Outsiders in a White, Middle-Class System: Counselor Educators of Color in Academe

Article excerpt

The author presents results of an exploration of the experiences of counselor educators of color, focusing on participants' relationships and interactions with the system of academe and how they are exemplified in the tenure and promotion process. Results suggest P. H. Collins's (1991) concept of the "outsider within" academe is highly relevant.

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Essays and narratives by faculty of color and other culturally diverse faculty suggest those who differ from the White, middle-class norm experience life in academe as "outsiders" (e.g., Collins, 1991; James & Farmer, 1993; Mindiola, 1995). McKay (1997) described how the dynamics of the larger society, perpetuated in academe, situate European American faculty and faculty of color within systems of power and privilege:

   American and all Western society remain provinces in which white
   men, and some white women, of a particular class with particular
   dominant ideologies determine the nature of all of our existences.
   Thus, even without deliberate intentions to enforce dominance over
   others, the relations between whites and the "other" in white
   institutions of higher education develop and emerge out of a dynamic
   that reifies racist and sexist paradigms of power and powerlessness.
   (pp. 15-16)

The counseling profession promotes in its practitioners empathy, genuineness, regard, and, increasingly; appreciation for and understanding of diversity. Yet, if the literature suggests that faculty of color generally experience life in academe, and are positioned therein, as outsiders in a White, middle-class system, what will be revealed by a study of the experiences of counseling faculty of color?

R. L. Young, Chamley, and Withers (1990) found that counselor education departments reported that 90.6% of the faculty were European American, compared with 79.8% being European American in the total U.S. population. Similarly, Dinsmore and England (1996) found that 15% of counselor educators were non-White, compared with 25% being non-White in the general population. Although the hiring rate for ethnic minority faculty in counselor education has been slowly increasing, R. L. Young et al. (1990) projected that the current rate will "actually perpetuate minority underrepresentation" (p. 153). In addition, counselor educators of color are more likely to be nontenured or part-time faculty than are European American counselor educators (Bradley & Holcomb-McCoy, 2002; Brinson & Kottler, 1993). Difficulties in securing tenure track positions or in achieving tenure may force some faculty of color to leave academe to seek employment elsewhere.

An important step in recruitment and retention of a more diverse faculty is to gain understanding of the day-to-day experiences of counselor educators of color in predominantly European American counseling departments. The counseling literature includes several articles and essays that shed some light on these experiences. For example, in their exploration of cross-cultural mentoring in counselor education, Brinson and Kottler (1993) found that cross-cultural communication and power dynamics between faculty of color and White faculty may come into play in mentoring relationships. They also discussed feelings of isolation that women and men of color may experience when working in predominantly White counselor education programs. Personal narratives by counselor educators of color that appeared in a Journal of Counseling & Development special issue on racism (e.g., Durodoye, 1999; Jackson, 1999) suggested that the experience of intentional and unintentional racism on individual and systemic levels presents ongoing challenges in the professional lives of faculty of color. However, in-depth exploration and analysis are still needed of the experiences of counselor educators of color and of the perceived and manifest consequences of these experiences.

This study, which involved exploration and analysis of the intersection of ethnicity, social class, and gender in the lives of counselor educators of color, was undertaken to help fill this need. …

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