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Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Coping with the Challenges
White middle-class value systems are often reflected in counseling and social psychological research regarding racial and ethnic minorities. Historically, three very harmful models have been used to guide and conceptualize research on racial and linguistic minorities (Casas, 1985; Katz, 1985; Ponterotto, 1988; Sue & Sue, 1990). The first of these is the inferiority or pathological model. The basic premise is that minorities are lower on the evolutionary scale (more primitive) than are their White counterparts and, thus, are more inherently pathological. The second model assumes that Blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities were deficient in desirable genes and that differences between Whites and minorities were the reflection of biological and genetic inferiority (genetically deficient model). The culturally deprived (deficient) model blamed the culture for the "minority problem." Ironically, it was well-intentioned White social scientists who were attempting to reject the genetically deficient model who talked about "cultural deprivation." Unfortunately, these social scientists were as much prisoners of their own cultural conditioning as those of an earlier decade (Sue & Sue, 1990). Instead of blaming genes, they blamed the culture. The cultural deficit notion does not make sense because everyone inherits a culture. What proponents of this view were really saying was that racial and ethnic minorities do not possess "the right culture." Thus, the underlying data and research base regarding racial and ethnic minorities have (a) perpetuated a view that minorities are inherently pathological, (b) perpetuated racist research and counseling practices, and (c) provided an excuse for counseling professionals not to take social action to rectify inequities in the system (Baratz & Baratz, 1970; Katz, 1985; Sue & Sue, 1990; Thomas & Sillen, 1972).
Within the last 10 years, a new and conceptually different model has emerged in the literature. Oftentimes referred to as the "culturally different model" (Katz, 1985; Sue, 1981), multicultural model (Johnson, 1990), culturally pluralistic model, or culturally diverse model (Ponterotto & Casas, 1991), the new model makes several assumptions. First and foremost is the explicit belief that to be culturally different does not equate with "deviancy," "pathology," or "inferiority." Second, there is strong acknowledgment that racial and ethnic minorities are bicultural and function in at least two different cultural contexts. Third, biculturality is seen as a positive and desirable quality that enriches the full range of human potential. Last, individuals are viewed in relationship to their environment, and the larger social forces (racism, oppression, discrimination, and so forth) rather than the individual or minority group may be the obstacles.
If professional organizations take a strong stand in adopting the new model and all its implicit assumptions, then research and counseling may become a proactive means of correcting many of the inadequacies and problems that have plagued us for ages. For example, adoption of such a model would mean that (a) graduate programs could no longer present a predominately White Anglo-Saxon Protestant orientation, (b) racial and ethnic minority issues would become an integral part of the curriculum and internship requirement. (c) research would become a powerful means of combating stereotypes and correcting biased studies, (d) studies would begin to focus on the positive attributes and characteristics of minorities as well as biculturalism, (e) recruitment, retention, and promotion of racial and ethnic minorities in counseling would increase, (f) interracial and interethnic relations would be improved, and (g) we would refocus research and practice toward the environment though systems intervention.
It seems that a major obstacle in getting our profession to understand the negative implications of monoculturalism is that White culture is such a dominant norm that it acts as an invisible veil that prevents people from seeing counseling as a potentially biased system (Katz, 1985). Counselors who are unaware of the basis for differences that occur between them and their culturally different clients are likely to impute negative characteristics. What is needed is for counselors to become culturally aware, to act on the basis of a critical analysis and understanding on their own conditioning, the conditioning of their clients, and the sociopolitical system of which they are both a part. Without such awareness, the counselor who works with a culturally different client may be engaging in cultural oppression using unethical and harmful practices.
Reflection Exercise #2
Ethics CEU QUESTION 9
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