Tag Archives: Multiculturalism

Cultural sensitivity or watered down

Having been in meetings yesterday and today about our next steps regarding counseling training in Rwanda, I’m wrestling with the best way to address cultural differences in whatever training we do. And specifically I’m wrestling with a particular dilemma forming in my mind:

Teach what we know about counseling NOW but be unaware of subtle but important cultural differences vs. listen, learn, and teach LATER what we know (but in culturally relevent terms)

It is not the first time that I have been asked to do something sooner rather than later with these words. “Don’t worry about the cultural relevance. We’ll tell you when something doesn’t work or our students will do the application to their own situations. If you try to be culturally sensitive, it will end up being watered down. We want our students to get the best education, something that the US would recognize.”

Why do I struggle with this request? Well, in my head it sounds like, “hey, come bring your colonialistic methods of evangelism and we’ll handle it.” I struggle with it because I know American counseling culture has significant problems with it. And, I struggle with it because I know that some students (this is a universal truth!) are really good at critical thinking while others blindly ape what we say without much thought at all. AND YET, I know that waiting until I’m culturally aware enough to teach means I wouldn’t do so for a very long time.  

So, part of my struggle is not wanting to look like a culture boob by just assuming that what I teach US students is what Rwandans would need. I suspect the answer is (a) being courageous enough to risk looking like a fool, but (b) flexible enough to change on a dime when I am aware of a disconnect.

Hmmm. I may have a problem with both.


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling skills, Cultural Anthropology, Psychology

Defining Multiculturalism

Jennis Brandon-Watson has a short pieceon her experience of whiteness. She is southern-raised, white, (possibly married to a black man?), progeny of a slave owner, schooled in both racialization and Christianity and a member of Theta Nu Xi sorority. She concludes her thoughts with this question,

“Who defines what multiculturalism is? Is it defined according to the dictates of those in power–whites–or is it defined by minorities? These are interesting questions to ponder, but we must reach beyond settling for an answer and we must consider why it is important to answer the question. The answer will determine who we are as a multicultural sorority. I will further direct this examination by posing another question to you, reader. Is multiculturalism the support of our present social arrangement with all of its institutional manifestations by merely declaring peaceful coexistence and railing against the concept of racial categorization, but without engaging in potentially self-sacrificial action? Oris multiculturalism the act of tackling fundamental issues of justice and perpetuating, in word and deed, the spirit of the Civil Rights era?” (p. 14)

All isms have a dream attached to them. What is the best dream of multiculturalism?  (note, not the downside or the unintended consequences, the best dream). Peaceful coexistence? Demurring racial categories (color-blindness)? Mutual submission and/or cross pollination? Justice for all?


Filed under Black and White, Christianity, Identity, Race, Racial Reconciliation