Diversity, Oppression, and Decolonisation – Are There Too Many Social Justice Articles in The Psychologist Magazine?

An Opinion Piece by Dennis Relojo-Howell

On February 22nd this year, Nicola Beaumont voiced her disappointment in The Psychologist‘s (the British Psychology Society’s journal) focus in its March 2020 issue: decolonising psychology.

As expected, her views attracted a vast pile-on, which included people questioning her qualifications and whether she’s fit to work within the psychology profession.

It’s not the first time that Nicola shared her sentiment. In January she said that she ‘very much doubted that The Psychologist would publish anything that supported Brexit or supported conservative views because there would be outrage from leftists’.

Nicola is justified in saying this: I’ve witnessed this outrage, the sort that unfolded when Jo Hemming published an article on Mail Online about Meghan Markle.

I share Nicola’s observation that the British Psychology Society’s magazine has consistently pushed left-wing types of agendas. For instance, in the run-up to Brexit, views which opposed it regularly appeared in the magazine. There have also been a number of articles that demonise Trump – I noticed these things because I am both pro-Brexit and pro-Trump.

It would be far more convenient for me not to express a particularly strong opinion on this. After all, I could easily capitalise on the kind of predominant views you’ll find in The Psychologist, the kind that promotes the victimhood narrative and social justice agenda. But I find this obsession to be nauseating and tiresome. It appears to me that victimhood, and hatred of White people (especially of White heterosexual men) are encouraged.

And I just don’t use the word ‘obsession’ for no reason. Here’s a selection of articles published on The Psychologist for the last six years which exemplifies this agenda I’m referring to.

Now contrast the above list to conservative views and it won’t take you long to notice that there is a scarcity of articles in The Psychologist that, for example,  talk positively about the contributions of Dr Jordan Peterson, articles that explore the views of Dr Noah Carl on race and IQ, or the ones that cover the unusual viewpoints within evolutionary psychology which you can read in Quillette.

As much as I hate identity politics, I feel that it is relevant to share my background: I’m gay and I spent my childhood in a slum in the Philippines – a country which has been colonised four times. That said, I could easily rack up intersectionality and victimhood points. Yet, I have never perceived myself as a victim of other people or circumstances: I always see myself as someone who is responsible for shaping my own destiny. I refuse to embrace victimhood; I always aim to be responsible for my own actions and incompetence, rather than be someone who weaponises victimhood to gain an undeserved advancement. Studying psychology encouraged me to operate based on self-actualisation.

I find The Psychologist to be an excellent repository of articles on racism and victimhood. Yet, as an immigrant, I have never experienced the UK as a racist country. For those who say that the UK is a racist country, I just wonder which country are they comparing it to? Are they comparing the UK to China? to Russia? To claim that this country is racist without taking into account other countries is rather unreasonable, if not disingenuous.

I’ve lived in five countries before coming here in the UK: Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Germany. And I can say that I have witnessed more racism in Singapore and Thailand than here. I don’t wish to invalidate other people’s experiences, but since I moved here (I came here in 2013 to do a master’s degree in psychology) I never experienced any form of discrimination or racism – perhaps because I don’t go on with my life scouting around for something to be offended about. I also spent most of my days in the company of White working-class people – because I’m the kind of immigrant who assimilates.

Now back to the BPS magazine. When I expressed my views on the kind of narratives that you would likely read in The Psychologist, I was told (via Twitter) that other topics are not being pushed out from the magazine, to which I clarified that I was not talking about topics, but rather about views on topics. For instance, I am not convinced that all readers of the magazine think that psychology needs to be decolonised.

In a time of such polarisation, I hope that the magazine would diversify its views – instead of obsessing on social justice dogmas.

It just feels like you’re reading social justice pieces straight from The Guardian – which would be acceptable if that’s what I signed up for. But then, I didn’t choose to read The Guardian.


Editor’s note:  This article was first published on Psychreg.