Tag Archives: Culture

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Racial and Ethnic Socialization (RES) Beyond the Curriculum


This is the third in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res.

This post is also featured in our recent “Back to School” blog post series.


By Chynere Best and Noelita Bowman (Doctoral Psychology Students, Howard University)


All parents have probably noticed that raising a child is not only the parent’s job. You are constantly getting input from other family members, friends and teachers. Children spend more than half their day in school so it is safe to say that the school system, and those who work in it, play a huge role in your child’s life. That means that answering tough questions on topics like race and ethnicity is a challenge that teachers will have to face.


Teachers, administrators, and other pertinent staff share the responsibility of educating our youth. In addition to teaching subjects like reading, math, and writing they also help to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Providing a safe environment includes being able to communicate about race effectively with students.


One way schools can address race and racial socialization is to embed its concept throughout the curriculum and beyond. For example, teachers should work to highlight the ways in which culture impacts our everyday lives. Schools should ensure their curriculum is one that promotes cultural diversity, and inclusivity for all students from different backgrounds. School personnel should ask themselves:


“What can I do to empower my students to embrace diversity?

How can I create an environment that promotes an understanding that different does not mean deficit?

What message(s) am I intentionally or unintentionally sending to my students about race in my classroom?”


Culture at its core is our identity! It influences our values, beliefs, and worries. When schools provide an environment that allows students to discuss differences and engage in perspective taking, they create a climate that is safe and nurturing for all to grow and learn.


In discussing RES outside of the curriculum, here are some sure ways that teachers can facilitate the conversation about RES in school.




1. Debate:


Debating has long been known to have numerous beneficial outcomes. However, if not initiated and facilitated effectively this exercise can lead to negative outcomes to include divisiveness and entrenched positions. It is critical to have well-trained school personnel lead these types of activities, as they would be more effective in recognizing the different nuances concerning debates. Using debating as an activity in the school is intended to open student’s minds regarding RES.


Effective debates enable participants to gain a broader perspective, promote critical thinking and analysis, and teach research, organization and presentation skills as students must consider all angles of the situation or topic as they build their argument. Furthermore, it encourages teamwork and respect since students must work together to build their case, eloquently express their views and politely consider and refute their opponent’s position.


The school can carry out the debate in various ways. The typical pro versus con positions can be given to discuss topics such as the integration of racially segregated schools in the United States. Past versus present situations can also be incorporated to help students find the connection between their history lessons and present-day situations.


An example of this type of scenario would be “Would Malcolm X have won the presidential election if he ran against President Obama?” Additionally, a multigroup question can be posed. In this case students would be divided into 3-5 groups, each tasked with a different perspective on a prompt. For example, language is a powerful tool used for direct and indirect communication. However, in most schools across the United States, very few languages are taught. A multigroup debate question that addresses language in schools could be “Which, if any, foreign languages should be taught in schools?” Teachers should present a wide range of languages for the groups to consider such as Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Mandarin/Cantonese, and Yoruba.”


2. Multicultural Events and Activities:


Acknowledging racial and ethnic differences can be even more fun and enlightening if we turn it into a celebration. Every culture has their own special holidays which hold varying types of significance whether religious, like the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, traditional like the Chinese New Year or historical like Black History Month. One way to achieve this is to incorporate various cultural holidays and celebrations into the school calendar. Students can be a part of this process by suggesting celebrations native to their cultural backgrounds to be included on the calendar. Each group should not be confined to one major holiday or event such as Black History Month. All events should be supervised by a teacher or administrator to ensure that the focus is on appreciation of the specific culture being celebrated.


3. Discussion:


Sometimes addressing issues does not have to be wrapped up in a big event, project or assignment. Oftentimes the teachable moments that occur naturally are the best way to send a powerful message. Teachers should be aware of events that occur in school and society and be willing to address them openly with students. Addressing issues can be as simple as throwing out a question or topic for a student led discussion during lunch or a free period. The goal of these types of activities is to open the door for students to learn about current issues, express their opinions and have more open dialogue with their teachers and peers. Some examples of discussion topics include conversations around hair, skin color and racial stereotypes. It is important to note that someone should be appointed as a moderator for the discussion to ensure that no one person monopolizes the conversation and a level of respect is upheld as people express their views.


Ultimately, the purpose of these suggested activities is to help teachers get more actively involved in RES and to help students be more engaged as they learn about race and ethnicity. Teachers and administrators must be properly trained to carry out the above activities in order for them to be successful. This means being aware of the issues that occur in school and in society, being confident about your ability to address the issues head on and being dedicated to doing so in a way that unites, educates and builds appreciation for others among your students.




Chynere Best is a doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology Program at Howard University. She serves as the lab coordinator for the Cultural Socialization Lab (CSL), under the supervision of Dr. Debra Roberts, where the research focuses on culture as a buffer to the negative influences of toxic environments. Chynere’s specific research interests concentrate on culture and identity development in adolescents and young adults of African descent. She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.


Noelita Bowman is pursuing a PhD in school psychology at Howard University. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Hampton University, where she was a summa cum laude graduate. Noelita has interned in several of APA’s offices including the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs in Summer 2017. Noelita’s research and interests include exploring ways to improve the academic achievement and school readiness achievement amongst children of color. Her dissertation focuses on exploring parent and teacher attitudes on school readiness. She believes all children have the capacity to learn, it is the environment in which they function in that alters development in a positive or negative direction.


Image source: iStockPhoto.com

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: academic achievement, back to school, culture, Education, race relations, racial and ethnic socialization, racial identity, racism

How to Get Your Children to Eat Better, Brain’s Signaling Systems Might Determine PTSD Severity, How Terrorism Affects Voter Psychology and more- In Case You Missed It– December 14th, 2015

roundup imageWelcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address how to get your children to eat better, how the brain’s signaling systems might determine PTSD severity, how terrorism affects voter psychology, and more. 

How to Get Your Children to Eat Better – The Wall Street Journal

18% of American children from 6 to 11 years of age are obese, and pediatricians are seeing rising numbers of children who eat no vegetables at all. So why is this happening?  A contributing factor may be that we treat meals as occasions for getting a child quickly fed, rather than opportunities for learning how to eat in a healthy way. But forcing our children to eat healthy food doesn’t work—so how do we encourage children to enjoy healthy foods? Rather than pushing for a clean plate, help children learn to stop eating when they are full – that is, teach children hunger management. Parents have great power in teaching this crucial eating skill and others, like appreciating a wide range of foods. Our eating habits are a consequence of familiarity, not biology. The trick to getting your children to eat better is make trying new foods feel like a game, not a punishment. For more information, check out Public Interest’s ABCDE brochure.

Brain’s Signaling Systems Might Determine PTSD Severity– U.S. News & World Report

A new study published recently in the journal Molecular Psychiatry suggests people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have an imbalance between two of the brain’s signaling systems. Previous research has shown that people with PTSD have changes in brain anatomy and function, and this also involves a shift in the balance between brain signaling systems. But this recent study may be the first to actually show that shift, and this could lead to improvement in the understanding of PTSD and to better treatments for the condition.

How Terrorism Affects Voter Psychology – New York Magazine

With the shocking rise of ISIS and the recent terror attacks that have killed civilians abroad and at home, terrorism has become a major issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Stanford sociologist Dr. Robb Willer notes that in past research “probably the most reliable finding from research on the political impact of terrorism is that the threat of terrorism increases support for standing leaders.” Incumbents often benefit because of the “rally around the flag” effect, and people seem to gather behind their leaders when faced with terror attacks. But this election cycle is uncharted territory from a political-psychology-of-terrorism standpoint.

How Your Job Can Make You Smarter The Wall Street Journal

New studies by neuroscientists show your job could also be making you smarter. On the job skills may help sharpen your cognitive abilities. Training in certain mental skills can build the brain’s capacity to process information and solve problems.  Jobs that are hard enough that we make mistakes, that are continually challenging, and that we can’t quite master can improve our cognitive abilities.  Dr. Merzenich, co-founder of Posit Science in San Francisco, notes that to build brainpower, workers must remain “engaged in the world in all its details.” Cynthia Green, a speaker and president of Total Brain Health, also notes that working in a stimulating environment with other people also “gives people an opportunity to work out” cognitive skills.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

Leave us a comment.

For more In Case, You Missed It,  go to our homepage and subscribe to our blog via RSS or email. 

Moreover, don’t forget to follow us on social media:
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Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Health and Wellness, Work, Work, Stress and Health Tagged: Children, children and media, parenting, psychology workforce, PTSD, terrorism, work

Creating New Holiday Traditions: 10 Questions to Ask Your Older Relatives

Mother and Daughter laughing

iStock.com/Photo by FangXiaNuo/Getty Images.

By Kimberly E. Hiroto, PhD (Clinical Geropsychologist, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Tacoma, WA) and Glenn Smith, PhD (Clinical Neuropsychologist and Elizabeth Faulk Professor and Chair, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Florida)

The holidays are often about three Rs: relationships, reflection, and remembering. Research suggests that as we age our view of relationships changes. Older generations tend to focus on intergenerational similarities, while younger generations focus on their differences, possibly in an effort to form their own identities (Giarruso, Du, & Bengtson, 2004).

It is important for individuals to do this work – to form their own identities, different from their parents and family. However, we also risk losing something in this process – appreciation for our family heritage, understanding of the hardships our family members may have endured and the resiliencies they possess, and gratitude for the privileges we hold as the next generation.

Take a moment to think about your grandparents or other older relatives. Consider what their lives were like growing up. What were they like at your age? What events helped shape their view of the world? This holiday season, amid the stress of shopping and preparing for guests, we invite you to set aside a few minutes to sit with an older family member or friend interested in sharing parts of their story. Simply start a conversation, and take time to listen. You might be surprised what you learn about the person across from you. You might be surprised by how much you have in common, and perhaps learn a bit more about yourself in the process.

Not sure how to begin? Here are 10 questions to help get the conversation started:

  1. What is your earliest memory?
  2. What were your parents like?
  3. Outside of your family, what person most influenced you?
  4. Growing up, what was your neighborhood like?
  5. How did you earn your very first paycheck?
  6. If you had a spouse/life partner, how did you meet him/her?
  7. Tell me about your most memorable vacation?
  8. What was your favorite pet?
  9. What is the most amazing invention in your lifetime?
  10. What do you wish for 2016?

For information on steps individuals of all ages can take to live a happy and healthy life, take a look at APA’s Life Plan for the Life Span .

We’d like to hear from you: What are your memories of conversations with older family members?   What did you learn?   What surprised you?

Share your thoughts in the comment section.


Giarruso, R., Du, F., & Bengtson, V. L. (2004). The intergenerational-stake phenomenon over 20 years. Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, 24, 55-76.

iStock.com/Photo by FangXiaNuo/Getty Images.


Kimberly E. Hiroto, PhD is a Clinical Geropsychologist at the Puget Sound VA American Lake Division in Washington State. She serves aging veterans living with complex chronic and often life-limiting illnesses in Primary Care Mental Health and outpatient Geriatric Mental Health. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in Clinical Psychology with a curricular emphasis in geropsychology and completed an internship in geropsychology and a fellowship in hospice/palliative care at the Palo Alto VA. She is a member of the APA Committee on Aging.

Glenn Smith, PhD is a board-certified Clinical Neuropsychologist and Elizabeth Faulk Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Nebraska, completed his internship in neuropsychology and geropsychology at UCLA and a fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the Mayo Clinic.  He currently serves as Chair of the APA Committee on Aging.

Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: Aging, Culture Tagged: aging

New KFF/CNN Survey on Race, Covering Transgender Care Is Good Economics for Insurance Companies, Making Sense of the Senseless Violence, Too Much TV and Chill Could Reduce Brain Power Over Time and more- In Case You Missed It– December 8th, 2015

roundup image

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health, and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address a new KFF/CNN survey on race, how covering transgender care is good economics for insurance companies, making sense of the senseless violence, too much TV and chill could reduce brain power over time, and more. 

New KFF/CNN Survey on Race Finds Deep Divisions in How Blacks, Whites and Hispanics Experience and View Race Relations, Discrimination and the Police – The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

With racial incidents and concerns continuing to make national headlines, a new Kaiser Family Foundation/CNN Survey of Americans on Race probes deeply into the views and experiences of Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, including their personal experiences with discrimination. The survey captures both similarities and differences in how people of different races view race relations, the criminal justice system, incidents of police violence against Blacks, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It also explores their experiences on racial issues and the dramatic differences in the ways people of different races view them. CNN is featuring the poll’s findings on air and across its digital platforms. A Foundation report summarizes the poll’s findings and provides the detailed question-by-question results.

Covering Transgender Care Is Good Economics for Insurance Companies– The Atlantic

While some health insurance companies are starting to pay for gender-reassignment surgery and hormone therapy, a majority of them still do not. The American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association are just a few organizations that consider gender-transition services to be medically necessary for transgender people. Treatments like gender-reassignment surgery and hormone therapy are an investment in reducing future health expenses. William Padula, at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, looks at the cost-effectiveness of transgender health care.  He found that “coverage is of really good value and it’s a low-budget impact for society from an insurance standpoint.” His view?  Health insurances companies can absolutely afford to cover the health concerns of transgender people

Making Sense of the Senseless Violence– U.S. News & World Report

Mass shootings have become a regular part of life in America. Mental health experts warn that this exposure to violence may have some major consequences for the nation. Americans are left numb by the constant exposure to violence, which according to psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, is a normal reaction. APA Fellow Russell Jones, PhD says “people can become very fearful and apprehensive,” some people have become more isolated as they continue to be exposed to constant violence. Dr. Renee Binder, President of the American Psychiatric Association, believes there are steps that can be taken to cope. These steps include reassuring your children that they are safe and creating an open and safe space to talk about these issues with your children. APA has tips for talking to kids about difficult news and disasters.

Too Much TV and Chill Could Reduce Brain Power Over Time – NPR

According to a study at the University of California, San Francisco, published in JAMA Psychiatry, people who get little exercise or watch at least 3 hours of TV a day do worse on tests measuring cognitive focus and speed. Marcus Richards, a psychologist at the University College London, says it’s reasonable to think the gap in cognitive function between high-volume TV watchers and infrequent watchers might widen over the years. For some, the early decline in cognitive functioning could become serious later in life.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

Leave us a comment.

For more In Case, You Missed It,  go to our homepage and subscribe to our blog via RSS or email.

Moreover, don’t forget to follow us on social media:

You can follow APA Public Interest on Twitter – @APAPublicInt and Instagram – APAPubInt.

You can also follow APA on Twitter (@APA) and Facebook.

Make sure to also check out these APA publications:

Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: Culture, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Ethnicity and Race, In Case You Missed It, LGBT Issues, Uncategorized Tagged: discrimination, race, transgender

Can a Bystander Make a Difference in Sexual Assault Prevention?


Image source: Flickr user bitsorf: Thank you 1,500,000 times on Flickr, under Creative Commons

By Amy Zavadil , PhD (Associate Dean for Equity and Title IX Coordinator at Barnard College)

Federal law now requires colleges and universities to provide bystander skills training to all new students and employees.  Teaching bystander skills to all students and employees in college or university settings is necessary, but not sufficient to shift culture.  The current focus is on campus sexual assault, but sexual assault happens outside of college communities.  Society beyond campuses also needs to recognize factors that contribute to sexual violence, and commit to bystander intervention to shift culture.

An extension of Latane and Darley’s (1970) work in understanding the bystander effect, why individuals may not be inclined to help in emergency situations, bystander intervention is an increasingly common prevention approach focused on the steps that lead to helping.  In response to campus sexual violence, Victoria Banyard and colleagues have been working to research effective campus bystander intervention efforts to reduce campus sexual violence (Banyard, 2013; Banyard & Moynihan, 2011; Banyard, Moynihan, & Plante, 2004; McMahon & Banyard, 2012).

Bystander intervention acknowledges there are five steps that need to happen for help to occur:

  • Notice the event
  • Recognize it as a problem
  • See personal responsibility to assist
  • Know what to do
  • Take action

Bystander skills training includes recognizing the common barriers at each step, as understanding the barrier can then increase the likelihood that intervention will occur.  It is also important to focus on safe intervention, including both direct intervention to disrupt behavior or indirect intervention to seek help from a friend or professional.

In campus and community settings there is a disconnect, students who have learned to speak up, if they see something to say something, are often being shut down or dismissed by adults, many who may not have been exposed to the decision making steps of bystander intervention.  This may be further complicated by differences in perspectives of issues of identity and sexuality.  Instead of validating efforts to intervene or speak up, some minimize concerns that may be raised – particularly when intervening at the low risk level of addressing insensitive or biased language.

Bystander intervention can be used as primary prevention – intervening at early stages of concerning behavior to reduce the incidence of violence.  It might also be used as secondary prevention, disrupting adverse behavior that has already begun.  And, finally, bystander intervention can be tertiary prevention, or how one responds to assist someone who discloses their experience or sexual violence.  At each of these levels, it is important that we do not limit this education solely to students and school settings.

Although there is increased commentary on sexual assault in the media and elsewhere, there remain stereotypes about victims and perpetrators of such crimes. Media reports tend to focus on what a victim could have done differently, rather than highlighting facts such as the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by an acquaintance and the importance of understanding consent.

It is my hope that we expand our conversation to consider how each of us can contribute to the culture in which campus sexual violence is making headlines.  We each have the potential to learn about intervention, and barriers to intervention, to assist in the culture shift that seems to be just beginning.  One way to increase our own personal responsibility for bystander intervention is to consider:  What would you hope others would do for you?


Banyard, V. (2013). Go big or go home: Reaching for a more integrated view of violence prevention.  Psychology of Violence, 3(2), 115-120. doi: 10.1037/a0032289

Banyard, V., & Moynihan, M. (2011). Variation in bystander behavior related to sexual and intimate partner violence prevention: Correlates in a sample of college students. Psychology of Violence, 1(4), 287-301. doi: 10.1037/a0023544

Banyard, V., Plante, E., & Moynihan, M. (2004). Bystander education: Bringing a broader community perspective to sexual violence prevention. Journal Of Community Psychology, 32(1), 61-79. doi:10.1 OO2Jjcop.10078

Latane, B., & Darley, J. (1970). The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help?. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.

McMahon, S., & Banyard, V. L. (2012). When can I help? A conceptual frame-work for the prevention of sexual violence through bystander intervention. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 13(1), 3–14. doi: 10.1177/1524838011426015

Image source: Flickr user bitsorf: Thank you 1,500,000 times on Flickr, under Creative Commons


Amy Zavadil is Associate Dean for Equity at Barnard College.  In this role she oversees community standards and serves as the Title IX coordinator, working with students, staff and faculty.  Amy earned a Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision.  Amy has presented to college counselors, prevention educators, student affairs staff, and Title IX coordinators at national conferences on sexual harassment in higher education, college student development, bystander intervention, and campus climate.  She has worked in higher education for eight years, as well as having prior work experience in law enforcement and project management.

Filed under: Culture, Violence Tagged: advocacy, culture

7 Ways in Which Charlie Sheen Is the Same as Everyone With HIV


iStock.com/Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

By David Martin, PhD, ABPP (Senior Director, APA Office on AIDS)

Charlie Sheen revealed in an interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show on November 17, 2015 that he has HIV.  Mr. Sheen is very well-known, and different from many, if not most, people with HIV in many ways—he’s rich, he’s famous, and he’s White, among others.  But I can think of at least seven ways in which he is just like most people with HIV.

1. Charlie Sheen didn’t know he had HIV. He only found out when he was sick and in the hospital and after a number of medical tests.

Today, almost one in eight of the people living with HIV in the United States don’t know they have HIV because they haven’t been tested.

You don’t have to wait until you’re sick to be tested for HIV.  The CDC recommends that all people seen in health care settings be tested for HIV routinely, and that people at high risk for HIV be tested at least every year:  If you have sex with partners you don’t know and you don’t use condoms, or if you inject drugs, you should be tested every year.  AIDS.gov has an HIV testing site locator you can use to find a place where you can get tested at no charge, in addition to other HIV-related services.

2. His emotional reaction to finding out he had HIV ranged from depression and anxiety to shame, anger, fear, and hopelessness: “It’s a hard three letters to absorb.”

Many, if not most, people who test positive for HIV have exactly these emotions, and they can last for months or even years.

3. He used drugs and alcohol to cope with his HIV infection, and they impaired his judgment.

Drug and alcohol use are common among people with HIV, frequently in response to the depression and anxiety that accompany an HIV positive status.Many people with HIV seek treatment for their depression, anxiety, and substance use. If you have HIV and you are depressed or anxious, seeking help is perfectly OK. Quitting or cutting down on alcohol or drug use is hard. You shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help if you want to stop or reduce your use of alcohol or drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator you can use to find local resources.

4. He was afraid of what would happen if other people found out he had HIV.

In fact, when he did tell people he thought he could trust, some demanded money to keep his secret—he faced betrayal when he needed compassion and acceptance. In many ways Mr. Sheen’s experience embodies the fear that prevents many people from telling others about their HIV status: They are ashamed of their HIV, and they may be afraid of rejection or that those they do tell will tell someone else. Hiding something you are ashamed of can be harmful.

5. He needed intimacy and sex.

Most people want emotional and sexual intimacy, and people with HIV are no different.

6. He’s taking his medication as prescribed.

As his doctor noted when asked, because he has been taking his medication faithfully, he can expect to live a long and productive life.  People who have HIV, who are in treatment, and who consistently take their medication as prescribed can be expected to live lives almost as long as they would if they didn’t have HIV.  They are also far less likely to give HIV to their sex partners.

7. He sees his HIV infection as a “turning point.”

Many people with HIV come to view their HIV disease as a “catalyst for growth,” a chance to rearrange priorities. For example some people leave jobs they see as meaningless to take jobs that give meaning to their lives, and many have devoted their lives to preventing HIV and to helping others with HIV.  You can read the personal stories of people living with HIV here.

It would be easy to condemn Mr. Sheen for behaviors that may have led to his HIV status (after all, he’s an easy person not to like). This is not the time for that—in fact I’m not sure there is a right time for that.  Most people with HIV are painfully aware of the behaviors that led to their HIV status. Reminding them doesn’t change their HIV, and if they’re trying to change it may actually get in the way.  This is a time to recognize his humanity.  I thank and commend Mr. Sheen for his courage in publicly disclosing his HIV status, and I wish him well in his continued recovery.  I hope we can all learn from his experience.

You can visit the American Psychological Association’s Office on AIDS website for information on psychology and HIV. You can also read an interview with Perry Halkitis, a respected HIV/AIDS researcher at New York University on Surviving the AIDS Epidemic conducted at the American Psychological Association.

Filed under: AIDS, Culture, Health and Wellness Tagged: HIV

Tipping Point or State of Emergency? Real Talk About Transgender Women of Color


Zella Ziona, transgender woman murdered in Gaithersburg, MD, October 15, 2015.

By Sand C. Chang, PhD (Gender Specialist, Multi-Specialty Transitions Department, Kaiser Permanente) and Kimber Shelton, PhD (KLS Counseling & Consulting Services, Dallas, TX)

In June 2014, TIME magazine featured Laverne Cox on the cover, the title reading “The Transgender Tipping Point.” The message to the world was, “We’ve arrived.” While the scales have tipped for some transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) individuals, notably those with access to wealth or those that fit a mainstream beauty ideal, the rest are left behind. Members of TGNC communities of color are having a different discussion. In panels and forums, on social media, in conversation, they are saying, “The transgender tipping point is crushing us.”

The notion that we as a society have arrived at a time and place in which TGNC people have gained equality is misleading. It creates an illusion of safety, reinforcing a binary gender system and excluding TGNC people at the margins—those most deeply affected by the intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty. The “transgender community” is not one community but many communities. Recent advancements in legislation and health care have greatly benefited some, but the progress is not equally distributed, and the increased visibility does not equal acceptance, which is clear when we consider the realities of many Black and Latina TGNC women’s lives.

Barely one year after being featured in TIME, Laverne Cox herself declared a “state of emergency” for TGNC people. And this is why:

Transgender women of color advocate for more care and bring attention to the disproportionate rates of physical violence, sexual assault, and poverty that negatively affect their communities. By living out loud, transgender women of color also demonstrate the resilience and strength within their communities. Organizations leading awareness and advocacy efforts, such as the #blacktranswomenlivesmatter campaign, include the TransWomen of Color Collective, The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Racial and Economic Justice Initiative, Transgender Law Center (TLC), TAJA’s Coalition, and Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC).

Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th honors the lives of transgender people who were killed in the past year, including the Black and Latina victims of hate crimes. However, it is not enough to remember and honor the transgender women whose lives were lost in 2015. Psychologists can mark November 20th as the day that they joined or advanced efforts to support transgender women of color, uniting with transgender women of color to create an uplifting tipping point that is inclusive of their intersecting identities.  Here are some things psychologists can do:

  • Engage in culturally competent practice, including use of the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People.
  • Use voice and media presence to call attention to hate crimes, suicide rates, violence and abuse, and housing and economic disparities disproportionately impacting transgender women of color.
  • Advance research efforts that are inclusive of the gender, racial, and economic realities of transgender women of color.
  • Use your political power to promote federal and state protection for the civil liberties of TGNC individuals.
  • Celebrate and promote the identities, lives, and resilience of TGNC women of color.
  • Consider making a donation to an organization dedicated to increasing safety and equal rights for transgender women of color.
  • Include curriculum in training and supervision about transgender people and their lives.

And we can all #sayhername. These are the names of the transgender and gender nonconforming people whose lives have been lost to violence so far in 2015:

  1. Papi Edwards
  2. Lamia Beard
  3. Ty Underwood
  4. Yazmin Vash Payne
  5. Taja Gabrielle de Jesus
  6. Penny Proud
  7. Kristina Gomez Reinwald
  8. London Chanel
  9. Mercedes Williamson
  10. India Clarke
  11. K.C. Haggard
  12. Amber Monroe
  13. Ms. Shade Schuler
  14. Ashton O’Hara
  15. Kandis Capri
  16. Elisha Walker
  17. Tamara Dominguez
  18. Jasmine Collins
  19. Keyshia Blige
  20. Jessie Hernandez
  21. Kiesha Jenkins
  22. Zella Ziona


Dr. Sand Chang is a Chinese American, nonbinary/genderqueer licensed psychologist. Sand is currently a Gender Specialist at the Multi-Specialty Transitions Department at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland and maintains a private practice specializing in trauma and EMDR, addictions, relationships, and healing work with marginalized communities, particularly people affected by the intersections of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Sand is the current Chair of the APA Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and recently completed an appointment on the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People.

Dr. Kimber Shelton is a licensed psychologist and owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services in Dallas, TX. She earned her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Georgia (UGA) and MS in Mental Health Counseling from Niagara University. She is a member of the American Psychological Association Committee of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, co-chair of the Texas Psychological Association Diversity Division, and recipient of the UGA College of Education Professional Achievement Award.

Filed under: Culture, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, LGBT Issues, Uncategorized Tagged: advocacy, discrimination, LGBT, prejudice, race, transgender

The time is now for mental health reform, Every Day, In All-Gender Restrooms: the Signs Reflect the Times and more- In Case You Missed It– November 9th, 2015

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address the time is now for mental health reform, in all-gender restrooms: the signs reflect the times and more.

The time is now for mental health reform- The Washington Times

More than 13 million Americans have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, and the majority of them are going without treatment. A patchwork of programs and policies spanning numerous federal and state agencies makes the task of managing mental illness challenging for physicians, providers, patients and their families. This is complicated by fragmented delivery and reimbursement systems that disregard parity laws, regulatory barriers, workforce shortages and the enduring stigma surrounding mental health. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is scheduled to markup the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This legislation would comprehensively address the issues faced by people with serious mental illness, as well as the 60 million Americans who live with another form of mental health or substance use disorder. Mental health reform would be a great accomplishment for Congress and the American public.

Every Student, Every Day – U.S. Department of Education

In response to the President’s call to action to improve the lives of all young people through the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK), the Obama Administration is launched on October 7, 2015, Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. Every Student, Every Day is focused on the estimated 5 to 7.5 million students who are chronically absent each year. Chronic absenteeism puts students at heightened risk of falling behind and dropping out of school. Despite record high school graduation rates, too many of our nation’s young people—particularly students who are low-income, of color, homeless, highly mobile, with disabilities, and/or juvenile justice-involved—still do not graduate from high school or are off-track toward that important goal. This initiative will empower educators and communities to close the opportunity gap facing our most vulnerable children and ensure there’s a student at every school desk, every day,” said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.

In All-Gender Restrooms, the Signs Reflect the Times – The New York Times

The Whitney Museum of American Art moved to its new location in Lower Manhattan, which provides restrooms for everyone on the gender spectrum. The Whitney is not alone in being challenged to rethink one of the most basic uses of public space. With the issues of serving openly in the military and same-sex marriage now largely resolved, the fight for all-gender restrooms has emerged as the latest civil rights issue in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (L.G.B.T.) community. Ever since their introduction, restrooms have been a curious ground zero for civil rights, whether for African-Americans or people with disabilities. Schools and universities (including Johns Hopkins and Michigan State), museums (like the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City), restaurants both trendy and modest (such as the Pass & Provisions in Houston and the Midtown Cafe in Santa Cruz, Calif.) and even the White House (in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) are recasting the traditional men’s/women’s room, resulting in a dizzying range of (often creative) signage and vocabulary.

APA Exclusive– All-gender restrooms were made available during the 2014 and 2015 APA Conventions and will continue to be provided at future APA Conventions. They will also be provided at the spring and fall consolidated meetings of APA Boards and Committees.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

Leave us a comment.

For more In Case, You Missed It,  go to our homepage and subscribe to our blog via RSS or email.

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 Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: In Case You Missed It Tagged: advocacy, Children, children's mental health, culture, discrimination

Is the minimum wage a psychological matter? (Spoiler alert: Yes)


By Gabriel Twose (Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, APA Public Interest Government Relations Office)

Do you think that the field of psychology has anything to say about the minimum wage?  In a recent article in American Psychologist, Laura Smith of Columbia University argues that psychology has much to contribute.  Psychological research contributes to our understanding of poverty by highlighting its developmental and health risks for low-income Americans, and how stereotypes about poverty affect that population.

The Facts about the Minimum Wage
The federal minimum wage in the United States was established in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, aiming to ensure “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” It reached its peak buying power in 1968, but has failed to keep up with inflation.  The minimum wage was raised to $7.50 per hour in 1999, which is where it stands today.  This is far from a living wage – it is not enough to lift a full time worker with a child above the poverty line.  Although a number of states tie their minimum wage to the cost of living, the federal government has not instituted such an index.

Psychological harms of poverty
Poverty and economic adversity can be difficult environments.  Substantial psychological evidence has outlined the potential harms that can accrue. For example, low-income children and adults are more likely than those living in more affluent circumstances to be at risk for developmental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and worse academic outcomes, with negative implications for success later in life.

Marginalization and exclusion
Psychological research has also looked at other facets of the debate around the minimum wage. Stereotypes about individuals shape others’ reactions to them and opportunities provided to them. We know that the poor are often stereotyped as lazy and stupid, and both politicians and the general public tend to ignore the structural factors that create and perpetuate their circumstances.  Low-wage workers are often treated worse than other workers; you can probably think of examples in your own life, as you’ve seen how people can speak to fast-food workers, janitorial staff, or manual laborers.  Dr. Smith cites a study in which participants rated applicants for a position in a parent-teacher organization; when the candidate was described as working class, she was rated as cruder, more irresponsible, and less suited for the position.  These kind of biases and stereotypes, often unconscious, can lead to marginalization and social exclusion.  This exclusion can make it more difficult to get a job, and has additional harmful effects; excluded people tend to behave more aggressively, make more high-risk, self-defeating decisions, and score worse on logic and reasoning tasks.

Policy Solutions
Dr. Smith points out that several cities have already begun experimenting with increased minimum wages in order to lift workers out of poverty, including San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, and Santa Fe, NM.  Additionally, there are a number of relevant federal bills, several of which have been supported by APA.

  • Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) have introduced legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 ( 1150/H.R. 2150).
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) have called for an increase to $15 an hour ( 1832/H.R. 3164).
  • Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2014, which would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against unemployed job-seekers by refusing to consider them for employment. Although this bill was not passed, it has been incorporated into the recently introduced Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Act of 2015 (R. 3555).

Get involved!
Psychological research has an important role to play in the conversation around the minimum wage, explaining both the negative effects of poverty and the ways in which we marginalize the poor, deeming them unworthy of our help.  The minimum wage is a natural focus for psychologists’ advocacy, and we encourage you to get involved.  A great way to do this is to sign up for APA’s Federal Action Network, joining 123,000 members and affiliates in raising psychology’s voice as one.

Image source: Flickr user Michael Fleshman on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: Poverty and Socioeconomic Status, Public Policy Tagged: advocacy, culture

When Girls Compulsively Text,Their Grades Suffer, Children Treated for Mental Health by Pediatricians, Kroger Tips Scales on Trans Health Care and more- In Case You Missed It– October 19, 2015

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address the impact of when girls compulsively text, children treated for mental health by pediatricians, Kroger tipping scales on trans health care and more. 

APA Exclusive – When Girls Compulsively Text, Their Grades Suffer -Time

A new study by The Pew Research Center study published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychology of Popular Media Journal found when girls compulsively text, their grades suffer. They studied found that with 63% of teens reporting they send and receive an average of 167 texts per day while only 35% report socializing face-to-face outside of school. The findings highlight a gender disparity: while boys and girls both text at about the same rates, girls compulsively text about 20% more than boys. There also seems to be a connection between poor grades and compulsive texting that affects girls more strongly than boys. Kelly Lister-Landman, an assistant professor of psychology at Delaware County Community College notes that the study does not mean that all texting is bad. “texting can be a wonderful tool of communication.”.

One-third of children treated for mental health by pediatrician -United Press International

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of  2011 about 6.4 million U.S. children ages 4 to 17 had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. A new study shows that than one-third of mental health care provided to children with ADHD or nay disorder comes from primary care physicians, rather than child psychiatrists. Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, notes that “There just aren’t enough child psychiatrists in the United States to treat every child with a mental health condition,” These findings highlight as Van Cleave notes the need for collaboration and communication between primary care physicians and child psychiatrists to the deal with the sizable number of children needing mental health treatment.

Kroger Tips Scales on Trans Health Care -The Daily Beast

The Kroger Company, one of the largest private employers in the United States, will offer transgender health benefits starting January 2016 to employees. Several major American health care associations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association have issued statements supporting transgender health care coverage.The Kroger Company’s insurance plan will provide coverage up to a $100,000 lifetime maximum for eligible employees and dependents. This will offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage and becoming a tipping point, for trans-inclusive health insurance, which is still out of reach for many of the estimated 700,000 transgender adults in the U.S. 

Pediatricians Rethink Screen Time Policy for Children -The Wall Street Journal

After more than 15 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics is starting the process of revising its ironclad guidelines for children and screens. Academy of Pediatrics had advised parents to avoid screen time completely for children under the age of 2, and to limit screen time to no more than two hours a day for children older than 2. Ari Brown, chair of the AAP committee that’s been investigating children’s media use, noted, “Technology moves faster than science can study it, so we are perpetually behind in our advice and our recommendations.”. A 2013 survey by Common Sense Media, in San Francisco, found that 38% of children under the age of 2 had used a mobile device. Dr. Brown noted that “The more screen media mimics live interactions, the more educationally valuable it may be.”

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

Leave us a comment.

For more In Case, You Missed It,  go to our homepage and subscribe to our blog via RSS or email.


Moreover, don’t forget to follow us on social media:
You can follow APA Public Interest on Twitter – @APAPublicInt and Instagram – APAPubInt.

You can also follow APA on Twitter (@APA) and Facebook.

Make sure to also check out these APA publications:


Filed under: In Case You Missed It Tagged: advocacy, Children, children's mental health, culture