Volume 49 Number 4
Fall 2016

Committee on Ethnic & Racial Affairs

Chiara Sabina

Penn State Harrisburg

Cultural, Ethnic, and Racial Diversity within SCRA

Respect for diversity is an important value within SCRA as it often guides our research, advocacy, and practice.  We seek to embrace all forms of diversity including gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity, religion, country of origin, socio-economic status, etc.  Another important value within SCRA is reflective practice—in the sense that we need to check in on how our values are actually being met.  We need to take an honest look at how we are doing with regard to our principles.  This column begins some of that examination with respect to race and ethnicity.

First, it is important to recognize that professional organizations are not immune from discrimination.  In fact, gaps remain evident among racial and ethnic groups with advanced degrees.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, African Americans with advanced degrees earned 83% of what Whites with advanced degrees earned.  The percentage was 88% among Hispanics.  These numbers are based on 2014 median weekly earnings.  These statistics suggest that advanced degrees do not translate into income equality.  Professional organizations may exacerbate or abate this inequality.

Looking specifically at SCRA, our membership overall was 64% White, 13% African-American, 8% Hispanic, and 8% Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native or American Indian (these groups are presented here lumped together because of changes over time in the response options on the membership form), 7% other and less than 1% multiracial in the beginning of the year.  These numbers show that our psychological organization is more diverse than the psychology workforce in the USA.  APA reports that 84% of the psychology workforce was White in 2013, followed by African-American (5%), Hispanic (5%) and Asian (4%).  Thus it seems our principle of “attention to and respect for diversity” has translated into a more diverse body than of psychologists overall.

We can see that our organization and the future of community psychology is getting more and more diverse.  While 88% of senior members are White, 60% of student members are White.  However, the inverse is seen when looking at African-American members.  There are no African-American senior members of SCRA, but African-Americans comprise 17% of the student membership.  From these numbers, it appears that those who have recently become community psychologists are more diverse than those who were drawn to the field years ago, reflecting changes in society and higher education overall.


There are at least two less positive interpretations of the same trend.  One is that while we attract members at the undergraduate and graduate level who identify as people of color, we do not retain them throughout their careers.  Perhaps they do not find a niche within our organization or do not feel cultural, racial, or ethnic issues are taken seriously.  As the new chair of the Committee on Cultural, Ethnic, and Racial Affairs (CERA), I have heard this more than once and this is something we need to investigate and face as an organization.  Another interpretation is the weeding out (aka discrimination) that happens within higher education.  For example 8% of instructors were African-American in 2013, but only 4% of full professors were African-American.  The same pattern in seen among Hispanics and the opposite pattern holds for Asian-Americans.  These trends indicate that faculty as they go through ranks become whiter and whiter.  If these trends are reflected in our numbers than we have a lot of work to do in order to help keep young scholars of color in the profession.  We also need to support those who enter into practice or advocacy-based professions.

These numbers are just a snapshot of our membership.  It is important to note that almost a third of our membership did not disclose their racial or ethnic identification in our membership form.  Moreover, many of these speculations would require additional data, including first-hand accounts as well as longitudinal data.  Most likely, we are seeing a combination of these factors in our membership numbers.

Within our organization there is a Committee on Cultural, Ethnic and Racial Affairs (CERA) that addresses some of these issues.  The mission of CERA is to:

Represent issues of cultural diversity and promote the concerns of people of color as a focus of community research and intervention

Promote training and professional development of people of color interested in community psychology

Advise the Executive Committee on matters of concern to people of color

Inform and educate the Executive Committee regarding the implications of decisions as they pertain to people of color.

CERA was formed in 1976—ten years after Division 27 was founded—but has not been active all the time.  We have taken strides to reinvigorate CERA and will continue to do so.  One of our first initiatives is to aid our members in their racial and ethnic justice-related work by funding mini-grants in this area.  In this first round, we expect to fund 5 projects.  We also seek to open the dialogue about culture, race, and ethnicity within SCRA.  Please share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions with us.

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