American Psychological Association Apologizes for Its Role in Perpetuating Systemic Racism

In a historic first for one of the oldest and most respected medical organizations in the country, the American Psychological Association has issued a formal apology for its role in both promoting and perpetuating systemic racism.

NPR’s Sharon Pruitt-Young reported that “the APA, an organization that has been around since the late 1800s, issued a lengthy statement on Friday, Oct. 29, apologizing not only for the APA’s role in perpetuating systemic racism but also for the role psychology, as a field of study, has also played in systemically harming people of color for decades.”

According to Pruitt-Young, “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.”

The resolution from the group reads in part: “[The] 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 APA statement also adds that an apology from the organization should have come sooner and also points out that with the formal apology in place, many within the field of psychology today still fail to take accountability for racist and otherwise harmful actions they may have previously committed.

The apology from APA has been in the works for many months. Last year, as the group began preparing the resolution, they created a “chronological history of racism in the field of psychology.” They also conducted a number of listening sessions to “hear from people of color firsthand, and to better understand how psychology has harmed these communities throughout history.”

APA President Jennifer F. Kelly, Ph.D., said the apology resolution is just one of many steps the group plans to take in the future to further address the ills of racism. Two additional APA resolutions passed last week promise to examine the role the organization can take in helping to dismantle racism in society and to increase efforts to help end racial inequalities in healthcare.

“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,” Kelly said on behalf of APA. “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.”

Prior to APA’s formal apology, Kelly said in a statement: “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. 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.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.