Living Our Ethical Lives by Nancy Laney, PhD:

A recent interaction reminded me of how grateful I am for close friends while chaos is all around me. My friend, who is a person of color, questioned
the trust she had in our friendship and discussed with me where she thought this mistrust was coming from. She expressed that she was “exhausted dealing with white people” (I am white), “constantly trying to figure out who I can trust and who had ulterior motives in their interactions with me,” and that she was “so much smarter than people give me credit for.” 

I had never experienced this type of communication from her directed at me personally and questioning my trust. I listened to her pain and acknowledged my privilege. I told her that I valued her, cherished our friendship, and appreciated
our ability to speak freely with each other. She responded with thanks and confided that it was what she needed to hear. A few days later I checked in with her, and we also talked about my experience of the interaction. I thanked her for her vulnerability and her willingness to build a stronger friendship.

I am writing this article in mid-September, 2020. We are amid a health pandemic, heightened acts of racism, ongoing episodes of law enforcement
use of force against people of color, and rioting. Many people are experiencing income inequality and/or have lost their jobs and access to health care. We are all feeling mildly to severely stressed and are coping the best we can. We would be voting in the next month and the outcome of our choices would lead us on a certain path. 

All of this has me thinking about what can I do to influence positive change. Serving as your NCPA president I am also reflecting on what more we can do within our organization. As psychologists, how are we living our ethical principle of respecting people’s rights and dignity in our work with NCPA? 

We all know that the APA Ethics Code applies to the activities that are part of our scientific, educational, and professional roles as psychologists. Our General Principles guide us toward our highest aspirations as psychologists. Principle E asks us to have respect for people’s rights and dignity. We are called to be aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status, and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices (American Psychological Association, Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct,  2003, amended 2010 & 2016). 

At the suggestion of the Diversity and Inclusion Council where I work, I recently watched a TED talk, “What it takes to be racially literate” (Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo, TEDWomen 2017).

These two young ladies graduated from high school, took a gap year, and set out to learn more about racism. Their research revealed two fundamental
gaps in our racial literacy. First, the heart gap: an inability to understand each others’ experiences, to fiercely and unapologetically be compassionate beyond lip service. And second, the mind gap: an inability to understand the larger, systemic ways in which racism operates.

They inspired me to ask…What is NCPA doing to become more racially literate? We have a Diversity Committee. We send a diversity delegate to the annual APA State Leadership Conference. We offer continuing education about topics such as microaggressions and cultural humility. While these are steps in the direction towards literacy, we need to pick up the pace. We need to diminish and close the heart and mind gaps for ourselves and others to improve our world around us!

A younger generation is taking action towards educating and improving relationships. A great example comes from neighborhood teens from the My
Block, My Hood, My City Explorer’s Program in Chicago. The program is part of the mayor’s police-reform plan to build community-immersion programs
for new police officers. The teens take Chicago Police Training Academy recruits on tours of their schools, gardens, and favorite shops to show how their neighborhood looks to them. Although skeptical that community policing will help their neighborhood, the teens report enjoying interacting with officers outside the typical context of cops responding to crimes. They are eager to show that the neighborhood and its history “are not bad” as the news depicts and that the people in the neighborhood should be treated with dignity. Similarly, the teens recognized that “every cop is not bad” and “doesn’t always have bad intentions.” Those involved in the tours are attempting to build relationships and trust between the neighborhood people and police and to encourage the police to serve the neighborhood people better. 

What does this teach us as NCPA members? We are called to action to become racially literate by diminishing and closing the heart and mind gaps, thinking outside the box, and being proactive to help our community to change. What can we do? Here are some ideas…
• Examine our own biases, consider taking the Implicit Association Test.
• Start a book or journal club, read literature on the history of racism and about how to be anti-racist, perhaps have monthly conversations with each other and share about our everyday experiences. 
• Engage colleagues who are persons of color to join NCPA.
• Ask colleagues of color how NCPA could be more welcoming to them. 
• Invite people of color to be leaders of NCPA.
• Mentor early-career psychologists, trainees, and students of color. 
• Educate ourselves on the numerous racial disparities in our healthcare, criminal justice, and education systems just to name a few.
• Educate ourselves about the Black Lives Matter movement. 
• Review and support position papers about racism in academia. 
• Inform members of the call for papers about dismantling anti-blackness and eradicating systemic racism.

Are you respecting people’s rights and dignity? I urge you to get started on some of these ideas or initiate your own and share with NCPA members!