Multicultural Competency: How Are We Different? Let …

Some jurisdictions have attempted to integrate most special needs students into the public schools, although it has been suggested that discussion of the quality of their education, a crucially important issue for these groups, as it is for all students, has been "largely avoided."

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Unlike other areas in psychology, teaching and talking about multiculturalism requires additional facets of discussion that are unnecessary in traditional areas of psychology. For one, there is a greater need for contextualization, and so the multicultural literature is often rife with history and other analyses necessary for a full understanding of a group to be examined. (e.g., African Americans, see Jones, 2010 text). Psychologists and other helping professionals need to be more critical of the research used to support their theories and practices. Other authors have already criticized premier psychology journals for relying too heavily on college-student-aged populations on which to rest theory and practice (Bulboltz, Miller, & Williams, 1999; Graham, 1992; Liu, Ali, Soleck, Hopps, Dunston, & Pickett, 2004). In fact, Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan (2010) criticized contemporary psychology as full of assumptions which may not be universally applicable. The use of college students has skewed research toward Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic-society (WEIRD) peoples. I would add White as an additional “W” in that WEIRD description. Although most researchers explicitly state limitations related to participants, it is not always clear if people heed these cautions when interpreting and implementing research findings.

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Education is, perhaps, the most important of all social systems because it enables all the others by training individuals for their social roles.
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Replacing education with therapy, the multiculturalist attemptsto enhance self-esteem by teaching the students of oppressed cultures tobe proud of their particular ancestry or race.

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More specifically, the advent of a growing diversity in the United States, and worldwide, is an important impetus for psychologists, counselors, and other helping professionals to develop competencies to work with these different communities. For the future, diversity is a compelling need which psychologists and helping professionals need to meet. History is an equally important justification and one that is sometimes overlooked or not focused upon because it may be deemed as not relevant to multicultural competencies. Yet history, and a thorough understanding of it as it pertains to diversity and multiculturalism, helps us understand why we are discussing and learning about diverse others at all. As I just noted, the United States has always had diversity and diverse individuals and communities. I believe it would be safe to assume that there were women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and gay and lesbian people throughout the history of the United States. What history allows us to understand better is why this diversity is not reflected in our history texts, our cultural knowledge, and our important institutions such as law and education. What we can usually learn from our uncovering of these diverse histories is the ways in which these peoples and communities were segregated, isolated, and marginalized. And the ways in which these diverse communities were disregarded and invalidated helps us to understand how these problems still persist today and how these issues may manifest in an individual’s worldview. For helping professionals, deciphering, uncovering, and then connecting these historical and systemic issues to the client’s presenting concerns, and linking them to how the client will become better, is an integral aspect of multiculturalism. History and an analysis of these dynamics allow us to introduce topics such as privilege, power, exclusion, marginalization, and resilience. All of these topics, which will be covered later in this course, are pertinent in the ways in which know and do not know about culturally diverse others, our biases and stereotypes, and our assumptions in our work within these communities.

Multicultural Competency: How Are We Different

"To be a universal man," wrote John Walsh (1973) using "man" in the traditional sense of including men and women, "means not how much a man knows but what intellectual depth and breadth he has and how he relates it to other central and universally important problems." What is universal about the multicultural person is an abiding commitment to the essential similarities between people everywhere, while paradoxically maintaining an equally strong commitment to differences.