Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

The Intersection of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Social Class in Counseling: Examining Selves in Cultural Contexts. (Articles)

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

The Intersection of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Social Class in Counseling: Examining Selves in Cultural Contexts. (Articles)

Article excerpt

The author discusses the importance of counselors considering the intersection of multiple cultural identities in working with clients. The article serves as the introduction to the special issue, Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Social Class in Counseling, of the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development.

La autora discute la importancia de considerar el cruce de las identidades culturales multiples de los clientes en la consejeria. El articulo sirve como la introduccion a la publicacion especial, Raza, Etnicidad, y Clase Social, en la Consejeria de la Revista de Consejeria y Desarrollo Multicultural.

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Race, ethnicity, gender, and social class each represent salient cultural group memberships in the United States (Constantine, 2001; Robinson, 1993; Robinson & Howard-Hamilton, 2000). Such cultures are lenses through which all experiences and phenomena that concern individuals should be viewed. However, considering each of these variables in isolation fails to accurately reflect the complexities and life experiences of most people (Constantine, 2001). A relative paucity of writings have addressed the intersection of such variables in terms of how individuals experience various issues in their lives. Failing to recognize the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class is incongruent with the practice of effective multicultural counseling.

Lorde's (1998) work addressed the dangers of not acknowledging the unique interrelationships among age, race, class, and sex. For example, with regard to women, Lorde critiqued individuals who have unilaterally seen all women as representing one truth, rather than seeing multiple and diverse truths represented in women of color, White women, heterosexual women, lesbians, and bisexual women. The intersection of these women's identifies greatly shapes their experiences and realities (Fukuyama & Ferguson, 2000). According to a Chinese proverb, "Two-thirds of what a person sees exists behind that person's eyes." Simply stated, all people do not perceive events and realities in the same way. In fact, reality is a perceptual field that is constructed and deconstructed by individuals depending, in part, on their cultural group memberships.

Constructs such as race, ethnicity, gender, and class have existed throughout history, and these variables are continuously undergoing transformations as social and national systems change (Mantsios, 1998; Weber, 1998). Hence, it is important that sociodemographic variables such as race, ethnicity, gender, and social class are viewed dynamically, rather than statically, in order to reduce the likelihood of oversimplification and overgeneralization of their meanings and applications (Constantine, 2001; Fandetti & Goldmeier, 1988; Hermans, 2001). These variables should also be considered within specific societal contexts. Race, ethnicity, gender, and social class function concurrently in all social circumstances, both societally (e.g., systems of social hierarchies are embedded in all social institutions) and individually (e.g., people develop their personal identity on the basis of where they fall on a continuum of various sociodemographic dimensions; Weber, 1998).

Research that details the intersections among various cultural variables has done so through the lens of pervasive operating social systems such as racism, classism, sexism, and ethnocentrism (Bhatia & Ram, 2001; Collins, 1998; Constantine, 2001; Hall, Lopez, & Bansal, 2001; Leach & Sullivan, 2001; Schmitt, 1988). In examining the function of capitalism in this nation, Schmitt asserted that it is intimately related to racism and sexism in that capitalism is dependent on the notions of racialism and patriarchy. Mantsios (1998) noted that although racism, sexism, and social class affect individuals' lives in different ways, there are various parallels among them (e. …

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