VISTAS Multicultural Issues in Counseling

VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.

Appreciating the Complexities of Race and Culture

Ria Echteld Baker


Categorizing American ethnic groups into distinct categories also has its affects on self-definition and self-esteem. Williams (1999) in her narrative described how as a biracial child newly in America, she was quickly robbed of her innocence and unself-consciousness by the racism she encountered living in a predominantly White neighborhood. She grew up searching for ways to affirm her racial identity, knowing something about being White, but not knowing what it meant to be White and Black at the same time. Williams described how she journeyed from nonconsciousness about her Black identity to immersion in it, and eventually to having the “courage to claim her own experience despite resistance and judgment from others, [which] allows biracial people like [her] to begin to forge an authentic self “(Williams, 1999, p.3). She concludes that race and culture defy simplistic schemas and that people of multiethnic origins cannot be “neatly placed into a racial/ cultural category, nor can another person determine the nature of [their] experience with racism on the basis of that information” (Williams, 1999, p.5). Living up to social expectations by calling oneself “black” instead of claiming a biracial identity, is fuel to diminish self-esteem (Phinney, 1996; Steele, 1990). Jackson (1999) in his narrative describes how the racist acts he experienced first as a very young Black American boy have left deep scars in his mind and spirit that are still healing. He is very aware of the fact that “racism is not just resident in the mind of adults, but the seeds are often planted in the virgin minds of children” (Jackson, 1999, p.4). He suggests that those of us in the helping professions do self-evaluative inventories in order to prevent projection, transference, and counter-transference of our racist tendencies onto our clients (Jackson, 1999).

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