August 14, 2016
COUN5336 Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations
Awareness of Your Cultural Heritage
Heritage is the history and story of an exclusive mixture of knowledge, values and traditions that have developed by a combination of genes and environment over a span of time. Our Heritage is responsible for how we came to be us and it is a very large part of who and what we as people are.
My ethnicity after looking up my family tree is made up of German, Irish, English, Dutch Norwegian, and Native American. My great-great grandfather on my maternal grandfather’s side emigrated from Germany and my great-great grandmother was half Caucasian and half Potawatomi which is a Native American Tribe in the United States originally near what was known as the Oklahoma territory. Mygreat-great grandparents on my maternal grandmother’s side both emigrated from Ireland. On my father’s side of the family my great -great grandparents on my paternal grandmother’s side emigrated from Norway and my great-great grandparents on my paternal grandfather’s side emigrated from England.
Even thought my ethnicity is stretched out a bit my family for the most part growing up were raised with a mixture of Christian beliefs from my mother’s side and Jehovah witness beliefs from my father’s side. I myself at the age of 13 started following the Wiccan faith and still uphold its values and teachings today. My husband was raised Mormon and still follows much of their practices even though he is not active within the church. We have chosen to raise our children in knowing of the god and goddess and have taught our children that faith comes in many forms and comes to us in the form that we personally can accept the best and may be different from others.
My family from both sides of my parents have always stressed the fact of not judging people by what you perceive them to be. My Family has experienced discrimination due to our heritage in the past. On my mother’s side when my great-great-grandfather emigrated from Germany his brothers came along with him and one of them got separated from the family at Ellis Island and was sent to the New Jersey area where he opened a shoe store. He was killed in that shoe store over 12 dollars in the register because his attackers perceived that because he was a German from Germany that he also he had to be a Jew and they believed Jews had a lot of money. When they realized he only had the 12 dollars they killed him. On my father’s side because of his darker complexion and occupation people have mistaken him for having Hispanic heritage and we were often treated differently. One of my earliest memories is of me asking my brother what a half-breed was and why it was a bad thing because I heard kids repeating it on the playground in regards to me.
With my family being created by emigrants starting over in a new country for a better life I feel that I have a basic understanding of what would make someone move to a new country and attempt to assimilate within society. My Grandfather on my mother’s side speaks very little German due to my great-great grandparents attempting to assimilate within the American Culture and they only spoke German within their home when no one was around and it was the same for my other great grandparents after their parents moved to the United States from Ireland. In a sense they attempted to erase part of their identity to define with their new surroundings. I think my heritage has taught me to not define others by what they look like, sound like, or location they come from because that may tell a part of their history, but it does not define how they chose to allow their history to affect them.
The potential barriers that I can see I might face is the fact that I define myself as Caucasian and so I can be perceived as not understanding what it’s like to be a person of color or because my family has been a part of the United States for generations that I would have no idea what someone could go through in relocating their whole life to a foreign place that speaks a different language and has different customs.
Strategies to Overcome Your Cultural Competence Limitations
The ongoing change in the cultural structure of the United States requires counselors to become more aware of multicultural issues as they are exposed to a culturally diverse makeup of clients. Knowledge, skills, and awareness of one’s own personal worldviews and how one is the product of cultural conditioning is the first step in becoming more culturally aware of others. Another step in Cultural awareness is to understand that we must value each client for who they are as unique individuals, but we must in the same breath acknowledge that when they leave our presence their experience in the world can be often distinctly different from our own.
A strategy that can aid in overcoming cultural competence limitations can consist of Cultural Immersion Projects which require students to engage in activates with a cultural community that is different from their own. Cultural Immersion Projects provide counselors with in vivo training that is aimed at increasing cultural awareness, reducing bias, and improving multicultural skill development.