From Colonial Mentality to Critical Thinking
Edil Torres Rivera, Wichita State University
Psychology and in particular Western psychology, as well as Western academia (e.g., universities and colleges), gave us the traditions of creating "new" knowledge and giving everyone the impression that all that is known about psychology is of Western societies’ creation and these impressions are powerful influences and set forth sociopolitical structures in which the profession would be built. Thus, the notions of what knowledge, reality, culture, language, power, and how knowledge is shared, though progressive in many important ways, are still nested within a Western colonial framework of universal, reductionist, and expert-based scientific thought. As a result, the field of psychology could be seen as complicit in maintaining overarching Western domination over social, psychological, and scientific inquiry and education. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a sense of balance while redefining (a) what knowledge is, (b) how knowledge is understood, and (c) how we share that knowledge from within the community, the others, and those that are not part of the professional psychology community.
We can maintain this balance by following the principles and guidelines that have been provided to us by Freire's approach of problematization -> reflection -> action. As we become a global community, we are responsible for determining how different constructs are defined regarding knowledge, culture, power, barriers, boundaries, and what constitutes appropriate dissemination of information, including who can access and understand the information that has been discovered. Those paying attention to the decolonization and liberation movement are urged to follow specific guidelines. First, it is important to remember that in the process of colonization and globalization of the profession, we have lost valuable information and meaning. That is, we cannot understand people's knowledge from a different worldview and/or perspective without an understanding of the etiology of colonization and oppression and the following conditions. This is also consistent with Laenui's (2000) assertion that decolonization must begin with the rediscovery and recovery of what was lost during colonization. Moreover, the frameworks and instruments utilized to obtain new knowledge are built on universal, expert-based notions of what Western (Euro-American) worldviews understand and define what knowledge is. These frameworks are defined and crafted by groups and individuals in power, not average citizens. In other words, knowledge is created and disseminated for the privileged and powerful. Thus, the urgent task for psychologists is to educate those not in positions of power so they can liberate themselves through knowledge and a new understanding of their reality (Freire, 2000; Martí Baró, 1998).
While the United States academia is viewed as a growing body of research that includes the voices of everyday people, a closer view of the research indicates that academic studies are also clearly based on universal, expert-based notions of what knowledge is. Thus, the traditional goal of psychological research to collect and analyze data within expert-based frameworks and to create static theoretical structures that can be applied across contexts could be seen as maintaining the status quo. So, my invitation is to move beyond and see our jobs as part of community building and walk the walk using Freire's idea that every theory must have a practical application in our everyday work. Let's be more than just a reference in an article or a book; let's be an example to be followed, a role model to be emulated.