In August of 2019, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spearheaded a special issue of the New York Times Magazine entitled The 1619 Project, "a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative." The magazine showcased historians, writers, and artists to reflect on the impact slavery has had on the American – and the African American – consciousness. As Ibram X. Kendi points out in his book How to Be an Antiracist, racism didn’t start with the arrival of 20 or so Angolans on a Virginia beach. A Portuguese scholar invented a hierarchy of skin color conflated with generalized personal qualities to honor his patron, Prince Henry the Navigator (who, incidentally, never really navigated himself outside of Portugal). This invention not only took hold as justification for chattel slavery of Black people, it persists as justification for continued personal and societal racism long after slavery-as-America-has-known-it was legally abolished.
Once again, the United States is confronting its racism. Social media, for good and for ill, is amplifying the tragedies of the day and the responses to them. We have watched people being killed. We have watched protesters march. We have watched anger being displayed. We have watched monuments come down. We have watched all of it in real time. Social media is allowing us to replay events on demand, unlike how those before us were able to consume the news of the day. It is exposing even more brightly the consequences of racism for all to see. Non-White people have been telling about the effects of racism all along, though.
I hope people listen. I hope people listen to Black and Brown voices about what needs to be done. I hope people act on what needs to be done. I hope psychologists continue to tease out the mechanisms of racism so we can more effectively combat it in our society and in ourselves. I hope we all continue the long march toward freedom and equity.
For those of you who identify as a psychology teacher of color, I hope you are receiving the care and support you need in these traumatizing times. For those of you who teach students of color, I hope you are finding words and actions that care for and support your students in these traumatizing times. For those of you who do not identify as a psychology teacher of color, I hope you are listening and following the guidance of Black and Brown colleagues and friends who want you as an ally and advocate.
As we journey onward, I am asking what the Society for the Teaching of Psychology can do to move us all along the path toward freedom and equity. How can we as teachers be antiracist? How can we teach students to be antiracist? What do teachers need to be better at identifying and responding to racism? What can we as teachers do to help the discipline of psychology be a more inclusive science? I have written before about my presidential initiative to diversify our membership, and a task force is working this year to develop a process for becoming a more inclusive Society. An inclusive STP, though, is only as effective as the people who participate. I hope you bring your voice, expertise, and skills – and listen to the voices, expertise, and skills of others – to help continue building an STP that helps all teachers of psychology gives psychology away to all students.
Take care, fellow teachers.
Amy C. Fineburg, PhD2020 STP President