I Will No Longer Tolerate AntiBlackness in the American Psychiatric Association

Jessica Isom MD MPH
25 min readFeb 26, 2022

“Yet another paper about racism, this paper is useless and potentially harmful, fails to recognize what’s already being done. The language used in the paper is divisive and derogatory.”

-Signed, Anonymous Colleague from the APA Assembly, November 2021

A generous clarification: Anti-Black racism is the name of the specific kind of racism directed towards Black people. Anti-Black racism includes prejudice, beliefs, stereotyping and discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience.

A boundary setting disclaimer: I will not explain any other basic terminology in this piece. Search engines are your friend. Consider it a step towards racial equity every time you use them to locate a definition.

Summary: I have decided to leave the American Psychiatric Association after nearly six years of membership first as a resident-fellow member and now as an early career psychiatrist.

Photo taken at Carowinds in my final years of medical school

Despite this short period of engagement, it has felt like I’ve served as a leader in the organization for a few decades. I’m quite sure my telomeres have stories to tell as gendered and racialized stress does great wear and tear on the very DNA my ancestors have gifted me with. My membership and contributions have left me weary and at times, demoralized. I leave hopeful that change will occur so that members similarly positioned and invested in authentic mental health equity pursuits can stay, contribute and lead without risking their health, both physically and mentally. I am open to returning to the APA once receipts are available demonstrating an authentic and sustained engagement in racial equity efforts. Receipts represent transparency and accountability much more than a performative statement ever will.

I have considered this decision many times over the years with the internal questioning of my dedicated presence increasing as I ascended in proximity to leadership in the organization. I have also considered the type of exit and timing of my exit. Would I go quietly into the night by letting my membership lapse on…

Jessica Isom MD MPH

I am a powerful voice and advocate committed to training a workforce that provides Black patients healthcare experiences where they're seen, trusted & valued.