Blackness Interrupted: Black Psychology Matters by Nicól Osborne and Tamera Gittens is a passionate call for greater recognition of Black psychology, which pertains specifically to the experiences and culture of African American people.
The authors explain the multiple barriers that face African Americans contemplating higher education in fields like psychology. They explain the impact of things like eurocentric curricula, lower funding for schools in predominantly Black neighbourhoods, and standardized testing. I hadn’t been aware that standardized testing emerged from the eugenics movement, which led to the sterilization of large numbers of low IQ people (along with plenty of us mentally ill folk).
I thought the authors did a good job of explaining why it is that standardized testing yields different outcomes in white and African American student populations. While the average white person is likely to wonder how that could be discriminatory, the book has a Modern 21st Century “Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity” based on an older test called the BITCH-100. It’s a test that covers things that Black people are likely to know, and my white obliviousness quickly became clear to me as I was going through it. If I’m totally useless on a test designed for Black people, is it any surprise that Black people have a hard time with tests designed for white folk?
The book argues that Black psychology is important to understand African Americans’ experiences in the context of slavery and racism. The authors explain that Black people often have well-founded mistrust of traditional mental health services and difficulty accessing care at all, much less culturally appropriate care. The book offers tips for Black readers on what to look for in a therapist.
The statistic presented in the book that, at least for me, best captured systemic racial issues is that Black people make up 40% of the prison population, despite representing only 13% of the overall population. This is similar to the situation with Indigenous people here in Canada. That’s what systemic racism looks like. The authors emphasize the importance of making changes to the educational system to address social disparities later on.
The book devotes a number of chapters to the remarkable work of some of the African American psychologists and psychiatrists who’ve made significant contributions to their fields. The authors point out that despite these accomplishments, these scholars and clinicians aren’t talked about in psychology programs.
This book makes for an eye-opening read for a white person, and I’m guessing a very affirming one for Black readers. Where I think this book would really shine is for Black youth who are considering going into psychology or other mental health-related fields. They’re very much needed, and I think they would get that message loud and clear from this book.
Blackness Interrupted is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Johnzelle Anderson LPC of Panoramic Counseling interviewed the authors regarding the book on his podcast Perfectly Imperfect.
Since publishing this review, I came across a relevant CBC News story, Black psychologists say there are too few of them in Canada — and that’s a problem.