Robert Williams (psychologist)

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Robert Lee Williams
Born (1930-02-20) February 20, 1930 (age 84)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Psychology
Institutions Washington University in St. Louis
National Institute of Mental Health
Association of Black Psychologists
Alma mater Philander Smith College
Washington University in St. Louis
Known for Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity
"Ebonics"

Robert Lee Williams II is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology and African and Afro-American Studies[1] at the Washington University in St. Louis and a prominent figure in the history of African-American Psychology. He is well known as a stalwart critic of racial and cultural biases in IQ testing, for coining the word “Ebonics” in 1973, and for developing the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity. He has published more than sixty professional articles and several books. He was a founding member of the Association of Black Psychologists, and served as its second President.

Childhood and family[edit]

Robert Lee Williams was born in Biscoe, Arkansas on February 20, 1930. His father, Robert L. Williams, worked as a millwright and died when his son was just five years old. Williams’ mother, Rosie L. Williams, worked in the homes of white families until her death in 1978. He has one sister, Dorothy Jean.[2] He married Ava L. Kemp in 1948, at the age of 18, to whom he has remained married 65 years and had eight children, 17 grandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren. His eight college educated children include four psychologists, a nurse, a journalist, a teacher, and a leather craftswoman.[3]

Education[edit]

Robert L. Williams graduated from Dunbar High School in Little Rock at the age of sixteen before attending Dunbar Junior College for one year. Williams earned a BA degree (cum laude with Distinction in Field) from Philander Smith College in 1953. He earned a M.Ed. from Wayne State University in educational psychology in 1955 at a time when all graduate programs in the South remained segregated, and a Ph.D in 1961 from Washington University in St. Louis in clinical psychology.

Career[edit]

Dr. Williams worked as a Staff Psychologist at Arkansas State Hospital, the first African-American psychologist to be hired at a State Mental Health facility in Arkansas. He later served as Chief Psychologist, at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Affairs Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, Director of a Hospital Improvement Project in Spokane, Washington, and a consultant for the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1968 he was a founding member of the National Association of Black Psychologists, and served as its Second President.[4] From 1970 to 1992 he served as Full Professor of Psychology and African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He founded the department of Black Studies at Washington University and served as its first Director, developing a curriculum that would serve as a model throughout the country.

Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity (BITCH)[edit]

Dr. Williams created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity by drawing from a glossary of African-American vernacular and personal experience.[5] “Danger: Testing and De-humanizing Black Children” Though structured similarly to traditional IQ testing, European Americans scored consistently lower on the BITCH than African Americans. Dr. Williams did not conclude, as had white psychologists, that this proved the intellectual inferiority of European Americans.

Coining the term Ebonics[edit]

Main article: Ebonics (word)

Dr. Williams created the term Ebonics (a combination of “ebony” and “phonics”) to refer to African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) on January 26, 1973 at a conference called “The Cognitive and Language Development of Black Children”.[6] In 1975 he edited a book entitled Ebonics: The True Language of Black Folks, which explained the African roots of Ebonics and refuted the popular conception that Ebonics was simply slang or deficient English.

Black Personality Theory[edit]

Dr. Williams formulated his Black Personality Theory, presented in his second book, The Collective Mind: Toward an Afrocentric Theory of Black Personality. His theory argued that black personality cannot be understood using European philosophy and values. Instead the Black Personality Theory would draw on an African philosophy of collectiveness diametrically opposed to Western individualism.[7]

Racial scripting[edit]

Professor Williams argues that white children acquire racist predispositions at a young age through the process of “racial scripting”. In this work he identifies a number of myths and stereotypes that form these racial scripts, including the myth of Black Genetic Deficiency, the Deteriorating Black Family, Cultural Deprivation, Black Language Deficiency, Black Self-Hatred, Damaged Black Psyche, the Superior Sexual Stud, the Superior Black Athlete, and the Lazy Negro. He argues that these myths and attitudes form a racial 'script' or schema which the adult person draws upon to understand situations. Thus racial scripting received in childhood can shape the conceptions of reality of an adult.[8]

Popular exposure[edit]

Dr. Williams has appeared in the public eye on numerous occasions, appearing on television with Dan Rather, Phil Donahue, and Montel Williams. His work has been cited by many major newspapers, and served as a theme for an episode of Good Times.

Works[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~psych/williams.html
  2. ^ The History of the Association Black Psychologists, pg. 69
  3. ^ The History of the Association Black Psychologists, pg. 70
  4. ^ The History of the Association of Black Psychologists, pg. 78
  5. ^ The Evolution of Human Psychology for African Americans, pg. 113
  6. ^ African American Psychology: From Africa to America By Faye Z. Belgrave, Kevin W. Allison Published by SAGE, 2005, pg. 174
  7. ^ The Collective Mind: Toward an Afrocentric Theory of Black Personality
  8. ^ Racism Learned at an Early Age Through Racial Scripting: Racism at an Early Age

External links[edit]