Based on the principle of the “least of these”, what did Jackson (2000) claim is the role of psychology in the 21st century?

Background Information:

The history of psychology is primarily told and developed from a western worldview and more often than not, the theorists who developed the field of psychology were male and came from privilege as discussed in your textbook. With this being true, the voice of minorities, those with low socioeconomic status (SES, i.e. the poor) and women were left out of the formulation of psychological theories, which has lead at times to the marginalization of these different populations. In light of this, the Reverend Jesse Jackson addresses the American Psychology Association in an attempt to bring to the forefront the deficits in the field of psychology and suggests how the field can become a diverse and inclusive community of academics and therapists.

Before the Initial Post:

  1. Read Jackson (2000) article, What ought psychology to do?


Include in your Discussion Forum the following:

  1. Discuss the purpose of Jackson (2000) address to the APA.
  2. Based on the principle of the “least of these”, what did Jackson (2000) claim is the role of psychology in the 21st century?
  3. Describe the points where you disagree or agree with Jackson’s (2000) APA address.
    • Make initial post
    • 250-300 words

      What Ought Psychology to Do? Jesse Jackson

      The Reverend Jesse Jackson addressed the American Psychological Association (APA) on August 20, 1999, in Boston, MA. The text that fo l lows is an abridged version o f his remarks.

      I come here today to remind you that injustice is still with us, albeit in different manifestations than it was 32 years ago when Dr. King addressed the American

      Psychological Association. Dr. King praised this group and noted that psychologists are charged with the sol- emn mission of helping people live well-adjusted, ful- filling lives, but with a caveat. He challenged you to foster what he called creative maladjustment (King, 1968). By that he meant people should question the precepts of society and reject those that permit injustice to form and grow. He viewed the social sciences as instruments of social change- – saw their mission as the extirpation of evil. He appealed to you to observe and report, fully and accurately, the complexity of our soci- etal relations. Further, he called for research on how structural change designed to promote a more just soci- ety might be crafted and implemented. Specifically, he urged researchers to investigate the schism between the monied and the poor within the African American com- munity; to document how crimes committed by the eco- nomic beneficiaries of substandard housing in our cities affect the people who live in that housing, as well as other parts of those cities; and to examine the self- destructive impulses that induce our political leaders to make choices that are contrary to the best interest of the public and those that drive young African American men toward annihilation.

      We ‘ve come a long way since the 60s. Legal segre- gation by race is a thing of the past. Racial discrimina- tion is no longer socially acceptable. But in some ways we have once again become comfortable with a way of thinking about ourselves and our society that is damag- ing and can undermine the work that we have done. Today, as before, we must fight for priorities. The chal- lenges of our day are to oppose hatred and the violence it spawns, to rectify injustices that result from the status quo, and to learn to live in the new world order.

      As your president, Dr. Richard Suinn seeks to dem- onstrate here in your opening ceremony that your asso- ciation and our larger society are multicultural, multira- cial, multilingual, and spiritually diverse. Learning to live in a diverse social order requires that we question the prevailing precepts of our society and not seek the comfort of isolation within our own small group. Too many of us have learned to decorate our room, whether it is an inspiration room, a religious room, a geographi- cal room, or a classroom. But the house – -our house- – i s in trouble, and there is no safe haven.

      Gaps imposed between people as a matter of law have been bridged. Now there are new barriers to equal- ity. We are separated not only by prejudices, but by money. The biggest gap today is not the race gap. I t ‘ s the gap between the monied and the poor, between Wall Street and Appalachia. I ‘ v e spent a lot of the past year in Appalachia, partially to show that poverty is not just about racial minorities. Most poor people, as you know, are White, young, and female. Many of the poor in the U.S. are children. We have made the choice for the people who don’ t have enough money, including the good people of Appalachia, that they should be sicker and defer health care longer than people who have health insurance. A nation as wealthy as ours, as scientifically knowledgeable, as endowed, must not push more chil- dren deeper into poverty while wealth goes up. We are a better nation than that.

      Here are five basic premises for democracy; they do not fit the profit-driven marketplace.

      Equal protection under the law Equal opportunity Equal access Fair share Concern for people who have the least of these.

      The health care industry should not be answerable first to the market and second to the good of society. Democ- racy must inform health care access, must inform educa- tion, must inform the environment of care, and must inform our access to labor and health benefits from our jobs. Health care policies should not be driven by the need to maximize profit or benefit investors. Societies make choices. Let us take stock, on the eve of a new century, of the choice our society is making about pub- lic health. We have made the choice to allow 45 million people in this country to live without health insurance during the greatest growth in wealth in our nation’s history.

      We pay a huge cost for not having a comprehensive universal health care system. All Americans should have access to the health care they need. Everyone here is probably intimately acquainted with the horror stories of prosper i ty– the n igh tmares – -o f this time of plenty. I urge you to come together to fight for the right to health care for everyone, not just those who can afford to purchase it.

      There is strength in diversity. Diversity of experi- ence and outlook is a powerful tool. Diversity can help

      Correspondence concern ing this article should be addressed to Jesse Jack- son at www. ra inbowpush .o rg , or to the Editor, American Psychologist, 750 First Street, NE, Washington , DC 20002-4242.

      328 March 2000 • American Psychologist Copyright 2000 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0003-066X/00/$5.00

      Vol. 55. No. 3,328 330 DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.55.3.328


      us overcome common obstacles that can seem intracta- ble. We must all reject the state of health care in the U.S., unequal educational opportunity for the haves and for the have nots, and forced choices between bad and worse that we confront every day. Today I challenge your sense of accomplishment and comfort. You must include eth- nic minorities not only because it is right, but because inclusion makes you better and stronger.

      Dr. Suinn chose not only to celebrate diversity, but also to confront the specter of cancer. An admirable choice, cancer. The number two killer after heart dis- ease. I buried my brother this morning. He died of can- cer. Age 55. Late detection. Late admission. Fighting with an HMO. Improper diet. No regular exams. Did not have a chance.

      Cancer is one of the seemingly insurmountable ob- stacles that psychologists help people face. As we think about the treatment of cancer, we realize that many cancer patients must decide between treatment for themselves and economic security for their families. And this is not right. We do not have to accept these choices. Democratic ideals should be the model underpinning our health care system. Greed is an aggressive cancer of the soul; it is consuming our national organs. We must choose health care as a right for every man, woman, and child. Everyone should have access to health care if they need it, when they need it, and for as long as they need it.

      Yet the core mission for many in the health care business is the building of wealth. The health care industry is dominated by the drive to build sharehold- er value, to exceed profit projections, to pay regular dividends, and to provide big salaries for top execu- tives. The health care industry is increasingly inhu- mane. Concern for the bottom line is not compatible with the expectation that people who are uninsured or underin-

      sured should receive the care they require and deserve. The marketplace is blind. But democracy is nol

      blind. It has vision. Democracy has vision and values. Democracy is one big tent. There are many races, many faces, many places in one big tent. Do we want to continue to build wealth on the backs of the poor?

      I f you think of African American history as a symphony in four movements, you have freeing the slaves, the first movement. The second movement is the end of legal segregation. The third movement is the right for all Americans to vote. And the fourth, the one we are in now, is about access. Access to capital; access to resources; access to information, to technol- ogy, to education; access to opportunity. All people in the U.S. do not have equal access to these things.

      Throughout the history of this great nation, our wealth has been subsidized, and it continues to be subsidized. Slavery, work without wages, is a subsidy. The purchase of raw materials from other countries (Africa, to name one) at below market prices is a subsi- dy. Africans are our creditors, not debtors. Native Americans have subsidized us all. They are creditors, not debtors. We owe a debt to the workers who laid railroad tracks across this country, and to other immi- grants and low-status groups who worked for the low- est wages. They subsidized us. These groups are our creditors, not debtors. African Americans, Native Ameri- cans, Americans of all ethnic identities who labor for us- -a l l are creditors, not debtors. This shift in our thinking is a matter of psychology. A psychological transformation of our thought is necessary if we are to change our condition.

      Think about this: Most poor people work every day. Most poor people in the U.S. are not Black, not Brown. Most poor people are White, female, young, invisible, and without national leaders. Most poor peo- ple are not on welfare.

      They raise other people’s children. They work every day. They put food in our children’s schools. They work

      every day. They clean our offices. They work every day. They work in fast food restaurants. They work every day. They cut grass; they water our flowers. They work

      every day. They comb our beaches. They work every day. They pick lettuce. They work every day. They work in hospitals, as orderlies and the like, and

      when we are sick, they wash our bodies, cool our fevers, launder our diseased sheets, empty slop jars; no job is beneath them. And yet, when they get sick, they can- not afford to lie in the bed that they made up every day. I t ‘ s time for a change.

      You should not allow yourselves to be comfort- able with the status quo. Even as you help people make terrible choices between one evil and another, you can reject the limitations imposed by those forced choices. Oppose the vertical gap between rich and poor. Op- pose unequal access. Access to education, to oppor- tunity, to health care, access to all those things is deter-

      March 2000 ° American Psychologist 329

      mined by a person’s financial situation. Restricted access, forced choices between bad and worse, and sustaining the status quo perpetuate the uneven distribution of the goods and services that are necessary to live.

      The choices just keep adding up. Look at the injus- tices perpetrated by our criminal justice system. As psy- chologists, you are familiar with the concerns of people who have mental illnesses.’ People with long-term, dis- abling mental illness were cheated by deinstitutionaliza- tion. Many have no place to hang their hats. So our streets become the place where they go when there is no place else for them. The new technique for caring for mentally ill people is incarceration. Whether they have commit- ted violent crimes or not. Whether or not those crimes were influenced by the illness, they go to jail or prison. The jail industrial complex has gobbled up these lost and lonely people without concern for their health. The same market forces that drive health care lead to the incarceration of people with mental illness. I t ‘s a shame and a disgrace.

      More bodies for the beds. Bigger profits for the corporate, for-profit jail industrial complex. This is not right. As people who are aware of the unique challenges of mental illness, you must help me combat this trend. As an army of hope, you must fight tooth and nail against those who would imprison people who have mental illnesses. Or who would execute them. We must be sane. We must be sane. We must fight for sanity and fairness.

      To kill an insane man or woman is to be insane or immoral. Our laws create inequity. There are different con- sequences for different offenders, more punitive conse- quences for some than others: 79% of the rural arrests are White; 64% of all urban arrests are White. But 48% of those in jail or prison are Black (Wilson, 1999). What is wrong with this picture?

      Or this one? Over half of the people arrested on a marijuana charge, an offense for which very few Blacks are arrested, get probation. The rest serve less than 4 years in prison. If you are sentenced for handling cocaine powder, you will learn that the average time in prison is less than 7 years. But if you are arrested for crack, the average time in prison is over 10 years (United States Sentencing Commis- sion, 1999). Does it matter?

      These injustices are driving the jail industrial complex. Every city that I have been to has at least two new buildings: A new stadium and a new jail or prison, built by a for-profit corporation. Invariably, the schools are second class to the new, profitable jails.

      I ‘ d like to talk about the violence, the hatred, that is so prominent in our society today. We live in a culture that is permissive toward violence. We live in a context in which we glorify heroes who kill and maim. We are not suffering from racial v iolence– i t ‘ s cultural violence! The horror of people being intentionally injured or killed because of their affiliation with a group is with us every day. Killings within families, violence inside schools, attacks on people who are gay, or who profess a certain religion, or belong to a particular ethnic group are in the news daily. But what I ‘d like to bring to your attention

      are the explanationg. Doesn’ t it seem that too frequent- ly, those who kill their partner or their children put the blame on a well-known criminal whom we all fear–an imaginary Black man? And don’ t we all too readily believe in the lie that danger lurks in the Black man?

      Why do we look at individuals to explain violence, rather than at the larger society? Consider this: When a school child fires a gun and people are killed or hurt, listen carefully to the explanations. If inner city Black or Brown kids fire the shots, the inevitable conclusion is that something is wrong with their mother. She had sex too young; she didn’t go to church. The daddy was a rapper. Three strikes and they are out. But when White children shoot others in Pearl, MS, or Paducah, KY, or Bankhead, GA, or Littleton, CO, we don’t look to their parents to find fault. It ‘s not their mama or their daddy. When it ‘s White-on-White crime, there is something wrong with the system. When are you going to do a study of White-on-White crime? We must look at the cultural context of violence!

      The fact is we are a God-blessed nation. We are also a free nation, a prosperous nation. We are also the most violent nation on earth. We make the most guns. We make the most bombs, and we drop them. We glamorize vio- lence. We allow the market to determine our health care policy. We punish certain people more severely than oth- ers. We live with inequality of opportunity to partake of such basic things as health care, information, and educa- tion.

      In closing, I want to turn to the fifth of the democratic premises I listed earlier, concern for the least of these. We should not compromise our basic American dream. We should fight for what is right. We should leave no one behind. These people, all of them, are our people. Remem- ber the story of the lost sheep?

      A shepherd called in his sheep in the evening; 99 came but 1 did not. He was worried about it, wanted to go look for it. But some argued that “You can’t save every- one,” and the 99 sheep said, “What about us? We came when called.” As they argued about whether he should go find the lost sheep, the sun went down.

      Maybe the one who stayed behind had an auditory problem; maybe it stepped on glass and was bleeding; maybe it was kicked by a bigger sheep, or was lost, or in distress, or had been abused.

      You, as good psychologists, as teachers, bring your light to dark places. Help us find all the lost sheep, and leave no one behind.


      King, M. L., Jr. (1968). The role of the behavioral scientist in the Civil Rights Movement. Journal of Sociallssues, 24(1), 1-12. For the text of the speech, see also

      United States Sentencing Commission. (1999). 1997 sourcebook of federal sentencing statistics. Retrieved December 8, 1999, from the World Wide Web

      Wilson, D. J, (1999, April). Correctional populations in the United States, 1996 (NCJ 170013). Rockville, MD: Bureau of Criminal Justice Statis- tics. Retrieved December 8, 1999, from the World Wide Web: http:// www.ojp.usdoj .gov/bj s/pub/pdf/cpius965 .pdf

      330 March 2000 • American Psychologist

"Get 15% discount on your first 3 orders with us"
Use the following coupon

Order Now