More than 700 psychologists and students attended APA's Multicultural Conference in Santa Barbara in January (to be covered more extensively in next month's Monitor). From the opening state-of-the-science presentations by Drs. Claude M. Steele and John F. Dovidio to the closing open forum those privileged to be present were part of a community dedicated to addressing issues related to the psychology of race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability.
I was honored to present a keynote address where I asked the question, "Will we be ready?" Will psychology be ready for 2050, when most Americans will be people of color?
Right now, ethnic minorities constitute only 6 percent of all psychologists. Will we be ready to have culturally appropriate services that include the awareness of complex issues related to the underdiagnosis of certain conditions and diseases among minority groups, the effects of lifestyle, cultural differences and patterns of assimilation on health status?
What do we need to do?
We must increase the number of ethnic minorities in psychology. We must increase the number of ethnic minorities in our leadership, in our education and training programs, in our research labs, and in our private and public professional practices. We must change our curricula to embrace multiculturalism.
And we must change our research methods. Psychology research must increase its attention to the study of the multicultural experience.
We must have culturally competent therapists. Mental health treatment has underserved ethnic-minority groups and not fully understood the needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual men, women, and teens. Sue and Sue (1999) tell us boldly, "If the mental health profession is to receive acceptance from racial/ethnic minority groups, it must demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, its good faith and ability to contribute to the betterment of a group's quality of life."
Many issues addressed at this summit reflect themes in my Presidential Initiatives: Psychology Builds a Healthy World and Expanding Opportunities in Psychology Practice and Science. The Initiatives Miniconventions at APA's Annual Convention, Aug 2428 in San Francisco, will showcase cutting-edge research and practice and invite creative thinking in infusing multiculturalism into the mainstream of psychology.
Meanwhile, last summer when Dr. Dick Suinn left the Board of Directors, it was the first time in 11 years there was no ethnic-minority psychologist on the board. After consulting with colleagues, I am pleased that Drs. Rosie Bingham, Steve James, Lisa Porche-Burke, Derald Sue and Melba Vasquez have accepted my offer to serve as Advisors to the APA President.
In addition, I am asking that a proposal be developed for consideration by APA's Board of Directors to expand the numbers of ethnic-minority psychologists who are members and associates of APA.
And we will continue to work with the Association of Asian American Psychologists, Association of Black Psychologists, Hispanic Psychological Association and the Society of Indian Psychologists to increase the number of ethnic-minority psychologists in the United States.
APA's dedication to multiculturalism
APA has been deeply committed for decades to issues of nondiscrimination and affirmative efforts to attain equality for individuals and groups who have been the target of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry.
APA spends considerable resources each year in advocacy at the federal level to promote better services and opportunities in support of our commitment to these policies and principles. Most recently we were instrumental in passage of legislation to form a federal agency to combat health disparities among minority populations.
There isn't room in this column to list the many efforts of APA's Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs in the Public Interest Directorate. Recently a joint venture grant for $1.43 million with NIGMS, a NIH subsidiary to increase the retention and recruitment of ethnic minorities in biomedical research was renewed. The Minority Fellowship Program at APA has supported 975 students since its establishment in 1974.
APA's Commission on Ethnic Minority Membership Recruitment, Retention and Training in Psychology (CEMRRAT) is the engine behind APA's diversity initiatives. I support CEMMRAT's bold vision and I honor the efforts that psychologists across this nation have made in response to it.
I ask each of you to look at yourself, your state association, your division, your academic institution, your research lab, your public agency and consider,
"What can I do to help us get ready?"