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Race, ethnicity and culture

One on one... with Jeune Guishard-Pine

One challenge? 'To truly believe in something…'

04 October 2010

One thing that organised psychology could do better                    

It’s about time we had a network within the BPS that is devoted to ethnicity and culture. I set up the Association of Psychology and Culture (UK) with the aim of establishing a database of all research, published and unpublished, on the social science of UK ethnic minority people. It’s simply too huge a remit for a single person to manage, although my forthcoming book considers how we can inform and enhance the work that applied psychologists are doing with a range of ethnic groups in the UK. Alternatively, having a special feature for every Black History Month (October in the UK) in The Psychologist would be a useful start.

One inspiration
My mother worked full time (I am the last of 13). I only really understood her true value when as a full-time working mother myself, my vacuum cleaner broke down one day and I had to sweep the house from top to bottom.   I realised then just how much my mum had contributed physically, mentally, emotionally and financially so that our family could survive. I felt ashamed about how much I had been taking for granted domestically.

One book
Howitt and Owusu-Bempah’s 1994 book The Racism of Psychology: Time for a Change.

One thing that you would change about psychologists
Psychologists should make an effort to link to more diverse social groups. I think too many of us rarely in our personal lives encounter a similar range of people to those we work with.

One vital aspect of psychology in foster care
To notice how easy it is for all of us ‘helping’ the child to mimic the flaws in the child’s birth family.

One great thing about jazz
My husband, Professor Courtney Pine CBE, is pretty amazing! Oh, and his music’s not too bad either! Seriously, to hear great jazz is to hear outstanding musicianship. Jazz musicians are creating music instantaneously rather than writing and rewriting it over a period of months.

One alternative career path  
I would have liked to stick with music/events management from my early days of managing jazz bands if we didn’t end up having six children! Life on the road is no good for children.

One great thing that psychology has achieved
I’m really proud of the role that psychology continues to play in the debates and practice about how one’s sense of self develops – and recovers – from traumas. The various theories both transcend and elevate the role of race and culture in the development of self.

One challenge you think psychologists face
To truly believe in something. I think the politics of human organisations force too many psychologists to blow like the wind in terms of the values about the work we are doing, especially psychologists who are ambitious in status terms.

One role for black fathers
In promoting the self-pride that will strengthen the child’s defences from the violence of racism.

One hope for ‘black psychology’ in the UK
There is a definite need for a renaissance. I think once many of us associated with the black psychology movement got bogged down with balancing family life and the daily struggle of surviving public institutions, we no longer had the energy or the physical time to keep the momentum going. If we can achieve just one major publication every year, that would be a major boost to the movement.

Online-only Questions & Answers

One hero/heroine from psychology past or present
Wade Nobles, from people who I hold on a pedestal. Actually I couldn’t really ask for a better boss than the one I have now – thanks Jenny.

One regret
That I still feel that I am not judged on what I say and do.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
I think it would have to be to keep your mind open to the unlimited possibilities of human behaviour.

One problem that psychology should deal with
I was listening to Radio 5 on the 40th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act and the announcer said that the prediction is that women will not achieve equal pay to men until about 2067. My arithmetic tells me that it will take nearly 100 years to achieve a level of equality between men and women in what is a very advanced society indeed. I am intrigued to know what research is coming out of organisational and social psychology to explain and/or justify this issue.

One cultural recommendation
As a family we’re all huge fans of film. We’ve got a huge black film catalogue but I’ve got pretty eclectic tastes really… I would recommend either Godfather II or The Towering Inferno from the mainstream; and any Coen Brothers as great Indie stuff.

One moment that changed the course of your career
It has to be doing the tour of the law library wing at the University of Hull and seeing row after row of the Old English Law Reports, which made me switch to psychology.

One hope for the future of psychology
Well, maybe not for psychology as such, but I would love to see a President of the BPS that is from one of the visible racial minority groups in the UK.

One proud moment
Personally: a family photo session to commemorate 20 years together as a couple. Professionally: being criticised for being outspoken about the lack of black trainee psychologists – complacency is not an option.

One more question
What would be the strengths and weaknesses of establishing a Division of the BPS that is devoted to research and practice in relation to psychology, race and culture?