Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cultural Self-Awareness

Results of ADDRESSING Format

I am a 15th generation White American female. Both my parents and four grandparents are of European descent. I have no disabilities. I was raised in a Christian home, however I am decidedly non-religious and deeply value my spirituality. I tend to associate with individuals from backgrounds similar to my own, although I continue to make a deliberate attempt to maintain a conscious awareness of the unconscious assumptions I make based on my socioeconomic status. I am heterosexual and have not had a close relationship with a gay or lesbian individual. I have no indigenous heritage, although I relate to my European English and Dutch roots.

Cultural Worldview

Because of my socioeconomic status, I was born into a sense of entitlement and an assumed position of superiority. My sole experience of inequality and a need to fight for my rights came by virtue of my gender. My parents taught me I had a duty and a moral obligation to help those less fortunate. At first blush, this may seem somewhat philanthropic, but I have grown to see its implied sense of entitlement and superiority common for some European Americans (Hays, 2008; Stewart & Bennett, 2006). My values permeate my self-awareness, self-fulfillment, and self-discovery, and these values have tainted and distorted my world view (Hays, 2008).

It has only been through personal experience and time that I realized how the sense of entitlement and superiority pervade my fundamental perspectives and unknowingly support my biases and a deep sense of racism. According to Hays (2008), my privilege in every category of the self-assessment hamper my ability to gain a purchase on a real, or even imagined experience of poverty or lack of resources. My desire to help, although real, has its genesis, at least in part, in the echoes of my childhood lessons that instilled a fundamental (albeit unconscious) belief that I am superior and morally obligated to promote social change.

Personal Biases

Although difficult to admit, my biases separate me from many of the experiences of diverse populations. I am well aware of the opportunities I have by virtue of my race and socioeconomic status and simultaneously feel sorry for poor people and populations discriminated against. My familial background compels me to value my individualist culture and I find it difficult to appreciate collectivism. As an American woman, supposedly free from the constraints and control of the opposite sex, I tend to feel disgust for populations and cultures whose religious, or secular values support male dominance and continue to oppress women, even when it is culturally accepted.

I disapprove of cultures that suppress the individual for the aggregate of its society. I have prejudiciously wondered who is at fault when some races, ethnicities, and nations remain subservient to others. Although I see remnants in myself that may contribute to the idea that one group may be superior to another, I have become strongly aware of both the subtle and harsh innuendo of my self-identification as well as my ingrained bias and prejudice. Separating from them is far more difficult than I previously imagined (Sue & Sue, 2008). Cultural assumptions, prejudice, and bias pervade my perceptions and world view (Bulhan, 1985). It seems crucial, perhaps urgently so, to admit and examine these perceptions.


Bulhan, H. A. (1985). Frantz Fanon and the psychology of oppression. New York: Plenum Press.

Hays, P. A. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Stewart, E. C., & Bennett, M. J. (2006). American cultural patterns: a cross-cultural perspective. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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