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'Intensely white': Psychology curricula and the (re)production of racism

Drake, Helen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9656-5975, Gilborn, Sarah, Jankowski, Glen and Sandle, Rowan (2021) 'Intensely white': Psychology curricula and the (re)production of racism. Educational Review. ISSN 0013-1911

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Abstract

Psychology has witnessed an upsurge in discussions around institutional racism as a response to global anti-racist activism following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by a police officer in Minneapolis, USA. Within academic institutions, students have been challenging institutional racism for years, highlighting how the whiteness of curricula serves to uphold systems of racial injustice. Such calls are often met with denial and sometimes active backlash. Nevertheless, further reflection is crucial if universities and accrediting bodies endorsing educational and professional courses seek meaningful systemic change. Informed by Critical Race Theory, this study uses original empirical data to uncover how students of colour experience psychology curricula by conducting six face-toface focus groups with 22 undergraduate and postgraduate students of colour on psychology courses at a UK university. Results from reflexive thematic analysis reveal, first, how the psychology curricula are marked by knowledges that (re)produce racism; second, how students are calling for change; and finally, confusion over where responsibility for change lies. We argue that this analysis has important implications for the perpetuation of institutional racism within psychology, academia in general, and subsequent professional psychological practice.

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