Q1: I suppose the first question, which seems a bit obvious, is “What is Black Psychology?”
Answer: While I was a graduate student in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, I took a mandatory course on the History of Psychology. We had to write a research paper that linked a period of history to Psychology. Windsor is directly across the river from Detroit, Michigan. When I visited Detroit, I was struck by the fact that even in the 1990s, many of the high-rise buildings that were damaged during the riots of the 1960s had never been repaired. The buildings still stood abandoned and derelict; the area around the windows was still blackened from flames. This inspired me to focus on the Civil Rights Movement and what was happening in the field of Psychology.
This research led me to a book called Black Psychology (Third Edition) which was published in 1991. The book addressed the need to develop a Black perspective on the conceptualization, research, and practice of Psychology. With so few Black psychologists, there was, and still is, a significant gap in the field.
In December 2021, I co-founded the Section on Black Psychology within the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) with four other members: Ms. Kafui Sawyer, Dr. Anita Shaw, Dr. Erin Beetam, and Dr. Monnica Williams.
The Section’s mission is to promote and advance practitioners, educators, students, and scientists of Psychology who identify as Black and who are concerned about Psychology-related issues that impact Black people.
Q2: Being a Black woman and Psychologist how have you found the term Black Psychology to be useful for other Black professionals/workers who are in differing fields?
In fairness, however, I don’t talk about Black Psychology all that often. Typically, it only comes up in the context of the Black Psychology Section of the CPA. Also, I support a full spectrum of clients, only some of them are Black.
It’s worth noting that there are affinity groups within other professions including the Black Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. It’s worth noting that those other groups are independent rather than part of a larger (predominantly white) association.
Q3: Why is Black psychology needed; why does it deserve to be defined, explored and most importantly accepted in our places of work?
Answer: The double-pandemic of Covid-19 and racism has been a huge reminder of the gap that exists within the field of Psychology, particularly in Canada.
I graduated with my PhD in Psychology over 20 years ago. During the almost 10 years of my post-secondary university journey, the only racialized professor I ever had was an Asian woman during my graduate studies. Since graduating, I’ve only met a handful of other Black psychologists and most of them got their training outside of Canada.
From what I’ve seen, there are few Black or other racialized professors of Psychology. This means that the research, teaching, and practice of Psychology are from a predominantly white perspective. This is not inclusive, and it makes it harder for psychologists to address the vast range of issues (e.g., mental health, the workplace, leadership, social justice issues, data-based policy, etc.) that are relevant to Psychology and occur in the modern world.
Q4: Have you or any of your Black colleagues/peers found much “Blacklash” from those who do not want to acknowledge or even believe in Black Psychology as a distinct field within the discipline?
Answer: I am not aware of any “Blacklash” that is attributable to the Black Psychology Section of the CPA or Black Psychology in general, but I would imagine that there are people who don’t believe that Black Psychology is legitimate. Some will argue that they don’t see colour so this topic is unnecessary. At the other end of the spectrum, and hopefully this is a small minority, there are probably others who don’t believe that Black Psychology warrants special attention because they don’t think Black people warrant the attention.
I would also say that the few Black psychologists whom I know have always had to cope with the consequences associated with individual and systemic forms of racism. This is not unique to the practice of Psychology, Black people in other fields and professions have similar experiences. To be fair, I have always enjoyed the friendship and support of some white psychologists, professors of Psychology, and aspiring psychologists. At the same time, I’ve experienced instances of exclusion (or worse) and times when others missed opportunities to be better allies.
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Please note that my colleagues from the Black Psychology Section, CPA did not participate in this blog, so the opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of all Section members.