found that those who reported more intrusive police contact experienced increased trauma and anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, those who reported fair treatment during encounters with law enforcement had fewer symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

Read the full article.

How Much Do Black Lives Matter to the APA?

protestAs a student member of the APA and a psychologist in training, I’ve been disappointed in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) public response to the deaths of African American’s at the hands of police officers as well as mass shooters. While I’ve appreciated APA’s vigorous response to the Orlando tragedy, I couldn’t help but compare it to the APA’s response to the Charleston shootings. When I looked back to see if the APA offered services to the families of the victims of the Charleston shootings, or any other resources, I couldn’t find anything, not even a public statement condemning the shootings. Granted, the Charleston shooting occurred only a few weeks before the release of the Hoffman Report.  Yet preoccupation with the Hoffman Report does not explain APA’s silence, as it issued four press releases between the day of the Charleston shooting and the release of the Hoffman Report.

Moreover, the APA’s virtual silence in response to the numerous police shootings of unarmed African American men, women, and children is dumbfounding.  In an op-ed in response to Ferguson, written by former APA President Nadine Kaslow and former APA CEO Norman Anderson, the authors fall short of condemning the shooting of an unarmed black teenager and state, “[t]he judicial system will determine exactly what transpired between Michael Brown and the police officer.” Considering the historical treatment of African Americans by the judicial system, and the continued shocking disparities, their faith in the ability of the system to determine what transpired and provide a just outcome was questionable at best.  Perhaps Kaslow and Anderson’s questionable faith is representative of the APA’s position overall, and explains the silence.

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Take the ally challenge!

I am sick of writing posts in the wake of tragedies, and sickened to know that unless something drastically changes, they will continue to happen as they have for so many years. But I also know we can do better; I can do better. Specifically, allies need to do more in the times when there is no system-based tragedy making headlines. Therefore I am taking a 30-day ally challenge and I would love you to join me!

Sometimes trying to be an ally can feel overwhelming because there are so many social justice issues around the world to care about. Sometimes I end up doing nothing because I do not know where to begin, or how to begin. Sometimes I get stuck because I know there are people who dedicate their lives to social justice, whether on a global scale by people like Paul Farmer, or on a local scale, like the founders of the Wisconsin youth organization Proud Theater, and that as much as I would like to be, I am not one of them. It is too easy for daily life to get in the way when there is no crisis to respond to. I realize, of course, that the ability to not engage fully in a topic if it doesn’t fit in my schedule is the result of the many privileged identities I hold, but that does not change the fact that I often end up analyzing data or checking Facebook, rather than really engaging as an ally.

If you are like me, and want to do more to make the world better but are feeling stuck, let’s try this month-long experiment together. I would contend, as others have, that being an ally is a verb rather than an identity label. It is not something someone is, but something someone does, and therefore something we can practice daily in order to improve.

This is my plan of attack to practice becoming a better ally.

Step 1: Choose a topic.

We know that in order to make behavior changes, the goals have to be manageable. There are countless areas of disparity and oppression in the world, but in order to prevent inertia, I will pick one topic to focus on for two weeks – just one! (With the sad exception of responding to crises, like the recent shootings)

Step 2: Pick a time.

Behavior change works best if we can incorporate it into our daily routine. What time works best for you to do your allying? It might take some scheduling trial and error, but I think I’ll try lunchtime…

Step 3: Become an informed ally.

Without knowing about an issue, it is difficult to effectively work for change. Every day I will spend 10 minutes learning about the topic I have chosen. Is this enough time to spend allying? No. It is not even close to enough time to do justice to learning deeply about a topic. However, it is ten minutes more than I am currently spending and therefore a step in the right direction. Specifically, I will seek out perspectives of members of communities affected by the issue, as well as the perspectives of those whose beliefs run counter to my own. It is difficult to create change without dialogue, and difficult to create dialogue without understanding perspectives across the aisle.

Step 4: Take action.

Knowing about the ways in which our system is broken is a start, but allying also requires doing something about it. Each week I will therefore also do some sort of action outside my comfort zone. There are a lot of ways to be an ally in daily life, some of which might not be entirely within my control. For example, it is important to speak up about microaggressions when we see them. We can do things to increase our efficacy speaking up, like learning about how to recognize microaggressions and how to communicate effectively about them. But what if I spend the day doing research in my office and legitimately do not encounter any microaggressions to challenge? The action I take each week has to be something I can initiate that I would not have done otherwise, whether that means attending a solidarity event, volunteering, donating, starting a dialogue, or calling a legislator.

Step 5: Tell your friends.

Behaviors changes are more likely to be maintained when people have social support for making the change. Share what you’re doing and what you’ve learned with your friends and family. Spread the word. Create a network of people practicing allying.

Step 6: Do it again the next month!

In this way at the end of one month I will know more about two topics and have taken four small actions related to them. If I keep it up over a year, that will lead to knowing more about 24 topics with 48 small actions. If I get my friends to join me, who knows how big the ripples may go.

I may not ever be an ally rock star, but I sure can work at becoming a better one than I currently am.  If those of us who hold privileged identities make an effort to be more intentional allies when there is not a national tragedy, not only might that make us better at responding to tragedies when they do happen, but it might also help us start using our power more effectively to prevent them in the first place. We might not be able to solve all broken things all at once, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing the actions needed to learn about what is broken and be part of the solution. I hope you join me in this allying challenge!

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Finding a Cultural Identity: An Intersectional Autobiography

Guest columnist: Christian Chan, George Washington University

Writing about my own personal lived experiences is a meaningful action to extract, understand, and interpret the complex experiences of culture across my journey as a graduate student. I entered a professional journey as a graduate student in a Master’s program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and, later, a doctoral program in Counseling with a keen interest for developing more culturally competent interventions. What I realized most is the limitations of my own worldview, as I see through my own lived experiences and navigate my interpretation of privilege and oppression.

While I knew that multiculturalism and social justice were emphases of my journey and what I hope to contribute as an emerging scholar, leader, and educator, this interest evolved more than I had ever visualized at the beginning. I began my goal of starting a doctoral program with interests in multicultural counseling and supervision; ethnic identity development and socialization; intergenerational conflict; and acculturative stress. While those constructs still capture my interests and my view of multiculturalism, it was my own personal growth that grasped a largely missing component in the counseling profession’s research and practice. For far too long, I noted throughout my graduate training that there were still missing gaps in research and practice despite the major advances and emphasis to meet the needs of diverse populations.

My passion for intersectionality grew because I could no longer just view our treatment of clients within the limitations of cultural identities as distinct silos. What is the experience of a disabled lesbian Asian American cisgender woman? The intersections of these identities continue to grow in this discussion, but they are absolutely necessary if we are to grow as helping professions and enhance our paradigm of research. My own personal lived experiences rung through the curriculum. As a second-generation bisexual Asian American male of Filipino, Chinese, and Malaysian heritage, I also realized the intersections of my other identities as an able-bodied Catholic cisgender male who grew up in a middle-class family as the child of two immigrants. I sought for more questions and answers that moved beyond how privilege, oppression, and mental health are impacted by one identity.

Through these intersections, a pivotal moment in my doctoral program taught me so much about the negotiations of my own privilege and oppression. My initial driving force to enact multiculturalism and social justice into training, curriculum, and research was my own oppressed identities as an ethnic and sexual minority. However, my colleague confronted me about my perspectives of career development and social class. I stated that individuals could utilize their experiences from each position to hopefully move to another position. My assumption, however, is that not every individual has this choice, as they encounter several barriers in career development. I certainly have choices in my life due to my own social class, which prompted a negotiation of my own privileges. As I reflect upon those moments, I recognize that I must negotiate my privileges as lifelong learning with each step of my professional journey.

This column is part of a monthly series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and is sponsored by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Are you interested in sharing about your own navigation of intersecting identities in graduate school? We would be happy to hear from you! To learn more, please contact the chair of APAGS CSOGD (Julia Benjamin, jzbenjam@gmail.com) or CARED (James Garcia, jjg0136@gmail.com).

Vanessa Martinez-Morales_ASU Counseling Psychology

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Welcome to APAGS‘s new blog column on intersecting identities! Each of us has a complex combination of personal identities, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability status, and other life statuses like parenthood. We hope through this series to give voice to those complexities. Each month a student author will share reflections on their experiences at the intersection of their many identities. Join us each month to hear new stories and insights from students across the country!

Two Chairs, One Life

Vanessa Martinez-Morales_ASU Counseling PsychologyGuest columnist: Vanessa Martinez-Morales, Arizona State University

I invite you to join me in my counseling room where I have invited myself to engage in a two-chair exercise for two of my identities; one is for the proud Mexican-Cuban first generation American and another is for the burgeoning bisexual woman. Both these women share a parallel process: my denial and acceptance throughout the years. I brought these women here today to discuss their most recent endeavor in graduate school. I sought to explore their challenges and experiences in navigating this new environment. The two are in unchartered territory; they are both strangers and family; self and others; in synchronicity and in isolation. Today they focus on one conversation and one understanding.

Mexican/Cuban: Starting graduate school I felt pressure to perform and to prove that I, and others like me, deserve these kinds of opportunities. I wondered if I was accepted for my abilities or for the marketability of a program that accepts “students of color.” I felt a weight on my shoulders to be the best “Latina psychologist” I could be. I struggled with the absence of one image of what that would look like. And I began to search for that image.

Bisexual:  I was fearful that others would find me out and cast me off as “unprofessional, confused, unstable, attention seeking, and dishonorable.” I had no worries that my presence gained me admittance into the program, but rather fear of exclusion. I thought I could easily separate myself from the graduate school experience and let you take over. After all, I believed you were who was best equipped for this sort of thing, at least out of the two of us.

Mexican/Cuban:  I felt you “shy away” and I wanted to include you but I didn’t know how. I could barely find a “Latina psychologist” to model myself after and I admit I didn’t want to complicate my search any further. So I let you have your own friends and enjoy yourself socially, and I stayed in class, attended the faculty parties with my male partner, and worked hard to establish our academic identity. I resented your freedom.

Bisexual: You thought I was free! How do you think it felt to bite my tongue anytime sexuality was discussed in class? To only share my questions with myself? To seek only this underground railroad of friendships where I could be assured safety? To feel your doubt and questioning anytime I showed even a glimpse of myself? At times I felt I needed to be free of you and your worry that we wouldn’t be seen as a “real Latina” if I joined the conversation.

Mexican/Cuban: I am sorry. My heart races when you speak but I want you to join me. We will create our own image; our reflection.

It has taken three years for the two of you to begin this conversation. I only ask for the courage to continue and the maturity to understand that reflection on our disintegration will lead to our integration.

This column is sponsored by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Are you interested in sharing about your own navigation of intersecting identities in graduate school? We would be happy to hear from you! To learn more, please contact the chair of APAGS CSOGD (Julia Benjamin, jzbenjam@gmail.com) or CARED (James Garcia, jjg0136@gmail.com).