Aug. 14, 2017

Dear Div. 44 Community:

As we are sure you know by now, there has been a tragedy unfolding over the past few days in Charlottesville, Virginia. White supremacists from all over the country have descended on that city, the home of the University of Virginia (UVA), to spread their message of hate — under the guise of protesting against the announcement of the removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a local park — calling themselves the "alt-right." However, no rebranding can change the true intent of the group, which has been led by current and former KKK officials who signal their agreement with Nazi principles and it seems, feel emboldened by the oppressive rhetoric from President Trump and his administration.

The response to this protest has been a massive counter-protest and per the news reports, violence directed at the counter-protesters by the protesters has resulted in three dead — including one woman, Heather Heyer, who was struck by a car driven into a crowd by a protester — along with many others injured. Our hearts go out to the victims, and we wish to send a message of unwavering support to those who have risked their safety to send the message clearly that white supremacy is unacceptable and antithetical to the genuine ideals of the American democracy. This heartbreaking loss of life is a tragic reminder: racism is real and operating every day, with significant consequences for all of us and especially for people of color. Racism and white supremacy are deeply embedded in our society and exert a constant influence on our lives and the lives of our clients, students, colleagues, families and friends.

In moments like this, it is important to remember that progress is not linear and that there are many of us on the side of justice who are committed to dismantling racism within ourselves, our communities and society. Some within our Div. 44 community experience racism and others do not. For those who do, there are many among us who pledge ourselves as allies and accomplices. For those of us who are white allies and accomplices, what can we do? As part of the dismantling effort, each of us has a responsibility to stand in solidarity with individuals whose oppressed identities we do not share and in particular, for those of us who are white, to stand in solidarity with people of color. We must work to understand our own areas of privilege and the deeply ingrained oppressive views that society has imbued in us. We should take responsibility for the ways in which our actions, even unintentionally, may cause pain. As professionals, we can look for ways, big and small, to reach across difference and work towards supporting those around us as they cope with stigma and discrimination every day, in our roles as therapists, supervisors, teachers, researchers and administrators. We can use our skills and knowledge as psychologists and students of psychology to help people and systems to move toward liberation for all.

It is essential for us, a division focused on LGBTQ psychology and social justice — given the intimate and painful lived experience oppression that so many of us have faced — to focus on helping those in our community and those outside of it when their identities are the focus of hate and bigotry. One of the Div. 44 Presidential initiatives of the coming year is to explore how we can be better allies to each other and how we can respond most effectively to the consistent threats to our civil rights, safety and health in the present sociopolitical moment, in addition to continuing the division's recent focus on racism and intersectionality for LGBTQ individuals. Look for more information about this in the coming weeks and months. We are proud to be in the fight with you.

David Pantalone, PhD, president, Div. 44

Kimberly Balsam, PhD, past president, Div. 44