St. Louis, MO; June 2, 2020. Eight days ago, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a police officer. Before that, on March 13, 2020 Breonna Taylor was killed by officers during an unannounced search warrant of the wrong house. Prior to that, on February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two white men while running through the neighborhood. For the past week American cities have erupted in protests with outrage of the recent and ongoing racism and discrimination in this country.

These events have resparked the ongoing conversations about what we, as behavior analysts, can do to shift the ongoing racism and discrimination in this country. In these long eight days since George Floyd’s life was taken from him, we have heard nothing from the official organizations of our field: Applied Behavior Analysis International; the Behavior Analyst Certification Board®; the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts. This morning I checked all of their websites again to ensure I did not miss anything. There are no statements.

I find this disappointing at best. Just this past weekend, at the 46th Annual Convention of ABAI, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board was announced, telling members that ABAI is focused on diversity and creating a more inclusive culture in our field. Yet there is no statement regarding the recent inequitable and violent practices against people of color. This silence is deafening and is leading our field in the wrong direction. This silence is sending the message that this is okay, that the recent actions are not important enough for our leaders to voice their outrage. This silence has not been seen only in the most recent events, but throughout our field in response to sexism, discrimination, racism, sexual orientation, and gender identity issues.

As behavior analysts, we are responsible for making social significant changes. It is our responsibility to address the socially significant issues of discrimination of all kinds. And when our leaders are silent, people continue harmful behavior. An example of this was reported perfectly by Shawn Capell in his Official Statement from Covenant 15:16 LLC. It reads:

                On May 30, 2020 a post was created within a Facebook group asking what the field could do to address the unique environmental contingencies affecting learners of color. Unfortunately, this post was removed by an administrator of the group indicating the post was political in nature. Additionally, this administrator stated:

‘The post on ABA programming specific to “black people” has been removed as inflammatory. The last time I checked, ABA is a science used to change socially important behavior. The color of someone’s skin is not relevant and that post was intended to make a political statement. This is not the intent of this group. Discuss it somewhere else. Any additional posts attempting to resurrect this discussion will be declined. A group member has suggested the alternative group “BCBAs for Change” to continue the discussion and we hope those of you who wish to continue that conversation can go there.’

The post was subsequently taken down and the administrator has since apologized for post in its entreaty. Although this administrator has been removed, the initial damage has been done. 

The field of Applied Behavior Analysis is designed to effect socially significant change and although the race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status of the individuals receiving services should not affect intervention, these factors cannot be ignored. In order to provide effective, individualized treatment for service recipients we must first identify all of the outside contingencies that can/will affect the effectiveness of implementation. It is time for our governing bodies to address the issues surrounding multicultural and diversity issues within the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.”

Behavior Leader, Inc. stands with Covenant 15:16 LLC in the call to action of Applied Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), the Behavior Analysis Certification Board® (BACB), and the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) to provide statements on the tangible steps being taken to address these issues. These statements made by the group administrator along with the over 200 comments that followed highlight the need for socially significant change in our field. It is no longer okay to remain silent and let it pass. It is no longer okay for our governing bodies to not take a stand and demonstrate the inclusion they voice when it is convenient.

Our requests are clear.

  1. Take a stand and make a clear statement against racism, sexism, and discrimination and the actionable steps the organization will take and expect their members to take in the socially significant fight against these things.
  2. Modify the requirements of the BACB® task list, verified course sequence (VCS) and Continuing Education (CEU) requirements to include cultural awareness and diversity.

Behavior Leader, Inc. embraces our values of inclusion, empowerment, passion, behavior analytic, and data focused. We believe that together we can change the world. As we continue to address the issues within organizations and build leaders across the world, we call on other professionals within the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to continually work to identify and act against their own negative biases towards others. We will continue to do our work in the community and with organizations both within and outside of behavior analysis. Our ask is that you do the same.