Antiracism Requires Accomplices

by Effua E. Sosoo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Donte L. Bernard, Medical University of South Carolina, and Carrington C. Merritt, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This article was originally published in the PCSAS newsletter. Click here to subscribe

“The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist’” (Kendi, 2019, p. 9)

The recent trifecta of shooting deaths that claimed the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd has many non-Black individuals and organizations scrambling to firmly establish themselves in the anti-racist camp. Tweets, emails, and Facebook posts ending with “I see you,” “I love you,” “I’m listening,” or some variation, abound. Lest we get carried away, let us recognize that this kind of allyship is not new. However, being an ally has never been sufficient. This moment does not require allies: we need accomplices. Allies are focused on supporting or standing with a particular individual or marginalized group, but accomplices are focused on dismantling the systemic structures that lead to oppression. While the term accomplice has criminal connotations, if we conceptualize anti-racism as a crime in light of societal tendencies to take a laissez-faire approach regarding racism, then it is a crime of which we should all be found guilty. We will outline short- and long-term measures our clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has taken to move towards accompliceship, with the caveat that it is not perfect and social justice is a journey rather than a destination.

Short-Term: Hour of Action

As one example of a short-term accomplice-oriented initiative, our program’s Diversity Training Committee hosted a Zoom-based “Hour of Action” during which students and faculty came together to simultaneously accomplish individually-selected activism goals for sixty minutes. While this event was open to all, we called specifically for the participation of non-Black faculty and students. This decision was based on our desire to push our program beyond allyship based only on words and establish a space of both community and accountability for taking action against racial injustice. To facilitate this action, we compiled a document of resources detailing specific measures they could take in the immediate moment such as contacting legislators, signing petitions, and supporting local Black-owned businesses (see the link provided in resource list).

Feedback from participants during the initial event resoundingly requested for this kind of action to persist within the program. So, we made the “Hour of Action” a weekly event and extended invitations to students and faculty of the entire Psychology and Neuroscience Department, which resulted in more than 70 participants during the second occasion. As a next step, we hope to create a similar action-oriented space focused on addressing racial inequities within our program. Though small measures such as the “Hour of Action” and subsequent iterations have much room for growth, they can still be implemented immediately and consistently to provoke a programmatic shift toward accompliceship in anti-racist efforts. Initiatives like the “Hour of Action” are beneficial as they serve as unique forums that can shift passive support for racial equity to tangible, action-oriented measures that can fundamentally transform how individuals champion against racial injustice.

Long-Term: Diversifying Clinical Psychology Weekend

While the “Hour of Action” serves as a novel initiative to bolster individual activism directed toward disrupting racial injustice within the community, we also recognize the importance of promoting racial equity, diversity, and representation within the academy. Thus, it is imperative to also consider the utility of long-term accomplice-oriented initiatives to diversify the field of clinical science. For example, our program was among the first to spearhead targeted efforts to increase the recruitment and admittance of underrepresented students into doctoral psychology programs through a program called Diversifying Clinical Psychology (DCP) Weekend. Inspired by the University of Michigan’s Diversity Recruitment Weekend, the DCP program is designed to provide talented racial and ethnic minority attendees with a comprehensive look at graduate school through an intensive set of interactive seminars and workshops. This program was developed in direct response to racial and ethnic minority students comprising a strikingly low percentage of the student body within clinical psychology doctoral programs. Such opportunities are beneficial as they have profound implications on the competitiveness of applicants of color.

The DCP program intentionally recruits attendees from underrepresented backgrounds who possess varying amounts of knowledge and expertise regarding clinical psychology, with the purpose of increasing access to resources, training, and experiences that bolster their interest and competitiveness in pursuing a graduate degree within this field. Therefore, the weekend begins with introductory topics that provide attendees with a brief overview of the field of clinical psychology in addition to similar disciplines (e.g., social work, counseling psychology) and becomes more concentrated to focus on specific aspects of applying to a psychology graduate program. In addition to formal didactic training, attendees are also matched with several faculty members based on research interest and meet in small groups to discuss topics pertaining to research, professional development, and graduate school. These meetings are supplemented with one-on-one meetings with graduate students and faculty to develop and/or revise application materials. The weekend culminates with several in-depth discussions about life in graduate school broadly and, more specifically, as a person of color. These discussions are designed to equip attendees with useful information to anticipate and adaptively navigate general and race-related stressors that may become relevant when matriculating through a clinical psychology graduate program. Since the inception of this program in 2014, 68 individuals have attended and 3 have been accepted into our clinical psychology program while many have matriculated at other institutions. Further, since this program’s inception, several other clinical psychology programs have followed suit and have developed similar diversifying clinical science initiatives.


While there are many short- and long-term steps programs can take towards anti-racism (see the link provided in resource list), it is important to acknowledge that this is an intentional and effortful process that requires accomplices. As racism operates at multiple levels to oppress communities and students of color, so too must our anti-racist efforts to combat and dismantle such systems. That is, anti-racism efforts need to be embedded within every aspect of clinical science, including educational curriculums, faculty hiring efforts, graduate student selection, and continuing education requirements. It is necessary for people, institutions, and organizations to transition from being allies to accomplices. Doing so requires actionable goals rather than pleasantries and email check-ins. In the words of Lisa Ko, an award-winning author, “The revolution will not be diversity and inclusion trainings.”


Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One world.


Hour of Action Google Doc:
Anti-Racism Resource List:



SSCP Diversity Committee
Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology

The SSCP Diversity Committee was established in 2014 to promote a more diverse clinical science.