Department of Psychology Statement on Anti-Black Racism and the Need for Anti-Racist Action

In addition to grappling with new realities and the exacerbation of racial inequities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we find ourselves processing brutal incidents of anti-Black racism and police brutality, including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black Americans. The University of Virginia Psychology Department denounces these acts of power-based violence and the systemic racism that their pattern makes plain. We acknowledge that the current anti-Black racism that is manifesting in a myriad of ways across our country originated hundreds of years ago as narratives of Black inferiority were developed and nurtured to justify the exploitation of Black bodies for White profit via the system of slavery. We acknowledge that the founder of our university, Thomas Jefferson, actively contributed to false narratives of Black inferiority through his widely-consumed writings, such as Notes on the State of Virginia. We also acknowledge that these narratives have been nurtured through centuries of terror and brutality enacted on Black people to maintain a racial hierarchy in this country. Thus, it is of no surprise that racial inequities currently exist across every domain of human life (e.g., health, education, income, wealth, housing, employment, etc.). Moreover, Black people are disproportionately surveilled, arrested, brutalized, and killed by law enforcement. We understand that this pattern of outcomes is driven by anti-Black racism and that the path to equality can only be achieved through true anti-racist action. As a Department committed to fostering an equitable, just, and inclusive environment for all members of our community, we commit to do our part to eradicate white supremacy and racism from our university. Steps that we have taken or will take include (but are not limited to):

  • We incorporate anti-racist scholarship into our curriculum and training opportunities. Through courses such as Structural Determinants of Inequality, area lunch discussions, invited colloquium speakers, and required ethics courses, we employ anti-racism texts (some of which can be found online as part of “Anti-racism resources for White people” toolkits) to contend with the history of white supremacy in our discipline and university. We provide trainings to help our community members recognize their privilege and identify opportunities to engage in anti-racist action. We are currently working to expand these offerings and training opportunities.
  • We recognize and celebrate efforts being made by members of our community to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their teaching, research, or service. We acknowledge the inherent value of these efforts in improving our departmental community and are seeking additional opportunities to engage all members of our community in these efforts. 
  • We are moving toward increased accountability in assessing diversity, equity, and inclusion contributions from faculty in our department. In doing so, we aim to communicate an expectation that all members of our community are responsible for cultivating an anti-racist and inclusive environment. Accordingly, students are asked on course evaluation forms to rate the degree to which their instructors created an inclusive classroom environment and faculty are asked to describe contributions they have made to diversity, equity, and inclusion when they complete their annual evaluation reports.  
  • We value the work done by our students, staff and faculty of color as outstanding researchers, teachers, mentors, students, advocates, and people. Our department and our field are vastly better because of these intellectual and personal contributions. Further, we realize that our department needs adequate representation of historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups across all domains. Accordingly, we have maintained several initiatives aimed at increasing the racial/ethnic diversity of students in our graduate training programs (e.g., Diversifying Psychology Visit Day, Leadership Alliance Program). Recently, we have initiated outreach activities aimed at increasing the representation of Black and Latinx students in our major. Going forward, we seek to increase the representation of faculty from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups within our department.
  • We work to amplify student voices through an ongoing funded position for a graduate student–level Director of Diversity and Inclusion, regular town halls, and an active student diversity committee, and we are committed to finding continued ways to increase students’ voices in departmental decision making. Our graduate students play key leadership roles in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the university, including initiating and continuing to coordinate an annual Diversifying Scholarship Conference where students and faculty across disciplines at UVA come together to highlight scholarship focused on socially marginalized communities, reducing inequality, and alleviating the effects of discrimination.

 

This list is not exhaustive, and we have much more work to do. We condemn systemic racism, oppression, and power-based violence and will continue to engage in action-based efforts to support and stand with our Black students, faculty, researchers, and staff, and the Black community at large.

 

Endorsed on June 4, 2020, by:

UVA Department of Psychology Steering Committee; Diversity and Inclusion Committees; Director of Graduate Studies; Director of Undergraduate Studies; and the Department Chair.