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The formal apology identified the association’s nearly 130-year history of upholding racism, beginning with the promotion of eugenics. Photo: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via Reuters
The formal apology identified the association’s nearly 130-year history of upholding racism, beginning with the promotion of eugenics. Photo: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via Reuters

American Psychological Association Apologizes for its History of Racism

APA has stated its commitment to “de-centering whiteness” in all its practices.

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On Friday, Oct. 29, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued an apology to people of color for its role in perpetuating systemic racism and discrimination in the U.S.

“For the first time, APA and American psychology are systematically and intentionally examining, acknowledging and charting a path forward to address their roles in perpetuating racism,” APA President Jennifer F. Kelly said in a statement.

APA said that its previous attempts to apologize for its responsibility in upholding racism were unsuccessful.

The resolution was adopted by APA’s legislative body, which is composed of its board of directors, APA members representing different states, and members who represent ethnic psychological associations. 

"The work done to make this apology to people of color a reality was led by the people and voices of a broad cross-section of today's APA—members, APA's elected and appointed leaders, and staff,” the resolution stated. 

The resolution recognized that the origins of psychology are rooted in an oppressive discipline that protects “Whiteness, White people and White epistemologies,” and that the field was complacent in the exploitation of people of color. 

APA was founded in 1892 with the intention to advance the science, but in its efforts to do so, it became complicit in the disparagement of communities of color, the resolution said. 

To resolve this, the formal apology identified the association’s nearly 130-year history of upholding racism, beginning with the promotion of eugenics. 

The resolution explained that the association was established by White male leaders, many of whom directly contributed to scientific methods that perpetuated systemic racial oppression, such as promoting the ideas of early 20th century eugenics. 

Eugenics, which was developed in the 19th century, is a since-denounced practice that enforces a racial hierarchy based on a White-default. 

The association said it will oppose this point of view through “culturally responsive training, ethical/equity-focused approaches, peer review, and publications.” 

The apology also addressed that many psychologists have either actively supported or failed to speak out against state-sanctioned lynchings of Black people, forced assimilation of Indigenous people, the criminalization of undocumented immigrants, and the violence perpetuated by the “model minority” myth used against Asian-Americans. 

“APA sincerely and formally apologizes to communities of color for these actions and inactions,” the apology read. 

APA has stated its commitment to “decentering whiteness” in all its practices. It plans to participate in an audit of its equity, diversity and inclusion efforts and its staff, policies and practices. The audit will be complete by early 2022. 

The association has three top priorities; to increase culturally diverse knowledge, to expand opportunities for students and scholars of color, and to elevate clinical and health equity practices. 

“This important work will set the path for us to make real change and guide the association and psychology moving forward,” Kelly said. 

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