During the past 3 years, The Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) has issued several statements regarding the loss of African American and Black lives at the hands of police. Social injustice does not maintain itself in a vacuum. We condemn current and historical manifestations of White supremacy and racism that influence ourselves and our organizations. Inaction at the individual and/or organizational levels is unacceptable as passivity further reinforces the oppression faced by Black and Brown individuals. As a society of counseling psychologists within the American Psychological Association (APA), we strive to balance our leadership skills with our listening skills as we take action to reduce racism. Moreover, we reaffirm our commitment to “respect and protect civil and human rights” as stated in the APA Ethics Code.
In this spirit, we recognize that the Black Lives Matter Movement has been central to increasing awareness, activism, and empowerment surrounding the intersections of racism and police violence. In the many instances where loss of life was avoidable, we mourn. In many instances where there is no justice for victims and families, we are deeply disturbed. Further, we recognize that the disproportionate violence levied on Black and Brown people, and powerful documentation of violence, has an impact on the day-to-day experiences of people of color. We are distressed that historic and systemic racism—manifest in slavery, Jim Crow laws, and unstated practices including redlining—remain present in disproportionate rates of violence and mass incarceration. We also understand and condemn the international and national ideologies of colonialism and neoliberalism that have led to the subjugation of Indigenous and other historically marginalized populations.
In response to the above realities, we reaffirm the commitment of ourselves and our organization to actions that demonstrate our social justice values: scholarship, clinical practice, education and training, self-reflection, activism, and advocacy to end racism and other forms of oppression such as xenophobia, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, cissexism, sizeism, ableism, and Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of religious discrimination in their multiple and intersecting manifestations. In all cases, we aspire to liberation.
The Black Lives Matter Movement highlights issues of justice that are essential to our friends, family members, communities, campuses, clients, and ourselves as counseling psychologists. Further, the Black Lives Matter Movement highlights the impact of multiple systems of oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, trans-negativity) on lived experiences.
For these reasons, it is essential to have outlets and resources for understanding the Black Lives Matter Movement and the background of this movement. Additionally, strategies for increased personal and professional engagement with the issues raised by members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Black Lives Matter Movement itself, are needed.
Continue to educate ourselves about the Black Lives Matter Movement by visiting the following websites:
In addition, we can engage in the following strategies that support our lived experience of the counseling psychology value of social justice.
Maintain community and self-care through:
- Building and maintaining positive, supportive relationships
- Creating balance with media and social media. Some of us need to watch more to learn, while some of us need to watch less in order to thrive. Know our limitations and our limits
- Engaging practices such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, spiritual engagement, and community service
Do our research through:
- Connecting with local organizations that promote racial justice
- Learning more about the history of Black liberation movements and its founders
- Familiarizing ourselves with research on implicit bias and the effects of discriminatory experiences on Black people and other people of color
Do your personal work through:
- Continuing to explore the influence of privilege and marginalization in our lives
- Learning appropriate means to leverage possessed privilege(s) to support marginalized communities as an aspiring ally
- Showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement (for those who do not identify as Black and African American); not letting the burden of educating others and creating systemic change rest on the shoulders of Black people
- Exploring ways in which we can be liberated from powerful systems of xenophobia, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, cissexism, sizeism, ableism, and Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of religious discrimination in their multiple and intersecting manifestations
Note: On October 11th, 2016, SCP President Marty Heesacker shared the following message with SCP Members regarding concerns some had with SCP’s BLM Statement:
Dear SCP Colleagues,
Yesterday the SCP Executive Board held a virtual meeting. One agenda item was a request that the Board respond to issues raised on this listserv by [SCP members] regarding our Black Lives Matter statement. I want to thank them for speaking out. The Board spent 45 minutes discussing their concerns. Everyone on the call spoke. Only a couple of board members were absent and we have sought feedback from them, as well.
There was an impressive breadth and depth of Board feedback. The Board was not prepared to coalesce on a response during this meeting. So I have appointed a small committee to distil the feedback and make an action recommendation soon.
Two things were clear to me as I listened to Board members. First, there is clear support for Jewish people and clear opposition to anti-Jewish oppression, as well as opposition to Islamophobia, Christian persecution, which are responses consistent with APA’s December 2015 statementLiving in a World of Diverse Religions. Second, the listserv posts on this issue not only produced many responses from Board members, but also many responses from other SCP members, few of which have been posted on the listserv. Some SCP members did not feel safe sharing their thoughts on this issue publically. We are attempting to process all that input, including input from Palestinian American, African American, ECP, and student members, and their allies, much of which focuses on members’ marginalization experiences.
As Board members developed the statement, we did read the links we included at the end. However, those are links to web sites of other organizations, websites they can, and in this case did, change. The divestiture (BDS) plank […] which I think is of primary concern was added in early August 2016, after we wrote the statement. In fact when we voted to approve the statement we had no awareness of this plank. As emails on this topic suggest, there were unintended consequences of including links to websites of other organizations. It is now clear to me that we need for further dialogue on these issues among members of SCP. I will support that dialogue and will keep SCP members updated about Executive Board action related to this issue.
Finally, let’s never forget that we are not each other’s adversaries; we are each other’s colleagues. We have a common adversary–oppression and the unjust systems that support it. We have much more work to do together.
Note: On December 22nd, 2016, SCP President Marty Heesacker shared the “Executive Board Response to the SCP Membership Regarding Concerns Expressed about Organizational Links in the Board’s SCP Black Lives Matter Movement Statement” and a brief introductory statement with SCP Members:
Dear SCP Colleagues and Student Colleagues,
Events of the past month have highlighted our need to counter all forms of oppression including racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. So the timing is perfect for sharing the recently-approved Executive Board response to Division 17 Discussion posts beginning on October 3, 2016.
At that time, some Division members expressed their strong support for the spirit of the Black Lives Matter statement, while raising concerns about provisions of the Black Lives Matter platform calling for punitive actions against Israel; actions that could harm our colleagues at Israeli universities and our intellectual exchanges with them; and other planks that were not directly germane to support for Black lives in the USA and that were not vetted by the Executive Board or by the Division 17 membership.
At the same time, we heard from other Division members who expressed concerns about actions that can harm colleagues in Palestine and about Division 17 taking a stance against divestment from Israel. This second group also hoped that the concerns expressed about the Executive Board’s Black Lives Matter statement do not take the focus away from the important conversations we as counseling psychologists all need to continue regarding the ongoing and brutal oppression of Black Americans. The Board agreed to respond to these concerns.
We understand this a multifaceted issue that evokes strong opinions and emotions in people from different backgrounds and life experiences. Division 17 is not prepared to take a stance on issues pertaining to the specifics of the BLM endorsed platform. That being said, we do affirm our support for Black lives and Black Lives Matter.
This statement was a product of multiple reviews and revisions. A small committee met multiples times to review drafts and to seek consultation in order to best understand the concerns raised by Jewish-identified and Palestinian-identified division members, while still maintaining the statement’s focus on supporting Black lives. In considering representativeness of perspectives, the committee sought input from Palestinian-identified, Muslim-identified, and Jewish-identified members of Division 17. We also sought input from outside experts, to assess the statement for underlying and unintended bias against Jewish and Palestinian people.
Executive Board Response to the SCP Membership Regarding Concerns Expressed about Organizational Links in the Board’s SCP Black Lives Matter Movement Statement
Thank you to our membership and several of our members for sharing their experience in a rich dialogue and deep concerns in response to this statement. We especially acknowledge the postings from several members concerned about planks in the platform of the organization called The Movement for Black Lives, MBL, including a call for boycott, sanctions and divestment movement against Israel, or BDS, eliminating charter schools and police presence in schools. We also especially acknowledge the communication we received from Division members who believed that supporting divestment from Israel was not equivalent to being anti-Semitic.
First and foremost, SCP opposes oppression in all forms and we, as the Executive Board want to emphasize that “we reaffirm the commitment of ourselves and our Society to … activism and advocacy to end racism and other forms of oppression such as xenophobia, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, cissexism, sizeism, ableism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic and religious discrimination in their multiple and intersecting manifestations” as quoted from our Statement on the Black Lives Matter Movement. Specifically, we did not endorse the Movement for Black Lives’ broad public policy platform called “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice.” This platform was added to the website we listed as a link after the Executive Board developed our statement.
Further, we affirm our support for Black lives but do not take any organizational position regarding other parts of the BLM platform.
We offer several points to summarize and support continued dialogue.
- We want all members to feel safe and supported to share their voice and perspective. SCP has a long tradition of holding the tension among multiple worldviews and perspectives by naming dynamics and sharing perspective, without taking a stand beyond opposing oppression in all forms. Safe space is defined by no blaming, no shaming, and celebration of diversity of thought, while exploring and owning one’s privilege.
- The original SCP statement was intended to support BLM as a movement, not a specific organization, thus in making this statement, the Division is not explicitly taking a stance on platforms listed by BLM that are not directly related to Black liberation in the U.S. Our inclusion of links to specific BLM organizations was not intended as a signal of support for their specific policies or positions, including their policies and positions on Israel, but rather was meant as a way for SCP members to learn more about those organizations.
- The Executive Board erred in not clarifying the purpose of an organizational link.Other organizations change and update their web pages as is appropriate to those organizations. We do not control these sites and may not agree with every plank of an organizational platform in order to support our common general mission. Going forward, we will clarify the purpose and potential limitations of informational links included in SCP statements.
- In consultation with APA Legal Counsel, we have clarified that the SCP statement is not in conflict with APA policy. It is a statement by SCP and does not rise to the level of a policy. Jesse Rabin, an APA Attorney, did offer a few small edits to the statement, which we have incorporated.
- As in all difficult dialogues, the Division 17 Discussion list dialogue raised additional issues. Specifically privilege, intersections of identity, career stage and position emerged. Difficult dialogues are by definition complicated and lack easy answers. They call for all parties to listen to each other, avoid false dichotomies, and continue to address the nuances, layers, lived experience, and generational trauma that may emerge.
- During the 2017 NMCS, there will be opportunities to discuss these issues further during the More Pie Social Justice Action Dialogue (January 6, 2017, Fri, 12:00-1:20 pm) and during the Division 17 program at NMCS (January 6, 2017, Fri, 1:30-2:20 pm).