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Calling out bigotry

I am lucky to work in a profession where failures of character, logic or wisdom (of which I have many) are generally brought into the light to be learned from. But just like in every other profession, bigotry exists in psychology. And it tries to hide behind constructs such as 'professionalism' and 'empiricism' so that it cannot be challenged. 

Most bigots do not intend harm, often quite the opposite, and they are completely unaware of their bigotry. But we need to be more careful of bigotry and ideology in psychology than in any other profession. In the last century, so fundamental were we to the development of Eugenics that we literally gave name to that abhorrent school of thought. It was then used to justify the most appalling atrocities ever committed in the history of humanity. On the surface it made a dark type of logical sense. But the 'ethics' of benefitting the majority were used to ignore the morality of the impact on the minority. Eventually that minority included a great number of people from different groups.

And this ideology was not upheld just by a small number of backwater psychologists. Some of the most notable people in psychology and psychotherapy, that are still taught in every undergraduate degree, put their names behind it. The people who paid for this initially were those whom psychologists (and society) saw no value in (the learning disabled, the infirm, the unattractive) and then eventually the 'un'-white, the 'un'-Christian and the 'un'-Aryan. Eugenics was used as social policy for British colonial conquest and expansion ('the science of improving stock'), and later committed to the Nazi agenda of conquest, expansion and genocide. 

Humanity will perhaps never recover from the effect of that ideology that psychologists all but created. And we have a duty of care to ensure that we never, EVER can again be so shamefully and directly implicated in such an endeavour.

So we need to be able to say the word 'bigotry'. We need to be able to freely challenge bigotry in psychology. We need to disavow our profession of ideologies and schools of thought that single out minoritised groups. We need to go to those groups to allow them to choose how they are represented by psychologists in research, education and practice.

Despite the great authority we often speak with, psychology is a field in it's infancy, as humanity too is in its infancy. Whilst humans have existed for 300,000 years, it is only for the last 2000 that we have wondered if the Earth might not be flat. Western psychology is 140 years old. There is no unifying axiom, no common methodology and we barely have empirical replicability. Our value is not yet in committing scientific truths or laws to the world and we must be irreverent to our developing knowledge. 

But in lieu of this, the development of self awareness, identifying our shared tendencies for bias and error, and seeking to reach beyond imperfections like bigotry can be our true contribution.

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