How Do You Use Social Science to Adapt to Racism?

Martin Luther King’s address at the APA’s Annual Convention in 1967 featured many points that he wanted to make about events from the Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War. His main goal, however, was to address this audience to let them know that the social sciences had a place in this fight too. By saying statements such as “Social scientists…are fortunate to be able to extirpate evil, not to invent it” he is suggesting that changing the laws to favor equality was not the only way in which our society needed to be improved. Dr. King stressed the importance of mental help on both sides of the colored fence and said that even if the laws and structures of America were lined up, there would still need to be a change in the people and how they think about each other in order for society to prosper. With this, Dr. King is single handedly validating the importance of actively teaching and learning in a class like Contemporary Racism.

He made a small but noticeable point about how in the North, street demonstrations on racism were “…merely transitory drama which is ordinary in city life” but in the south those kinds of things shook up southern establishments and ways of living and caused a much greater impact. He was speaking to the importance of adapting your fighting tactics to fit the cause and the audience and I think that can directly be applied to his statement about how important it is that people in the social science field who are trying to help people mentally fight racism adjust their techniques depending on what is needed. Looking at the psychological fight of structural racism from that perspective, I read the tactic as understanding how the social structures of racism may affect the psychology of people of color and white people in different ways. And then I read the different settings that the tactic must be adjusted to as the different audiences you are trying to help make sense of racism. With that being understood I would ask how would one explain the mental toll that structural racism takes on generations of people of color to people not of color so they get, to some extent, the impact it has on the psyche? How do you help people of color with examining the effect that racism has on them, and even more related to Martin Luther King’s point; how do you figure out how to teach this to an audience of mixed races?