Different cultures have different epistemological foundations that shape the manner through which the members of these cultures understand the world. In the most simplistic manner, one may state that one views and understands the world from where one stands. As a result of the existence of different epistemological frameworks, there are instances wherein the beliefs from two or more cultures contradict one another. In addition to this, there are also instances wherein the belief system of one culture dictates the manner through which one ought to understand an issue within a particular field or discipline.
Such is the case when it comes to mental health issues. According to Derald Sue et. al. (2007), the field of mental health continues to be dominated by the ‘Western European models of service delivery’ which leads to the practice of racism within the field (p. 271). They argue that the mental health profession is characterized by ‘racial microagression’ which they define as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color” (Sue et. al, 2007, p. 271).
The existence of racial microaggression within the field of mental health may be attributed to what Peggy McIntosh (1990) refers to as the ‘white privilege’ which she describes as “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks” (p. 1). McIntosh’s description of the ‘white privilege’ as ‘an invisible weightless knapsack’ may be attributed to her recognition that this privilege stands as a result of society’s adherence to a specific form of value system that places the members of the white race in a privileged position as opposed to the members of other races.
If such is the case that the mindset which enables the ‘white privilege’ is a product of the organization of power relations within society, it follows that this mindset is immediately given to an individual once he is socialized within society. Given that this mindset is acquired during one’s socialization process in society, an individual’s recognition of his possession of this mindset requires his ability to recognize the system of power enabled and propagated by this mindset.
Within the context of the mental health profession, the recognition of the effects of this mindset on the profession entails an individual’s recognition of the different perspectives offered by the members of other cultures. As Derald Sue et. al. argue, the recognition of the existence of a privileged point of view in any discipline requires ‘peoples’ willingness to openly and honestly engage in a dialogue of race and racism’ (2007, p. 281).
Within this context, one may state that one’s worldviews and biases affect the manner through which one perceives mental health issues since one’s worldview may either stand as the dominant or subordinate worldview depending on the position of one’s worldview in the power relations within a particular discipline. If one’s worldview is in accordance with the privileged white perspective, one’s worldview determines the beliefs within the discipline in the process of dealing with multicultural clients.
On the other hand, one’s awareness of the resulting biases, assumptions, and values associated with this worldview necessitates one’s recognition of the existence of racial microaggression and its effects in the discipline of mental health. References McIntosh, P. (1990). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Retrieved June 20, 2009, from http://www. cwru. edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack. pdf. Sue, D. , Capodilupo, C. , Torino, G. , Bucceri, J. , Holder, A. , Nadal, K. , & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, 62. 4, 271-286.