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Reflective Culture Identity- Final Paper

Reflective Culture Identity- Final Paper
Reflective Culture Identity
Valeria Garcia
Department of Counseling and Integrated Programs, Adler University
Counseling Multicultural Communities
Dr. Asabi A. Dean, Ph.D., LPC, NCC
April 12, 2023
Introduction to a culture identity
This reflection entails the cultural identity and racial healing of Valeria Garcia. The
development of racial awareness and its application to identity created an emotional yet healing
approach for Valeria. Entering their multicultural training there was an emphasis on developing
cultural competence and cultural humility as a counselor in training. The competence was
broader than an intellectual exercise, it includes a lifelong journey to self-discovery with
uncomfortable personal revelations. Although it was right in their face, they never expected that
this also meant a personal examination of their own racial identity, experiences, and biases. The
way Valeria identified herself before this journey was simple, even restricting her culture and self
a bit. There were no presented times where Valeria was able to seek deeper into her identity
beyond what society and institutions had already placed on her. There also was no time or space
given to Valeria to freely speak about her racial experience as a Mexican- American Latina in the
United States. As a student of color, she became used to having her culture and experience
invalidated. Conversations about race and discrimination against Mexican Americans seemed
unimportant in the institutions placed to implement resilience. The emotional struggles of being
Mexican American, especially during the Trump presidential era, seemed to be glossed over by
their surrounding society. This form of racial injustice, along with more that will be further
discussed throughout this reflection, has impaired Valeria’s ability to remain open to being part
of racial and emotional discussions, especially with the dominant group of our society. The
journey of racial being and healing will never be linear, but a constant process. As part of this
process, uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable emotions must be processed. Although
it’s still a process, Valeria has accepted that handling these circumstances with peers and
professionals is best, instead of just within herself. Her perspective of her input and the input of
others has shifted into being seen as a learning opportunity to impede a deeper understanding of
ourselves as racial, ethnic, and cultural beings. Racial realities differ among groups, and
developing an understanding of lived experiences enhances the ability of cultural competence
and cultural humility in our counseling approaches.
System of racism
The system of racism created a perspective for Valeria where it was deemed to her that
there was a superior group always ahead of her. She wished to have opportunities come to her
easily instead of feeling as if the odds were always stacked against her. It was frustrating for
Valeria to continue to define her place in this society through its trials. She felt as if she always
had to prove something to society, and it was obvious to her how others viewed her societal
value. It started to become clear how much White Supremacy had influenced U.S. society and
how harmful this has become for diverse populations. The lived experience of People of color is
invisible to U.S. society and it has become normalized to never question it. This form of
rejection and avoidance of differential perspectives allowed for white supremacy and its values
to continue to define our society and undermine people of color. Until now it was never
distinguished that there is no superior group over another in her racial reality. It was difficult for
Valeria to come to terms that she was among the individuals affected by this ideology.
The effects of the system
There was always a sense that the institutions that were built to create resilience among
individuals, were the oppressors in Valeria’s racial reality. Her family immigrated from Mexico,
making her first generation and one of the first in the family where she would be tasked to juggle
her Mexican and American side in this land of opportunities. These American opportunities
always came with a price and never came easily. Valeria was raised in a predominately white
neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Her family was among the first wave of Latinos to
live in the Garfield Ridge area. She recalls the carnival story her mother always tells her. Her
mother was excited that a carnival was happening not too far from their apartment, and she
wanted to show her baby the new neighborhood. At the carnival, Valeria’s mother went with
ambition but once she arrived, and the stares towards her and her child began, she realized that
they were seen as outsiders. As she grew up, Valeria’s racial identity was constructed by her
interactions with her white peers, white neighbors, white teachers, and a community with limited
knowledge about socially marginalized groups. Her identity was shaped by white societal values
because white history and ideology were constantly reflected to her. She was never given the
opportunity to learn about her culture, and not much was covered about her culture in these
institutions. In elementary school, one of the first social interactions of a child’s life and
development, Valeria remembered how on one of the first days of kindergarten, it was believed
that she didn’t speak English. Valeria was bilingual, and her school deemed this as a weakness.
She remembers having to leave her class and friends for these English lessons she was confused
to be taking in the first place. She believed she was behind her peers or that her reading was not
on the same level as her peers. Reflecting on this as an adult, Valeria realized how her school
assumed a belief about her instead of speaking and getting to know her first. She was able to read
and speak two languages at the age of five, but it was her brown skin that made others
comfortable to assume something about her. Her being bilingual was only seen when it served a
purpose for her white teachers. Once they realized that she was able to speak both languages,
they always tasked her to be the translator for other kids who didn’t speak English and this
continued until she graduated. Attending school with white classmates caused Valeria to
internalize her image. She relied on the belief that her biological characteristics were odd
compared to her white classmates. Their skin was lighter, their hair was blonde, and they bullied
her for having hair between her eyebrows and arms. She failed a cultural project because she was
supposed to dress as Frida Kahlo but felt that her classmates would make fun of her. It became
challenging to define her spot in this pre-assumption environment.
During the Trump presidential era when anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx sentiments by
political leaders were endorsed, it created a racial hostility society for Valeria to navigate
through her college years. She would constantly find herself feeling a range of emotions during
this era where it seemed perfectly fine to be racist towards Mexicans. “When Mexico sends its
people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and
they're bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.
They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (Donald Trump on the presidential
campaign trail in 2015). Our society entered an Us versus them atmosphere and increased racist
ideology through White supremacy. It was frustrating to Valeria how comfortable it was for
ignorant people to place their beliefs and values on her cultural community. She was now living
in a world where racism is tolerated but not minority resilience. Before this era, Valeria
understood that there were stereotypes others associated with her, but now they were explicitly
telling her she did not belong in the country she was born in because of the color of her skin and
the political atmosphere. She was starting to find herself in situations where white society
verbally told her to speak English and to go home. She was unaware of how to respond to or
interrupt this range of feelings inflicted by white supremacy. One of her first encounters with
racial hostility during this time was when Valeria was yelled at by a white woman who ordered
her to speak English and to go back to where she came from. Again, Valeria was bilingual and a
U.S. citizen. After years of trying to prove herself to the dominant group, this moment caused
Valeria to feel hopeless about ever being accepted into society. She cried and all she could say
was “I can’t believe we live in a world like this now”. During this era, it was difficult to not only
be part of a minority group but to also be a woman as well. It seemed that there was no hope of
accountability or change within our society. The media and political leaders were determining
societal values based on stereotypes. In college, I examined the way in which the media portrays
Latinas. It was far from respectful. Latinas were portrayed to either be the “ugly duckling” or
promiscuous in our media. This created harmful explicit stereotypes. Valeria had entered the
dissonance stage of her racial identity. These harmful messages, interactions, and assumptions
cause her to become protective of herself and her community. Valeria began to see the world
differently in terms of race, she was no longer conforming herself to white norms and racism.
Valeria accepted this “new normal” placed by the system and structure of racism, but acceptance
fuels action. Valeria tasked herself to only not accept racism but create new intentions where she
will be able to live in her truth and not have society determine her reality.
Healing from racism.
As long as Valeria's skin is brown, she will continue to have to navigate through racism
and stereotypes, especially in institutions. She was faced with two options in navigating through
this harmful society, allow others to define her with their limited beliefs, or begin to embrace and
define her racial identity and define her seat at the table. This approach was perfectly defined in
the Racial Healing Handbook, “Why should I feel ashamed of who and what I am?” Reflecting
on the racial hostility experiences Valeria went through caused her to become emotional but also
served as a motivational factor to find the tools to thrive. She soon realized that society’s inferior
definitions of her racial-cultural group were only assumptions and realized this was only the first
step towards racial healing and cultural competence and humility. The text, along with Dr. Dean
has explicitly noted that marginalized group members will need to confront their own bias
towards other groups as well. Therefore, Valeria needed to grow from the above experiences and
not take her anger and frustration upon white classmates. The writer did not want to give her
classmates the opportunity to learn about her perspective or vice versa. Valeria was protective of
her identity, cultural community, and cultural perspectives because years of pain and
discrimination caused her to isolate herself away from society. Valeria acknowledges that her
intense emotions stem from society, institutions, and White supremacy failing her and not her
white classmates. Oftentimes in class, Valeria would feel uncomfortable hearing how classmates
struggled with the privileges they were given, how unaware they were something was racist, or
hearing them speak about how they deal with racism compared to a person of color. Valeria
shifted her anger to white supremacy instead of classmates and she wants to remain
compassionate of any perspective because this journey is a lifelong one. White Supremacy made
it seem as if it is not healthy for us to engage in free dialogue about race and culture with one
Approach to the field of counseling
Social Justice issues are intertwined with a conventional understanding of psychological
disturbance in socially devalued groups. A culturally competent counselor will see clients beyond
their eyes and through their lived experiences. In terms of counseling, Valeria understands to
expect uncomfortable conversations and situations. Uneasy situations can be rewarding, it
requires you and your client to have an opportunity to work effectively together against
roadblocks that may arise during sessions. As counselors, it serves as an opportunity to better
understand our client’s worldviews and the difference between racial realities between groups.
Valeria was used to putting unnecessary pressure on herself as she navigated through white
norms. She realized that this form of internalization will only limit her to take risks in her
counseling profession. It was comforting for her to hear during class that counselors are expected
to make mistakes responsibly. Avoidance of unpleasant emotions and disturbing meanings
creates a blockage to honest multicultural dialogues and learning experiences. Allowing these
dialogues and experiences to surface can create a bridge to freeing the mind to gain additional
insight and understanding for clients. Valeria realized that there must be a consideration for
racism and its effects on mental health. She understands that she will be making these
connections for some clients and grief with them as well. Being in tune with your emotions and
reactions to racism helps nurture your internalization. It is a difficult reality to accept, but it’s
even more difficult to feel alone along the way. Stereotypes are incomplete because it’s one story
only and these assumptions limit the ability to learn and engage in all stories. Successfully
acknowledging and integrating different perspectives will not only lead to an expansion of
critical consciousness for our clients but for counselors as well. Through the Cultural Immersion
Project, Valeria appreciated being given the opportunity to immerse herself in a culture she didn’t
know much about. A variety of populations have faced trauma that has impacted their life
meaning. Valeria will continue to immerse herself by learning the sociohistorical context of a
population and discover when it’s appropriate to apply it to counseling.
When Valeria began her multicultural and racial healing journey, she became
overwhelmed with emotions and personal realizations. Especially because this was the first time
where she was exposed to the history of racism and the effects racism has had on her life and the
lives of others. The strongest emotion of them all was grief. She began to grieve how her
childhood self was constantly put down and therefore felt ashamed for not being able to fit in.
She also grieved how comfortable society was with White Supremacy and how this continued to
affect people of color. Grieving is part of the process but the writer understood that although it is
expected, it’s also expected to not stay there too long and then put this grief and anger into
action. The writer created new intentions for their journey where she will be able to interrogate
what she had been taught and implement this into her counseling. Although the writer has felt
restricted by society, this does not determine her seat at the table. She will continue to call out
internalized racism in the field. She will be adding her minority voice to the conversation of
doing better so that we do not continue with the harmful narrative of one shared worldview.
Proper assessment and diagnosis require for the counseling field to include the characteristics,
values, and worldviews of both the client and therapist. (American Psychological Association,
2017). As a mental health professional, the writer will take initiative in confronting the
socioculturally-embedded nature of Mental Health practice. She expects her credibility to be
tested by both professionals and clients, but an assumption about her will not create a roadblock
in her journey. She will not be part of another institution that fails people of color.
Sue, D. W., Sue, D., Neville, H. A., & Smith, L. (2022). Counseling the culturally diverse theory
and Practice. Wiley.
Singh, A. A., Wise, T., & Sue, D. W. (2019). The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities
to help you challenge privilege, confront Systemic Racism & engage in collective healing.
New Harbinger Publications, Inc.