Racial Diversity in Psychology: Examples & Impact

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are interested in the field of psychology, then it will be important for you to think about human diversity. This lesson discusses the relationship between psychology and racial diversity specifically.

Diversity and Race in Psychology

As someone who cares deeply about the emotional well-being of others, Shana is happy that she has pursued a degree in psychology. In her current internship, Shana is working with a very diverse population, meaning she works with many different people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

As a white person, Shana knows that she has a certain amount of racial privilege, and she is interested in learning more about what she can do to work toward racial justice and level the playing field. Shana starts studying and thinking about the role of racial diversity in psychology.

Defining Race in Psychology

Shana understands that race can be a hard term to define, and that is because, contrary to what many believe, race is a social construct, not really defined biologically or by any one particular part of identity. For many people, race has to do with a combination of skin color, heritage, and cultural identity.

In the field of psychology, Shana knows that racial diversity is especially important because most canonical psychologists have been white, and their whiteness has defined many of the cognitive and emotional norms that have historically governed the field.

As more and more people of color seek out the support of psychologists, Shana believes it is crucial to think about the ways racial diversity can influence psychology. She also knows that psychology is intimately intertwined with education, a field where racial injustices have led to many differences in opportunity and achievement. Thinking about racial diversity in cognition, or the psychology of learning, is also very important.

Shana thinks that the field of psychology will be richer and more applicable if the voices of racially diverse scholars, patients, and practitioners are heard and honored.

Examples of Racial Diversity in Psychology

Right now, Shana is working with many African-American patients as part of her clinical internship. Many of these patients are furious because of the daily encounters they have had with racism for their whole lives. One patient in particular is reluctant to put her trust in Shana. The patient wishes she had an African-American therapist.

Shana shows the patient that she honors her feelings and empathizes deeply with her fury and rage. She also helps the patient express this rage and find ways to channel it into meaningful work, relationships, and action.

Shana learns so much from working with a racially diverse population, about herself, her patients and the world around her.

Impact of Racial Diversity in Psychology

Shana knows that racial diversity is so important to the field of psychology that it is having an impact on the field itself, and she is thinking a lot about the ways racial diversity influences individual and group psychology.

Social Cohesion

First of all, Shana has noticed that many of her patients form social groups and communities based on how they identify racially. This level of social cohesion can really help patients find support in times of trouble.

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