Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 – When Dr. King Spoke to the APA

To remember Dr. King, I want to focus on his visit to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in 1967. He was invited to speak to a division of APA – Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues – by Kenneth Clark, the first Black president of the APA.

According to Thomas Pettigrew, president of SPSSI at the time, the majority of the APA board did not want King to speak, saying his invitation was “too political” and warning that psychologists would not be interested in what he had to say. However, over 5,000 people showed up forcing the organizers to secure the largest meeting room in the venue.

The title of his speech was, “The Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement.” Below are some excerpts:

For social scientists, the opportunity to serve in a life‐giving purpose is a humanist challenge of rare distinction. Negroes too are eager for a rendezvous with truth and discovery. We are aware that social scientists, unlike some of their colleagues in the physical sciences, have been spared the grim feelings of guilt that attended the invention of nuclear weapons of destruction. Social scientists, in the main, are fortunate to be able to extirpate evil, not to invent it.

If the Negro needs social science for direction and for self‐understanding, the White society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject. The present crisis arises because, although it is historically imperative that our society take the next step to equality, we find ourselves psychologically and socially imprisoned. All too many White Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions—the Negro himself.

White America is seeking to keep the walls of segregation substantially intact while the evolution of society and the Negro’s desperation is causing them to crumble. The White majority, unprepared and unwilling to accept radical structural change, is resisting and producing chaos while complaining that if there were no chaos orderly change would come.

Negroes want the social scientist to address the White community and “tell it like it is.” White America has an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the reality of Negro life. One reason some advances were made in the South during the past decade was the discovery by northern Whites of the brutal facts of southern segregated life. It was the Negro who educated the nation by dramatizing the evils through nonviolent protest. The social scientist played little or no role in disclosing truth. The Negro action movement with raw courage did it virtually alone. When the majority of the country could not live with the extremes of brutality they witnessed, political remedies were enacted and customs were altered.

In 2018, the Journal of Social Issues revisited the speech with a special issue titled, “Tell It Like It Is”: Commemorating the 5oth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Call to Behavioral Scientists.” Former  SPSSI president, Thomas Pettigrew contributed a piece summarizing his assessment of how social psychologists have answered Dr. King’s call to “tell it like it is.” He wrote, “Summing up all the papers, we can only give a mixed answer to the key question as to whether we have answered Dr. King’s 1967 call. ”

Pettigrew continued:

In general, SPSSI and social psychology have done reasonably well in researching much of what Dr. King called for a half century ago. But the hard truth is that we have failed to communicate our findings sufficiently to the public; thus, the full meaning of this large body of work has been effectively resisted by many white Americans…

National surveys provide a glimpse of the extent of our failure to communicate our findings to the American public. Recent Pew Research Center surveys show only 36% of White Americans think racial discrimination is involved in Blacks having “…a harder time getting ahead than Whites,” only 22% believe that Blacks “are treated less fairly in the workplace,” while 38% believe that the United States “…has made the changes needed to give [B]lacks equal rights with [W]hites.”

Generally, the development of critical race theory is dated after the assassination of King. However, one can see in his 1967 remarks the seeds of some of CRT’s points. King very specifically referred to “radical structural change” (systemic change) that was needed for Black Americans to achieve equity. King said white Americans were “poisoned” by racism and called on social scientists to document this. Now, social scientists are condemned by critics of CRT when they document and call out the poison and say exactly what King said in 1967. The bitter and discouraging irony is that many of these critics invoke decontextualized King quotes they like in order to criticize CRT and tell us King would also reject CRT. The APA address calls that project into question.

 

Does Critical Race Theory Threaten the Gospel?

A lot of evangelicals are saying it does but I don’t see how.

Over the past month, I have been reading critical race theory analyses in search of how they might threaten religion in some manner. Thus far, I haven’t encountered any mention of the Bible, the gospel, or religious criticism. There is frequent mention of white privilege, colorblindness, and systemic racism. However, nothing in the analyses I have read asks anyone to change their religion or modify their beliefs in God. The only change at issue is social change in the direction of justice. Critical race theory analysts hope to highlight the insidious nature of racism in various institutions where white people are often blind to it.

As far as I can see so far, critical race analyses don’t make claims about the deity of Christ or whether He rose from the dead. There are no theological claims involved that I can find. I didn’t feel that my faith was challenged at all. There was no way of salvation offered.

What is challenged is the status quo. In one analysis, I read this passage about a private school’s decision to hire a diversity coordinator.

A CRT analysis would explore the ways in which the multicultural courses and programming challenged and changed racist practices and policies. A limitation of the liberal commitment to diversity was manifested in Well’s hiring one person, an African American, to attend to the school’s diversity initiative. Making her responsible for teaching all the multicultural courses and providing all the programming and professional development in the areas of cultural sensitivity and awareness demonstrates the school’s lack of commitment to diversity. This token commitment to diversity, which rested solely with one person, and encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, essentially ensured that change at Wells would not be sweeping or immediate. Thus, with the limited human resources Wells employed to “diversify” the school and the curriculum to create a more diverse and inclusive schooling environment, it guaranteed that changing the racist remnants of the “Old South” would not likely happen quickly, but incrementally and superficially instead, if at all. An abiding limitation of liberalism is its reliance on incremental change. Interestingly, those most satisfied with incremental change are those less likely to be directly affected by oppressive and marginalizing conditions.

On the surface, it appears that the school is working to make change, but an hard look at the situation from the minority perspective doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. When examined in this manner, it becomes clear that the school isn’t serious about diversity, but that their efforts may be to assuage guilt or to hold off public criticism. The analysis can’t get to the motive and doesn’t appear to try. However, the point is that the response isn’t sufficient to address justice and equity for minorities.

I haven’t agreed with every analysis I have read. Some use so much jargon I am not clear what they mean. However, I have not encountered any articles which ask me to convert to another religion. I have not been asked to give up mine. Seeing racism which is embedded in institutions and social practices is eye opening and sobering. Often, it makes me angry. I feel resolved to do what I can to help the situation. But what I don’t feel is an urge to convert to another gospel.

 

 

 

APA Apologizes for Role in Racism and Eugenics

Although long overdue, the American Psychological Association on October 29 issued an apology to people of color and indigenous people for the role of psychologists, including many leaders of APA, in promoting racism and eugenics thoughout the formative years of the profession. Accompanying the apology is a remarkable historical timeline of events documenting the role of psychologists in promoting white supremacy, racism, and eugenics. Finally, the APA also passed a resolution which calls on psychologists to work toward ending racism.

For the first time, I have been teaching a course in the history of psychology this semester and have covered some of this ground. Especially in considering the role of G. Stanley Hall, Lewis Terman, Paul Popenoe, Robert Yerkes, Henry Goddard and others, one must confront that at least one purpose for which these men did their work was to promote “race betterment” via eugenics policies.

This is the dark side of the history of psychology and we cannot avoid it. I am pleased to see these documents and statements from the current APA leaders. Perhaps, one of the most important immediate benefits will be to confront the same attitudes which seem increasingly common today.

So Who Could Be Against This?

When the statement was released, The Bell Curve author Charles Murray had this response.

You may remember Murray’s policy recommendations from The Bell Curve relating to government assistance to poor people:

“The technically precise description of America’s fertility policy is that it subsidizes births among poor women, who are also disproportionately at the low end of the intelligence distribution. We urge generally that these policies, represented by the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies, be ended.”

Murray’s advice is a barely sanitized version of a eugenicist’s dream. For instance, Charles Goethe, founder of the California Eugenics Society wrote this letter to the editor in the Sacramento Courier Journal in 1953.

This same Goethe visited German in 1934 and then wrote fellow Human Betterment Foundation member E.S. Gosney:

You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought and particularly by the work of the Human Betterment Foundation. I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”

This was published in the organization’s newsletter and thus available to psychologist Lewis Terman and marriage counselor Paul Popenoe who were members of the Human Betterment Foundation.

The APA steps forward with regret that psychology in the form of scientific racism and intelligence testing was used to promote sterilization, discrimination and racism, and some people today still object. I say it is about time and their reasonable service.

Josh McDowell Steps Away from Ministry

Just days after Josh McDowell created of firestorm over comments about black and minority families at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference in Orlando, Fl, he announced a pause from his ministry. This announcement came on Twitter earlier today:

McDowell cited the leadership of the campus ministry Cru as being involved in the decision. I speculate that McDowell’s comments damaged their work on campuses around the nation.

Last Saturday night (Sept 18) McDowell spoke at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference in Orlando, FL. He gave a speech decrying critical race theory and social justice. A friend of Central Baptist College professor Aaron New who was at the conference and in McDowell’s plenary session related an offensive quote which Dr. New posted on Twitter. I posted the relevant audio clip which set off a torrent of negative reaction. The next day McDowell issued an apology (see below).

The audio:

In the clip, McDowell said:

Everybody says blacks, whites everybody has equal opportunity to make it in America. No they don’t, folks. I do not believe Blacks, African-Americans or other minorities have equal opportunities. Why? Most of them grew up in families where there is not a great emphasis on education, security. You can do anything you want; you can change the world. If you work hard, you will make it. So many African-Americans don’t have those privileges like I did. My folks weren’t very rich, in fact, they were a poor farming family. But the way I was raised, I had advantages in life ingrained into me. You can do it! Get your education! Get a job! Change the world! And that makes different opportunities.

McDowell’s statement:

I wrote this last Sunday:

To me, this rings a little hollow since McDowell didn’t address his bombastic criticism of structural racism. In his statements, he completely ignored the actual reasons for lack of equity in opportunity. He told us in his apology what he didn’t mean, but he didn’t tell us what he did mean. He spent the first 10 minutes of his AACC speech blasting the concept of structural impediments to equity. So Mr. McDowell, what is the reason for lack of equal opportunity?

I hope this incident will be a teachable moment for white evangelicals who have mindlessly accepted the word of their talking heads about CRT. Brother Josh sees through a glass darkly, but he isn’t all the way to a clear view yet. I hope his awakening will be more than from a PR nightmare..

It appears that Mr. McDowell and those around him believe this incident will require more than an apology. Good for them. I hope they really will listen and learn.

Josh McDowell was not only one at the AACC conference who displayed antagonism toward systemic understanding of racism. I continue to call on Tim Clinton and the AACC to respond as well.

Hat tip – Bob Smietana, Religion News Service

Why We Need Critical Race Analysis or Something Like It, Part One

Josh McDowell is most famous for his apologetics book, Evidence Which Demands a Verdict. He made a business out of that book and subsequent books defending Christianity. Yesterday and today, he is famous for words he wants to take back.

Last night McDowell spoke at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference in Orlando, FL. He gave a speech titled “Six Epidemics in the Church.” McDowell said the first “epidemic” was critical race theory, followed by social justice. A friend of professor Aaron New who was at the conference and in McDowell’s plenary session related a stunning, offensive quote which Dr. New posted on Twitter. I got a recording of the talk and posted the clip. The whole thing set off a fire storm which led to a McDowell apology today. See the tweets below to follow the issue. In part one, I want to set the background for more comments in part two about why this episode illustrates the need for CRT or something like it.

After Aaron posted this, a scramble ensued to find audio of the talk. A conference goer sent it along and I clipped out the quote which demonstrated that it was in essence what Aaron and his conference friend reported.

In the clip, McDowell said:

Everybody says blacks, whites everybody has equal opportunity to make it in America. No they don’t, folks. I do not believe Blacks, African-Americans or other minorities have equal opportunities. Why? Most of them grew up in families where there is not a great emphasis on education, security. You can do anything you want; you can change the world. If you work hard, you will make it. So many African-Americans don’t have those privileges like I did. My folks weren’t very rich, in fact, they were a poor farming family. But the way I was raised, I had advantages in life ingrained into me. You can do it! Get your education! Get a job! Change the world! And that makes different opportunities.

After being thoroughly criticized for hours on Twitter, McDowell today issued this statement:

To me, this rings a little hollow since McDowell didn’t address his bombastic criticism of structural racism. In his statements, he completely ignored the actual reasons for lack of equity in opportunity. He told us in his apology what he didn’t mean, but he didn’t tell us what he did mean. He spent the first 10 minutes of his AACC speech blasting the concept of structural impediments to equity. So Mr. McDowell, what is the reason for lack of equal opportunity?

I hope this incident will be a teachable moment for white evangelicals who have mindlessly accepted the word of their talking heads about CRT. Brother Josh sees through a glass darkly, but he isn’t all the way to a clear view yet. I hope his awakening will be more than from a PR nightmare.

Mike Huckabee Hasn’t Changed Much

Over the past four years, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has become a reliable defender of Donald Trump and Trumpism. He recently aroused the ire of Beth Moore and hundreds of other Twitter users with a  trademark bad dad joke tweet implying that Chinese people get special privilege from corporate America. The tone of the tweet appears to minimize the recent wave of anti-Asian attacks.

He’s back at it again today with this tweet.

Actually, totured reasoning isn’t anything new to Huckabee. The same guy who once half-joked that he wished he could force people at gun point to listen to David Barton’s lectures, once defended the police for shooting two black youth for stealing beer.

While I cannot say how this came to me, I here reproduce a column Huckabee wrote in 1975 which justifies the police shooting of two black young men who were caught stealing beer. One of the young men, 17, was killed. Huckabee actually says the shooting was the fault of the boys. Because they stole beer, they deserved to be shot, he reasoned. In the real world, it is hard to imagine white boys being shot dead for stealing beer.

Huckabee’s insensitivity to race as an issue in this shooting sounds sadly contemporary. White boys stealing some beer — or abusing an animal as Huckabee’s son was once accused of doing — might be slapped on the hands or given probation, but deadly force was used with these black young men.

Huckabee’s defense of the officers was that they couldn’t tell if the young men were black or white. This seems to be a ridiculous assertion. According to Huckabee, the boys were ordered to stop but ran. The officers surely saw them when they ordered them to stop. They were close enough to shoot them.

Stealing beer shouldn’t trigger a death sentence. Instead of calling for an investigation, Huckabee used his influence as a white minister to defend deadly force for a minor crime, quite possibly with racial bias. I realize this is long time ago, but apparently Huckabee hasn’t changed much.

Matt Walsh Owns Himself

Isn’t this what is called a self-own?

Well, Matt, who will decide who is competent and informed? Judging by your tweets, I don’t think you are informed so, sorry, no vote for you.

Conservative gadfly Walsh is accused of racism because his suggestion has been used before for racist intent. Literacy and competency tests were used beginning after the Civil War to exclude blacks from voting. Whites judged the answers to ridiculous questions (see some examples here) with the transparent purpose to keep blacks from voting. Walsh deserves all the ridicule he gets.

 

Trump’s Reelection Strategy: Class Warfare

Donald Trump couldn’t make his strategy any clearer: class warfare.

From today:

The rule Trump rescinded required proof of compliance with the Fair Housing Act. Trump has interpreted it as a wedge to keep poor people away from the middle class. Given the intent in 1968 to stop racial discrimination in housing and Trump’s actions blow a racial dogwhistle as well.

Obviously, Trump is only president of people who like him, and among those people, the middle class and the rich. Low income people (too bad poor MAGAs) are considered invaders who make suburban neighborhoods unsafe and bother the white housewives who inhabit them. It has long been clear that Trump has distain for low income people; this just makes it transparent.

I leave this with some Scripture from James 2 –

My brothers,[a] show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

White Privilege is Not a Blessing (Updated with Apology)

In a June 14th videotaped conversation involving music artist Lecrae, pastor Louis Giglio, and Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, Louis Giglio said the following

We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do, and we say that was bad, but we miss the blessing of slavery that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in and lived in. And so a lot of people call this white privilege and when you say those two words, it just is like a fuse goes off for a lot of white people because they don’t want somebody telling them to check their privilege. And so I know that you and I both have struggled in these days with, hey, if the phrase is the trip up, let’s get over the phrase and let’s get down to the heart and let’s get down to what then do you want to call it and I think that a great thing for me is to call it white blessing, that I’m living in the blessing of the curse generationally that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta…

Watch the clip:

For context, here is the entire conversation. It is important to understand that, in the rest of the talk that I listened to, Giglio seems to understand that he is not superior to black people, nor is he condoning slavery. I believe he is very well intentioned. However, he set off a Twitter storm, rightly so in my view, with his privileged spin on white privilege.

I will lead with my reply last night on Twitter:

It isn’t up to Giglio to decide how his privilege is experienced by black people. He doesn’t get to soften it, haggle over it, or make it palatable for himself. I hope someone close to him can help him see how self-centered his framework is. Because he and some white people are triggered by the term “white privilege,” we have to find a softer, more religious sounding term? Sucks to be you black folk, I’m white blessed.

Is there a better way to take away the beauty of the word blessing for everybody? Sure, let’s associate blessing with white people dominating black people first through slavery, then through Jim Crow, and then through social structures and white privilege. Being white blessed sounds like God actively gave white people their status. I don’t believe that is what Giglio believes, but that is certainly what it sounds like.

No, never. Not at all. White privilege is not a blessing. Not for blacks and not for whites. The more I am aware of it, the more I want to use my strength to end it.

Dear God in heaven, please save us from these conversations. He later in this conversation said that he was open to suggestion. He is now getting a lot of suggestions via social media. I advise Rev. Giglio to talk less and listen more.

UPDATE: Probably everybody saw this coming. Giglio apologized for his words. Watch:

I expected something like this. My advice is still for this gentleman to listen more and talk less.

More on white privilege:

Jordan Peterson and White Privilege

David Barton and White Privilege

Petition to Remove the White House Press Credentials of Rick Wiles

You might recall the story of antisemitic right wing talking head Rick Wiles who blamed impeachment on a “Jew coup.” His video accusing Jews of plotting the murder of millions of Christians was removed from YouTube but has drawn no condemnation from Republicans who have appeared on his programs in the past. Apparently he has easy access to the White House via press credentials.

Yesterday, I become aware of a White House petition launched by attorney Marc Stanley which asks the Trump administration to restrict Wiles’ access to the White House. I signed it and I ask that you click the link and sign it too.  The petition reads:

On a November 22, 2019 broadcast recording, TruNews founder and host Rick Wiles opined that the House impeachment inquiry is part of a “Jew Coup” to overthrow President Trump and install a Jewish “Cabal” to control the country.

On December 4, 2019, Wiles doubled down, saying, “Jewish socialist Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee escalated the Jew Coup.”

Rick Wiles has a long history of spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as well as radical Islamophobic and anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

In the past, Rick Wiles has applied for and been granted White House press credentials. His vile racism, bigotry, and appeals to hate and violence have no place in the White House and he should be banned for life.

Add your name to this petition and take a stand against Wiles, anti-Semitism and bigotry.

In any normal administration, this fact and the lack of response to it would have consumed at least one news cycle. However, in the Trump administration, it is just another hour of another day. However, this should not go without response, especially at a time when Trump is cynically courting Jewish voters.  I hope you will sign on.