APOLOGY TO PEOPLE OF COLOR FOR APA’S ROLE IN PROMOTING, PERPETUATING, AND FAILING TO CHALLENGE RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, AND HUMAN HIERARCHY IN U.S.
Resolution adopted by the APA Council of Representatives on October 29, 2021
The American Psychological Association failed in its role leading the discipline of psychology, was complicit in contributing to systemic inequities, and hurt many through racism, racial discrimination, and denigration of people of color, thereby falling short on its mission to benefit society and improve lives. APA is profoundly sorry, accepts responsibility for, and owns the actions and inactions of APA itself, the discipline of psychology, and individual psychologists who stood as leaders for the organization and field.
Consistent with its February 2021 commitment to catalogue the long history of harms to people of color and to inform an apology and a path forward toward healing and reconciliation, APA commissioned historical research by the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron (Cummings Center, 2021). In addition, recognizing that many existing historical records and narratives have been centered in Whiteness, APA also concluded that it was imperative to capture oral history and the lived experiences of communities of color, so commissioned a series of listening sessions and surveys, which also inform this resolution, by Jernigan & Associates Consulting.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that APA reaffirms its rejection of racism and racist ideologies and its commitment to dismantling racism in all forms, including within the discipline itself, will continue to work to identify psychology’s significant potential to dismantle racism in important systems and sectors of society, and will continue to advocate for policies that create a more equitable and inclusive society that honors the needs and well-being of people of color.
APA RESOLUTION TO COMBAT RACISM
WHEREAS racism was constructed as a basis to create and sustain White supremacy by assigning value to people of European descent and disproportionately allocating societal resources and opportunities to them, while limiting or refusing access to opportunity among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), thereby severely marginalizing their status and blunting the potential of the entire society (C.P. Jones, 2018; Mosley et al., 2021);
WHEREAS White privilege is unearned power that is afforded to White people on the basis of status rather than earned merit and protects White people from the consequences of being racist and benefitting from systemic racism; such power may come in the form of rights, benefits, social comforts, opportunities, or the ability to define what is normative or valued (APA, 2019; Neville et al., 2013); WHEREAS White supremacy—the ideological belief that biological and cultural Whiteness is superior, as well as normal and healthy—is a pervasive ideology that continues to polarize our nation and undergird racism (Helms, 2017; Liu et al., 2017; Liu, 2019
WHEREAS some prominent psychologists historically have perpetuated and others continue to perpetuate racism through pseudoscientific theories that postulate racial differences in intelligence, propensity to violence, limits on educability, and other psychological characteristics, thereby contributing to eugenics and other racist movements in the United States and abroad (Editorial Board, Personality & Individual Differences, 2012; Guthrie, 2004; Helms, 2012);
WHEREAS the American Psychological Association (APA) has adopted several resolutions and guidelines over the past two decades acknowledging and denouncing the societal damage caused by racism (APA Resolution on Racism and Racial Discrimination: A Policy Statement in Support of the Goals of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance , https://www.apa. org/about/policy/chapter-4#2001-world-conference; APA Resolution on Racial/Ethnic Profiling and Other Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Law and Security Enforcement Activities  https://www.apa.org/about/policy/racial-profiling; APA’s Race and Ethnicity Guidelines  https://www.apa.org/about/ policy/summary-guidelines-race-ethnicity); WHEREAS to eradicate racism, we must understand what it is, how it operates, and who it benefits and harms, with the knowledge that many White people who do not personally harbor racial animus nonetheless benefit from racism (C.P. Jones, 2018);
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that APA adopts the following definition of racism as an ideology to establish a common understanding for psychologists and other disciplines to inform and guide efforts to examine and eradicate racism: • Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on phenotypic properties (e.g., skin color and hair texture associated with “race” in the U.S.). This “system”—which ranges from daily interpersonal interactions shaped by race to racialized opportunities for good education, housing, employment, etc.—unfairly disadvantages people belonging to marginalized racial groups and damages their health and mental health, unfairly advantages individuals belonging to socially and politically dominant racial groups, and “ultimately undermines the full potential of the whole society” (C.P. Jones, 2003).
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that psychologists should consider the following four levels of racism in designing and implementing antiracist research, education, training, policy, and clinical applications through the lens of intersectionality (APA, 2019; J.M. Jones, 1979; Smedley, 2019; Yearby et al., 2020):
• Structural racism results from laws, policies, and practices that produce cumulative, durable, and race-based inequalities, and includes the failure to correct previous laws and practices that were explicitly racist (Yearby et al., 2020).
• Institutional racism results from policies, practices, and procedures of institutions—such as school, health care, law enforcement, and criminal justice systems—that marginalize diverse racial groups (APA Multicultural Guidelines, 2019; Kovera, 2019; Yearby et al., 2020).
• Interpersonal racism occurs when individuals from socially and politically dominant racial groups behave in ways that diminish and harm people who belong to other racial groups. Interpersonal racism is therefore distinct from bigotry (negative attitudes about an outgroup, not necessarily tied to race) or prejudice (a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience; APA, 2019; Yearby et al., 2020).
• Internalized racism refers to the acceptance by diverse racial populations of the negative societal beliefs and stereotypes about themselves—including negative stereotypes and beliefs about complexion and color (i.e., colorism) that reinforce the superiority of Whites and can lead to the perception of themselves as devalued, worthless, and powerless (C.P. Jones, 2001). For example, following centuries of European colonization and/or domination, Black and Indigenous people, as well as Latino/a/x and Asian persons, may act out biased attitudes and behaviors, whereby lighter-skinned individuals of these groups assume the psychological demeanor of the dominant White group (Hall, 2002).
For the entire text of the APA Apology and Resolution to Combat Racism visit: