AGPA STATEMENT ON HATE CRIMES AND MASS SHOOTINGS
May 17, 2022
The American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) is a professional organization dedicated to the field of group psychotherapy. In light of recent hate crimes and ongoing mass shootings that have gathered national attention and inflicted trauma upon our communities of practice, as well as continued violence toward BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals, the association wishes to issue the following statement.
This past weekend, a gunman opened fire in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, killing 10 people and injuring three others. Eleven of those victims were Black. According to numerous reports, the perpetrator chose the supermarket where he opened fire for the explicit purposes of violently reinforcing White Supremacy and targeting Black people, who he saw as a threat to the white race. His rampage was guided by White Supremacist ideas promoted by the media and increasingly adopted and amplified by political figures. It is reported that he planned to commit further hate crimes had he not been apprehended.
The mass shooting in Buffalo happened on the same weekend as another hate crime at a church in Laguna Woods, CA that targeted the Taiwanese community, and was preceded last week by gun violence at a Korean salon in Dallas that may be linked to two other violent attacks on Asian-run businesses in Texas. We want to honor the victims of hate crimes and attest that their lives matter.
AGPA represents over 3,000 mental health professional members, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, clinical mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, pastoral counselors, occupational therapists, and creative arts therapists. As an organization dedicated to group therapy, we seek to promote dialogue and understanding across differences, to disrupt unhealthy and violent uses of power and domination, to engage marginalized and voiceless members, and to move from division between “us” and “them” to a more collective, shared sense of “we.” When confronted with racial violence, we have an ethical obligation to speak clearly and with courage in order to give voice to the truth, and act in solidarity with targeted marginalized communities. We must not let this message dissipate after the events that sparked our awareness have left the news cycle.
These ethical principles lead us to unequivocally denounce racist ideology that suggests that people who hold societal privilege are being replaced or victimized when there is progress toward inclusion and equity for marginalized groups. This racist paradigm, centered in large-group scapegoating dynamics, is used as fuel and justification for inflicting aggression and violence toward those who are already hurting. As a tool to reinforce White Supremacy, it also seeks to erase generational legacies of marginalization and oppression while it aims to exclude that which makes healthy groups and communities thrive: diversity of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, and other identities. This promotion of racial violence warrants immediate and universal condemnation and interruption.
Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive count the hate crime in Buffalo as the 198th mass shooting in the United States in the first 19 weeks of 2022. In the same weekend as the racially directed attacks in Buffalo and Laguna Woods, there was an armed altercation at a flea market in Houston, TX and three shootings in the context of an NBA game in Milwaukee, WI. We register ongoing concern about lack of legislative movement to address the staggering toll of deaths by firearms in the United States. The world looks on at this epidemic of violence as a uniquely American problem.
As part of our firm commitment as an antiracist organization, we at AGPA come together in our shared humanity as people and professionals in an ongoing journey to ensure safety, justice, and dignity for all, and to work to actively dismantle racism and systems of oppression. We call on all community members to join with us to support, protect, and mitigate harm to our neighbors, our colleagues, and our clients. By standing together we can ensure that every seat in the collective group circle is filled and has a voice.
You can access additional trauma information on the AGPA website at http://www.agpa.org/home/developing-healthy-communities/group-interventions-for-trauma.
This statement was developed by the AGPA Community Outreach Task Force, chaired by Craig Haen and Suzanne Phillips, which is charged with establishing and executing community outreach programs to provide assistance to diverse group populations in the aftermath of traumatic events, in collaboration with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, chaired by Sophia Aguirre, Wendy Freedman, Latoyia Griffin, and Vincent Dehili.
Community Outreach Task Force Co-Chairs
Craig Haen, Ph.D., RDT, LCAT, CGP, FAGPA
Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force Co-Chairs
M. Sophia Aguirre, Ph.D., CGP, FAGPA
Wendy Freedman, Ph.D., CGP
Latoyia Griffin, LCSW, CGP
Vincent Malik Dehili, Ph.D., CGP