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On the Importance of Listening and Intercultural Communication for Actions against Racism


In a period where racial inequities in the United States have garnered more attention and discussion as a result of social media (e.g., increased use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag; Anderson et al., 2020) and newer generations (Tatum, 2017b), it is important to ensure that communication between cultural groups is effective and produces systemic change. This article will review the failures of a “postracial” society, with emphasis on ineffective communication among Black, Indigenous People of Color and non-Black, Indigenous People of Color. The role of the listener during intercultural verbal exchanges will be examined, while highlighting the barriers and harmful results of ineffective communication. A behavioral conceptualization of effective listener behavior will be presented, which if implemented, may maintain and sustain social equity, inclusion, and justice. A call to action will be made to further investigate intercultural communication using behavior-analytic research methodologies and how such research might inform on how to functionally and precisely mediate reinforcement in the fight against racism.

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Correspondence to Natalia A. Baires.

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This article is being published on an expedited basis, as part of a series of emergency publications designed to help practitioners of applied behavior analysis take immediate action to address police brutality and systemic racism. The journal would like to especially thank Denise Ross for their insightful and expeditious reviews of this manuscript. The views and strategies suggested by the articles in this series do not represent the positions of the Association for Behavior Analysis, International or Springer Nature.

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Baires, N.A., Catrone, R. & May, B.K. On the Importance of Listening and Intercultural Communication for Actions against Racism. Behav Analysis Practice (2021).

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  • Listening
  • Intercultural communication
  • Racism
  • Verbal behavior
  • Diversity