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WSPA’s Public Statement on Hate Crimes
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WSPA’s Public Statement on Hate Crimes

On September 1, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a historic speech to members of the American Psychological Association who gathered in Washington, D.C. for its 75th Annual Convention. Dr. King spoke directly about the problems of racism and segregation in our country, and he called on psychologists as social scientists to assume a more active role in their eradication. Fifty years later Dr. King’s words have taken on a new sense of meaning and urgency not just for psychologists but for our nation as a whole.

The Charlottesville white nationalist rally in August in which three people lost their lives and many others were injured follows a nationwide increase in hate crimes in the past year. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported as many as 1,094 incidents in the first month after the presidential election last year, and 1,863 between November 9 and March 31 of this year. There are 917 hate groups currently operating in the United States according to SPLC. Considering that most hate crimes are not reported to the police (Bureau of Justice Statistics), these recent numbers represent a pressing call for increased public discourse and action.

Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) joins the American Psychological Association to firmly and unequivocally condemn the acts of racism and violence which took place in Charlottesville, and all other acts of bias, prejudice, and discrimination, which lead to hate crimes motivated by an offender’s bias against a victim’s race, ethnicity, gender and gender expression, culture and national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and/or socio-economic status. White supremacist views and other forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination and prejudice do not belong in our society and must be recognized and denounced.

Violent crimes motivated by bias and hate have far reaching effects on the victims. These include feelings of helplessness and humiliation (Herman, 1992), a loss of the sense of safety and security, and symptoms of depression and anxiety (APA, 2017). As mental health professionals, psychologists are uniquely equipped to assist individuals, groups, and communities traumatized by hate crimes. Today, fifty years later, we remember Dr. King’s call and recommit as social scientists to use our knowledge and skills to realize improved outcomes for all individuals and communities. We foster healing in all people through mental health treatment, community-based education including programs teaching tolerance, reducing prejudice, and promoting social justice, and research and policy initiatives targeting a safer, healthier, and more equitable society for all.

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