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American Psychological Association says it's sorry for perpetuating systemic racism

A general view of the American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2020 amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Graeme Sloan
Sipa USA via Reuters
A general view of the American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2020 amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

The American Psychological Association is seeking to make amends for past wrongs.

The APA, an organization that has been around since the late 1800s, issued a lengthy statement on Friday apologizing not only for the APA's role in perpetuating systemic racism, but for the role psychology, as a field of study, has also played in systemically harming people of color for decades.

The organization's Council of Representatives unanimously voted to adopt a resolution that, among other things, apologizes for engaging in "racism, racial discrimination, and denigration" of communities of color; as a result, they failed in their mission to better the lives of others, they admitted.

"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," the resolution reads.

The APA's apology also admits that it should have come sooner, but stated that many in the field have failed to take responsibility, even amid continued discussions.

The apology is one of many steps the APA plans to take

The resolution comes after the APA last year launched an number of projects intended to delve more deeply into the effects of systemic racism in the field of psychology throughout history, work that was done in preparation for writing an informed apology. One endeavor was a chronological history of racism in the field of psychology, which has been made available online. They also began holding "listening sessions" earlier this year to hear from people of color firsthand and to better understand how psychology has harmed these communities throughout history.

Friday's resolution seems to be just one of many steps the organization plans to take.

"In offering an apology for these harms, APA acknowledges that recognition and apology only ring true when accompanied by action; by not only bringing awareness of the past into the present but in acting to ensure reconciliation, repair, and renewal," the resolution reads. "We stand committed to purposeful intervention, and to ensuring that APA, the field of psychology, and individual psychologists are leaders in both benefiting society and improving lives."

The APA also passed two more resolutions on Friday: one describes the work the APA and the field of psychology must to dismantle racism in society, while the other announces their commitment to combating inequality in health.

In a statement included in a press release issued on Friday, APA President Jennifer F. Kelly, PhD., acknowledged that, despite the steps that have been taken, there is more work to be done.

"For the first time, APA and American psychology are systematically and intentionally examining, acknowledging and charting a path forward to address their roles in perpetuating racism," Kelly said. "These resolutions are just the first steps in a long process of reconciliation and healing. This important work will set the path for us to make real change and guide the association and psychology moving forward."

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