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Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Coping with the Challenges
Despite years of antidiscrimination policies and antipoverty programs, racism, sexism, and classism continue to occupy both a pivotal position and function in U.S. society. Specifically, for Whites, men, and the middle and upper classes, these policies and programs serve to marginalize, stratify, and subjugate people of color, women, and the working poor with the primary purpose being to maintain authority and control over political and economic institutions. Although social policy is promoted as a means of equalizing opportunities, such policies generally lack legitimacy because they are developed by individuals in positions of power who serve as gatekeepers and dictators of outcomes. Of course, this type of status quo structure contains inherent dilemmas that prohibit reversing the tide of exclusion. Thus, the problematic demise of racism, sexism, and classism is compounded by an accumulation of disadvantages that had their origins In prior periods of discrimination (Wilson, 1994).
For at least two decades, researchers In the United States have Increasingly provided incisive critiques on the inadequacies and inequities of counseling approaches for people of color, women, and the working poor (e.g., Andersen & Collins, 1992; Chester, 1972; Dillard, 1983; Pedersen, 1985; Pope-Davis & Ottavi, 1994; D. W Sue, 1991; D. W. Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Zandy, 1996). These critiques exposed the ways in which counseling privileges individuals who are White, male, and economically advantaged while it “deprivileges” women, people of color, and working class and poor people (Swartz, 1993).
Eurocentric ideology and cultural hegemony intersect with class, gender, and other sociocultural and political forms of omission (from the mainstream of society), commission (to the status quo), and oppression (Asante, 1987). In addition, the chauvinism of Western psychology is a deterrent to diversity and inclusiveness in counseling. In general, culturally responsive counseling has not been a priority because the status quo fulfills the needs of the dominant culture (Hall, 1997).
The dominant culture promotes the egalitarian premise that all people are created equal (Le., the same). This premise is both a belief and a behavior, but unfortunately, in a deprivileging fashion. In other words, the dominant culture’s belief that all people are the same permits them to avoid addressing the cultural differences that are increasingly present in U.S. society. According to Herr (1999), this belief allows individuals in the dominant culture to rationalize that the concept of sameness restrains everyone from practicing stereotypical or discriminating behavior toward people of culturally diverse backgrounds. However, the problem is that, In practice, discrimination and stereotyping continue to reign, to a large extent, in the planning for and provision of counseling services in the United States. A predominantly etic view of counseling and of behavior makes it easy to resort to one approved model of counseling and to associate any behavioral deviation with a deficit model (Herr, 1999).
Self-imposed supremacy by the dominant culture is at the core of the construction of racialized and sexualized hatreds (Eisenstein, 1996) and of socioeconomic meritocracy and classism (Langston, 1992). In order to function, systems of racism, classism, and sexism rely on institutional policies, exploitation, and simplistic oppositional constructs (e.g., good/bad, superior/Inferior, dominant/subordinate; see Andersen & Collins, 1992; Higginbotham 1992; Lorde, 1992). On the basis of these constructs, In U.S. society, there must always be a group of people who are relegated to occupy the status of surplus, subhuman, inferior, expendable, powerless, and victim. The isms continue to survive and thrive because of how people’s values are determined. Once established, the value attached to particular groups seems to be unchangeable (Harley et aL, 1999). Within US. society, that group is composed of racial minorities, the working poor, women, older people, and people with alternative sexualities (Lorde, 1992).
In essence, individuals who have been deprivileged often react to and internalize stereotypes that treat them as passive recipients of socialization that does not respect, advocate, or promote their contributions within a set of sociopolitical circumstances (Herr, 1999). Moreover, for women, the experiences are intensified and are generally not considered Important enough to warrant appropriate gender specific counseling. As Draguns (1996) suggested, the worldviews of deprivileged people are “absorbed in the process of socialization rather than actively taught and effortfully acquired" (p. 2). Thus, the three isms encourage the view that race, class, and gender of deprivileged groups are not essential to the composition of U.S. society.
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