Academic journal article
By Williams, Otis,, III; Utsey, Shawn O.
The Western Journal of Black Studies , Vol. 34, No. 1
"I just don't' believe there is any higher calling for a talented business person these days than to tackle the job of developing our [Black] communities."
--Jesse Hill, Jr.
As African Americans enter the twenty-first century, a re-evaluation must take place regarding the social, economic, and psychological state of the race. A cursory observation would suggest recurring events (i.e., poverty, unemployment, and underemployment) since the forced arrival of Africans to the western world (Morial, 2006). According to the United States Census Bureau (2001), the median household income for African Americans ($29, 470) is significantly less in comparison to other ethnic groups: Asian and Pacific Islanders ($53,635); non-Hispanic Whites ($46, 305); Whites ($44, 517); and Latino origins ($33,565). Statistics further indicate that 34% of all single African American males live below the poverty line, which is twice that of any other ethnic group of males. In fact, overall, African American families experience poverty (22.7%) at a far greater rate than the national poverty rate (9.2%) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Black males with a high school diploma earn $10.56 per hour (80 percent) while their White male counterparts earn $13.12 per hour. In addition, Black males with college degrees, only earn ($34,000) 77% of what White males earn ($48,000) (Kunjufu, 2001). With respect to African American females, albeit they attend college at a greater rate (63%) than African American males (37%), they still earn substantially less in pay (Hargrow & Hendricks, 2001). Hence, these statistics not only reflect the African American family in particular, but the African American community in general.
Over the past several decades scholars and theorists alike, in the field of counseling, have ardently debated the present socio-economic conditions within the African American community (Brown & Pinterits, 2001; Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Pope-Davis & Hargrove, 2001). White supremacy (Wilson, 1998), cultural oppression (Hilliard, 2002) and racial discrimination (Williams, 2008) are often cited as underlining causatives factors/forces. Recently, there has been a growing interest in the development of "culturally sensitive" vocational assessments, frameworks, schemata, and guidelines for counseling African Americans (Brown & Pinterits, 2001; Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Ibrahim, Ohnishi, & Wilson, 1994; Leong, 1995; Pope-Davis & Hargrove, 2001). Unfortunately, despite these well-intentioned efforts, people of African descent continue to lack the economic power to be self-sufficient (Anderson, 2001; Kotkin, 1992). Even more discouraging is that there seems to be little, if any, significant indication of foreseeable progress (Kotkin, 1992).
This phenomenon has led the authors to critically examine the nature in which culture is an appropriate instrument in the liberation of African people. In vocational counseling and development, as well as other disciplines, culture should not be discussed merely for the sake of an academic exercise. In this sense, culture is becoming the new trend or "buzz word" in the field of counseling. Utsey, Gernat, and Bolden (2003) stated it best, "scholars, educators, and clinicians must look beneath the surface-level, 'feel good' cosmetics of multiculturalism..." (p. 149). Currently, Eurocentric theories, methods of assessment, and counseling techniques are blindly accepted and applied among people of color and mistakenly deemed as increasing the prominence of multiculturalism in the field of career development (Constantine & Parker, 2001; Young & Chen, 1999). In other instances, cultural factors are considered and even encouraged; yet, there remains the implicit understanding that African Americans will inevitably seek employment under the dominance of European American economic power structure, with the intention of maintaining the status quo (Wilson, 1998). As a result, the practice of "cultural sensitivity" becomes unwittingly futile, ineffectual, and rhetorical. …