Critical Race Psychology Applications

Early on in the first author’s experience in graduate school, she had the opportunity to take an esteemed social psychologist to breakfast. When the esteemed guest asked about her research interests, she indicated that she was interested in race, ethnic identity, and racism. Without hesitation, the scholar declared that ethnic minority researchers should not worry about doing ethnic research; instead, he insisted, they should focus on basic research and conducting good science. The scholar insinuated that studying race and racism was political and in opposition to good science. Indeed, standard advice to graduate students in psychological science is that they should leave their identities and political sensibilities at the door of the laboratory, strive to conduct their research as positionless observers, and allow the data to speak for themselves. It is standard practice that nearly all undergraduate and graduate students in psychology (regardless of subdiscipline) receive statistical training, but there is not much consistency in training across the discipline with regard to the relationship between psychological research or practice and multicultural issues (Gone, 2011). The idea is that researchers can easily check their biases at the door by simply denying that one’s personal identity would actually inform one’s research. This, in many ways, parallels claims that one is nonprejudiced because one merely claims not to see color. These everyday training practices that deny the identity position or racialized subjectivity of scientific knowledge itself can reproduce bias in analysis. In contrast, applications of CRP include centering race in epistemology (i.e., ways of knowing) and praxis (i.e., integrating theory with practice). A CRP perspective argues that students should learn how to utilize their positionality in assessing the ideological assumptions that guide their research questions and analyses (Rhoads, 1997). A CRP perspective strives to locate the presence and function of racism in the structures or everyday patterns of any given cultural context.

What follows next is a brief description of bodily, material, and institutional practices, patterns, and artifacts of race and racism in the USA. Although organized into separate subheadings, the manifestations of race and racism that we discuss as “bodily”, “material”, and “institutional” are not necessarily distinct from each other. They reflect the “basic” ways race and racism impact everyday lives of both racial majority and minority group members.

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