While humanism is admirable and multiculturalism is admirable and ideal, Comas-Dias (2012) does not operationalize either term, relying instead on a commonly accepted definition without defining it. Additionally, examples of what the author believes other cultures view as humanistic and multicultural are cited, but all without an operationalized definition. This is obviously dangerous because anyone reading this or the article will have their own ideas of what it means to themselves. If there was room to explain further here, a better justification could be made for intersectional feminism which could be viewed as humanistic and certainly is multicultural, but that is a discussion for another day. Instead, the author waxes enthusiastic with a few references but does not explain their views in much detail. The references citied, while discussing multiculturalism are secondary Western sources, rather than primary sources of the culture in question, which is suspect because those cultures are not necessarily viewing things through a patriarchal Western lens.
Quinn (2013) explores this idea of multiculturalism through the lens of psychotherapy and the training of culturally competent counselors. But again, I have to ask as I constantly ask myself, how can one become “culturally competent” without constantly checking privilege and consulting colleagues, friends, and individuals that are affected by institutionalized racism and sexism in ways that I cannot even conceive? This is a conceit of the article. Even with the “rigorous practice guidelines” of the APA, I have to wonder how rigorous they have been when many inequities have been either ignored or sanctioned as in the case of the illegally incarcerated at Guanamo and the “female diseases” listed in the DSM. What is intriguing here, and perhaps grounds for further exploration, is Quinn’s exploration of multicultural competencies and what a therapist can “learn, develop, and demonstrate” through advocacy and change practices at an institutional level. But I still have to ask, without direct experience in that culture and constant checking of privilege, how does one truly know if their privilege is getting in the way?
I am convinced overall that humanism and multiculturalism is necessary and should have been incorporated into psychology and in the overall U.S. American culture decades ago when my father arrived and even sooner when my Granny was a little girl. Further, I am not convinced that the methods delineated in these articles are the only or even the correct ways to do utilize or even exploit it. Taylor and Nanney (2011) explore this further with multiracialism, but it seems to be more of the same. Certainly, it reminds me of the upper classes and well off individuals who were already part of and benefitted from the power structure in this country telling the lower-classes and political minorities how to live their lives as if they knew best. This is no different. How can someone who is not part of a culture know it is intimately as someone who does? While there are various theories designed to help the uninitiated to understand multiracialism a little better, without living in another person’s skin, all that one can understand is some aspects of what they experience and how they feel. Those are just surface trappings, not intimate knowledge. Additionally, the authors, while acknowledging that race is a social construct have relegated biracialism to only two, White and non-White. Again, this shows a bias that none others exist and that brings me to question the bias of the authors.
Hanks (2008) and Hoffman (2012, April) address need for developing new paradigms to address this bias. Hanks addresses the bias, questioning the individuality of Western superiority in favor of a more worldly communal-focused collective healing that does begin to approach multicultural approach. It is important to note here that Hanks addresses a specific aspect of the concerns above, that those who seek out the services of psychologists, “find not only an inherent power differential but also an attitude that pathologizes and dismisses the indigenous belief systems and folk psychologies that have sustained South African communities for generations” (Edwards et al., 1983; Nama & Swartz, 2002 in Hanks, 2008). While by no means the complete solution to the problem of Western bias, at least the concerns seem to finally begin to be addressed. Hoffman (2012, April) brings all of these concerns full circle when he explains that the last Humanist Psychology conference (prior to April 2012) there was only one presentation that addressed diversity. A key aspect of this is the discomfort of having bias and non-inclusiveness pointed out to the dominant power structure, “It was common for others and myself to encounter strong resistance when presenting about diversity and, at times, I received some very angry comments, questions, and Emails” which recalls the constant macro and microaggressions that people of color receive from the political majority when pointing out the obvious (Harper, 2016). Given that, at least I, have never really viewed myself as White, but rather Italian, I have a difficult time understanding resistance to multiculturalism, diversity, intersectionality, and feminism, but if one has held dominant political majority beliefs for so long, I believe I can understand how a group could resist such change violently as if their mother was forcibly taken from them. Hoffman describes the resistance in humanistic psychology in a similar way. While I cannot relate to it, I understand it, but counter that the nature of Life is constant Change and humanity must come to grips with that in order to evolve.
Comas-Dias, L. (2012). Humanism and multiculturalism: An evolutionary alliance. Psychotherapy, 49, 437-441.
Quinn, A. (2013). A person-centered approach to multicultural counseling competence. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53, 202-251. DOI 10.1177/0022167812458452.
Taylor, M. J. & Nanney, J. T. (2011). An existential gaze at multiracial self-concept: Implications for psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 51, 195-215. DOI 10.1177/0022167803655909.
Hanks, T. L. (2008). The Ubuntu paradigm: Psychology’s next force? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, 116-135. DOI: 10.1177/0022167807303004.
Harper, A. B. (2016). All Lives Matter Brings the Country Together While Black Lives Matter is ‘Dividing’ Us (Not Systemic Racism!). Retrieved from http://www.sistahvegan.com/2016/09/20/all-lives-matter-brings-the-country-together-while-black-lives-matter-is-dividing-us-not-systemic-racism/
Hoffman, L. (2012, April). Creating a home for diversity in humanistic psychology. Society for Humanistic Psychology Newsletter.