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In Case You Missed It – February 27, 2015

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Welcome to our new feature – In Case You Missed It, a weekly roundup of recent news articles related to issues of psychology, health and mental health, social justice and the public interest that you may be interested in.

Many of our nation’s homeless youth include LGBTQ youngsters forced to leave homes unwelcoming to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Once on the streets, homeless LGBTQ youth are particularly at risk of having to engage in “survival sex” or trading sex for a place to stay – up to 7 times more likely than their straight peers according to one study. This article spotlights new research on the reasons why homeless LGBTQ youth are forced to trade sex for shelter. For more information on issues affecting homeless LGBT youth, visit our Safe and Supportive Schools Project’s  Youth at Disproportionate Risk webpage.

After Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, suggested that being transgender should not preclude anyone from serving in the military, gay rights groups have renewed their calls for the current ban on transgender service members to be lifted. The ban has remained in place even though the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gay service members was lifted in 2011. While supporters of the ban say removing it could damage unit cohesion and combat readiness, gay rights advocates cite studies that show little harm in letting transgender service members serve openly.

A flippant comment on the Oscars red carpet ignited a discussion on social media about race, stereotyping and microaggressions. Giuliana Rancic, a panelist on E!’s Fashion Police show critiqued the dreadlocked hairstyle of 18-year old starlet, Zendaya, saying “I feel like she smells like patchouli oil … or weed.” Zendaya responded by calling out the lazy stereotype of associating dreadlocked hairstyles among people of color with marijuana use and placed it in the larger context of the criticism people of African descent face for wearing natural hairstyles. In her subsequent apology, Rancic, acknowledged “I didn’t intend to hurt anybody, but I’ve learned it is not my intent that matters; it’s the result, and the result is that people are offended.”

Is this just a tempest in a teapot? Well actually, no. While microaggressions like these may appear like small and often unintentional offenses, they can particularly harm the mental health of marginalized groups over time. In her response accepting Rancic’s apology, Zendaya pointed out that this incident provides a learning experience for all of us. This discussion guide based on the work of prominent psychologist, Dr. Derald Wing Sue, offers parents and educators tips for helping teens spot microaggressions in their daily lives.

Could implicit bias be behind the healthcare disparities many African Americans face? According to a perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the answer may be yes. Drs. David Ansell and Edwin McDonald cite research showing that minority patients receive fewer recommended treatments for various diseases and less effective care than White patients. The inequity persists even when socioeconomic status and insurance coverage are controlled for. The physicians urge their profession to confront the ways in which systemic racial bias affects the health of their patients as well as the diversity of their profession. For more on preventing discrimination and promoting diversity, check out APA’s Presidential Task Force report – Dual Pathways to a Better America.

In a keynote speech at a Silicon Valley conference for women, Hillary Clinton called out the lack of hospitality that Silicon Valley has showed to female entrepreneurs and leaders in recent years. “We’re going backwards in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward” she said, lamenting the drop in percentage of women receiving computer science degrees from 38% in the 1980s to just 18% today. In a followup interview, Clinton called for action on policy issues like equal pay and family leave that level the playing field for women. Check out these blog posts for more on APA’s advocacy regarding equal pay and paid family and medical leave.

In a powerful new series of radio interviews, two young child prostitutes share their experiences of being pulled into “the game.” These young women are just two of the estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children sold for sex in the United States every year, many of whom are abducted and manipulated or explicitly forced into prostitution. The issue of trafficking of women and girls is explored in depth in a recent APA Task Force report, which reviews the state of the research and offers recommendations for prevention, intervention, policy, research and training.

Many police departments around the country are being forced to confront issues of bias when it comes to policing minority communities. The Kalamazoo, MI police department is no exception. However, they are informing their approach with data. After a 2012 study provided concrete data that police officers were racially profiling residents – including searching and arresting Black motorists at higher frequencies even though Whites were more likely to be found with contraband – the department decided to make a change. They began to address the issue of implicit bias and how it affected cops’ interactions with minority members of the Kalamazoo community. For more on ways in which to improve community policing, read our blog post on teachable moments about policing from Ferguson.

What do you think of these stories? Did we leave anything out? Leave us a comment.

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