Micro-Aggressions: Remaining Vigilant Against Racism, Sexism, and Heterosexism
Micro-Aggressions: Remaining Vigilant Against Racism, Sexism, and Heterosexism
When we consider dynamics such as racism, sexism, classism, or heterosexism, we often imagine these phenomena occurring in overt and easily recognizable words, gestures, policies, or practices. In this unit, we will consider how oppression and discrimination occur in more covert, subtle, and even unconscious ways. We will be introduced to the concept of micro-aggressions, which are defined by Sue and Sue (2013, p. 150) as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to a target group, such as people of color; religious minorities; women; people with disabilities; and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals (D. W. Sue, Capodilupo, et al., 2007; D. W. Sue, 2010).” We will also be asked to analyze a case with respect to micro-aggressions.
In addition we will reflect on the concept of privilege that in broad terms may be thought of as an unearned right or immunity, and in some ways as the antithesis of oppression. We will explore this concept further as a dynamic phenomenon, and as it applies to a range of bio-psycho-social characteristics, including skin color, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. And we will reflect on privilege and oppression in our own lives, as well as the implications of these phenomena in counseling African Americans and women.
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2013). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
1. Analyze how a counselor’s personal, cultural self-awareness may potentially impact effective counseling practices.
2. Develop strategies to address the influence a counselor’s characteristics, attitudes, and beliefs have on culturally competent counseling practices.
3. Apply counseling approaches that are sensitive to diverse client characteristics and experiences.
4. Begin searching for potential organizations to be interviewed and assessed.
Learning Activities Studies
Use your textbook, Sue and Sue’s Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, to complete the following:
Read Chapter 6, “Microaggressions in Counseling and Psychotherapy,” pages 147–173.
Read Chapter 14, “Counseling African Americans,” pages 365–378.
Read Chapter 24, “Counseling Women,” pages 502–515.
From the coursepack, read McIntosh’s 1989 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” in Peace and Freedom, issue July/August, pages 10–12.
• Optional Readings
The literature is rich with resources to help counselors and therapists delve more deeply into the topics being covered in this course and to pursue their own special interests. Below you will find a reference list compiled by experts in each of the specialization areas at Capella University; look to these readings for information and use as you wish in your professional development. Please note that it is acceptable to draw from these resources for your discussions and assignments; however, you should not rely exclusively on these resources in completing assignments that require library research.
• In Sue and Sue’s Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, read Chapter 20, “Counseling Jewish Americans,” pages 449–456.
• In Gurman’s Clinical Casebook of Couple Therapy, read Addison and Thomas’s chapter, “Searching for Mutuality: A Feminist/Multicultural Approach to Couple Therapy.”
• In Heldke and O’Connor’s Oppression, Privilege, and Resistance: Theoretical Perspectives on Racism, Sexism, and Heterosexism, read Carbado’s chapter, “Straight Out of the Closet: Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege,” pages 395–419.
• In Rothblum and Solovay’s The Fat Studies Reader, read Royce’s chapter, “The Shape of Abuse: Fat Oppression as a Form of Violence Against Women,” pages 151–157.
• In McGoldrick and Hardy’s Re-visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice (2nd ed.), read Pinderhughes’s chapter, “Black Geneaology Revisited: Restorying an African-American Family,” pages 114–134.
• Read Miville, Carlozzi, Gushue, Schara, and Ueda’s 2006 article, “Mental Health Counselor Qualities for a Diverse Clientele: Linking Empathy, Universal-Diverse Orientation, and Emotional Intelligence,” in Journal of Mental Health Counseling, volume 28, issue 2, pages 151–165.
• Read Mulvaney’s 1994 article, “Gender Differences in Communication: An Intercultural Experience,” in Feminism and Women’s Studies.
• Read Real’s 1995 article, “Fathering Our Sons, Refathering Ourselves: Some Thoughts on Transforming Masculine Legacies,” in Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, volume 7, issue 1/2, pages 27–43.
• Read Sue, Rivera, Capodilupo, Lin, and Torino’s 2010 article, “Racial Dialogues and White Trainee Fears: Implications for Education and Training,” in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, volume 16, issue 2, pages 206–214.
• Read Utsey, Ponterotto, Reynolds, and Cancelli’s 2000 article, “Racial Discrimination, Coping, Life Satisfaction, and Self-Esteem Among African Americans,” in Journal of Counseling & Development, volume 78, issue 1, pages 72–80.
• Read Wu, Woody, Yang, Pan, and Blazer’s 2011 article, “Racial/Ethnic Variations in Substance-Related Disorders Among Adolescents in the United States,” in Archives of General Psychiatry, pages 1176–1185.
Study 2: Project Implicit
Cultivating and practicing self-awareness is essential to ensuring that we are fully present, ethical and competent in our practice. In this course, we will focus specifically on awareness of our own backgrounds, our client’s backgrounds, and how belonging to a minority group based on one or more bio-psycho-social characteristics influences how we are perceived, how we perceive ourselves, and how we perceive others.
In this activity we will begin to explore our self-awareness in terms of biases. It seems safe to say that all of us know what it means to harbor biases against another person based upon some bio-psycho-social characteristic and stereotypes about what it means to a member of another group. This could be termed explicit bias, and it is something of which we are aware. Likewise, it is possible to harbor biases of which we are less aware, or of which we are unaware. This is referred to as implicit bias. As we strive to build our awareness there is value in examining ourselves for both types of biases, and for remaining alert to the experiences of our clients with both types of bias.
The Case of Wendy
Text on screen: A Black client, Wendy, talked to her White therapist, Lisa, about challenges in single parenting and going to school. At one point, Lisa repeated several times,
Lisa: “Wendy, it’s amazing how well you’re doing; I can’t believe you were able to get straight A’s through all this. You’re so incredibly smart.”
Text on screen: Wendy eventually replied sarcastically,
Wendy: “Yeah, some of us are.”
Text on screen: Later, Wendy talked about not getting a recent job due to racism. Wendy, the client, noted that the therapist began to avoid her eyes and move backward in her chair. Lisa, attempting to reframe the event positively, asked,
Lisa: “Is there a possibility that the person with more experience was hired for the job and it wasn’t racism?”
Text on screen: Wendy’s replied with an openly hostile expression,
Wendy: “Never mind. You don’t get it, do you?”
Text on screen: Shocked, Lisa did not know how to reply. Eventually, she veered the subject back to single parenting, attempting to get Wendy to focus on her anger that came in her loud voice and waving hands. At one point, Wendy stated with irritation,
Wendy: “I don’t want to talk about my damn feelings; I want to figure out how to handle graduating in this system that’s hostile to me.”
Text on screen: After the session, Lisa processed her experience with a (White) supervisor, saying,
Lisa: “I think Wendy is just so angry, she seemed really threatening to me.”
Text on screen: The supervisor noted the importance of using a certain assessment to check for the presence of any deeper psychopathology, if she seemed ‘unstable’. Lisa noted silently that the assessment course she took marked this assessment culturally inappropriate for African Americans. Out loud, she voiced uncertainty as to the presence of psychopathology-that hadn’t been a question to her, at all. The supervisor stated,
Supervisor: “The assessment is a place to start. We have to make sure she’s not a threat to her children. Unfortunately, my experience is that Black men often don’t stick around to help, so we can’t count on the father for much support, I’m sure.”
Text on screen: Lisa’s final words in supervision were,
Lisa: “I think Wendy could get better help from someone else. Is there another therapist we could refer her to?”
Text on screen: She decided to set Wendy up with an intern who is Asian American (there are no Black interns available). However, it was a moot point; Wendy did not return next session.
Malott, K.M. (2010). The Case of Wendy. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Education and Counseling, Villanova University.
Question: 1- 1 page needed with two references. (Separate attachment needed).
After reading The Case of Wendy above, and reading the concepts presented in the Sue textbook on microaggressions, prepare one page that addresses the following:
• Review Lisa’s (the counselor’s) interactions with Wendy and her supervisor. Identify at least two interactions that could be considered microaggressions.
• Now imagine you are Lisa; how would you approach Wendy’s concerns about working in a system dominated by mainstream values and ideals?
• Discuss your experiences with respect to a time when you experienced a microaggression related to your skin color, gender, or social class, or a time when you have caught yourself as the aggressor with a person of color, a woman, or a person of a lower social class. How did you handle it at the time? How would you handle it now if a microaggression occurs in a counseling relationship?
Question: 2 – 1 page needed with 2 references. (Separate attachment needed).
Prepare a posting that describes your understanding of the concept of privilege using the McIntosh reading and Dr. Flora’s interview as points of reflection.
• How can the concept of White Privilege be expanded to include gender privilege, class privilege, or heterosexual privilege?
• Provide an example from your own experience of how a person may experience privilege based on one aspect of their identity and oppression based on another.
• After listening to the interview with Dr. Flora, do you think the term privilege also applies to the region where someone lives, or the language or dialect he or she speaks? Explain why or why not.
Dr Flora Interview below for your view!
Rural Stereotyping/Implicit Bias
An Interview with Dr. Amanda Flora
Bias is — it is a common term that we use in counselor education, but one of the most common forms of bias that most people talk about or are most familiar with is stereotyping, and as many times as we are working on self awareness and we feel like we are very comfortable with the variety of diverse population, everyone stereotypes, it is a cognitive process, the power brains were programmed to work and if you think about it, it makes sense. We need to be able to take little bits of information and process it quickly.
The example that you will see in a lot of literature is if you are driving down the highway and you see a police car, quickly your brain knows to slow down, or maybe there is an accident, or you are speeding, but there is that immediate reaction in just a short amount of time with a little bit of stimulus. So our brain wants to stereotype, it is just that in society and we become a more culturally diverse in global society that same brain mechanism does not work very well in terms of judging and categorizing people.
Types of Bias
Explicit and implicit biases are two other types of bias we explore. Explicit bias is much related to stereotyping, it is the known bias, or the ones we know we have. The one that is trickier the one that is harder to recognize is implicit bias or unconscious bias and that is basically, literally what I just said are unconscious bias. And something we may not be aware we have and this is the really important topic to explore for reasons such as affirmative action. Affirmative action guards against things like explicit bias, but there is really nothing to guard potential oppressed people from implicit bias.
Increasing Our Awareness
Hopefully on the program with Capella, we certainly strive to use case studies and that sort of thing to help make learners aware through the discussions on the course room. Of course, supervision, conversation with your supervisor, all of these are important ways to maybe uncover implicit bias or even discuss explicit biases that you have. The immersion on the discussions on the different cultures and learning from different people and going to help anyone become more aware of different things and others cultures or oppressed individuals that they may not have thought of before.
One of the interesting things though that I would recommend to all learners and even though it may not be part of the course curriculum, I recommend students take what is called the Implicit Bias Test. And what this is, it is a test developed by some researches at Harvard and the University of Washington, since moved to the University of Virginia and Harvard. Basically, it is a test, to test your implicit bias.
A little bit about the test is that before this test, researchers had to rely on self-report measures. Most people are not going to say, �oh, I have this stereotype� or �I have this explicit bias.� So, with technology, they feel like they can create a way to measure unconscious bias by looking at stimulus and response times.
And I could go in some more detail about the validity of the test and the reliability and how they create and how they measure it, but the key thing to remember is right now this is the only way we can explore any implicit or unconscious bias. Self-report measures are just not going to show us that we use technology and measuring a different, and the time it takes someone to respond.
And not only does the test show us all sorts of different things about possible unconscious implicit bias as they may have, it also can uncover things like favoritism that we may we have toward a certain group, even a group that is not our own. So, it is a really fascinating test and as you do it, you are helping them gain data for the project.
I was really immersed in the research years ago, I am sure they have gone through more and gotten more information, but they also look at things other than race. They looked at obesity and other issues in our culture, and so it is a really a fascinating study and it is going to be important in future years as we use technology to discover biases, we were not able to measure 10-15 years ago.
Bias Toward Rural Populations
Well, I found out a lot of things much more than I expected, which I think is the case with most research. I became very familiar with implicit bias for the dissertation process on rural stereotyping, but as it turns out, rural stereotyping is an explicit bias, so the implicit bias did not come in to it.
But basically I wanted to work at rural stereotyping based on personal observations and observations in the media. Basically, if you think about it whether it is a TV show or commercial, there seems to be an image of someone from a rural area as a simpleton, or less sophisticated. You add a southern accent to the mix, then whoa, then that is a really dumb person so to speak, they are not portrayed well in the media if you are from a rural area.
On the other hand the rural area itself is painted differently and that it is quaint and beautiful and it is a fun place to live and everyone is friendly. So you have this dichotomous image of what goes on in rural areas. So there is this stereotype about rural areas and rural people and it is pretty prevalent, I believe in the media, and so I wanted to look more into that, because there was no research in our field on that.
What I found when I started was that, again, there is no research on it, so I had to start from scratch and I had to go into other disciplines and borrow from them. I even had to use some of the media. I used song lyrics, and anything I could to show that there are people that feel like they are stereotyped and have to say please do not judge me based on what I could find in the media. So I had enough borrowing from other disciplines and borrowing from media. I was able to say, look, this is a bias that exists we need to explore it in our profession, with that in mind I explored it, I did a qualitative study and it was true, there is explicit bias. People do look at, people from small towns as having less education, being less intelligent, being less sophisticated, all of those themes that were already existing in other disciplines and the literature were confirmed through my study.
The other thing that I found is that a lot of the images were based on truth and a lot of the stereotypes are true. Rural areas receive less government funding per person, even when you account for the population being smaller, they receive less government funding, and therefore, public services such as schools have less resources. So it is a very complicated issue and as we become more technological society, there is going to be more urbanization.
And I think the risk is even going to grow further than it already is. But the key take away is that people do stereotype someone based solely on whether they are from a small town or not, aside of every other image they could have of that person.
The other thing that I found that I was not expecting, it is not just that people from rural areas are stereotyped and the ones that are from there are really strongly identified with their small town identity, that people from any geographic area tend to be really tied to their identity. My husband is from New York, outside of New York City; that is being from Long Island, you meet anybody else from Long Island and it is like this little club. So it is a very interesting phenomenon that in addition to the stereotyping, I have begun to see there is a geographic identity that is mentioned in a lot of multicultural models, but maybe it is a bigger piece of our identity than many people realize.
The first thing of course is to just have the awareness of the individuals that you are working with. But again, to the community and public policy, we as counselors there is this push toward advocacy and I agree with that. In my opinion, it is a simple thing, I sometimes tell young children when they are arguing, are you part of the solution or part of the problem? It is a really simple idea and we have all heard it, but are we going to be a part of people that do not — are we going to be part of the problem and think it is okay to send certain areas of the country less money, are we going to be part of the solution and advocate for that? And I think that is what counselor advocacy is about. I really view advocacy from a Bronfenbrenner Model of what level do you feel the most comfortable with? Do you feel individual action or all the way up to the highest system? And I would encourage counselors as they grow to reach out beyond, to start with individual advocacy and move beyond into the different systems as you feel more comfortable.
Increasing Cultural Awareness
I imagine that the course that they are in now is certainly helping them, but to never stop learning. But the biggest take away and the most important thing I could stress regarding anything is jut to remember not to define someone by the one characteristic of their identity. We all have multiple identities. I am a mother, I am a woman, I am a wife, I am a professor, I am a friend, I am a sister, I am a daughter, but there are also my multicultural identities. And if you judge me by just one, then you are judging me. And remember that just because you are in a minority or you have close friends or a partner or a family member that is in a minority that you are not automatically multi-culturally sensitive.
Being multi-culturally sensitive means looking at an individual as having multiple identities and not judging them from just one of their identities. And the best way, again, is to just keep learning and talk with the supervisor or a colleague or other trusted mentor, because the beauty is once you recognize it, everyone has it, so it is okay to recognize it, it just means you are human. Once you recognize it, you have already taken a major step in avoiding treating a client differently. And that is the ultimate goal.