23 July 2020 | by Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce
Dr Nasreen Fazal-Short is the chair of the Presidential Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion.
I recently joined the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce as Chair because the previous great Chair could not continue with the role with the advent of the pandemic.
To find out more about the taskforce:
I want to talk about myself and my reflections and I want to talk about what we are doing and where we need the help of members to ensure we optimise our impact.
So, my journey of being aware of difference started with people’s responses to me as a child but also my family responses to people who were different from us.
I was sometimes scared when I was really young that harm would come to me because of the names people would use just randomly when I walked to school and because I knew that my parents really did not belong as they had come from the Commonwealth for work.
I also heard many conversations within my family about gay people and how they should be killed because they were an aberration to God. There was also quite a lot of talk and actions related to being pure as a woman and making sure no shame was brought to the family by the actions of the female members of the family.
These conversations and ideas did not sit well with me even as a child and the legacy is a lifetime of trying to combat these ideas and beliefs.
I believe that we as psychologists, whatever our affiliations in the society or our place outside, have a lot to contribute in understanding human behaviour and what we see all around us, which is given half a chance people find a way to hate each other. We really need to utilise this knowledge collectively to change the world.
First, we need to change the place that should be the home base for all of us.
As a clinical psychologist, other psychologists prefer me when I behave and talk like a middle class or upper middle class person that they feel is ‘one of them’. If I talk as myself, a working class brown Brummie woman who is pretty feisty and questioning of the status quo, they get upset.
Being a psychologist for some people seems to mean that you have to talk in a certain way with no views about equal access to resource or systematic bias. Only angry people talk about these things, apparently.
I have had many conversations with psychologists about systematically excluding people from therapy because they were not ‘psychologically minded’. Surely, this is nonsense. It is the same nonsense as not monitoring who gets seen in therapy or the service and then not thinking about who does not have the access and taking action to rectify that.
We still systematically exclude Black people from routine therapy, but can I prove it? Of course not, because that would require people to collect proper data.
You have all seen the statistics on the over representation of Black people stopped and searched by the police on the news; we know this statistic because the police have to collect this data and report it routinely. This enables people to comment on it as proxy indicator of the institutional racism still not eradicated in the police.
This gets me onto this point within the BPS. There is currently very little member related data and we need this if we are going to be able to make the changes we need to make. I would encourage you all to participate in providing this when asked.
The taskforce is meeting every three weeks and we have now completed one meeting and started our work plan. I will ask other members of the taskforce to blog as well so you are aware of the excellent group of people on the case.
We know from members and previous feedback that there is much to do. We have been super slow in the society in acknowledging the history of psychology as a discipline and where that overlaps with oppression.
For example, saying Black people have lower IQs and smaller brains enables them to be seen as less than human so then any action can be taken against them, as we have seen by the murder that is carried out in the name of law and order.
Another example is conversion therapy; to call it a therapy is a travesty and a thinly veiled oppression utilising ‘scientific’ structures for pathologising difference.
There are many examples which I think we need to talk about openly and accept as part of our history.
In my view, I think we all need to understand that psychology has the power for great empowerment and positive change but also has the ability to collude with those wanting humans to fight or control each other for their own ends.
In the society, I think that we have not yet put our own house in order, yet feel people should listen to us. It is very hard to move forward together if half of us feel like we do not belong because we are neither reflected nor is there anyone talking about things that indicate they understand. This is part of the change we will be working on in the task force.
As part of our communication work stream, we want you to let us know your views by emailing us directly at [email protected]
We value your thoughts and opinions and will use them to inform the taskforce as our work develops.
I want us to have the hope that all of us together, however hard that is will make the changes. Whilst it is great we have the taskforce, as a group we alone will not be able to do everything that needs to be done.
In our collaboration work stream, we will be asking everyone currently in society leadership positions to join with us and help make the changes happen quickly. I only want to see the mainstreaming of this agenda by which I mean it is everybody’s business and not just those people with a special interest.
This means that we can all learn something that makes us better psychologists because we know there is no such place where you know it all. We also have to truly embrace being uncomfortable and challenged in the society to move forward together. I know we can do it. I will update in this blog on more specific initiatives and positive steps as we get those moving, including reporting on an EDI strategy.
Please stay with us as we work on this agenda, and if you, like me, have kept yourself at arm’s length from the society, please come back to us and help us make the changes.
Dr Nasreen Fazal-Short is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist currently working in independent practice.
She has spent most of the last 25 years since qualification from Birmingham working in various NHS settings, both as a jobbing psychologist and also in leadership roles.
She has been a Director of Psychological Services in the NHS and is a Graduate of the Nye Bevan Leadership Programme.
She has worked for several NHS Trusts in a variety of psychology and non-psychology roles and has held varied portfolios which included leading several successful service delivery projects and service changes. This has enabled her to amass a vast array of therapy, leadership, and management skills.