Beyond apologies: research reveals how psychological discourse perpetuates racism

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The American Psychological Association’s (APA) pledge to dismantle racial inequalities is under scrutiny almost two years after its formal apology for historical contributions to systemic racism. A significant new study, led by Professor Laura Smith and her team at Columbia University provides an in-depth examination of the existing challenges within the field.

Published in the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and highlighted at the 2023 APA Convention, the research employs Critical Discourse Analysis to investigate the subtle ways in which contemporary practices and language in psychology may unintentionally support racial disparities.

These findings illuminate the complexity of the challenges facing psychology’s approach to race and the urgent need for intentional, sustained efforts to drive change. The study serves as a vital reminder that tangible actions must align with commitments if the field is to make genuine progress in redressing racial inequities.

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Tiffani is a doctoral student and researcher in the Sociology department at Northeastern University - Boston. Through her research, she advocates for a mental healthcare system that moves beyond pathologizing mental distress that is rooted in the lived experiences of social injustice and inequality. In doing so, Tiffani aims to promote a person-centered mental healthcare system that respects treatment preferences, adequately addresses social and structural determinants of mental health, and provides comprehensive and continuous care.