I applaud APA's efforts to attract ethnic-minority psychologists, notably through its Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training and through other actions within the APA governance and offices directed at other dimensions of diversity. Nevertheless, I believe we are not doing enough to make APA a comfortable place for psychologists who are members of marginalized groups.
As a white heterosexual able-bodied male, I understand that to make APA more welcoming to marginalized minorities, some resources may have to be reallocated, which may be perceived as threatening to members of the majority group. However, I believe that it is in the interest of everyone--the majority and the minorities--to address this problem. By taking effective action to welcome diverse groups, APA's reputation as a welcoming place will grow, and this will lead to attracting and retaining more members. Furthermore, this will enable APA to more accurately reflect the changing demographics in American society. Moreover, a more diverse APA will increase our level of creativity and productivity because our deliberations will be enriched by the benefit of multiple perspectives.
Earlier this year, I appointed former APA President Richard Suinn, PhD, to chair a task force composed of APA leaders with expertise in a number of dimensions of diversity, including ethnicity, race, disability status, sexual orientation, aging, religion and gender. The Task Force on Enhancing Diversity (TFED) has developed a report with recommendations for APA action on these two areas: increasing the sense of being welcome in APA for marginalized minorities and developing a conceptual model for how to reconcile differences when they occur among diverse groups.
I have had numerous experiences over many years in APA wherein a lack of sensitivity or downright rudeness was evident in interactions between members of dominant groups and minorities at the interpersonal or small, informal group level all the way up to the formal organizational level (e.g., the Council of Representatives). I think this constitutes institutionalized racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism and ableism (and other biases against those with disabilities), which flies in the face of the mission of APA--to "advance psychology as a science and a profession, and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare." I have asked that the task force document the marginalization of minorities in APA and develop a plan to enable APA to act upon its own stated mission by welcoming all of its members. I anticipate that this plan will be presented for adoption by the APA Council of Representatives with a plan for implementation by all aspects of our association.
Concerning the second goal, it derives partly from my recognition of the consequences when APA's majority culture fails to address the groups that are marginalized within APA--a major consequence is conflict between the majority and the marginalized. Such conflicts may be overt or covert, intentional or unintentional. However, conflict situations do not simply occur between the majority and the marginalized. Conflicts can also occur among marginalized groups themselves. I think it is especially unfortunate when members of marginalized and oppressed groups in society conflict with each other, rather than collaborate on addressing the marginalization and oppression of all groups in our society. Conflicts sometimes arise due to philosophical differences (e.g., between women's groups and people with disabilities about prenatal testing) and sometimes are fomented by a real or perceived scarcity (e.g., of money, time, attention) for which groups have to compete. These conflicts between majority and marginalized groups or among marginalized groups are, of course, not unique to psychology but run throughout our society. As psychologists we can provide conceptual models, applied practices and leadership for how these conflicts can be dealt with in our profession and in society.
It is my vision that the task force will provide a foundation that documents and illustrates issues within APA regarding marginalization of minorities. It is also my goal that the task force members, as persons with multiple expertise, help us to straightforwardly confront examples of how APA can be and is unwelcoming, and offer ways that will enable all parts of APA to progress toward true integration of all members for mutual enrichment. I also ask that all members within our association, all parts of our governance and our Central Office accept responsibility for implementation of the aspirations and recommendations from the task force...so we can truly accomplish the mission of APA.