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Highlighting Diversity in Psychology

APA Apology Overview

On October 29, 2021 the American Psychological Association (APA) issues an apology for the role psychologists have played in upholding systemic racism.

View the full text of the apology

But a more open conversation to address racism started after Derek Chauvin, a White police officer, murdered George Floyd, a Black man, by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes (May 25, 2020).

Then APA President, Sandra L. Shullman, issued a statement in response to violence toward Black Americans.

It was heavily critiqued with in the APA (by Division 45 and Division 27) and by other psychologists for not calling to address systemic racism, encouraging self-care in the face of racism, indicating that police brutality is not systemic, and suggesting that Black people need to better comply with police to avoid the escalation of violence.

Apology to People of Color for APA’s Role in Promoting, Perpetuating, and Failing to Challenge Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Human Hierarchy in U.S.

Oppression and Resistance: A Snapshot from the Civil Rights Era Until Today

Representation Matters

APA Apology: “WHEREAS a general lack of faculty and advisors of color to assist with navigating and completing graduate programs has placed great burdens on current faculty of color to support students of color and champion all university-related issues pertaining to race and diversity, all of which is a consequence of racial disparities in the field and discipline of psychology which may be rooted in negative training-related and other experiences of faculty and students of color (DeBell, 2017; Constantine & Sue, 2007; El-Ghoroury, 2012; Keels, 2017; Johnson-Bailey et al., 2009; McCoy et al., 2015).”

Black/African-American Asian Hispanic Other ALL People of Color* White
2019 demographics in psychology 3% (3,733) 4% (4,887) 7% (8,203) 2% (2,145) 16% 83% (91,302)
2019 U.S. population data 13.4% 5.9% 18.5% 4.3% 42% 60.1%

Note: “Other includes American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, other race and those with two or more” (APA Center for Workforce Studies). *Includes non-White Hispanic people (American Psychological Association, 2020b; U.S. Census Bureau, 2021)

Discrimination in leadership opportunities
Throughout the 1990s, people of Color are grossly underrepresented in APA and in the field more generally due to historical marginalization and exclusion (Bernal & Castro, 1994). They represented only 17% of members of boards and committees and only 6% of the Council of Representatives (Hall, 1997). During this time, people of color represented 26.3% of the U.S. population.

Discrimination in funding and awards
In a 2007 report, Division 45 summarized the number of awards given to people of Color, demonstrating that members of these groups have been historically marginalized and excluded within APA. They also note disparities in governance and Council participation, Fellow status, and distribution of NIH funding (Division 45 Science Committee, 2007).

Underrepresentation particularly at the Ph.D. level
“Psychology attracts a larger proportion of racial and ethnic minority students in comparison to other disciplines. Recent years have seen dramatic growth in the percentage of bachelor’s degrees in psychology awarded to racial and ethnic minority students, particularly Black and Latinx students (Luebbe & Ogbaselase, 2018). Yet, students of Color remain significantly underrepresented in undergraduate psychology programs in comparison to the general population. Further, racial and ethnic minority psychology majors, particularly Black students, are significantly less likely to transition from undergraduate to graduate school (Luebbe & Ogbaselase, 2018). Student cohorts tend to be predominately White by the time they reach doctoral programs (Callahan et al., 2018). It is important that the discipline find ways to fix the leaky pipeline to ensure that the next generation of psychologists reflects the population which they serve” (Okubo, Schlehofer, Jung, & Steele, unpublished manuscript). – See Psychology Department Efforts to Address Racism.