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Disseminating the Science to Eradicate Social Injustices

Why the Science of ABA Doesn't Reach and What We Should Do About It

Sounds serious doesn't it? Sounds like we are really about to make an impact. Sounds smart?!? 

There are so many good initiatives in our field that don't have legs. I liken it to Preaching to The choir. The problem is that in our best efforts as behavior analysts to solve social problems is that we maintain our positions in journal articles and in blogs like this and in presentations where there are people who think like us..applauding. It's not actionable. It's almost like sitting in a church listening to the preacher talking to a group of committed nuns about heaven. The point of our work is to see the impact outside of ourselves...regardless if we work in autism, clinical OBM, corporate OBM, instructional design, diversity, etc. We all know that applied behavior analysis addresses socially significant behaviors and issues. Systematic racism that is built and maintained in and by our society is socially significant!

SOCIAL significance. 

Behavior CHANGE.

We can make a greater impact when we decide to adjust our language and market better. It’s the PR finesse. It’s about communication and providing action plans. All of us as behavior analysts need to come together on this issue. Here are some things that you can do to support this socially significant behavior change that we need to see in our communities.

1. Partner with local law enforcement within your area for implicit bias training. Not only that, teach local law enforcement how behavior analysis can help and make it easy for them. This can be done by creating an ABA task force in your area where you all can:

  • Operationally define the problem behaviors that may lead up to the death of black and brown people everyday such as discrimination, implicit bias, etc.

  • Provide an analysis of the contingencies that maintain these behaviors in your area but even worldwide (i.e., reinforcement, rule governed behavior, etc.) 

  • Provide an action plan built on the principles of applied behavior analysis and consider Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

2. Seek out and become active with your local chamber of commerce to adjust how area businesses provide unbiased customer service.

3. Contact your local legislators and lawmakers and demand change.

4. Step out of our traditional focus…become active and run for local office. Become part of the legislative committee in your town. Volunteer with local organizations focused on voter suppression and/or human rights.

5. When egregious acts of violence and racism occur by local law enforcement (and even other individuals), call officials in your area and demand that these acts are addressed.

6. Find a local high school and the in house security to focus on behavior change procedures.

7. Collaborate with area churches...write grants for literacy, parent advocacy, etc.

8. Evaluate your own implicit biases and be aware of their effects on society.

  • Learn more about the connections between racism, sexism, socioeconomic status, and overrepresentation in the juvenile and criminal justice populations.

  • Consider the elitism in language of “privilege” “I’ll give you a seat at the table”; “black families are underserved” as group based language and one of accommodation but expecting the “Gone With The Wind” gratitude from the black and brown person

  • Consider the intellectual capacity and power of brown and black people in our field as more than talks on diversity but topics in marketing, business, interventions, clinical and corporate OBM practices.

9. Realize that brown and black people NOT in leadership in clinical organizations, conference boards, and societies is problematic for our professional growth, perception in the world, and impact.

10. Use the principles to our advantage

  • Reinforce social behaviors that align with acceptance, integration, and support of minorities.

  • Punish behaviors that promote racism and discrimination such as microaggressions.

    • The reason we say punish is because simply ignoring these behaviors (or placing these behaviors on extinction) is not enough. Turning a blind eye to these behaviors does not work which we can see throughout social media and our day to day interactions with others who engage in these behaviors.

We need to have true impact where our fingers can touch, make connections, establish relationships and then we give them a Playbook on what to do to address these issues.

We have created hashtags that can work for solutions and to be used on social media to promote our cause.

We will never eradicate racism when we only talk at our kitchen table to people who think like us. The way that we really make an impact is talking to people outside of ourselves and our comfort zone.

  1. Invade the systems within your local political communities.

  2. Understand the power of your presence.

  3. Be strategic. Speak and become a value added person to the profession and elevate the areas you want to see and believe behavior analysis should have a larger level of influence.

  4. Learn to speak the language of the people you want to reach so that they will be inclined to listen and see your value.

  5. Utilize your organization to create statements and positions on world issues.

It’s not about presenting at the next ABA conference nor having diversity interest groups where black and brown people are yet to exist with voices, this is about so much more. This is a serious and deadly issue. 

If you want to reduce racism and make an impact while also marketing the profession better, then we call to you! 

This is your call to truly make an impact for our field and for society!

Co-Written By

Landria Seals Green, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCBA  

@LandriaGreenSLPGURU (instagram)           

@SLPGURU (facebook)                   

Vanessa Bethea-Miller, M.A., BCBA, LBS

@bcba_ness (instagram)               

@vanessabetheamiller (facebook)

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