NiCole T. Buchanan, Ph.D.

NiCole T. Buchanan, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University and the Clinical Director and Founder of Alliance Psychological Associates, PLLC. in East Lansing, MI.
NiCole T. Buchanan, Ph.D.

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Despite a commitment to creating a more just society,1 many psychedelic science organizations do not pay speakers and trainers for their services. I argue that these practices are counter to the values of the field because they have a disparate impact on speakers of color[1] and people with other marginalized social identities (e.g., religious minorities, LGBTQIA+). This article is a call for psychedelic science organizations to align their values with their practices by compensating marginalized people for their work as speakers and trainers, because failing to do so contributes to social injustices.

The Social Context of Unpaid Labor

In the United States (and much of the world), there is a long and painful legacy of coerced work without compensation or benefit. Slavery has a particularly vile legacy in the U.S., but coerced labor without adequate pay persists to the present; specifically, in the context of prisoner work assignments. These painful legacies should not only be avoided, but actively countered by compensating people for the work they do, particularly when those individuals are members of communities that have historically been enslaved, interned, or had their native lands stolen.

Income and Wealth Disparities

The legacy of unpaid labor has contributed to income and wealth disparities in the United States. Among those doing the same job, and after controlling for the many factors known to influence income (e.g., education, seniority, etc.), a significant income gap remains between White and Black workers in the U.S., which is exacerbated further when comparing race and gender groups (a 30% disparity remains in Black women’s income compared to White men’s2). As a result, the median household income for Black families is $35,400 compared to $59,700 for White households.3

Racial disparities in accumulated wealth are even more stark. The legacies of formal (e.g., redlining) and informal policies have exacerbated the wealth gap between Whites and people of color, such that Blacks hold only 7% of the wealth that Whites hold.4 In 2014, the average median household net worth was only $5,700 for Black households, compared to $130,800 for White households, and the gap has been steadily widening. Even highly educated Black families with two working adults have an average of over $200,000 less wealth than their White counterparts.

The disparities in both income and wealth accumulation imply that not paying individuals for their intellectual and time contributions will have a disproportionately negative impact on people of color because, often, they are already earning less than White peers and they have fewer wealth reserves to buffer them from the resulting financial strain.

Disparate Costs of Doing the Work

but Black and Latinx scholars are more likely to be the sole income earners for their family, and more likely to be responsible for the financial support of additional family members living outside their homes (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings)

The costs for providing speaking and training services are not equally distributed. People of color and those who hold other marginalized identities are not only more likely to already be earning less than their White counterparts, but Black and Latinx scholars are more likely to be the sole income earners for their family, and more likely to be responsible for the financial support of additional family members living outside their homes (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings). These speakers and trainers are also more likely to have additional jobs to support their families (e.g., clinical work in private practice), which means they experience a cash-flow net loss as a result of traveling and participating in speaking and training events.

Scholars of color are also more likely to be engaging in invisible labor and are less likely to receive recognition for their labor, regardless of its visibility.5 They are called on to do more service overall, asked to do more service that will not be formally compensated, and explicitly asked to provide free labor in the context of helping their community—which privileged people are almost never pressured to do. Together, this means that marginalized speakers and trainers may be balancing many additional obligations, and these efforts are likely to be invisible to powerful others, underappreciated, and uncompensated.

Disparities are Compounded by the Elevated Pay Offered to White Speakers

When paid, Whites, particularly White men, are paid significantly more for similar length presentations.

When paid, Whites, particularly White men, are paid significantly more for similar length presentations. For example, they are more likely to have a standard minimum fee required for their participation that is higher than a typical honorarium (a small payment offered as a token of appreciation). The types of activities speakers are asked to do are also impactful. Whites are more likely to be asked to provide an invited or keynote address. These types of speaking requests not only come with honoraria, but also provide significant professional benefits, because they are more prestigious than being invited to facilitate a training. It is also important to note that, in psychedelics, many White speakers have revenue streams that are directly benefited when they give talks and facilitate trainings (e.g., selling books) and mitigate the loss of a direct payment for their services. Together, the facts that when compensated, White speakers are typically given more money and are invited to do activities that have higher professional benefit, and, when not compensated, they typically have significant revenue streams directly benefited by those activities, makes it all the more important that, as an issue of equity, marginalized scholars are paid for their time and contributions.

Identifying Our Values

Expecting speakers and trainers to donate their time and expertise without proper compensation communicates that their time, effort, and intellectual contributions are not valued.

If you want to know what people value, look at how they spend their time, resources, and money. Expecting speakers and trainers to donate their time and expertise without proper compensation communicates that their time, effort, and intellectual contributions are not valued. This message is particularly problematic because people of color are frequently expected to provide such unpaid labor.

Sometimes, a non-cash benefit is offered in lieu of payment (e.g., being allowed to attend the rest of the training, receiving continuing education units (CEU) for their talk, or letting them bring a guest to the fundraiser dinner where they will be speaking). These are unacceptable as compensation if they do not include a direct payment. People cannot pay rent or buy food with CEUs, and even if there are possible longer-term benefits to attending a training, they do not offset immediate expenses accrued by speakers and trainers. The bottom line is: an honorarium is the minimum that should be offered.

Social Justice Praxis Requires Compensation

Social justice refers to a basic belief that all people are entitled to just distribution of the resources, benefits, and protections within a given society. Social justice praxis moves from the theoretical concept of social justice into the actual behaviors, practices, and policies that facilitate the creation of a just society.6 7

Those committed to enacting social justice to create a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society must commit to paying marginalized people for services rendered.

Compensation for services rendered is a minimum requirement for creating a more socially just society. Those committed to enacting social justice to create a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society must commit to paying marginalized people for services rendered. Ideally, this compensation would be at a meaningful professional rate. At a minimum, compensation should include a modest monetary honorarium.

Psychedelic science has a long history of working to create a just society, such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies’ (MAPS)8 efforts to expand access to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (MAPS, 2019[cc6] ). It is time for the field to increase its social justice praxis by recognizing the importance of compensating marginalized people for their work and, at a minimum, committing to giving honoraria when marginalized people generously give their time and expertise.

Footnotes

(1) This article frames the comparison as people of color and Whites, but the arguments are easily extended to other marginalized people (e.g., LGBTQIA+ speakers).


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References

  1. Ladha, A. & Kirk, M. (2019). Psychedelic communities, social justice, and kinship in the Capitalocene. Kahpi. Retrieved from https://kahpi.net/psychedelic-communities-social-justice/
  2. Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2016). The gender wage pay gap and public policy: Briefing paper. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, # 507.  Retrieved from www.womensfundingnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/The-Gender-Wage-Gap-and-Public-Policy.pdf
  3. Luhby, T.  (2014). Five disturbing stats on black-white inequality. CNN Business. Retrieved from https://money.cnn.com/2014/08/21/news/economy/black-white-inequality/
  4. Amadeo, K. (2019). Racial wealth gap in the United States: Is there a way to close it and fill the divide? Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/racial-wealth-gap-in-united-states-4169678
  5. Settles, I. H., Buchanan, N. T., & Dotson, K. (2018). Scrutinized but not recognized: (In)visibility and hypervisibility experiences of faculty of color. Journal of Vocational Behavior. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2018.06.003
  6. Diaz, J. (2014). A psychological framework for social justice praxis. In C. V. Johnson, H. L. Friedman, J. Diaz, Z. Franco, & B. K. Nastasi (Eds.), Social justice and psychology. The Praeger handbook of social justice and psychology: Fundamental issues and special populations; Well-being and professional issues; Youth and disciplines in psychology (pp. 33-50). Santa Barbara, CA, US: Praeger/ABC-CLIO.
  7. Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples (2nd Ed.). London, UK: Zed Books LTD.
  8. MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science) (2019). LSD-assisted psychotherapy. Retrieved from https://maps.org/research/psilo-lsd

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