Background for long periods of time, still

Background

I
am Alexis Crump, a 23-year-old African American young woman, born and raised in
New Bern, NC, to two hard working, middle class parents. I have six
step-siblings, three older and three younger, two brothers and four sisters,
making me the “spoiled” middle child.  I
was raised in a two parent household, that often felt like a one parent
household, because my father was long distance truck driver for the majority of
my life, and was home only for most weekends. Being that my father was gone a
lot and my mother being a store manager, my mother had help from my older
siblings and grandparents in raising me. Due to this set up, I have a very
close bond to my older siblings and my grandmothers. When not with my siblings,
I was around cousins my age. From my father not being around for long periods
of time, still to this day we do not have a strong relationship. I find myself
closest to my mother, because as I got older she was there for me to lean on.

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After
graduating high school, I attended Fayetteville State University where I
received my B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Management
Information Systems. Fayetteville State was my last choice in undergraduate
education, but my parent’s first. After being pressured into that school I
found myself also confused and pressured into a major. What I least enjoyed
about school, was the feeling of being rushed. There were many opportunities I
wanted to participate in, but I was on a time based scholarship and choose to
focus on education primarily. The college experience was the best part of
school, surrounding by people from different walks of life, opened me up to
think and act differently. My undergraduate experience taught me to take every
opportunity that I can and to not judge my circumstances based on the people
around me.

Group
Awareness

The
day I knew I was a female and there were differences in gender was when I was
playing with my brother on a hot summer day. As kids we spent a lot of time
playing in the yard as my father watched. My brother and I were hot and thirsty
and wanted to go inside to cool off and get a drink of water. As we were
approaching the house my father stopped us and told us to get a drink of water
from the water hose. My brother and I both wet our shirts trying to drink from
the hose, so my brother took off his shirt. As I proceeded to do the same, my
father yelled at me and told me that I was a girl and I couldn’t run around
without a shirt. That is when I knew that a I was a female and things would be
different amongst males and females.

The
first time I knew my sexual orientation was with my first crush, a beautiful
blue eyed, blonde hair kindergarten boy. At that moment I knew I had an
attraction to males. I did not become physically attracted to anyone until
middle school when my body started to change. In college I “tested the waters”
with females, but ultimately I am attracted to males.

I
can honestly say, I never paid much attention to race until fifth and sixth
grade. In fifth grade I noticed a divide on the playground between the African
American and White girls. In sixth grade I was the only African American girl
in my class and that took a toll on me mentally. The only time I was around
people who looked like me was during electives. During that school year, I saw
how you could be treated differently because of the color of your skin. During
the Christmas holiday a White girl I considered my friend gifted me with a lip
gloss set and when she realized she forgot to get enough for all of her
friends, she took the gift away from me to give it to someone else. At the
time, I felt less than the majority group because, the way she treated me
around her friends and the when it was just us was different. Now that I am
older, I understand that it may not have been her intentions to make me feel
left out or different, but that is how I took it at that moment.

I
was raised with Christian beliefs, but I have never felt pressure from my
family to be a perfect Christian or be so caught up in traditions and my
beliefs that I couldn’t understand another person’s way of thinking. Religion
wasn’t something discussed, it was simply understood that we were Christians
and belonged to a Missionary Baptist denomination. I respected my religion
because it, was passed down through generations and I never questioned my
family’s belief system. The first time I noticed a different religion was when
I visited my family in Philadelphia around age five. What I first noticed was
that they dressed differently and my mother explained to me that they were
Muslim. My mother loved them just as any other member of my family, which
showed me how to react to different religions. I also have a cousin who doesn’t
believe in God, even though my family doesn’t agree with him they let him make
his own decisions without forcing our beliefs onto him. My family just wants us
to enter romantic relationships with someone that is “equally yoked” or have
the same religious beliefs. From my experiences I don’t have a problem with
other religions, I feel that everyone should be able to express feely as long
as no harm is done.

My
family does not talk about our ethnic heritage as much as we should. I hear a
lot about our history during family reunions, but we haven’t had any since the
passing for my great aunt a few years ago. At family reunions we always went
over our family tree and the activities our ancestors were a part of. I now
receive much of my ethic heritage lessons from my older cousin who is a
historian. She is the main person in the family to go to to learn about our
past and where we come from. She has also taken me and my cousin to Africa to
get deeper understanding on where we originated.

Social
Awareness

Being
socially aware happened early for me. My first lesson in learning that people
are different was learning to treat my elders with respect. I was taught early
to stay in a “child place” and out of “grown folk’s business.” That taught me
that people who look older than me were to be treated differently than I treat
people my own age. I learned gender difference from my grandmother through my
brothers and cousins. My grandmother made it very clear to her granddaughters
that we could not do everything that the boys did and she gave us very specific
gender roles like, boys should work outside and girls should work in the house
cooking and cleaning. Overall, all the differences I’ve seen in people have
been by the way the groups were treated or approached.

I
learned about prejudices in school, but I had heard the term used before. I
understood that it was negative term, but didn’t know the true meaning until
school. I heard that statement, “you’re prejudice”, from the people around me
mostly when things didn’t go their way or they felt wrongly judged or treated.
The statement at the time, felt like a loose statement or overly used in the
wrong manner. Until I later realized that people may prejudge you based off of
your outside appearance, ideas, biases, opinions, or previous encounters.

The
once a year black history month lessons were how I learned racism. I think
these lessons on racism stuck with me because it affected people who look like
myself and I knew that these events actually happened. Prejudice talk didn’t
start to affect me until high school when I knew I deserved a certain level of
treatment, understood how to treat people, and believed others could do the
same. Prejudice talk from my peers hurt so much because the comments were
coming from the same people I had grown up with since elementary school. I
thought they were people I could trust and you don’t expect prejudice or racial
comments to come from people close to you. Especially other colored people who
receive the same oppressions as myself. The first time I experience prejudices
was a day I went to an Asian owned beauty supply store. They prejudged me based
on their opinions instead of treating me like normal customer.  When I entered the store eyes were one me
immediately, it felt as if eyes were burning into my back until I left. This
made me feel really small, in the sense that I could not be trusted or could
not afford anything in the store. Not receiving any customer service caused me
to feel used because, they didn’t care about me, just their money.

Encounter

Growing
up in the small town of New Bern, NC it was diverse for its size. I saw many
different ethnicities, although the city seemed divided, and not many Native
Americans. There are still many neighborhoods that are majority one ethnicity
over another. Based on the city being so divided my perceptions on the
ethnicities are narrow. African Americans in my hometown are a strong force
when we work together for the good of the community, but we spend too much time
competing against each other. There are many talented individuals in the
African American community, but many fail to see their potential outside of
their everyday battles. Asians in the community are quiet, but hard workers.
They hold many of the factory and mechanic positions in town. Asians also seem
to start up more small businesses than any other ethnicity. European Americans
are the majority group, holding the power and the privilege of access to many
things colored people can’t attain as easily in town. They also have most of
the political positions. The Hispanic community is growing rapidly, but they
tend to stay to themselves and support each other like an extended family. I am
sure that my immediate family share similar views.

When
the city is so small everyone knows each other and word travels fast. This
being the case I have never seen many openly gay, bisexual, or lesbian
relationships from older people. Starting in high school I started to notice
more open relationships and lifestyles from younger individuals. That brings me
to the assumption that LGBT community were not always accepted, but I do think
the city is slowing accepting the change.

My
perception on many groups changed when I left the small town and moved to a
bigger city. A change in location increased my knowledge on diversity and
acceptance of differences. This gave me a different view that I could share
with my friends back home to share with them another perspective about other
groups.

In
my family when it comes to elders and disabilities, they are to be respected
and given the same care they once gave you. Having a disability doesn’t define
who you are, but makes you unique and wherever you fall short family can help
you when possible. I have watched my grandmother take care of her father until
he did. From that experience my mother learned how to take care of her aging
mother-in-law. Watching my mother, I have learned to care for elders and people
with disabilities respectfully as much as I can without taking away all of
their independence.

The
effects of racism, discrimination, and sexism have made me a determined African
American woman because, I understand I have to work ten times harder than a
white woman and twenty times harder than a white man. The power of privilege
and oppression on my life and career at times brings me down and I feel as
though everything is working against me, but I have to keep fighting not only
for myself, but the people who will come after me. I will not be defeated by
oppression, racism, discrimination, or sexism. Oppression and privilege can
also affect my potential clients by making them feel; they cannot trust me, my
experience and education in inadequate, misunderstood, or helpless.

Present
Views and Cultural Identities

I
have never had a trusting relationship with anyone outside of my race until I
moved to Durham. My first relationship with an individual outside of my own
race is with my current manager. He is a gay, White male in his fifties. I feel
I have met him for a special reason. My manager has shared many of his life
stories with me about depression from grieving and hiding he was a gay man. At
first I was very closed off to listen to his life journey. After hearing more
stories and how counseling changed his life I remembered that I would need to
be culturally competent and open to anyone who wants my help. That would
include counseling people I’m not familiar with or have different views than. I
am grateful for the lessons he has given me without knowing he was doing so.
From that relationship he has also opened the door for me to meet his friend
who is a counselor and I could network with. The least rewarding of this
relationship is when he doesn’t fully understand my culture and I have to
slowly explain to him our cultural differences and his misconceptions. At times
this can be frustrating, because I take his comments as being simple minded and
naïve, when in reality he was not raised around many African Americans and is
misinformed.

I
know the least information about Asians and Native Americans. I have never
spent much time around Asians or took the time to research their history. I had
the opportunity to work with a Native American woman from Canada and she was
able to share many details about their culture with me. I do understand that
different Native American tribes are different and will have to learn more as I
go.

My
cultural identity development racial, gender, sexuality, and spiritual identity
assessments were very interesting. I found out more about myself and made me
reconsider many of the things I said earlier in this narrative.

I
was able to easily identify with the Helm’s People of Color Identity Model. The
Helm’s People of Color Identity Model consist of five ego statuses; I am
currently at Internalization status. The Internalization status is
characterized by the capacity to use internal criteria for self-definition as
well as the ability to objectively respond to Whites (Moore-Thomas, p.97, n.d.).
I feel this status complements me currently because, I know that being Black or
African American is not defined by the way I look or the actives I partake in.
I am not fully aware of everything that embodies being Black, but there is more
to the culture than meets the eye.

A
blend of Downing and Roush’s Model of Feminist Identity and Hoffman’s Model of
Feminist Identity was able to help me find my gender identification stage.
Stage four, Synthesis, of Downing and Roush’s model states, it is characterized
by positive identity that integrates personal and feminist identities (Moore-Thomas,
p.105, n.d.). Hoffman’s Moratorium/Exploration status is characterized by
women’s commitments to active identity search and identity synthesis. Over the
last year, I have been searching for what it means to be a woman for myself
without judging another woman’s journey.

The
sexual identity was the hardest to find a stage for, but I was able to relate
to the Bisexual Identity Development Model. I feel that I have been through all
of these stages at one point in my life. I am currently at state four, which is
continued uncertainty. The continued uncertainty results from the lack of
closure that stems from society’s lack of tolerance of bisexual identity (Moore-Thomas,
p.108. n.d.). At times I battle with being completely comfortable about telling
anyone that I have been in a same sex relationship in fear of being judged, so
I understand that I am at the last stage of the Bisexual Identity Development
Model.

Fowler’s
Model of Spiritual Identity has six stages and I find myself at the Conjunctive
Faith stage. Conjunctive Faith involves being able to appreciate the cultural
and traditional faith systems without being bound by them (Moore-Thomas, p.111,
n.d.). I find this true for myself, because I appreciate my faith system, but I
have not got to the point where everything I do is based on my faith system.

Cultural
Competence

Culturally
competent counselors are first, actively in the process of becoming aware of
their values, biases, and assumptions about human behavior. Second, they are
actively attempting to understand the worldview of their culturally diverse
clients. Third, they are actively developing and practicing appropriate,
relevant, and sensitive intervention strategies and skills to work with diverse
clients (Sue, D.W. & Sue. D, p.56, 2016).

It
is important to have counselor student awareness of my own cultural values and
biases in order to not interfere with my ability to work with clients. Being
aware entails being in touch with my true feelings, values, and biases of
culturally different people. According to Sue, D.W. & Sue. D (2016), it is
easier to deal with trainees’ cognitive understanding of their own cultural
heritage, the values they hold about human behavior, their standards for
judging normality and abnormality, and the culture-bound goals toward which
they strive (p.56). Over the last two semesters I have been learning more about
my values and biases, and I believe my current level of competence is a 2-not
very competent. I believe I am at a level two because, I still find myself
questioning many of my true values. I think as a grow as a person this will
become more definite and my competence level will increase.

It
is crucial for therapist and counselors to understand and accept other
worldviews in a nonjudgmental manner. This cultural competent knowledge
includes being informed on many culturally diver groups, the sociopolitical
system’s operations in the United States with respect to its treatment of
marginalized groups in society, and institutional barriers (Sue, D.W. & Sue.
D, p.59, 2016). My current competence level is a 2- not very competent. I am
not very competent on awareness of client’s worldview, because I have not dealt
with many individuals culturally different than myself or knowledgeable about
the sociopolitical system’s operations.

Developing
culturally appropriate intervention strategies is the process of the therapist
using modalities and defining goals that are consistent with the life
experiences and cultural values of the client (Sue, D.W. & Sue. D, p.57,
2016). Clients do not share a similar background and cultural heritage, so the
same approaches won’t be equally effective. My current competence of developing
culturally appropriate intervention strategies is a level 1-not competent at
all. I do not have the abilities to generate a wide variety of helping
responses, accurately communicate, or anticipate the impact of my helping
skills.

Summary

Throughout
this course I hope to increase my cultural competence levels. Through this
narrative I can see how much I will need to grow through my career. I
understand that cultural competence is not something that is achieved, but a
task that is worked on for the rest of your life. This class will better
prepare me for the challenges I may see in the future and give me an insight on
how to handle them. This course will also give me the information I will need
to help make changes in society.

 

Citations

Sue,
D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the Culturally Diverse Theory and
Practice (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Moore-Thomas, C.
(n.d.). Cultural Iden