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Deborah L. Plummer, PhD, is a psychologist, author, and speaker on topics central to equity, inclusion, and how to turn us and them into we. #Getting to We

Do We Need a Form of Couples Therapy to Achieve Racial Equity?

As a young psychologist facilitating couples therapy, I quickly learned that it was easy to become the enemy of one partner simply by agreeing with the other partner. This pattern would set up a dynamic of “therapist volleyball” where I was tossed as the enemy between one or the other partner in any given session based on which partner I appeared to be favoring with my response.

As a seasoned psychologist, I learned to ward off this volleying and cries of “you always agree with her or him,” by creating an imaginary fourth person in the room called Goal. In…

I grew up living next door to a White family who daily flew a confederate flag on the side of their home that bordered our adjacent property. They also erected a barbed wire fence the length of our six-acre lot and placed no trespassing signs upon each post. Their three German Shepherds were trained as attack dogs to ensure that my siblings and I wouldn’t dare approach their property, even for retrieving a ball that might have accidentally went over the fence while we played. …

Robert Clay Photography /

In the fight for a just and equitable society, what do we do about all of the White women who voted for Trump?

Since the election, several of my White women friends have asked me that question. I’ve asked myself that same question. Like my friends, I am still a bit baffled that support for Trump by White women not only remained as high as in the 2016 election, but as suggested by some exit polling increased in 2020.

It’s an honest curiosity. We know that women are not a monolith. We honor the diversity of thought and expression that…

In 2017, I received an email request to keynote the 2018 Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy (AAGT) Conference in Toronto. In my early years as a therapist, I spent many years in post-graduate training at the Gestalt Institute in Cleveland. I became deeply honed in Gestalt theory, applied it in my clinical practice and, over time, wrote several journal articles applying the theory to diversity, equity, and inclusion principles.

With this background, I saw the request as an invitation to renew and expand my learning. I was especially intrigued by the conference theme, “Radical Respect: Contemporary Gestalt Therapy…

I am still a bit exasperated with Ellie McGinty. Ellie is a fictional character in The Daughters of Erietown, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Connie Schultz’s novel about four generations of women in a working class family set over several decades. Even though Ellie is a fictional character, she lives in the personalities of many White women I know.

Two different book clubs that I belong to choose The Daughters of Erietown for our monthly discussion. Both members in each book club found Ellie to be very relatable. They applauded her courage in working to define herself outside of the constraints of…

And Other Distressing Emotions Associated with Learning about Race and Racial Identity

Behind every discomfort, there’s learning… if we stay with the discomfort long enough. There is no other way to learn the skill sets necessary to manage the dynamics of human differences without challenging our assumptions and moving out of our comfort zones.

Discomfort is a natural aspect of any learning process. Even geniuses, gurus, star athletes, great musicians, top artists, saints, prophets, and pretty much everyone learns this way. No discomfort, no learning.

In race education, the discomfort stems from the interruption of our culturally encapsulated living patterns and our culturally myopic thinking. …

The Psychology Behind the Anxiety and Why We Should All Care


Like many theories, CRT is complex and evolving, not only in its tenets but in its practical application. Its complexity and malleability make it easy to exploit its principles and turn it into a media sound bite that incites confusion, fear and division.

As a theory, it’s easy for detractors to reduce its constructs to us vs. them and to argue that it is really about anti-White racism. For the average person, understanding CRT is overwhelming and feels like you need to have degrees in law, history, anthropology, sociology, and political science to enter the conversation.

That would be a…

Shaping a narrative for the suspect in Atlanta-area spa shootings shifts the focus from racial targeting and anti-Asian hate crimes to White exceptionality

lev radin/

When notifications that eight people were killed in an Atlanta-area spa shooting flashed across my newsfeed, I shared the collective horror of a nation. Because six of them were Asian, I feared for my Asian American friends and the Asian American community as these crimes serve to stoke their justified concerns of violence and escalating anti-Asian hate crimes.

Since the start of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asian Americans have grown by almost 150% with the latest act of violence happening on March 16, 2021, when eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women. …

I have spent a lifetime providing evidence to Whites that racism exists. Yet, they remain the arbitrators of its existence.


Many years ago, when teaching a graduate level course, Multicultural Applications of Clinical Psychology, I referenced an article on race and psychological distress. I can still remember where I was positioned in the classroom, the need for brighter lighting in the room, how the desks were arranged, where this student sat and even the placement of the notebooks on her desk. She slightly held up one hand and with the other folded her long brown hair to the side, raised her head slightly, looked at me quizzically, and spoke.

“Who wrote that article?”

I gave her the name of the…

Like many social scientists, I learned that prejudice + power = racism. Having power is key for determining how someone could turn their everyday bias into racism. We all have prejudices but not everyone has the power to turn it into racism. With power, one can make laws, establish structures, enact practices and procedures that benefit Whites and disadvantage BIPOC.

This classic definition of racism remains true today, especially for how structural and systemic racism get created and maintained. …

Deborah L. Plummer

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