Racial privilege and oppression impact not only practice but also research activities in school psychology. In research contexts, white privilege can be defined as unearned advantages (e.g., social, professional, economic, and other benefits) conferred on white* scholars, as well as on white communities impacted by their work, by virtue of institutional and structural racism (adapted from Sue, 2006). Since the earliest years of the field’s development, a number of school psychology scholars (often scholars of color) have illustrated the many ways in which racial privilege and oppression impact research and practice (e.g., Graves, 2009). Nonetheless, these violent dynamics continue to permeate research activities in ways that harm scholars, practitioners, children, families, and communities of color alike.
Building on the work of researchers both within and outside of school psychology, we (the authors of this blog post) published an article in March 2022 on dismantling white privilege in school psychology research (Grapin & Fallon, 2022). Drawing from Mintrom (2008), our article described white privilege as permeating four stages of the research process: (a) inputs; (b) transformations; (c) outputs; and (d) applications to practice (all of which are defined below). We also offered a number of examples of white privilege in school psychology research. For example, white school psychology researchers can:
- be assured that ethics review boards will uphold standards that protect the well-being of their racial group;
- remain oblivious to research methodologies and paradigms that do not reflect the values of their racial group with minimal to no penalty for doing so; and
- be assured that they will not be asked to justify the relevance or generalizability of interventions developed to support youth and families who share their racial background (Grapin & Fallon, 2022).
As a follow-up to this article, we hope to further encourage school psychology scholars—particularly white researchers and practitioners—to consider the ways in which white privilege impacts the execution and application of research in school psychology. To this end, we have developed a number of reflection questions for scholars to consider as a guide for engaging in this work. We also provide recommended resources and readings for further study. While these prompts and resources reflect only a small range of issues and resources around this topic, we hope they will be helpful for facilitating further dialogue and action.
Definition: Resources, including financial, personnel, and other types, that support the initiation of research (Mintrom, 2008)
- Have I taken steps to educate myself about the history of racism in psychological research? Can I articulate the ways in which legacies of racial privilege and oppression continue to manifest in contemporary research activities (especially within the field of school psychology)?
- Have I considered the ways in which institutional review boards (IRBs) may prioritize ethical standards consistent with the values of my racial group while decentering ethical principles of others? Have I considered seeking additional approvals from community-based IRBs?
- Have I considered how racism may potentially impact dynamics within and among research team members and community partners? How will (or have) I contribute(d) to the disruption of oppressive dynamics?
Definition: Processes by which research inputs are utilized and translated into outputs using field or discipline-specific practices (Mintrom, 2008)
- Have I considered the ways in which the research paradigms I am utilizing may reinforce the worldviews and biases of my racial group? Have I considered other paradigms that challenge my racial worldviews?
- Have I considered the ways in which existing research in my area of study reinforces norms of whiteness? Is my approach to research design, methodology, etc. replicating these oppressive dynamics?
- Does my research testify to the experiences and perspectives of racial groups other than my own? Does it assume an ecological/systems approach to conceptualizing and addressing racism?
Definition: Proximal outcomes and byproducts of the research process (e.g., journal articles, technical reports, augmentation of researcher’s influence or reputation; Mintrom, 2008)
- Am I submitting my work to journals whose editorial boards reflect racial backgrounds other than my own? Are these journals making intentional efforts to center a diverse range of voices, perspectives, and epistemologies?
- Am I submitting my work to journals that will interrogate the explicit and implicit assumptions of my work?
- Am I ensuring that my work is accessible to a wide range of audiences outside of academia (particularly individuals, groups, and communities that will be directly and/or indirectly influenced by my work)?
Applications of Research to Practice
Definition: Translation of research to service delivery or applied practice (Mintrom, 2008)
- Am I monitoring the ways in which my research is being translated and/or applied in practice? Is it being used in ways that perpetuate racial privilege and harm marginalized populations?
- Have I presumed applications of my work to be “race-neutral,” despite their reinforcing whiteness as normative?
- If I find that my work has contributed to the reinforcement of racial privilege and oppression (albeit inadvertently or unintentionally), have I actively named, held myself accountable for, and taken measures to deconstruct this harm? How will I ensure that my future research efforts (and the efforts of my collaborators and others) DO NOT replicate these harms?
Enacting an anti-racist approach to producing, disseminating, and applying research will inevitably require school psychologists to proactively disrupt violent assumptions and practices that marginalize the voices of historically minoritized populations. Beyond reading and reflection, we emphasize the importance of taking decisive action to disrupt dynamics of privilege and oppression in research activities. We welcome feedback on this topic as well as comments about the many ways in which early career researchers and their collaborators can tackle (or are already tackling) these issues.
What other prompts, processes, or resources can you share to help address white privilege in school psychology research?
Note: * We intentionally use lowercase style for the term “white,” as uppercase style is traditionally favored by white supremacist groups. It also reinforces the need to decenter whiteness in academic and other spaces.
Recommended Readings and Resources
Baffoe, M., Asimeng-Boahene, L., & Buster, B. (2014). Their way or no way: “Whiteness” as agent for marginalizing and silencing minority voices in academic research and publication. European Journal of Sustainable Development, 3(1), 13–13. https://doi.org/10.14207/ejsd.2014.v3n1p13
Bonilla-Silva, E., & Zuberi, T. (2008). Toward a definition of white logic and white methods. In T. Zuberi & E. Bonilla-Silva (Eds.), White logic, white methods: Racism and methodology (pp. 3–27). Rowman & Littlefield.
Fallon, L., Grapin, S. L., Newman, D. L., & Noltemeyer, A. (2022). Promoting equity and social justice in the peer review process: Tips for reviewers. School Psychology International, 43(1), 12-17. https://doi.org/10.1177/01430343211070165
Roberts, S. O., Bareket-Shavit, C., Dollins, F. A., Goldie, P. D., & Mortenson, E. (2020). Racial inequality in psychological research: Trends of the past and recommendations for the future. Perspectives on Psychological Science: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 15(6), 1295–1309. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691620927709
Settles, I. H., Warner, L. R., Buchanan, N. T., & Jones, M. K. (2020). Understanding psychology’s resistance to intersectionality theory using a framework of epistemic exclusion and invisibility. Journal of Social Issues, 76(4), 796–813. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12403
Grapin, S. L., & Fallon, L. (2022). Conceptualizing and dismantling white privilege in school psychology research: An ecological model. School Psychology Review. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/2372966X.2021.1963998
Graves, S. L. (2009). Albert Sidney Beckham: The first African American school psychologist. School Psychology International, 30(1), 5–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034308101847.
Mintrom, M. (2008). Managing the research function of the university: Pressures and dilemmas. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 30(3), 231–244. https://doi.org/10.1080/13600800802155028
Sue, D. W. (2006). The invisible whiteness of being: Whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege, and racism. In M. G. Constantine & D. W. Sue (Eds.), Addressing racism: Facilitating cultural competence in mental health and educational settings (pp. 15–30). John Wiley.