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Call to Action on Racism

June 5, 2020

Dear Psychologist,

Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. When we say those names and see their faces in the media, we must remember that they represent the very faces of many of our esteemed, respected colleagues. Those names represent the presence of an unending pandemic of racism that has been deeply embedded in our communities for far too long. Racism is the very reason that the black community has been so heavily impacted by the new pandemic that we know as COVID-19 (i.e., double the fatality rate of that for whites; ¾ of the fatalities from the virus in DC). Racism is a pandemic that has been deadly for people of color at an unprecedented rate, which extends far beyond the past three months.

The DC Psychological Association is comprised of a collective group of ethical psychologists who stand in solidarity against the very notion of racism. We recognize that living in the District, we live and work within a community that is comprised of a high percentage of black Americans. As psychologists, we are trained to understand the profound impact of trauma, especially within instances of prolonged, complex trauma. We understand that racism has substantial impact on the daily lives and functioning of black people in America and stand in solidarity with the black community in their outrage, grief, and suffering. While many of us may not know or understand what it means to exist with a persistent sense of hyper-vigilance, we know the profound impact this has on the human psyche. Psychologists cannot be part of the problem! It is important to see that the consequences of willful racism are impacting our communities’ health and lives similar to the consequences of a world-wide pandemic

As psychologists we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must check in with our black clients who are experiencing parenting struggles due to teaching their kids about how to keep themselves safe and alive in the presence of law enforcement. We must check in on our black colleagues who are living the double pandemic along with black members of the community. We cannot say we care about our black colleagues if we do not pause and reflect on the names mentioned and unmentioned above. We must check in on our black students in psychology programs who may be experiencing the trickle-down impact of institutional racism that exists across many settings within higher education settings. We must identify and name the problematic forces within these settings to create healthier environments for the future.

This is an urgent, imperative call to action to use our profession, training, and psychological science to break down the chains of racism, comprised of persistent emotional and physical bondage for those who exist in brown and black bodies. Help us expand opportunities for black Americans in psychology and help us expand the understanding of the disparities that impact black Americans as they access mental health care.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the power that we as psychologists hold when he addressed the American Psychological Association in a speech in 1967. It is imperative that we reflect on those sentiments and use our profession to start making change within our immediate professional settings and communities. We at the DC Psychological Association understand that racism is a burden whose weight is indescribable and whose presence is far beyond expired. It is our hope that you stand in solidarity with us, continue these conversations, and start identifying ways to break down systems of racism within your immediate reach. Please continue to follow us on our website for additional resources and further ‘Calls to Action.’

Board of the District of Columbia Psychological Association

As a more formal ‘Call to Action’ we would like to bring your attention to possible ways that you can contribute to current efforts that have been organized to support these recent tragedies.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is established to help support efforts against excessive criminalization of black youth.

You can locate your local representative and write to them or call the office and share your concerns about social justice matters such as police brutality and institutional racism.

Black Visions Collective is a grassroots organizing group intent on improving the cities for black communities.

Reclaim the Block fights to reallocate city funds from the police department to other parts of budgets, including those dedicated to community safety and public health.

How to Support the Twin Cities Right Now: Neighborhood cleanups, food drives, and community groups needing donations in the wake of George Floyd's death

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The D.C. Psychological Association (DCPA) works to advance psychology as a source for the promotion of public welfare and human dignity.

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