Psychotherapy Bulletin

Psychotherapy Bulletin

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.   So said Martin Luther King Jr. (1968).

As I write this, on April 29, 2014, the sports world gave us proof of this. When the National Basketball League banned Donald Sterling for life from the NBA family and pressed for his removal as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers (Branch, 2014), it said racism will not be tolerated and those who discriminate within its authority will be held accountable. Instead of allowing an owner to demean and marginalize the players who contribute to his wealth, the NBA set a forceful example for justice, fairness, and equality.

The APA, too, has a long and proud tradition of opposing discrimination. And it is the mission of the Domain for Public Policy and Social Justice to join in that tradition.

What this brings to mind for us is the importance of our APA core values. Division 29 is a division committed to these core values.

It also brings to mind what is often at the root of the kind of discrimination the NBA players have experienced. And that is the power and blindness of privilege. That privilege is power is well understood. Its blindness is not well recognized, except by those without privilege.

Like Sterling, most of us do not see or understand our own privilege. To the contrary, we tend to see only the ways in which we are not privileged. That’s why it is so important for us to listen to, to really hear, the plaints of those who do not enjoy whatever privilege we enjoy.

Let me explain by example. I have been blind to the privilege of my White face and male gender. Only by listening carefully to those who are not White or male (unfortunately, often after I have blindly caused pain) have I begun to understand the impact of my privilege on them.

There is yet another, equally important truth to this.   Everyone reading this, just by virtue of being a member of Division 29 and APA, is privileged, no matter in what ways we may not be privileged.

Let me explain by example again. Even though I am gay, I enjoy the privilege of being White, male, educated, able-bodied, and employed. As gay, I may have less power and am vulnerable as a minority to the majority that is heterosexual. But as an able-bodied, White male, etc., I have power. Lots of it. Particularly in the eyes of those who do not.

If we focus only on the way(s) in which we are marginalized, we run the risk of missing personal power that can be used to leverage our rights against discrimination in whatever form it takes.

Moreover, it is incumbent upon each of us to use whatever privilege we enjoy to labor to extend that privilege to those who do not have it. Together, as privileged and unprivileged, we are far more effective in opposing discrimination.

Admittedly, it is hard and often costly, as history has shown. Yet, every once in a while, as we saw today in L. A. and the NBA, the years of civil rights struggle and strife yield an action that not only opposes prejudice but sets the bar right where it needs to be: with equality for all, at all times, in all places. No exception.

Be the 1st to vote.

Dr. Armand Cerbone has a long history of leadership in APA governance. In addition to more than ten years on the Council of Representatives, he is a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association (APA), a past Chair of the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, the APA Ethics Committee, the Policy and Planning Board, a past president of Division 29 (Psychotherapy) and Division 44 (SOGI), as well as the Illinois Psychological Association. He holds a diplomate in Clinical Psychology and is a Fellow of seven divisions of the APA. He is co-author of the APA Guidelines on psychotherapy with LGB Clients and chaired the working group that developed the APA’s Resolution on sexual orientation and marriage and Resolution on sexual orientation, parents and children. He has received many awards for his work. Among them are the APA’s Committee on LGBT Concern’s Outstanding Achievement Award and The Society for the Psychological Study of LGB Issues’ (Div 44 in APA) awards for Distinguished Professional Contribution, and Distinguished Contributions to Education. In 2003 he was inaugurated into the City of Chicago Lesbian and Gay Hall of Fame. In 2016 he received the Ray Fowler Award, APA highest award for Outstanding Member Contributions.

Cite This Article

Cerbone, A. R. (2014). The arc of the moral universe. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 49(2), 31-32.


Branch, J. (2014, April 29). N.B.A. bars Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.ny- ketball/nba-donald-sterling-los-ange les-clippers.html?_r=0

King, M. L. Jr. (1965, March 25). Address at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March. Retrieved from cyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_marti n_luther_king_jr_biography/


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