“I don’t want a politically correct answer,” our professor said in his Portuguese accent.
Upon the screen in our classroom was a picture of an African man in tribal garb and a white man dressed in a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. The question was, who is appropriately dressed? When the majority of the 60 person class answered: “both” the professor prodded the classes to answer the question with the first answer that came to mind and not the answer that society demanded. It was important to look at the background of the photo where the two men stood because the context of the photo shared vital clues as to who was appropriately dressed. The photo’s background was that of the outside, of sand and blue sky. Being politically correct gets people nowhere; it is as useful as stereotypes and living on the notion of colorblindness.
The topic of this particular day was multicultural counseling in terms of group counseling. The question was followed by breaking down stereotypes and creating a dialogue between those of different ethnicities and races. Our classroom was filled with individuals from various communities; the professor himself was a naturalized citizen from Brazil. The professor continued his instruction by asking those of various ethnicities and races to give the class examples of things we may not know about a particular group. One black woman informed the class that although she was black, she was not African American but of Jamaican descent and urged her classmates to keep in mind that being black does not mean African America. She wanted to encourage her classmates to ask, be honest about what we do not know. Another woman informed the class that although she was blonde hair with lighter colored eyes, she was of Puerto Rican descent.
The point was that counselors need to allow our clients to highlight themselves and that we should not assume we know how someone should be identified because we are scared to ask. Furthermore, it is our job to inform ourselves about the client’s identification so that we can better aid them throughout their counseling endeavors.
“I love people of all color the same and I would treat them all the same.”
Whoa, there, let’s just simmer down with all the peace, love and I see everyone equal gathering chant. I know, you likely wondering what could possibly be wrong with the aforementioned statement? After all, doesn’t it demonstrate love, compassion, understanding and acceptance? Well, it wraps everything and everyone up in a nice package. Everyone has a story, and whether they are white, black, or tan-skinned there is something in their story that has shaped their lives. Native American, Latin, Asian, or black Americans have cultures that cultivate how they interact and thrive or survive. These differences should not be feared. These differences should not be put under one rainbow because we cannot create an open and honest dialogue with someone due to societal fear. What this means is that in order to be empathetic, we have to understand what we think and feel and why we might feel resistance or anger. We need to think before we speak and maybe, just maybe do a little research.
1 Corinthians 14:10 (New International Version) states, “undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church”.
We have a duty to learn about those who come to us as counselors, and this duty should extend to everyone within their daily lives. Being colorblind is only good in theory, but the actual practice of it does not create dialogue or highlight the differences the human race has as God-given creation. The aforementioned scripture reminds us that we need to understand that each language, each race, and that each story is not without meaning. Without grasping the importance of the meaning, we are doomed to continue the cycle of stereotypes and the blindness that lack of dialogue creates. Without honest dialogue, we are merely just speaking at each other.
Let’s be honest people, being "colorblind" is as effective as actually being blind. We can no longer assume that we have all the answers when it comes to those of different backgrounds than us. In fact, we cannot even assume that those of similar race as us have the same values, the same story, or the same opportunities. It may take work, but we should seek to understand how those different people have different views. This can be applied to the black individuals in America and how they view the world around them, the experiences they have had. Before we say that Hispanics are stealing all of our jobs and are coming over to America illegally, we have to listen to their story. We have to take the blinders off and see the colored past of these individuals, to understand how and why they see red. We have to seek to understand why some fear blue. We have to, without revocation, level with each other and listen.
We are not bound by chains as Christians; we are set forth in freedom because the Lord equips us with His love and grace no matter what endeavor we embark upon. We do not have to operate on a “this or that” mentality and there is no give away when we operate in the name of the Lord. There is a truth about educating ourselves to become not only more culturally competent, but to become integration competent as well. As Christians we need to become competent in our faith and what this means in the context of a secular world especially in a world where we are often culturally and ethnically divided. Now don’t get me wrong, we are all human and are predisposed to failure and weakness. We are never going to make it through life without making a mistake, but it is vital to call upon the grace of God when we have fallen short and to learn from our mistakes so they do not become a negative cycle of interacting with others.