Tag Archives: social justice

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!

#psychologyforblacklives

National Die-In Recap

Fellow Advocates for Social Justice,

First, I want to apologize for the interval between the National Die-In and this post. I had two weeks of finals immediately after our Die-In and was focused on that. It is the challenge of being both a student and an advocate for social justice, something I know may of you are familiar with. I also needed some time and distance to reflect on what was a very powerful experience.

#psychologyforblacklives

That said, the National Die-In was a great success! Our event in Chicago had approximately 50 participants, mostly students and faculty from schools throughout the Chicago region, who attended despite frigid temperatures and snow. The fact that so many attended despite the weather was inspiring. We lay on the pavement in front of City Hall for 16 minutes, representing the 16 bullets shot at Laquan McDonald, while a student read 16 key points from the APA’s Resolution Against Racism and Racial Discrimination. Folks who just happened to be walking by lay down next to us on the cold pavement in support of our cause. One of these individuals, a high school senior, even helped us carry signs back to the school afterward. Others were not as supportive, with one passerby expressing his opinion that we should leave the United States and form our own country. We were also filmed by two local news crews, and I hope to be able to retrieve the footage so that we can share it on social media. Please check out pictures from the Chicago Die-In on our Facebook event page.

Die1 - Chicago

Students participating in the Die-In in front of City Hall in Chicago.

D1 - ChicagoThis has been an inspiring journey for me and I thank you all for your collective efforts in making this happen. We staged a coordinated event at 20 schools, across 12 states, with hundreds of student and faculty participants. You should all be proud of your efforts! Of course, this is just the first step in the #psychologists4blacklives movement and I hope that together we can keep the momentum going. We are planning to be at the APA Convention in August. An even bigger event next year would be awesome. There are so many possibilities. We just need to connect those willing and able to do the hard work that it takes to stage events, with those with the courage to attend them.

Die-In, U of Denver

Students at University of Denver, participating in the Die-In in their school library.

Die In, U of DenverSchools throughout the country uploaded their pictures as well! Die-In participants at Virginia Commonwealth University, Boston College, University of Denver, and the University of North Texas also uploaded their pictures, and these schools were joined by Auburn University with multiple tweets about their Die-Ins. I also received pictures from the University of Oregon’s Die-In. I thought we had it rough with the weather but compared to Boston College we had it easy. The BC Die-In took place on what looked to be at least 6 inches of snow. Thank you so much for those who have already used social media to disseminate news about their events. For those of you who haven’t yet, please upload your pictures to our Facebook event page, Twitter, and any other sites that you use so that we can get maximum exposure for our #psychologists4blacklives Die-Ins. Also, please share this information with your school and local news sources.

Die In, Boston College

Students at Boston College, braving the snow to support the Die-In.

Boston College Die InParticipating Schools:

  • Illinois School of Profession Psychology at Argosy, Chicago
  • Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago
  • University of North Texas
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago Campus
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington, DC Campus
  • Chicago Art Institute
  • University of Illinois School of Social Work
  • Adler University
  • Boston College
  • Auburn University
  • Adelphi University
  • Howard University
  • Roosevelt University
  • University of New Haven
  • The New School for Social Research
  • Georgetown University
  • University of Denver
  • University of Hartford
  • University of Oregon
  • National Louis University

In Solidarity,

Luciano
#psychologists4blacklives

Bring Back our Girls. (Source: Studio d’Xavier on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Enough is enough

Justice for Mike Brown Anti-Police Brutality Silent Protest in front of the White House on Saturday, August 16. (Source: Elvert Barnes on Flicker. Some rights reserved.)

Justice for Mike Brown: Anti-Police Brutality Silent Protest, in front of the White House on Saturday, August 16. (Source: Elvert Barnes on Flicker. Some rights reserved.)

I am 17 years old and I know that I have a bright future ahead of me. The only thing I don’t know is if it’ll be taken away from me by authority figures such as the police.

Oscar Grant was in the midst of changing his life around but the new future he had was stripped by BART police.

Eric Garner was a loving dad who lost his life in a chokehold performed by a group of NYPD officers.

Ezell Ford had a promising future but was shot down by LAPD officers.

We all know about Rodney King and his beating.

Michael Brown would have been educating himself at college this week but he didn’t get to take a single class.

At some point our nation needs to really think about the bigger picture at hand. The race issue is indeed an issue but the bigger issue is not white against black; the bigger issue is right against wrong. I feel that the world that we live in is very wicked if we cannot feel protected by those who are supposed to “serve and protect us.” How many more people have to be killed for us to see that injustice exists? How many tears have to be shed for us to see that something is wrong?

 How many more people have to be killed for us to see that injustice exists?

Beautiful lives have been taken away by ugly spirits and to add insult to injury, little consequences have been ordered for those responsible. In fact, officers receive administrative leave for killing innocent souls. That’s the scariest thing to me.

But we must not act out of emotion — that’s exactly when we see our opinions ignored. It seems to me that the only way to get something changed in America is through litigation. We must come up with laws that allow us to hold the murderers of innocent lives accountable.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words ring deeply true to me: “Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.”

We have been asking for justice since 1619 when slavery came to America.  All I’m asking for is peace and harmony for ethnic minorities.

Editor’s note: Damani Jasper’s opinion piece is a powerful example of how young men of color are affected by Michael Brown’s shooting. APAGS readers might find these links helpful:

APAGS High School Fellow Damani Jasper outside of a Senate hearing on student debt. Damani aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon. He completed a fellowship at APA and previously blogged about student debt.