During a meeting last week one of my students commented that she loves Thanksgiving, but feels guilty about it.
She didn’t need to explain—she was in my Culture and Identity class last year which focused on Native Americans and First Nations people. We talked about the problematic nature of Thanksgiving and the many myths surrounding the holiday that are destructive to Native peoples.
I can relate to her comment. As a White multi-racial woman, Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday for me. My mother is Irish and Cherokee. My father is English American, and our family narratives are filled with pilgrim origin stories. See. Complicated.
I will offer for my student and others what I try to do instead of attempting to suppress White guilt, or feeling overwhelmed by White guilt, or congratulating myself for experiencing White guilt (none of which are particularly helpful actions). Instead, I suggest these strategies:
1. Expand your knowledge and awareness of Native history, current events, and Native peoples.
This year, I am focusing on Indian removal policies and the implications of living on stolen land.
The National Museum of the American Indian released online curriculum about Indian removal policies. The curriculum is designed to support Social Studies teachers for grades 7-12, but I am gonna go out on a limb and guess that most of my readers were never taught this material in school, so this can be a good place to start.
The Indian Removal Act was signed by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. It was this act that led to the Trail of Tears. In the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, over 7,000 troops were sent to Cherokee homes, where people were removed at gunpoint and forced to march west. Approximately 4,000 people died along the way. The Indian Removal Act also directly impacted the Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw Nation.
Pennsylvania reflects the deep impacts of removal, as there are currently no federally recognized Indian nations within the state today, despite the fact that the area was once home to the Shawnee and Ohio, the Erie, members of the Iroquois nations, the Munsee Delaware and Lenape Delaware and the Susquehannock nations.
One of my friends recently commented that the term “removal” seems to be a way to dismiss the horror of these laws and policies. Which is by design. Tools of state sanctioned genocide are often given fluffy names to avoid calling them what they really are.
The Indian Removal Act was just one piece of legislation among many laws, policies, coerced and broken treaties which moved native peoples from their homes and historic lands. These policies continue to infringe on the rights of Native nations and endanger the health and well-being of Native people today. (Think Standing Rock) They also mean that the United States is a nation built on stolen land.
This week I attended a conference in Minneapolis for the Interdisciplinary Research Fellows, a group collaborating on community engaged research for social change. The conference opened with a Dakota language specialist (Neil T McKay) who asked us to consider what it means to be working toward building equitable communities on stolen land.
I think this topic is especially important to examine at Thanksgiving. This is a time when many people focus on home—going home or welcoming others into their homes. For Americans of all ethnic groups, home is not an uncomplicated place. Homecomings may be fraught with anxieties of past family conflict, different political beliefs, or the impacts of trauma.
For Native peoples, home is often the place that was stolen.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am struggling with my own family’s history of homelessness and being uprooted through removal, living in poverty on reservations, avoiding Indian boarding schools, and forced assimilation. All of these policies and traumas interrupted the ability for my family to have an embodied experience of home. The loss of my own home last spring makes this particular soul wound especially raw for me this year.
I am thankful that I will spend this year's holiday with dear friends—the people I call my Pittsburgh family. This week I will also be reflecting on what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving on stolen land.
In addition to buying supplies to make a sweet potato casserole and stocking up on white wine, I will be learning more about the people who once called Pittsburgh their home. People like the Shawnee who were pushed into Ohio and forced to sign a treaty in 1831 that removed them to eastern Kansas.
While I drink my morning coffee I will be reading As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance (by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson) and learning about the ways Indigenous communities continue to engage in resistance to protect their land and people.
As I hike the beautiful woods of Western Pennsylvania, I will reflect on those who called this place home before me. I will work to heal my own wounds as I strive to live in a way that honors my ancestors. And I will continue to reflect on the meaning of doing equity work on stolen land, even as I dedicate myself to building a space that I may call home.
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
One night in graduate school I found myself leaving a coffee shop later than I had planned to get on my bike and ride home. I had spent hours studying and I was tired and ready to be in bed. A group of guys across the street shouted out to me—some stupid pickup line I don’t remember. I am not sure exactly what I said, but it was something belligerent and sarcastic (not surprising to anyone who knows me).
Suddenly, my exhaustion turned into fear. The guys got angry.
They had felt 100% entitled to say whatever they wanted to me, fully expecting me to just put up with it.
I left the situation quickly and safely.
And then I got angry.
That week I marched myself into my advisor's office and told her I had figured out my project for my master’s thesis. I wanted to document the experiences of harassment that most women dealt with every single day of their lives. It wasn’t that this incident was unique. I was just fed up. Tired of being honked at during my morning runs. Sick of the male grad students in my department making belittling comments about women. And absolutely done with being afraid. Afraid to walk home alone at night. Afraid that rejecting a stranger’s unwanted attention could result in my physical harm.
So, I studied women’s experiences of harassment.
In fact, I conducted multiple studies in which I examined college men’s and women’s everyday experiences of various forms of gender prejudice. In the first study, college students kept daily diaries about their experiences ( College students’ descriptions of everyday gender prejudice ). College women reported experiencing an average of 18 sexually objectifying events over a 14-day period. More than one per day.
You read that right, on average, college women experienced sexual harassment EVERY SINGLE DAY.
And the harassment happened everywhere—on campus (including during class), within dorms, at grocery stores, in the gym, at the gas station, at work, while walking down the street….
So, when the #MeToo campaign recently went viral, I was not surprised to see most of my female friends participating. I also know that I likely have friends who have experienced sexual violence who did not want to disclose that info on their Facebook page.
I am striving to be hopeful that we are seeing a tide change. It is amazing to hear about the number of individuals (predominantly women, but a few men) coming forth to publicly share their stories of sexual violence committed by men in power. It is a brave move, as men in power tend to look for ways to keep that power and to retaliate against anyone who challenges it.
It has been even more amazing, and sometimes surprising, to hear about the number of men who have actually lost their jobs, TV shows, endorsements as a result of these accusations.
Maybe things are changing….
But as reporters dig into these stories, it becomes quite clear that in most of these cases, victims have been reporting their experiences of sexual violence perpetrated by these men FOR YEARS.
While I support the consciousness raising element of the campaign and appreciate that many women (and some men) have felt less alone by sharing their experiences of victimization, it is time to move beyond just awareness raising in order to eradicate sexual harassment (and sexual violence of all degrees).
First of all, men need to take accountability. Accountability for the ways they support, enable, and protect perpetrators. And accountability for the times that they have unwittingly participated in sexual harassment themselves.
And we need more women in positions of power. Because, ultimately, sexual violence is about power.
Feeling powerful enough to treat another person as an object. Using power to keep people from speaking out.
When boys grow up in a society where girls and women consistently have less power than men—where they are paid less, where women make up only about 20% of Congress and 6% of Fortune 500 CEO’s, where the United States has yet to have a female President—they get the message that women have less power than men.
So, how can any of us be surprised that some of those men decide that they are entitled to treat women however they want?
Which also explains why girls and women of color are even more likely to experience sexual violence than white girls and women.
I hope we continue to hear that when victims step forward they are believed, and there are consequences for the perpetrators.
I hope to hear more men stepping forward to talk about the ways they will hold themselves and other men accountable for preventing and stopping sexual violence. And how they intend to support more women (especially women of color) holding positions of power.
I dream of the possibility of a world where my students don't assume they have to endure sexual harassment by male faculty. Where my nieces might get to walk down the street without cringing when men open their mouths. Where girls and women are not expected to view sexual harassment as a daily nuisance they must tolerate.
Until then, I will stay fed up, and angry, and outspoken, and belligerent. And probably sarcastic.
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
And a weird one about Trump being orange and gross… I couldn’t quite follow that one.
Oh and the signs! Let me tell you: feminists are funny! And creative! And dark! And smart! And thoughtful.
Since the march, I have heard various stories and news reports asking what does it all mean?
I have been surprised by the number of times I have heard reporters ask something to the effect of “Was this a one time event or is it the start of a movement?”
What? Have you been living under a rock?
The Women’s March was inspirational and moving and by many reports it was the LARGEST INAUGURAL PROTEST IN US HISTORY. But it was not the beginning of a movement, nor will it be the end.
The Women’s March was rooted in a long history of protest and resistance to oppression:
I could go on and on and on.
The March on Washington DC and in dozens of other cities in the US and around the world were built upon the foundation of resistance against oppression. They grew out of the blood, sweat, and tears of activists who dedicated their entire lives to these movements. They owe homage to the those who gave their lives for change.
For some, the march may have been a beginning. A call to examine systems of privilege and oppression. An invitation to raise their voice in protest. To them I say, “welcome.” Join the fight. Learn about the history the work is rooted in. Look for ways to stay engaged. Participate in the Ten Actions for the first 100 Days.
But this is not the beginning of a movement and it won’t be the end.
Because many of us got up the day after the march and went right back to work. Educating, advocating and working for social change. We didn’t go to the march because we just discovered inequality. And, despite Trump’s alternative facts, we did vote. And not for him.
We went to the march because, as Gloria Steinem said, “Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are.”
- Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
I wasn't surprised to read that Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months in a county jail after being found guilty on three felony sexual assault charges including: intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. Six months.
I wasn't surprised to read that at trial Turner's victim was asked about her weight, what she was wearing the night Turner raped her, and about her sexual life, including whether she has ever cheated on her boyfriend.
I wasn't surprised to read that Turner's father blames the rape on "alcohol and sexual promiscuity" instead of on his son.
I was saddened, outraged, and disgusted by all these things, but not surprised.
Unfortunately, it is all too common that sexual assault victims are blamed for what happens to them, that perpetrators of sexual assault get minimal prison sentences (if any at all) and that sexual violence is dismissed and minimized.
But I was surprised by the outrage I have seen all over the internet about this case.
I believe with every fiber in my being that we can eradicate all forms of sexual violence. Men are not inherently rapists. People can learn to give and receive consent.
I also believe that we currently live in a rape culture. Where lots of boys and men learn that they are entitled to women's bodies. Where judges believe that sexual assault is "non-violent." Where fathers think their sons should get "one freebie" to commit sexual assault as long as they learn from their mistake. Where women who are sexually assaulted are blamed based on what they wore, how much they drank, or who they have had sex with in the past.
Sometimes it seems that rape culture is so pervasive it is hard to imagine how we can change it.
And yet.... perhaps something is shifting. Dare I believe that we are seeing a changing tide against rape culture?
CNN host Ashleigh Banfield spent more than 20 minutes of her show "Legal View" reading the victim's statement--providing a national platform for the victim's own words to be heard. John Pavlovitz wrote a powerful letter as one father to another challenging Turner's father's assertions that Brock shouldn't be punished for "20 minutes of action." Petitions are being circulated calling for the removal of Judge Arron Persky. Brave survivors are sharing their stories with friends and family in solidarity.
We should be outraged.
We should be outraged at the outcome of Brock Turner's trial, but we should also be outraged that the sexual assault even happened. Let's build on this momentum to find ways to do more to prevent sexual violence. We can all do better. Parents can talk to their sons about consent and teach them to respect women and their bodies. We can stop offering ridiculous abstinence only "education" programs and instead provide adolescents with comprehensive sex education--teaching them about the complexities of consent and communication. Colleges and universities can do more sexual violence prevention, education, and bystander training, so that it won't take Swedish heroes to intervene in sexual assault. We can demand that the members of our judicial system (police, attorneys and judges) be knowledgeable about sexual violence and hold them accountable when they contribute to rape culture. We can all work to become more aware of the ways we inadvertently support rape myths by making statements about what women are wearing or how much they drink.
Let's ride this wave and not let this story just become last week's news. Here's some ways we can keep this going:
The best way we can fight for justice for this survivor is help prevent future assaults. We can eradicate sexual violence.
Britney G Brinkman
Eleven states are currently suing the Obama Administration over the recent directive telling public schools throughout the country that they should allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The decree came in the form of a letter from the Justice department and Education department describing specific ways schools are expected to prevent discrimination against transgender students.
And just in case you slept through your high school civics class, that is exactly what those departments are supposed to do. In fact, providing guidance about how to execute and enforce federal laws is kinda the job of the President--you know the executive branch--that whole "checks and balances" thing.
It would appear that a number of state officials and lawyers missed that part of the civics lesson, as the lawsuit is asking the courts to block the implementation or application of the law by the federal government. The laws in question here include Title IX and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which prohibit discrimination in schools on the basis of student's sex. The Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Education is tasked with enforcing these statutes in educational programs that receive federal funding.
And yet I woke up this morning to arguments on the radio about the need for local control rather than federal regulations regarding bathroom policies in schools.
These arguments sound eerily similar to those made by opponents of same-sex marriage. Which shouldn't be surprising really. Many of the same people who oppose civil rights for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are vocal opponents of transgender rights. And they are using similar tired and discredited arguments attempting to scare people into thinking that they and/or their children won't be safe if gender neutral bathrooms become widespread. Some have even argued that transgender bathrooms are really a proxy issue for the entire cultural battle over LGBT rights.
I applaud the Obama administration's decision to take a stand on this issue--to root their policy recommendations in best practices and clearly articulate that discrimination in schools is unacceptable. It is so important that trans youth hear the message given by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch
“We stand with you,” she said. “And we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side.”
I am disturbed by the fear mongering happening by those who oppose rights for trans youth. I'll admit that I find the claims a bit silly, not based in fact., and generally being employed in an attempt to manipulate people. I recently spent some time in Sweden where almost all of the bathrooms were gender neutral (single use stalls) and the whole situation was pretty drama free.
But I understand that some people are genuinely afraid--afraid of sexual assault against adults and children. I understand that fear and the desire to protect loved ones. As a vocal advocate for the prevention of sexual violence, I am completely on board with work that prevents sexual assault. But using the threat of sexual violence to scare people into discriminating against an entire group of people--and in this case children--is wrong and short-sighted. True safety never comes at the expense of others' human dignity. None of us are free until we are all free.
Yes, some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of their child sharing a bathroom with a transgender child. But that discomfort does not justify discrimination. That discomfort is likely rooted in a lack of information and misinformation. But those things can be addressed by letting people ask questions, providing them with accurate knowledge, and exposing them to new ideas.
And isn't that was educational institutions are supposed to do?
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
Sometimes I hear about a news story that gets under my skin and I can't seem to shake it. With these stories I often find myself talking directly at my radio or launching into a five-minute rant the second I hear the name of the key players or location.
The armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon has been one of those stories.
One of the reasons this story had such a powerful impact on me is because I grew up in the western United States, where battles over public land were far from rare. Although not exclusively, arguments were often between conservationists who sought to protect public lands to preserve wildlife and individuals who wanted land to be privately owned and open for unrestricted recreation (think ATVs) and/or financial gains (e.g. logging and ranching).
It probably comes as no surprise that I often fall on the side of the conservationists. I consider myself lucky to have hiked and camped in some of the most beautiful places in the world--in my home state. Why would anyone want to destroy such spaces which inspire awe and remind us of the more important things in life?
But, my interest in this story has not just been about the politics of land use.
Like many others, I was immediately disturbed by the implications this situation has for the state of racial affairs within the United States. And on this MLK day as I reflect back on a year filled with yet more shootings of unarmed black youth, I find it impossible not to see the unfolding (or perhaps more accurately stalled) situation in Oregon as an example of the way white privilege functions within the United States.
No, I am not saying that the police should barge into the wildlife refuge with guns blazing. I hope that the authorities find a way to end the standoff without any lives being lost. I am saying that police should stop shooting at unarmed black men who are running away. And they should stop shooting black 12-year-old boys playing with toys.
Questioning the terrible racial double-standard on display in Oregon is not about wanting more force to be used there--it is about wanting less force to be used elsewhere.
When I teach about white privilege in my classes, occasionally white students get upset and argue that they do not have any privileges. That they have only been treated in the ways that they deserve to be treated.
What they sometimes fail to understand is that is exactly how privilege works. Yes, some privilege functions like a zero sum game-- a tiny fraction of the population controlling most of the wealth is a type of privilege that means some people are benefiting from the disadvantages facing others. But some forms of privilege are about the ways that everyone deserves to be treated. But the reality is that not everyone receives such treatment.
In order for women to feel safe walking alone at night, men don't need to feel unsafe.
There is not a limited amount of safety available in the world.
In order for LGB couples to hold hands with their same-sex partner without fear of ridicule or physical threats, heterosexual couples don't need to be threatened.
There is not a limited amount of respect available in the world.
And for the police to stop shooting unarmed black women, men, and children, they don't suddenly need to shoot white men.
The fact that the protesters in Oregon feel confident that they have the right to protest and fight for (their interpretation of ) democracy, that they feel entitled to enter a federal building armed to the teeth is absolutely about white privilege. They trust that the system they live in --the very system they proclaim to hate-- will respect the dignity of their lives.
(And don't even get me started on the entitlement that these white men feel about the land. Land that was home to Native Americans long before white people showed up to claim it.)
EVERY SINGLE PERSON deserves to trust that people in power believe that their lives matter.
It is a privilege in this country to assume that the authorities will do all they can to resolve a conflict peacefully. But it should be a right available to everyone, not denied to some based on the color of their skin.
We must stop acting as though having respect for the dignity of human life is a scarce commodity available only to those with the most power. Let us instead move closer to The Dream we honor today.
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
So, I have to admit that getting to the question that serves at the title for this post was a process for me.
I read about the sexually suggestive signs posted by a fraternity at Old Dominion University last week and had the reactions that anyone who knows me would expect me to have.
I was angry, disgusted, annoyed, and saddened.
Offensive back-to-school signs have been spotted all over the country. The problem is clearly not isolated to Old Dominion University or Sigma Nu fraternity.
At this point, fraternity men posting signs suggestive of sexual violence is almost a cliche. I mean, come on.
So many people have been working tirelessly to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses (efforts I have written about elsewhere on this blog). Brave survivors have gone public with their stories, hoping to raise awareness about ineffective responses, poor treatment of victims, and repeat offenders being allowed to stay on campus. I have been optimistic about some of the changes taking place---increased pressure to comply with Title IX, the Obama administration's efforts to improve campus prevention and response.
And then this.
It is almost like no one is talking to these young men about any of these issue. Maybe they live under a rock. Maybe they just don't care. Maybe no one is talking to them about masculinity and sexual violence.
I laid in bed one night stewing about all this and have to admit that my first thoughts were punitive. ODU's Sigma Nu chapter was suspended pending a university investigation. "Big F-ing whoop," I thought. They should just be done. Zero tolerance. No more fraternity for them.
Full disclosure: I am not exactly the biggest cheerleader of the Greek system. In graduate school we were required to attend an event held by a group that we had negative stereotypes about (with the intention that exposure would change our perceptions). I went to a sorority fundraiser.
I came by my dislike of the Greek system honestly. A friend in college was raped at a fraternity party. Many of my friends (male and female) had negative experiences in fraternities and sororities related to hazing, binge drinking, disordered eating, etc. While working at various college counseling centers I heard many Greek-related horror stories.
A colleague of mine recently told me that he was asked to write a book chapter about fraternities and he declined the offer, saying that the chapter would be too short. Three words in fact:
"They are bad."
Unfortunately, most of the evidence indicates that these systems are problematic. How many stories of rape, racist songs, hazing related deaths, eating disorders, do we need to hear to realize that something is not working within the Greek system?
Which is how I got to the "get rid of all of them" opinion.
I responded to my colleague saying that fraternities are certainly more bad than good. Which is coming a long way for me.
I have a number of good friends, colleagues, and graduate students who participated in Greek life in college and found the experience to be empowering and positive. The idea of groups of students living together, providing each other with social and academic support, encouraging leadership, engaging in service to the community seems pretty good. The practice in many cases is much more problematic.
So maybe the Greek system should be eradicated on college campuses.
But, we would be foolish to think that will actually solve these problems.
As I thought about the events unfolding at Sigma Nu I realized that a punitive approach would likely accomplish little. Most likely the young men who made and hung those signs would just get angry about having their fraternity suspended and take their same attitudes about women elsewhere. They probably didn't learn anything and I doubt anyone at the campus feels safer.
Zero tolerance policies just don't work. As much I as I felt better for about 2 seconds being righteously angry, what I REALLY care about is the eradication of sexual violence. Maybe getting rid of fraternities will make college campuses safer. But probably not if that is all we do.
Perhaps it is time to use restorative justice with fraternity members in these cases. Focus on repairing the harm that has occurred within the community. Help young men deconstruct negative messages they have internalized about women. Challenge assumptions about masculinity. Create safe spaces where men can be authentic and vulnerable.
While many fraternities do become hubs for toxic ideas about hegemonic masculinity, objectification of women, and tolerance (and promotion) of violence, they are not the source of these problems. Until we do more as a society to challenge harmful stereotypes about masculinity and degradation of women, sexual violence will continue--whether or not fraternities are involved.
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
Thank you to the police officer who showed up last night to address the loud fight that broke out within a group of black kids in the middle of the road. The situation clearly needed some attention.
Thank you for responding calmly to the child who was clearly agitated and upset. Yes, he was yelling and swearing at you. No, he didn't want to be put into cuffs or get into the back of your squad car. But he is a kid and you are a police officer.
Thank you for being patient and responding compassionately to the other kids still standing in the street and arguing with you.
Thank you for calling for back-up to help you de-escalate the situation.
Thank GOD the back-up police officer did not make the situation worse.
Thank you for noticing my husband and I standing in the street watching you.
Thank you for not trying to tell us to put away our cameras or go back in our house.
That was not going to happen.
And thank you for not wasting your breath asking us why we were there.
You know why we were there.
So, thank you police officers, for doing your jobs the way you should do them. For responding appropriately and ensuring everyone's safety.
But please understand that we were there because we did not trust you to do your job. It is not personal--we have never met you before. But too many situations with police officers and black kids have ended in violence. Too many black men, women, and children have been killed by police officers.
So, we will stand in the street in our pajamas all night if that is what it takes. We will have our cameras ready. We will return your eye contact so you have no doubt we are watching.
We will remind you that you are accountable to all members of this community. We will remind you that we will not stand for any member of our community to be treated with anything less than the dignity and respect that all people deserve.
Until all police officers put peace above power and love before hate. We will be there.
Black Lives Matter.
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.
A re-post of my contribution to the APA convention blog.
Most images of older women in the U.S. media are based on stereotypes about older adults. The "Raging Grannies" are shattering those stereotypes.
The Raging Grannies are activists who promote peace, justice, social and economic equality through song and humor. Attendees at the convention session Aging and Raging Well Women, Art, and Activism were lucky to see them in action, singing on such topics as double standards for women and men related to aging and climate change.
These women are not alone in their efforts to fight stereotypes about older women. Mary Gergen described her research, which finds that older women feel invisible as they age, disappearing at work and in public. "The irony," Gergen said, "is that at the same time one becomes invisible, she is also experiencing her most wise and self-fulfilled time of life."
Gergen commented on the many ways that ageism affects older women, sharing her own experiences being called “honey” by shopkeepers. Ageism can also include jokes about older adults and assumptions that one is no longer interested in (or capable of) being actively engaged in work or hobbies. Stereotypes about older adults are so pervasive that many older women have internalized ageism — some are reluctant to visit community centers or move into assisted living facilities because they don’t want to spend time with people who are “old.”
Just like other forms of bias, it is important for psychologists to speak out against ageism and resist stereotypes about older adults. “Let’s be celebratory and joyful while we attack barriers related to ageism,” said Maureen McHugh of APA's Div. 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women).
Another blog I am re-posting from my contribution to the APA Convention blog. Be sure to check out all of the convention blogs.
Do you know that feeling when you hear something really meaningful? For me it often involves a pit in my stomach and the chills. It is not an entirely pleasant feeling, but it is a helpful reminder that something important is happening that I don’t want to miss.
That’s the feeling I got at the beginning of the session "Working with Critical Gate Keepers to Ensure Safety and Justice for Boys and Men of Color." I was moved right away by Dr. Christopher Liang’s passionate opening in which he described why he and Dr. Helen Neville decided to co-chair the symposium. He shared his reactions to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, (and other similar incidents) and called on psychologists to do more to address the epidemic of police violence against boys and men of color.
The speakers covered a range of important topics. Warren Spielberg, PhD, discussed the experiences of boys of color in school, including the fact that many are accused of cheating if they do well, are blamed for fights, and are generally described in negative ways. Many boys cope with this treatment through academic dis-identification, where they decide it is better not to care about school than to experience the emotional pain that could accompany these interactions.
Most of the panelists discussed the fact that psychologists can play a larger role in screening and training police officers to reduce bias against boys and men of color. They can work with community members to develop guidelines and use the research on prejudice reduction to train police officers. This work is often challenging and it may take years to develop relationships with police departments. Lorraine Greene, PhD, noted that “strong partnerships between police and males of color require trust and confidence to have legitimacy and justice.”
Nevertheless, the success stories shared during the symposium were inspirational and provided the audience with practical suggestions about how to do this work in our home communities. The symposium ended with a call to action—audience members were given notecards to write down our plans to put what we learned into practice in their own lives.
Change can start with us.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.