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Description: You may not have known of Joseph White, a psychologist who died recently, but you should know about what he spent his life trying to do. White spent much of his career and life pointing out that the core theories within the discipline of psychology were blindly eurocentric. By this he meant that the theories were built both with research and with theoretic perspectives that only considered the perspectives of white people of European origins. Those eurocentric theories were then assumed to be universal and as such applied without adjustment to blacks and to people of other cultural backgrounds with the typical result that they were depicted negatively. I have written about parts of this issue in the Intelligence chapter of our textbook, Psychology Around Us, I wrote about the debates between David Suzuki and Philip Rushton (Rushton argued that blacks, on average, score lower than white on IQ tests and Suzuki pointed out that poverty impacts intelligence development and poverty is an issue of color in North America). In the same chapter I wrote about the “Chitlin” test and about the “You think you know Ghetto” test both developed to highlight forms of racial bias associated with IQ tests (see links in the References section below). Joseph White convincingly argued that assuming bias and cultural diversity issues only arise in Psychology when exotic groups are considered meant that some large biases at the core of many psychological concepts and theories involving Blacks (or Hispanics or aboriginal people) are ignored and harm results. Think a bit about areas or theories in Psychology where this might be an issue and then read the obituary/article linked below to see a bit about what Joseph White had to say. You can also read the sections from Chapter 10 in our new edition od Psychology Around Us by downloading the pdf file from the link in References (Read Further) section below.

Source: Joseph White pioneering black psychologist who mentored students at UC Irvine, dies at 84, Anna M. Philips

Date: December 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  UC Irvine Communications

Links:  Article Link —

While psychology has somewhat systematically addressed issues of cultural bias in relation to intelligence testing, Joseph White pointed out a great many other areas in Psychology that still require work. Essentially, we must be cautious when we directly or more importantly when we implicitly take positions on what is “normative.” If the full extent of human diversity has not been properly considered, then establishing normative positions (even data supported ones) can be stigmatizing, racist and exclusionary. The discipline owes it to the work of Psychologists like Joseph White to continue to keep questions and issues like this firmly in mind as we move forward.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are two or three areas within Psychology where racial biases might be of particular concern?
  2. Assuming Psychologists working in the above noted areas are not trying to be racist how might such biases, nevertheless be at play in work in those areas?
  3. What sorts of policies should, perhaps, be considered by associations such and the Canadian and American Psychological Associations or by Psychology journal editors in order to address the issue of these sorts of biases?

References (Read Further):

Excerpts from Chapter 10: Intelligence, Comer, R., Ogden, N., Boyes, Michael, and Gould, E. (2018) Psychology Around Us, 3rd Canadian Edition, Wiley.

Eberhardt, J. L., Goff, P. A., Purdie, V. J., & Davies, P. G. (2004). Seeing black: race, crime, and visual processing. Journal of personality and social psychology, 87(6), 876.

Parham, T. A., Ajamu, A., & White, J. L. (2015). Psychology of Blacks: Centering our perspectives in the African consciousness. Psychology Press.

Parham, T. A., White, J. L., & Ajamu, A. (1999). The psychology of Blacks: An African-centered perspective. Pearson College Division.

Naidoo, A. V. (1996). Challenging the hegemony of Eurocentric psychology. Journal of community and health sciences, 2(2), 9-16.

Dawes, A. (1998). Africanisation of psychology: Identities and continents. Psychology in society, 23, 4-16.