Who are we? We are a group of individuals who teach, study and work in psychology and are trying to move the discipline away from its overwhelmingly White, Western bias (see how its biased here). We are directly influenced by the Why Is My Curriculum White movement.
We work at Leeds Beckett University and received a small grant (£,2,500) from our Centre for Learning and Teaching to highlight this Western*, White bias in our BSc and MSc Psychology courses in September 2016. We know this bias is not exclusive to Leeds Beckett or even the UK, however. Therefore we have set up this website with the aim of signposting BME psychological and anti-racism work to begin to challenge this bias. We try to be mindful of the breadth and depth of racism in higher education and of the overwhelming need to do justice to BME psychological work. We know this website can only be one small step towards this.
~Glen Jankowski (email@example.com), Sarah Gillborn (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rowan Sandle (email@example.com), Kevin Hylton, & Kirsty Bower.
Why do you call psychological work by BME people: BME psychology? BME refers to Black Asian Minoritzed Ethnic and seeks to serve as a proxy to identify those disadvantaged by structural racism against those privileged by it (white people).
For many BME psychologists, there is no such thing as ‘BME psychology’. The psychology done by psychologists who happen to be BME does not necessarily differ to that done by a psychologist who is not. Both BME and white psychologists have done both good and bad psychological work. Therefore we do not mean to imply that a psychologists’ ethnicity should be the defining factor about their work or that their work will be inherently anti-racist or unique in any other way. There is a danger in ‘othering’ psychologists who happen to be BME. We must avoid this.
Standpoint theory by Sandra Harding, however, identifies that an individual’s social location gives them a perspective about the world (e.g., a oppression) that others of different social locations do not have. As Grey Passion writes:
Harding argues that marginalized people are in a privileged position to access “objective truth” (she writes about science), because marginalized groups learn the dominant viewpoint while experiencing its limitations, and hence are in the best position to see its limitations.
Therefore psychologists who are BME are more likely than white psychologists to know 1) the limitations of psychology including in explaining all people’s behaviour (and not just White, westerner’s), psychology’s historical and explicit racism and psychology’s current poor conceptualization of it and 2) the workings, breadth and depth of racism. Some BME psychologists agree with this (e.g., Association of Black Psychologists which was founded in 1968 (pg. 319): “Members of the Association have pledged themselves to the realization that they are Black people first and psychologists second”).
We believe this knowledge is not exclusive to BME people, nor is it necessarily the preserve of all BME people. Nonetheless we feel it is crucial to the progress of our discipline and fair that we attend more to BME psychological work.
On top of this, psychologists who are BME are under represented in the discipline of psychology. On a surface level this bias can be seen in the sheer predominance of white (and male) authors in our curriculum reading lists. More deeply, this bias manifests in a psychology that centers issues more relevant to Westerners over non-Westerners and eschews anti-racism.
Therefore we believe that psychology by BME people needs more attention in psychology. We believe this website is a small step in bringing this attention and that the shorthand ‘bme psychology’ is a necessary step to do this.
Why do you say Western/non-Western? Whilst we acknowledge that the Western/non-Western divide is problematic (for example in not acknowledging Australasia’s wealth) we reason it is a useful proxy to acknowledge the greater wealth and dominance of certain continents (in particular North America, parts of, but not all, of Europe etc) over others (especially Africa, South America, parts of Asia).
How can I help? We would be grateful for your help.
- If you know of a BME psychology or anti-racism work, please list in here in the archive.
- If you have teaching materials that can be used to diversify the curriculum (see examples here) which you are happy to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you know of any reports on anti racism in higher education or other resources you wish to share (that are not listed here) please email email@example.com