Term Paper: Psychology of Multiculturalism: Identity, Gender

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[. . .] Indeed, Hispanics and Latin Americans now hold 21 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 39 seats are held by African-Americans (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

How has psychology reacted to the cultural changes, and is the field of psychology ready for the revolutionary changes that some are calling for to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse populations (Saeman and Thomas, 2004)? Psychology is moving on a couple of fronts to meet the new challenges that multiculturalism poses for both the profession and the nation: the subject of development and embracing the multicultural challenge received increased attention beginning in 1998 and 1999 when a group of five psychologists of color envisioned a three-year "window of opportunity" to make a meaningful difference in the ethnic minority issues in the profession (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

These five members foresaw revolutionary changes that would make the APA a multicultural organization "that would produce culturally sensitive and aware psychologists": the five - Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., Rosie P. Bingham, Ph.D., Lisa Porche-Burke, Ph.D., Melba Vasquez, Ph.D., and Steve James, Ph.D., - were motivated to increase the attention paid to multicultural issues by the election of Richard Suinn, Ph.D., as the first Asian-American president of APA in 1998 (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

Responding to Suinn's call for more emphasis on multiculturalism, they planned the first National Multicultural Conference and Summit in January 1999 in Newport Beach, CA (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). Out of that conference emerged an evolving definition of multiculturalism that went beyond the limited traditional ethnic-minority orientation to include other groups that feel excluded from the mainstream of psychology (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). Proposed guidelines for clinical competencies in dealing with diverse populations also emerged from the conference: an important milestone in dealing with minority groups (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

About the same time, the APA's Committee of State Leaders initiated a program to increase the number of ethnic minorities in state psychological association membership and leadership (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). Elected to head the diversity initiative was Rita Dudley-Grant, Ph.D., past president of the Association of Virgin Islands Psychologists: a native Virgin Islander who practices in St. Croix, Dudley-Grant sees parallels between the increased interest in multiculturalism and the struggles to win civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). Dudley-Grant argues that the goal in civil rights was to get into the door, to gain parity by enabling disenfranchised people to gain access to educational, employment and housing resources, hoping the problems of discrimination would be solved; however, she noted, not accomplished completely in the civil rights struggle was attitudes by the prevailing white society (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

If we can't change a person's internal understanding of people with difference backgrounds and if we can't change someone's innate attitude toward other groups, there will always be a division and difficulty in gainful parity or equality, not only of opportunity, but interaction as well," Dudley-Grant said, and when asked what a "multiculturalist" would ideally hope for in an ideal society, she said: "At this point, I can't get into the leadership positions that I want to be in. I can't get into the decision-making positions that I feel qualified for. I don't get the promotions I should be getting, and I am not invited to the backroom conversations where real decisions are made" (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

The 1999 National Multicultural Conference and Summit in Newport Beach also resulted in an article that appeared in a recent issue of the American Psychologist: in this article, the authors charged that "our professional associations and other organizations have been slow in developing new policies, practices and structures to accommodate the diversity of our society and our social, economic and political systems seem inadequate and often ill prepared to deal with the challenges posed by racial and ethnic minority groups and communities" (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

The article continued that "multiculturalism has been discussed primarily from a racial and ethnic perspective but must include the broad range of significant differences (race, gender sexual orientation, ability and disability, religion, class, etc.)" (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). In short, the authors say, multiculturalism rejects the European white monoculture that has historically defined the prevailing cultural norm and which has driven practice, training and research during the last century (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). Finally, the article predicted the APA would have to undergo "revolutionary" changes if the authors' dream of a multicultural profession is to become a reality (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

While recognizing that all revolutions have ebb and flow, peaks and valleys, Porche-Burke, president of Phillips Graduate Institute in Encino, CA, says she thinks the attention multiculturalism is now receiving by APA represents a significant start toward the inclusion of multiculturalism in the practice of psychology (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). Porche-Burke, who represents Division 45 (Society for the Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) on the APA Council of Representatives, said "it will take more than folks of color to make the revolution complete. It will take the entire psychology community to recognize that it can no longer exclude from consideration and study those populations that have long been unrepresented" (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

She said she is hopeful now that "we have a place at the table" the profession will begin to address multicultural issues that many still find difficult to talk about, and among the developments that give Porche-Burke hope are: Discussion and possible adoption of the "Guidelines for Multicultural Counseling Proficiency in Psychology as APA Policy"; Mini-conventions to be held that will, in Johnson's words, "showcase cutting-edge research and practice and invite creative thinking in infusing multiculturalism into the mainstream of psychology"; Appointment by APA President Johnson of the five pioneering psychologists to serve as her advisers on the subject, whom Johnson appointed when she realized the APA Board of Trustees lacked ethnic-minority members (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

While multiculturalism seems firmly in place on the APA agenda these days, not all psychologists are, however, convinced that actions such as promulgating treatment, research and training guidelines are a good idea: in a recent memo, long-time APA activist Arthur L. Kovacs, Ph.D., warned that too many guidelines have the potential to put psychologists in legal trouble: "Whether meant to or not, any guideline tends to establish standards of conduct or of practice, and its text can certainly be used to cause unnecessary and unintended harm to individual psychologists," Kovacs wrote (Saeman and Thomas, 2004). He specifically referred to those guidelines for multicultural counseling as one of those areas that could cause problems (Saeman and Thomas, 2004).

Thus, as we have seen, the issue of multiculturalism is recognized by many as necessary and indeed vital in Western societies that have experienced large numbers of immigrations of large numbers of racial and ethnic groups. However, the issue of multiculturalism can create more problems than it solves, as we have seen, with multiculturalism largely being defined in terms of legislature, at least in the United States, and this legislature being largely to cover the backs of white North Americans, and not to actually effect change at a societal level to encourage society to become more open to people of non-white ethnic and racial backgrounds to succeed.

In addition, the terms associated with multiculturalism: culture, multiculturalism, provoke much debate amongst academics, who argue that different definitions give different outcomes to the whole issue, and who argue that the deep philosophical debate surrounding issues of identity, lexicon etc. still needs to be continued and - if ever possible - finalized.

The long-term psychological effects of being on the edge of society (i.e., being a member of a minority culture) are well-known, yet the APA, for example, has only recently - as we have seen - begun to develop guidelines as to how to treat 'people of minority background'. This is perhaps a case of too little too late, as generations of immigrants and their children suffer at the hands of the 'multicultural' society that is the United States: being a person of Latin American descent is not the same as being a white North American, no matter what any law or statute says, and as Taylor argues, the politics of recognition are far more powerful than the machinations of politicians and policy makers on the issue of multiculturalism.

Bibliography

Gerd, B. (1999). The Multicultural Riddle: Rethinking National, Ethnic, and Reliogious Identities (Zones of Religion). Routledge.

Gordon, W and Newfield, W. (2000). Mapping Multiculturalism.

Kymlicka, Will. (1995).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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