For years, the field of special education and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been one which has been dominated by Caucasians. In schools, white individuals and their children with significant socio-economic status often receive higher quality attention, care and treatment than their minority counterparts. This has been a century old, systemic issue rooted in the financial inequality which exists between black and white people. This issue now has been translated into predominantly white colleges majoring in special education, applied behavior analysis and other disability service specialties, and neglecting colleges that serve African-Americans the opportunity to equip their students with the knowledge and power needed to make a difference in this field.
But why the inequality?
The inequality stems from the high expense the disability sectors incurs and the privilege often associated with the access of its services. Nations with high poverty rates often have no knowledge of special education nor the understanding of mental health challenges. Activists may believe this could be a function of the upper class withholding information about the issues the disabled face. However, this is false. The truth is historically, inventions, breakthroughs and new knowledge birthed in the scientific and medical community are often shared with the wealthy first, for a price they alone can afford. Since blacks, latinos, and other minority races may have a higher rate of poverty, the ability to access crucial information may be restricted.
In addition to financial circumstances, a lot of the black community has just begun to see and appreciate the need to invest and attend to their mental health needs. This can be seen in the upsurge of black mental health campaigns nationwide and worldwide. Many families in minority races are simply without the tools and screening services to identify disabilities and mental health issues among their children. The lack of priority given to special needs in the black community translates to a lack of interest in many to pursue careers in the field. Careers such as law, medicine and piloting may seem much more traditional and attractive to the minorities. Schools may not offer services or degrees due to a lack of demand.
In the Caribbean, there is only one school which offers Applied Behavior Analysis, JTS in Kingston, Jamaica. The reality is that the number of graduates leaving school with this degree are far lower than the need within the Caribbean population for this service. In America, predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and therapy centers are often seen as industry dominators, which may intimidate historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in joining the sector only to have a low demand.
In truth, an African-American therapist may be able to empathize and connect with an ethnic client more than anyone else can. There is a growing need to close the racial gap within the service industry field of ABA. It begins with HBCUs daring to take the lead from PWIs in their area to be the leading providers of ABA for ethnic groups. There needs to be greater sensitization of special needs in the black community for the purpose of raising awareness of the field and the immeasurable benefits of serving your equals in such a deep way as alleviating suffering that comes from a disability.
If you know an ethnic prospective student, share this post with them and encourage them to ask around for ABA degrees in their area. The more we demand, the greater our voices will be!
Until next time!