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Challenging Your Multicultural Biases

Challenging Your Cultural Biases
Multicultural Competencies
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D., Cecilia Guyton,
Lori Dillard, Elizabeth Krzewski,
R. Lolita Ottley and Demetria Thomas-Masso 

1. Front Stage/Back Stage Racism
According to Joe Feagin as cited in Drash (2010), many people use “social correctness on the frontstage” but exhibit “blatant racism” in the “backstage.” One particular incident of backstage racism was revealed in January 2010 perpetrated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid was quoted as referring to Barack Obama as a good black candidate for president because of his “light-skinned” appearance and because speaks with no “Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” These remarks were reportedly said by Reid in a private conversation in 2008 but were published in the book Game Change written by two political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. After the book was released, Reid issued an apology to President Obama after which President Obama responded with a public statement. These statements can be found in the links listed below. One final comment by Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine is noteworthy as well. Kaine seemed to be defending Sen. Reid’s comments by stating “If you look at those comments, they clearly were in the context of praising Sen. Obama.” This is clearly an example of “microaggression” detailed by Sue and Sue (2008). View links below on Front Stage Back Stage issues.

Given the above information and links to more detailed information, please answer the following questions.

1. What is the impact of Senator Reid’s backstage racist comments on attempts to establish a post-racial America?
2. What are the implications of President Obama’s statement of acceptance of Reid’s apology?
3. Can you identify any incidents of backstage racism in your own experience? Explain.
4. What was the impact of those incidents on you or those around you?
5. Describe the implications of national incidents of backstage racism such as Senator Reid’s comments on the field of multicultural counseling. How will this impact your individual clients?
6. What key points would you want your client to understand about backstage racism and its impact in their lives?

2. Social Justice Words: Ageism as Example

1. Consider the terms below and answer the following questions in terms of how these words best describe older adults versus younger adults.
2. Decide which term best suits the age group. Write a (1) next to the term if it describes the elderly and write a (2) next to the term that describes younger adults.

  • Naïve                                                                           
  • Green
  • Well preserved                                                           
  • Fogey
  • Crotchety                                                                     
  • Alert
  • Inexperienced                                                            
  • Saintly
  • Spunky                                                                       
  • Feisty
  • Over the hill                                                                
  • Biddy
  • Technology Savvy                                                      
  • Spoiled
  • Decrepit                                                                     
  • Ancient
  • Crusty                                                                         
  • Battle-ax
  • Disrespectful                                                              
  • Set in their ways
  • Loud                                                                           
  • Forgetful

1. Why do you think these terms are routinely applied to that particular age group?
2. What assumptions do these terms convey about the temperament, ability, and other characteristics of the age groups?
3. How does the use of such terms label each group?
4. What is the normative range age for each group and how is each group’s used against them in school, the work place, the community, church…etc.?

3. Ethnocentric and Xenophobia

Do you know what these terms mean?

Define: Ethnocentrism

Define Xenophobia

Now that you understand what these terms mean now answer the following questions:

1.  In regards to your culture do you feel that there are some aspects of ethnocentricity that you have experienced?

2.  Do you often expect other populations to align with your perspectives and or world view? If so, give examples.

3.  How could expecting other individuals to have your worldview decrease your ability to evolve and have a teachable multicultural moment?

4.  Identify and explain a time when you have experienced, witnessed or either had a moment of xenophobia?

5.  Please explain how this experience was for you and how it affected you and or the other person or population.

4. Intentions vs Perceptions

Please define what you understand the words intentions and perceptions mean in the relationships between people of differing genders, education, cultures, races, countries, religions etc:
Intentions means:
Perceptions means:
Using gender issues let’s explore how our intention and our perceptions become confused when we are dealing with people of the opposite sex:  

1. Watch this video first: 
This was based on female/male communication and focused on the intentions of the parties versus their perceptions of what actually transpired. Discuss how well this video clip exemplifies the tensions involved in the disparity between perceptions and intentions. What were the intentions of both parties involved in the experienced discussed in the clip and how did these intentions differ from the perceptions which each carried with them after this experience. 

2.Now watch this video:  and answer the following questions: How well does this clip capture the differences which exist when people from opposite groups communicate with one another? 

3. What lessons can you take away from these two video experiences to make you more alert to the differences of intentions and perceptions when you are dealing with a client who comes from a different gender, level of education, culture, race, country, religion etc:

5. Questioning Norms and Questioning Assumptions about Groups

Read the following sentences and identify the assumptions inherent in each regarding age, ability, appearance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic power or status.

Identify the “norm” (a standard of conduct that should or must be followed; a typical or usual way of being or behaving, usually said of a certain group) and discuss how the assumptions reflect this norm.

Discuss how these assumptions operate in your cultural situation. How are you affected by cultural assumptions about the “norm”?


  1. Mrs. Imoto looks remarkably good for her age.
  2. Fashion Tights are available in black, suntan, and flesh color.
  3. Someday I intend to visit the third world.
  4. We need more manpower.
  5. The network is down again. We’d better get Kevin in here to do his voodoo on it.
  6. I see she forgot to sign her time sheet. She’s acting a little blonde today.
  7. Mitochondrial DNA testing should help us determine when our race split off from the lower creatures.
  8. Confined to a wheelchair, Mr. Garcia still manages to live a productive life.
  9. Pat really went on the warpath when the budget figures came out
  10. The Academy now admits women and other minorities.
  11. We have a beautiful daycare center where women can leave their children while they work.
  12. See if you can Jew him down to $50.
  13. I completely forgot where I put my car keys. I must be having a senior moment.
  14. Win a fabulous lovers’ weekend in Hawaii! Prizes include a day at the spa for her and a relaxing game of golf for him.
  15. We welcome all guests, their wives, and their children.

Finally how has this exercise increased your awareness about how you might allow your own assumptions and beliefs about social norms affect you in your relationship with your clients from a different age, ability, appearance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic power or status than your own.

6. One Size Does Not Fit All - When Dealing with Where do Latin Americans Come From

The following chart clearly points out the variety of languages, cultures and ethnicities which get lumped into the term "Latin American" so it is important to keep this in mind when working with people who have been classified as Latin American

Countries and Culture which are Origins of Latin Americans


Spain (Europe, Primarily Spanish Language)


North America

Mexico (North America, Primarily Spanish Language)


Central America

Belize (Central America-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

Costa Rican (Central America, Primarily Spanish Language)

El Salvador (Central America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Guatemala (Central America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Honduras (Central America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Nicaragua (Central America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Panama (Central America, Primarily Spanish Language)


South America

Argentina (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Bolivia (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Brazil (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Chile (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Colombia (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Ecuador (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Guyana (South America, Primarily English Language)

Paraguay (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Peru (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Suriname (South America, Primarily Dutch Language)

Uruguay (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)

Venezuela (South America, Primarily Spanish Language)



Anguilla (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

Antiqua & Barbuda (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao & Sint Maartine (Caribbean, Primarily Dutch Language)

Bahama (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

Barbados (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

Cayman Islands (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

Cuba (Caribbean, Primarily Spanish Language)

Dominica (Caribbean, Primarily English Language)

Dominican Republic (Caribbean, Primarily Spanish Language)

Haiti (Caribbean, Primarily French & Haitian Creole Languages)

Jamaica (Caribbean, Primarily Bilingual English & Patois Language)

Puerto Rico (Caribbean-USA Territory, Primarily Spanish Language)

St Kitts & Nevis (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

St Lucia (Caribbean-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language)

St Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean, Primarily English Language)

Trinidad and Tobago (Caribbean, Primarily English Language)

Turks and Caicos Islands (Caribbean, Primarily English Language)

Virgin Islands (Caribbean)

1. British Virgin Islands-British Commonwealth, Primarily English Language

2. US Virgin Islands- USA Territory, Primarily English Language

3. Spanish Virgin Islands-Primarily Spanish Language

Note: Not all people who come from the Caribbean are Hispanic which makes working with this population more difficult and for that reason refer to: Carribbeans - An Underserved Minority on this website at: