Here we are, getting ready for another virtual APA convention—our second one in a row. I know that many of us hoped that we would be able to be together in person in San Diego this year, but given the circumstances, it seems that APA made a wise decision to go virtual again.
On the bright side, a virtual convention means that many people—students, international members, people who aren’t able to travel—who haven’t been able to participate in the past, may get a chance to do so. That was true last year, and I hope it will be true again this year (if we’re not all too Zoomed out). And I hope that year two of a virtual convention is helping APA learn and refine ways to create a hybrid version next year in Minneapolis—because the best of both worlds would be keeping the ability for greater access while also having an in-person event for those who can attend.
In some ways this year seems to have flown by to me, and in some ways, it’s seemed never-ending. It’s almost hard for me to remember what I was thinking about this time last year. We were about 4 months into quarantine, 2 months into a wave of protests against police brutality towards Black people, and 4 months away from a presidential election. I don’t think I had any idea how much things were going to change, and how much they were going to stay the same.
I work in a state hospital, so my workday didn’t change very much during the pandemic. I had to learn to wear a variety of masks, and get screened every morning for potential signs of COVID-19. I had some flexibility to work from home, but the majority of my week was spent at the hospital involved in direct patient care. I was grateful to have a job, something that wasn’t a given for many during the pandemic.
But when I look back on this year, I see that the thing that changed the most for me was my understanding of the barriers that Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color face in this country.
The pandemic will wane, eventually. We may have to deal with seasonal eruptions, and may have to keep getting vaccine boosters on a regular basis. Or coronavirus may fade away like smallpox and polio, to become a story that gets passed on through the generations. But I hope that what it exposed about our culture and our country will not be so easily forgotten.
Because what I really hope we learn from this is that it is crucial that we continue our efforts to build diversity, equity, and inclusion. Those are words that are easy to say but difficult to live up to, as this year has shown in stark relief. As psychologists, as scientists and experts in human behavior, we have a wealth of knowledge about how to create diversity, equity, and inclusion—we have a wealth of knowledge, and we’re gaining more every day.
But we need to apply it. We need to apply it at a personal level, at a local level, at an organizational and professional level, and at a national and international level. We need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
We’ve started this work, as a division, and I hope that it will continue, and I hope that it inspires others to undertake this work, in both personal and professional spheres. Because creating a world where diversity is valued, where we strive for inclusion of all, where equity means that everyone has access to the resources they need to live life to the fullest—that is a world where we can live up to the best of what it means to be human.
I’m going to end this with the words of Ijeoma Oluo (2020), because I think that she expresses this better than I ever could: “What can we accomplish in a world that sees difference as an opportunity rather than a threat?” (p. 318)
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your president over the past year. It’s been an honor.
Oluo, I. (2020). Mediocre: The dangerous legacy of white male America. Seal Press: New York.