Psychology Department message to our majors regarding racism and the murder of George Floyd

Dear Psychology Students,

The psychology department faculty want to address the protesting happening here, downstate, and across the country.  While initially sparked by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, these protests also speak to the rage, pain, and harm that Black communities have experienced in the United States for the last 400 years.  Centuries of enslavement, oppression, and unequal treatment across the country have left their mark, leading to fewer opportunities to access equal healthcare, equal education, equal housing, equal careers, and equal parenthood.

Unfortunately, these experiences are not exclusive to Black communities, but to our Native and Indigenous communities as well.  Even in Beltrami Country, Native individuals are more likely to be stopped by police, arrested, and convicted.

Because our societal system created and perpetuates inequality and racism, we must actively take steps to be antiracist. We encourage you to do the same. Not taking action means allowing the systemic racism to continue as is. Here are some suggestions on what you can do:

1) Challenge your own stereotypes and group-based perceptions based on race.  As you learn in courses like Behavioral Neuroscience, Social Psychology, Sensation & Perception, and Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination, stereotypes are automatic processes that our brains engage in to make thinking more efficient.  We engage in these processes outside of our conscious control.  However, we do have control over how we use stereotypes.  Assigning specific traits to entire groups can be damaging, such as “All Black people are ____.”  It’s important that we challenge within ourselves statements and beliefs like these.

2) Listen to Black voices, stories, and experiences.  Go out of your way to listen and learn from Black scholars, activists, and writers.  Often we consume media (books, tv shows, movies) that are created by/for white folks.  Engaging with media deliberately constructed by Black creators can give us a different perspective.  Some movie and tv suggestions:

  • 13th (2016) *available on Netflix
  • Atlanta (2016) *available on Hulu
  • Black Panther (2018) *available on Hulu + Live TV
  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • For Colored Girls (2010) *available on Netflix
  • Get Out (2017)
  • Greenleaf (2016) *available on Netflix
  • Precious (2009)
  • Moonlight (2016) *available on Netflix
  • When They See Us (2019) *available on Netflix

Some websites that focus on experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color:

3) Learn about white supremacy and antiracism and how you can challenge racist beliefs and policies.  There is a lot of Black scholarship on how white people can help to dismantle racist oppression.  The work is difficult and long, but we should still strive to do it because it is the right thing to do.  Some suggested resources:

4) Remember that you have the power to uphold anti-racist norms, both in what you say and do and in holding others accountable for what they say and do. We as humans are very sensitive to social norms or what is acceptable and unacceptable social behavior. The continued expression of stereotypes and prejudice depends on whether a person feels validated in their expression, especially from the people they identify with. Pushing back when we hear a racist joke or sentiment or expressing strong offense to person’s prejudicial attitudes might seem like small acts, yet these are incredibly important in setting a culture of respect and inclusion in your everyday world.

In solidarity,

Dr. Sarah Cronin Dr. Thomas Dirth Dr. Angie Fournier
Dr. John Gonzalez Dr. Keith Gora Dr. Kathryn Klement
Dr. Kate Larson Dr. Travis Ricks Dr. Li Zhou

Below are resources for those personally impacted by this injustice and needing emotional support: