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Chief Executive

Race, psychology and the BPS

26 June 2020 | by Chief Executive

The worldwide reaction to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota on 25 May has opened up important conversations about race in 2020 and the atrocities of the past.

When the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into Bristol harbour, it led many people to look inwards and at the complex and troubling history on which many British institutions are built.

Psychology and the BPS are not immune to this, and there is much in our own past that means we aren’t always the open and welcoming discipline that we strive to be.

Some significant historical psychological research is extremely troubling, and it’s vital that we look at how we teach the existence of this work to a new generation of psychologists. As a source of shame for psychology and as part of a diversified, decolonised curriculum that acknowledges the BAME contribution to psychological thought.

We will be building on the fantastic work done by trainee clinical psychologists at UCL who we met with for a listening evening earlier this year.

The BPS is commissioning a UK-wide survey of psychology trainees so that we can understand their experiences of racism and marginalisation.

Our President David Murphy is also leading a task force on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. Its work could not be more timely, and we will provide regular updates on it.

We know that there have been disproportionate health outcomes for people from Black and Asian communities during the Coronavirus pandemic. The emerging research is clear that, starkly, they are more likely to die.

A recent study of NHS online mental health support also showed that children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds are suffering worse mental health damage as a result of Covid-19.

These stark facts show us clearly that we are not living in a society where there is racial equality, and the BPS does not exist outside of this reality.

Psychology needs to be a welcoming and diverse profession. I know that, right now, that often isn’t the case. As your professional body, it is up to us to change.

If you’ve got any thoughts on what the BPS and psychology can do to create a more welcoming environment, I’d love to hear from you.


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