Dear members of the SRP community,
On this day, June 19th 2020, as we celebrate the anniversary of Juneteenth and reflect on the progress still to be made in dismantling systemic racism in American society, we wish to directly address our role in the process.
The current civic unrest across the United States is the culmination of hundreds of years of brutalization, oppression, marginalization, and systemic racism against African Americans / Black communities. We at the Society for Research in Psychopathology are writing in solidarity with Black communities. The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Tony McDade are being added to a list that reaches back to 1619, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Emmet Till, Fred Hampton, Amadou Dialo, and scores of others, many of whom never received justice. These recent murders come on a backdrop of a global pandemic that is disproportionately impacting Black, Indigeneous, and other People of Color (BIPOC), again revealing the health inequities many of us know to be woven into the fabric of our institutions. As a scientific community, and as citizens of this world who believe in equity and justice, we must take a stand.
Mental health professionals have long understood that structural racism and inequities are highly detrimental to mental health and well-being. Systemic racism affects our work and our mission directly through the intergenerational and historical traumas impacting our patients, research participants, students, and ourselves. As an organization we are not immune from the historical inequities baked into American society and it is past due for us not only to acknowledge these inequities and our part in furthering them, but also to take action to correct them.
To that end we propose the following actions that we can implement, both as an organization and as individuals at our respective academic institutions. This is not a quick fix and these actions are not the only ones we will take; this is a starting point. SRP is committed to the long-term and ongoing work necessary to dismantle structural racism in the society and in our scientific community. We will continue to update our members on our initiatives and welcome suggestions and feedback from our members on how to do this work better.
Our commitment as a Society: We are committed to significantly increasing our efforts to address the serious Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) issues within the society. Although our Diversity Committee has made important strides in this area, including the establishment and expansion of the President’s travel award, increasing the diversity of invited speakers and content at our annual conference, and the implementation of scoring conference submissions for diversity and equity, this is not enough. To move us forward in more substantial ways, we commit to the following actions:
- We will form a DEI Task Force of Full and Associate members, including students, with the explicit mandate to identify and implement a DEI action plan for increasing BIPOC involvement and membership at all levels of the society. The forming of this task force is underway and announcements regarding mission progress and specific actions will be forthcoming.
- We will continue to diversify the scientific questions we feature at our annual meeting by releasing specific Calls for Speakers and Symposia on clinical science topics such as racial bias, social determinants of mental health, minority stress models of psychopathology, and evaluation of evidence based treatments for BIPOC individuals. Our goal is twofold: we commit to hosting special symposia / speakers on these topics and to diversifying the topics presented across all events (posters, oral presentations, symposia).
- In line with our societal mission of supporting early career clinical scientists, from undergraduate through tenure, we will expand our mentoring efforts to include mentoring teams with the explicit and proactive mission to support BIPOC and URM early career scientists. This will include specific events at the annual meeting as well as longitudinal career mentoring aimed at supporting BIPOC scientists as they navigate their careers. We recognize that this action is directly related to the work of the DEI Task Force; as such the task force and the executive committee will work together to implement this expansion of our mentoring structure.
- The Executive Board will review the by-laws of the Society for opportunities to institutionalize an anti-racism agenda. As a first step, we will propose that the Diversity Committee be established as a standing committee, rather than an ad-hoc committee.
What can we do as clinical scientists to dismantle racism in our field: Over the past few weeks, many excellent resources and action plans have been shared by our colleagues in clinical science and beyond. There is a LOT to do and not everything can be done at once. Below, we highlight three actions that we as individuals on the SRP executive committee are committing to as part of our own anti-racism work at our respective institutions. We welcome additional suggestions and hope to hear from you, our members, on the actions you are choosing to pursue.
- Promote the recruitment and retention of BIPOC and URM Scientists in our labs, departments, and institutions. Increasing representation and diversity in our field makes our science better (see https://wiseli.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/662/2018/11/Benefits_Challenges.pdf for an excellent review and list of resources). Many folks are already doing excellent work in this area; some of us may just be starting to increase our URM recruitment efforts or looking for ways to improve it (see our DEI Task Force commitment above). Implementing proactive recruitment strategies, addressing leaky pipeline issues, and supporting the advancement of our BIPOC and URM colleagues is an important part of changing our system. We commit to:
- Reading these concrete steps for recruiting, supporting, and advancing careers of BIPOC and URM scientists, created by colleagues Jaime Castrellon, Mina Cikara, Emily Falk, Hannah Nam, Ally Paul, Gabriel Reyes, Gregory Samanez-Larkin, and Debbie Yee.
- Consulting with our departmental/institutional DEI committees. DEI issues are not new and there are folks in our departments/institutions that have already been doing this work for a while. We will consult their mission statements, use their recommended resources (readings, trainings, events), and ask for help. This does not mean our local DEI committee member is responsible for educating us on structural racism – that work is for us to do ourselves. This action recognizes that there are those who already know more than we do and that we can learn by following their lead.
- Talking to our students. We must acknowledge the emotional and physical toll of being BIPOC and URM students in the academy, especially during times of civil unrest. Although it is important to acknowledge this regardless of a student’s racial and ethnic background, it is paramount we acknowledge this with our students who identify as BIPOC. We will make mistakes when discussing issues of structural and individual racism, we may feel uncomfortable or awkward, and students may not take us up on our offers of support or may respond with frustration and anger. But, communicating openly while not expecting anything in return is an important step in supporting our BIPOC early career scientists as they navigate a hostile system.
- Learn the history of racism in America and in our field. Understanding the historical context of structural racism in America and how it has influenced our scientific endeavors is vital if we are to dismantle structural racism in our field. Over the past few weeks, many excellent reading guides/syllabi have been released to assist researchers seeking to understand the historical context of racism. Links to some prominent lists are provided below; not all are specific to clinical science. We welcome additional suggestions.
- Anti-Black Racism, Racial Disparities, & Allyship Reading Group 12-week syllabus created by Leah Somerville and colleagues at Harvard University
- This Justice in June task list with suggestions for learning activities that require 10, 25, or 45 minutes a day created by activists Autumn Gupta and Bryanna Wallace.
- Ibram X. Kendi’s Anti-Racism reading list.
- Scene On Radio PodCast’s Season 2: Seeing White
- Diversify our reading and teaching content. This effort seeks to explicitly increase the proportion of scientific work that we are reading and teaching that is written by our BIPOC and URM colleagues and/or addresses scientific questions related to cultural and diversity issues. Dr. Erica Wojcik of Skidmore College has created a list of BIPOC-authored works that can be viewed here and submissions to this list can be made here. Additionally, we will expand the journals we typically read to include those that specifically center BIPOC and URM authored work on a range of topics. Some examples are: Journal of Black Psychology, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Culture and Psychology. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Journal of Latinx Psychology, Asian American Journal of Psychology.
We recognize that this is a start and only a start, and that the commitment to change the culture of white supremacy in our society and in academia more broadly will take consistent and persistent attention to addressing implicit biases, attitudes, and behaviors in ourselves and our institutions. We also recognize that it will take courage to speak up and to act when we see injustice, and to carry on even when it is difficult, painful, or challenging. We hope that the efforts that we have made thus far will be supported with even greater energy and dedication and that the opportunities for change that have been provided by a new awareness will be more successful than they have in the past. Nothing less than a fully inclusive and diverse society is our goal.
A group of members of the SRP Executive and Diversity Committees came together to write this statement. We would like to explicitly thank the following people for their efforts and labor in drafting this statement and collecting resources: Dr. Laura Tully, Dr. Khalima Bolden, and Dr. Jasmine Mote.