Glenn Adams is Associate Professor of Psychology, Director of the Cultural Psychology Research Group, and Faculty Associate Director of the Kansas African Studies Center at the University of Kansas. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone before completing his Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Stanford University. His graduate training included two years of field research in Ghana, which provided the empirical foundation for his research on cultural-psychological foundations of relationship. His current work builds on this foundation in an attempt to decolonize knowledge production in psychological science and to articulate models of human development that promote sustainable ways of being and social justice for broader humanity. An enduring interest is development of a globally relevant psychology. Drawing on the theoretical perspective of cultural psychology, one sense of “globally relevant psychology” is a more position-conscious science that not only transcends the cultural imperialism of mainstream psychology, but also illuminates the socio-historical foundations of mind. Drawing upon the theoretical perspective of liberation psychology, another sense of “globally relevant psychology” refers to a science that addresses the concerns of humanity in general—how to maintain a peaceful, secure and viable existence in the context of uncertainty, economic and political violence and material scarcity—rather than the more self-indulgent concerns of a highly particular subset of people in situations of unprecedented material abundance.
If you did a survey of Americans and asked them about the extent of racism in American society, then you would likely find that White respondents perceive far less racism than do people from the “Other” ethnic/racial groups that European settlers have historically dominated. Alternatively stated, White folks are more likely than peoples they have historically dominated to believe that American society and its mainstream institutions are colorblind or race-neutral. What accounts for this difference?
For one thing, research suggests that White folks believe in the colorblind neutrality of American society because they are motivated to deny the extent of racism. The idea that American society and mainstream institutions harbor elements of racism is threatening to the American ideology of “liberty and justice for all” that students recite daily when pledging allegiance to the flag. Many White folks (including myself) would rather not think that the institutions from which we disproportionately benefit are racist, so we interpret ambiguous events in a way that allows us to avoid such troubling thoughts.