Keeping diversity and social justice front and center

Moving toward increased diversity in APA’s governance structure.

By Helen A. Neville, PhD

In these brief comments, I both summarize the activities of the APA Ethnic Minority Issues (EMI) Caucus at the 2013 convention convened in Hawai’i and outline what many of us see as ways to further promote diversity and inclusion in the work we do. 

At the EMI caucus, we learned more about the development of the Alliance of National Psychological Associations for Racial and Ethnic Equity (or “the Alliance”). This new and evolving entity is an exciting opportunity for the APA to work as equal partners with the Asian American Psychological Association, Association of Black Psychologists, National Latina/a Psychological Association, Society of Indian Psychologists. The Alliance is committed to establishing cross-association projects to promote social justice, racial equity and cultural diversity. The focus of the Alliance is on external projects and thus differs from some of the excellent work APA is already involved that focuses more on internal development (for example, the work of Council of National Psychology Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests, also known as CNPAAEMI). We encourage people to be on the lookout for additional information on the Alliance and opportunities to provide APA with feedback on projects as they emerge.

The “main event” at the council meeting was the approval of recommendations put forth by the association’s Good Governance Project. Essentially, the changes are designed to promote a more efficient and proactive governance structure and center around six areas: enhancing the use of technology, creating a new pipeline for leadership within the association, establishing a triage system of governance, expanding the scope of council to help shape major policy issues, delegating the budget responsibility primarily within the APA Board of Directors for a trial period and changing the APA Board of Directors composition to be more representative of the APA membership. 

Now, the real work of thinking through how these changes may be implemented begins. Most relevant to the focus of the EMI Caucus is the need to ensure that there is racial and ethnic diversity representation in the new governing structure and that the issues affecting psychologists of color and the communities we serve are an integral part of the work of APA. During the council meeting, Martha Banks — a Div. 35 council representative — proposed a governing structure model that would ensure diversity on council or an assembly, including a representative from each division and state provincial and territory association, delegates from members in broad areas of psychology (e.g., education, science, public interest, practice, health), diversity representatives (e.g., ethnic minority psychological associations, early career psychologists and APAGS). It seems important to support creative solutions such as this as we move forward in thinking through a new governing body of the APA. 

The EMI Caucus also agreed to partner with the Public Interest Committee and others to draft a statement on the Trayvon Martin killing and the murder of young boys and men of color. A draft statement is now circulating for feedback. In this statement, we rely on the research to take a stance against policies and legislations that promote racial stereotyping and inequalities including Stand Your Ground laws and stop and frisk policing. In the statement, we include suggestions for social justice oriented psychologists and others to engage in action to challenge racial (and racial-gender) injustices. Ideally, the statement will be published on relevant listservs, newsletters, and appropriate media outlets. 

We welcome new officers to the EMI Caucus including Frances Boulon as chair, Walter Hillabrant as secretary and Y. Evie Garcia as elections chair.