Counseling Persons of African Descent: Raising the Bar of Practitioner Competence
Publication Year: 2002
Though important strides have been made in the last three decades in the research efforts on African Americans, there continues to be a lack of significant new understanding about the impact of the African American culture on the therapy process and dynamics. This volume provides an in-depth analysis of the counseling literature pertaining to African American clients. Specifically, the analysis includes a review of the different variables (client, counselor, counseling process, and assessment) that have received the bulk of research attention. This sets the stage for the presentation of a counseling model for African American clients. The authors discuss philosophical premises upon which the model is based and suggest specific counseling strategies and interventions related to the model. Case study material is integrated throughout the ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Counseling African Americans: The Current State of Affairs
- Case Study
- Historical Overview
- Assessment of Personal and Collective Debilitations
- Chapter 2: African-Centered Psychology: Basic Principles
- Basic Principles in African-Centered Psychology
- Chapter 3: Understanding African American Mental Health: The Necessity of New Conceptual Paradigms
- The Ethnicity Factor in Psychotherapy
- New Conceptual Paradigms
- Chapter 4: Understanding Personality and How to Measure It
- The African Personality
- Internal Dimensions
- External Dimensions
- Assessing the African Personality
- Alternate Conceptual Frameworks
- Conceptual Scheme for Counseling African Descent Clients
- Chapter 5: Reconceptualizing the Notion of Self from the African Deep Structure
- African Philosophy
- African Concept of the Person
- The Study of Nature (Physics' Relation to African Psychology)
- Four Questions
- W⊃ Aho⊃den: To be Healthy
- Healthy Aho⊃den (Energy)
- Yare (to be Sick)—Maafa Destructive Interference
- Nya Aho⊃den (To Be Healed)—Reconstructive Interference
- Chapter 6: African-Centered Conceptualizations of Self and Consciousness: The Akan Model
- Akan Conceptualization of the Person and Consciousness
- Ontological and Epistemological Tenets
- Components of Self
- Human Consciousness and the Significance of Sunsum
- Clinical Relevance
- Chapter 7: Counseling Models for African Americans: The What and How of Counseling
- The Role and Task of Helpers and Healers
- Therapeutic Intervention
- Connecting with Clients
- Facilitating Awareness
- Setting Goals
- Taking Action and Instigating Change
- Feedback and Accountability
- Chapter 8: Counseling African American Fathers: A Program for Active Involvement
- Social Science and Black Men
- Adolescent Fathers
- Involved African American Fathers
- The Program
- Case Study
- Chapter 9: Raising the Bar for What Passes as Competence
- Raising the Bar for What Passes as Competence
- The Circumference of Our Experience
Multicultural Aspects of Counseling Series[Page ii]
Paul Pedersen, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham
Patricia M. Arredondo, Ph.D.
Arizona State University
J. Manuel Casas, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Harold E. Cheatham, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University
William E. Cross, Jr., Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts
Candace Marie Fleming, Ph.D.
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Mary Fukuyama, Ph.D.
University of Florida
L. Sunny Hansen, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
Allen E. Ivey, Ed.D.
University of Massachusetts
Teresa LaFromboise, Ph.D.
Jun-cHh Gfada Un, PhJft, ABPP
Texas A & M University
Don C. Locke, Ed.D.
University of North Carolina. Ashevitle
Amado M. PadiUo, Ph.D.
Joseph G. Ponterotto, Ph.D.
Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D.
California State University, Hayward
Norman D. Sundberg, Ph.D.
University of Oregon
Junko lanaka-Matsuml, Ph.D.
Joseph E. Trimble, Ph.D.
Western Washington University
Melba J.T. Vasquez, Ph.D.
Independent Practice, Austin, Texas
Clemmont E. Vontress, Ph.D.
George Washington University
VOLUMES IN THIS SERIES
- Increasing Multicultural Understanding (2nd edition): A Comprehensive Model by Don C. Locke
- Preventing Prejudice: A Guide for Counselors and Educators by Joseph G. Ponterotto and Paul B. Pedersen
- Improving Intercultural Interactions: Modules for Cross-Cultural Training Programs edited by Richard W. Brislin and Tomoko Yoshida
- Assessing and Treating Culturally Diverse Clients (2nd edition): A Practical Guide by Freddy A. Paniagua
- Overcoming Unintentional Racism in Counseling and Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide to Intentional Intervention by Charles R. Ridley
- Multicultural Counseling With Teenage Fathers: A Practical Guide by Mark S. Kiselica
- Multicultural Counseling Competencies: Assessment, Education and Training, and Supervision edited by Donald B. Pope-Davis and Hardin L. K. Coleman
- Improving Intercultural Interactions: Modules for Cross-Cultural Training Programs, Volume 2 edited by Kenneth Cushner and Richard W. Brislin
- Understanding Cultural Identity in Intervention and Assessment by Richard H. Dana
- Psychological Testing of American Minorities (2nd edition) by Ronald J. Samuda
- Multicultural Counseling Competencies: Individual and Organizational Development by Derald Wing Sue et al.
- Counseling Multiracial Families by Bea Wehrly, Kelley R. Kenney, and Mark E. Kenney
- Integrating Spirituality Into Multicultural Counseling by Mary A. Fukuyama and Todd D. Sevig
- Counseling With Native American Indians and Alaska Natives: Strategies for Helping Professionals by Roger D. Herring
- Diagnosis in a Multicultural Context: A Casebook for Mental Health Professionals by Freddy A. Paniagua
- Psychotherapy and Counseling With Asian American Clients: A Practical Guide by George K. Hong and MaryAnna Domokos-Cheng Ham
- Counseling Latinos and La Familia: A Guide for Practitioners by Azara L. Santiago-Rivera, Patricia Arredondo and Maritza Gallardo-Cooper
- Counseling Persons of African Descent: Raising the Bar of Practitioner Competence edited by Thomas A. Parham
Copyright © 2002 by Sage Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Main Entry Under Title:
Counseling persons of African descent: Raising the bar of practitioner excellence/edited by Thomas A. Parham.
p. cm.—(Multicultural aspects of counseling series; v. 18) Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8039-5346-1 (pbk.)
1. Mental health counseling. 2. African Americans—Counseling of. I. Parham, T. M. Jim (Thomas M. Jim) II. Series.
RC451.5.N4 C685 2002
02 03 04 05 06 07 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Acquiring Editors: Nancy Hale/Margaret Seawell
Editorial Assistant: Vonessa Vondera
Production Editor: Denise Santoyo
Copy Editor: Amy Kazilsky
Typesetter: Siva Math Setters, Chennai, India
lndexer: Teri Greenberg
In the spirit of our African brothers and sisters, on whose shoulders we stand, we offer a drink and pour libations to the:
Creator—The source of all knowledge, truth, goodness, and everything that exists on the planet and in the Universe. We are thankful for all of the ways we have been blessed in our lives.
Ancestors—Whose names may not be known, but whose sacrifices will never be forgotten. We honor their sacrifices and struggles.
Elders—To Imhotep and Ptah Hotep; Hatshepsut and Nefertiti; Ramses and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton); Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.; Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman; Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey; Marcus Garvey and Elijah Mohammed; Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer, all of whom taught lessons in strength, perseverance, struggle, tenacity, and community empowerment. To Robert L., Robert G., Na'im Akbar, Wade Nobles, Linda James Myers, A.J. and Nancy Boyd Franklin, Marimba Ani, William Cross, and Asa Hilliard for profoundly affecting my consciousness and blessing me with a friendship that endures and life lessons that continue to teach and inspire.
Children—The hope of any people is in the children. We who now occupy the adult corridors of the world hope to help create for you a future bright with possibilities.
Finally, this text is dedicated to my:
Mentors—To Joseph White, who saw in me genius and promise I couldn't see in myself and gave me a vision of hope, a road map of my future, and support that has been and continues to be unwaivering. To Horace Mitchell: who taught me about professionalism, conscious [Page vi]manhood, and reinforced the value of friendship. And to Janet Helms, who refined my skills, sharpened my intellect, and like a “Queen Mother,” held me close until I was ready to sprout wings and fly.
Series Editor's Introduction[Page xi]
The literature on multicultural counseling has now gone beyond the level of supportive rhetoric and moved toward “raising the bar” of measured competence. Professor Thomas Parham has done an excellent job of showing us how that can be done with African American populations. This is not an easy job. Some of the more simplistic attempts to achieve measured competence have resulted in lists of rules that might “keep you out of trouble” but that do not reflect die deeper emotional and affective levels of multicultural counseling competence. The truth is, many majority counselors are “frightened” by their African American and minority clients and are perhaps primarily interested in protecting themselves as much as protecting the client.
For those counselors who don't care about doing the right thing, nothing will help; for those conscientious counselors who do care, even though they may be unintentionally making mistakes, this book will provide a valuable resource. It does, however, depend on the reader's intentional caring attitude in the first place. This book will provide specific strategies and techniques to put that caring attitude into practice beyond vague and general statements of support. It is important to understand that Thomas's primary objective is to empower those caring counselors, increase their success, and multiply their job satisfaction. This book is directed toward making the job of caring counselors easier and not more difficult.
Although this book is about African American culture, it has a generic application for the reader to generalize the ideas presented to other cultural groups and to the reader's own professional self-awareness. The book represents a kind of journey for Thomas, visiting different sad as well as happy places in his life and professional context. The reader benefits vicariously from his journey through an enriched text. The result has been [Page xii]an African-centered worldview that will help readers discover their own sometimes similar, and sometimes different, worldview. Reading this book will be a journey for the reader just as writing the book has been a journey for Thomas.
Thomas recruited excellent authors to write chapters in this book, leading the way with his own introductory chapter. Cheryl Grills does an excellent job of identifying the indigenous and unique features of African-centered psychology in specific rather than general terms. Thomas and William Parham build a conceptual framework on those basic assumptions followed by a chapter by Thomas Parham on how to measure those conceptual features. Ezemenari Obasi applies the conceptual framework to the notion of the “self and how a reconceptualized notion of self is essential to personal or professional competence. Cheryl Grills continues to build the conceptual framework combining the notions of self and consciousness in a new “Akan Model.” Thomas describes other models that can be built on the African-centered perspective for use in counseling. Michael Connor ties this conceptual framework in with the role of the family, and particularly the role of African American fathers, for successful counseling. Finally, Thomas Parham ends the book with a discussion of this new level of competence for counseling, synthesizing the different conceptual models of the previous chapters.
The Multicultural Aspects of Counseling book series has become like a multivolume encyclopedia on multicultural counseling and each new volume in that series builds on the comprehensive coverage of the series as a whole. Thomas's book is consistent with the practical and applied focus of the MAC book series. The books in this series seek to go beyond the obvious aspects of multicultural counseling and struggle with basic underlying assumptions that shape the field and the practice of counseling. The MAC series is attempting to fill in the gaps in the multicultural counseling literature and this book does an excellent job of contributing to that process.
There is a popular rhythm and blues song that counts down the 6 months, 8 days, and 12 hours since one lover has been away from another. That cadence begins to capture the sentiment behind the writing of this text. Although the appreciation of this expression requires a contextual shift from romantic relationships to one of intellectual enterprise, the story about the process dynamics and the journey to the completion of this book are no less interesting.
This project began almost eight years ago with an invitation from two colleagues, Dr. Paul Pedersen and Dr. Joe Ponterotto, to contribute to a series of books proposed by Sage Publications titled Multicultural Aspects of Counseling. Subsequently, my brother and I submitted a proposal to Sage outlining our intent to produce a book that would deal with the specific mental health issues related to people of African descent. This text was not intended to be a resource that would be relegated to virtual obscurity within a few years because of its irrelevance. Rather, we set out to produce a text that would break new ground and explore new territory in defining and treating mental health issues for African American people.
At that time, the profession seemed to be struggling less with the notion of being culturally sensitive with African American populations and more with trying to develop and understand specific strategies and techniques that clinicians and others could use to effectively intervene with the African American clients they were serving. With that in mind, we set out to produce the text you now see.
Along the way, we experienced a bit of a struggle between two competing forces. On one side was interest, excitement, anticipation, and the ability to produce the text proposed to Sage. On the other side were forces intent on reminding us mat in spite of our excitement about the possibilities [Page xiv]of producing this text, life happens. As editors for this text, it was our responsibility to keep the projects moving and the contributors focused on completing their tasks. The first drafts of the early chapters of the book began to take shape and the project began to take on real form and substance. Unfortunately, our trip down the road of this academic endeavor intersected at the corner of conflict avenue. Time became shorter and schedule demands increased. Invitations to trainings, consultations, and speaking engagements around the country began to eat away at the time otherwise allocated for writing.
Beyond the professional endeavors, personal circumstance also began to dominate our life space. In the span of approximately four and a half years, my (Thomas) mother-in-law passed away, I required extensive spinal surgery and recovery, my wife developed breast cancer requiring surgery and treatment, and my modier developed an illness that she ultimately succumbed to some seven months later. Subsequent to my mother's passing, my brother Bill's daughter, Khalia, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and his father-in-law passed away following an extended bout with cancer. Subsequently, he reduced his role on this project to that of contributor. Indeed, life happens along the road to dreams and aspirations.
There is a piece of African wisdom I have stylized over time and I'm fond of quoting, one which says that life at its best is a creative synthesis ofopposites in fruitful harmony. Although this pearl of wisdom has several interpretations, one of those suggests that disappointment and setback oftentimes breed opportunity and possibility. Throughout my academic life, I have been trained, nurtured, and mentored by some of the best minds in this country. The contributors to this text and I have all been blessed to acquire an extensive array of knowledge and information that could be used in effectively treating African American clients. However, somediing wasn't quite right. Perhaps the extensive life circumstance that so dominated my intellectual, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual space was a way for the ancestors to subtly, and not so subtly, suggest that the time for producing this text was not quite right. Yet, when I thought about backing out of the project, Drs. Ponterotto and Pedersen were there with an empathic ear, supportive questions, and a reaffirming voice that said you are the one that must complete this project. To them, I am very grateful.
In retrospect, it is true that the years it has taken to produce this project have also allowed me to gain much deeper and richer insights into the treatment of African American people. Of particular note are my travels to Africa, where I had an opportunity to witness firsthand how African-centered principles were and are implemented by African people in different generations. In the summer of 1999, I was blessed to travel to Kemet (Egypt) with brother Asa Hilliard, a renowned scholar, teacher, author, and Kemetologist. There, I was not only exposed to the genius of African [Page xv]people, but I was also able, for the first time in my life, to center my intellectual theories and constructs in time, space, and people who were themselves testaments to the correctness of an African-centered ideology. Accordingly, this text has been influenced by my studies in ancient Kemetic civilizations and culture, and readers of this text will find that information appropriately integrated.
In the summer of 2000,1 was blessed to travel with my colleagues in the Association of Black Psychologists to Ghana, in West Africa. Beyond the emotional elation we felt at being home for the first time in nearly 400 years and visiting the slave dungeons of Elmina and Cape Coast, it was an eye-opening experience about how the culture of African descent people is manifest on the continent of Africa itself. Travels to other lands (e.g., Japan, France, Switzerland, England, Canada) experienced by other authors have provided an additional perspective of African descent people within the context of other cultures. As such, readers will find that information incorporated into the text in meaningful ways. Clearly, we are different people as a result of our travels, life experiences, and academic pursuits, and it is my belief that you, the reader, will be better served by this intellectual endeavor because of the richness of those experiences.
And so, what have I learned in our newfound discoveries? Clearly, an African-centered worldview provides the conceptual pillars around which we build our beliefs, perceptions, intuitions, about the nature of reality. The African-centered worldview is bolstered by and built on several fundamental principles and assumptions:
- There is a spiritual essence that permeates everything that exists on the planet.
- Everything in the world is interconnected and in concert with the principle of consubstantiation (elements of the universe are of the same substance).
- The collective is the most salient element of existence.
- Self-knowledge is the key to mental health (Parham, White, & Ajamu, 1999).
Thus, the culture of African descent people, which provides for them a design for living and a pattern for interpreting reality, is based on these principles.
In consolidating the ancient and historical African worldviews, we have also come to understand that where African descent people are concerned, we have learned that:
- There is a rhythm and order to life that demands, or at least requires, alignment with those forces within the universe.
- Each of us is a seed of divinely inspired possibility that when nurtured in its proper context can and will grow into the fullest expression of all we are supposed to become. [Page xvi]
- We all must discover our destiny or passion in life and align our consciousness with it (ori-ire). The alignment produces a healthy, ordered integration of the various aspects of the self.
- The spirit, energy, and life force in each of us is also comprised of a self-healing power. Thus, when one's spirit, cognitions, feelings, and behaviors are misaligned or out of balance, we have the capacity to restore healing and comfort to our lives (Fu-Kiau, 1991).
- Therapists and counselors are really healers who serve as a conduit through which spiritual energy flows. Thus, healing and the restoration of balance and harmony occur through healers, not because of them. Healers participate with clients in confronting their mental, physical, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual debilitations.
- There is a spiritual essence that permeates everything that exists on the planet. Human authenticity, then, is having a sense of one's origin (cultural essence) and the indisputable and irrevocable connection to that which brought you into existence: the spirit of God (Nobles, 1986).
- The psyche of African descent people is comprised of several interrelated parts or dimensions. These include a soul, a personal self, a tribal self, a social self, and a physical self.
- The task of a healer is to heal thyself, know thyself, remember the past, access the spirit, and confront the maafa.
- The nature of African people is essentially divine. This divinity is not so much in elevation to God-like omnipotence, but rather, is reflected in the desire to be God-like in aspiration (i.e., maat).
- Despite how oppressive the nature of reality can be, African people have always been able to generate and sustain some movement and momentum represented by struggle and a quest for liberation. Therapeutically, then, we come to understand that as clients avail themselves of the counseling process, it represents their struggle against those forces that contaminate their lives. In having their say about the psychic and spiritual abrasions they have suffered, they tell us that they refuse to give misery the final word in their life circumstances. As my brother, Cornel West, reminds us, “We should never allow misery to have the last word.”
- Disorder occurs when one's sense of self loses harmony with one's healing power or energy, the global unit's social body, and the consciousness (collective) of one's people.
And so, this text is as much about perseverance through adversity as anything else. It represents the best of our thinking to date about this discipline we call African psychology and its related manifestations. Chapter 1 begins to summarize issues in counseling African Americans and talks about the current state of affairs. Here, information focuses on the need and rationale for an African-centered worldview in the treatment of African people as well as a mental health profile of clients of African descent.
Chapter 2 introduces the reader to the basic principles of an African-centered psychological perspective. Chapter 3 discusses the necessity [Page xvii]for new conceptual paradigms. Here the authors argue that attempts to effectively treat African American clients cannot be successful if these attempts rely solely on seasoning traditional Eurocentric theories and constructs with the cultural flavor of an African worldview. Rather, if theories are the road maps that guide our therapeutic interventions, then those theories must be supported by a new set of constructs and principles that are anchored in a reality specific to African descent people.
Chapters 4, 5, and 6 provide the reader with more conceptual depths into the personality dynamics of African descent people. These chapters are less concerned with finding consensus or agreement about the one theory or set of principles and constructs that captures African American personality and cultural realities. Rather, they expand the notion of within-group variability by exposing the reader to different models and conceptual systems used to understand the personality dynamics of Black people. In this regard, you will find some exciting possibilities as you explore the ancient Kemetic worldview as well as a more historical African worldview that are anchored in the tribal Akan and Yorùbá systems of belief.
Chapter 7 attempts to provide a specific model that can be used to guide the therapeutic work of clinicians. In suggesting that the two most important questions in therapy are “what” and “how,” this chapter attempts to walk the reader through what needs to happen in therapy and what specific techniques can be used to accomplish that therapeutic goal. In a similar fashion, Chapter 8 continues with specific intervention strategies but focuses the intervention on a population that has been underserved in the context of mental health service delivery. That population is African American fathers.
Chapter 9 begins to summarize the text with an invitation to “raise the bar.” Raising the bar recognizes that the typical standards of psychological reform, despite how progressive they may seem, represent a low-bar approach to effective intervention. The knowledge contained in the first eight chapters should allow students and professionals alike to not only redefine notions of competence but raise the bar of what passes for appropriate therapeutic intervention with African American people.
Without question, the field of African psychology has taken center stage with cultural diversity initiatives. The amount of information that is now available is helping to redefine notions of mental health, mental illness, appropriate assessment, and culturally congruent therapeutic intervention. The road to becoming more culturally competent with African American people is not an easy one. It is not possible to read one book or attend one workshop and consider yourself sufficiently informed to be labeled an expert. Rather, real competence requires mastery, and mastery requires time. It requires time to read, time to study, and time to experience the reality of a new conceptual worldview. The journey to greater levels of [Page xviii]expertise is an exciting one. I hope that this contribution, in some small way, will make your travels down that road a little easier, while simultaneously “raising the bar” of what passes for competence.
The practice of therapy and healing does not begin in a vacuum. Like all human activities, it begins in a specific context. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to the provision of mental health services is more likely to harm than heal. Years ago, Fanon sounded an alert about political and ethnocentric professional practice, “The unilaterally decreed normative value of European culture deserves our careful attention” (Fanon, 1965).
I am highly honored to have the opportunity to write this foreword. I have the highest respect for the authors and have had the opportunity to work closely with some of them. The work that they have done here is indeed seminal. They wade into the difficult territory of clarification of ideas, assumptions, models, and practices and a construction of a valid foundation for professional practice in psychology, psychiatry, and related services.
All of the behavioral sciences, in their current form, were born and developed during the global phenomena of slavery, colonization, and White supremacy ideology. The ubiquities of these forces, over the course of nearly four centuries, have left their mark on everything: ideology, theory, values, and practices in behavioral sciences including psychology. There is a robust body of literature documenting the existence of these insults and the consequences of this hegemony, a confounding of politics, science, and professional practice (Gould, 1981; Guthrie, 1976; Hilliard, 1997; Kamin, 1974; Smith, 2001).
A central part of this confounding of politics, science, and professional practice is a misunderstanding and politically inspired misuse of human culture, especially its varied manifestations throughout the world. Fanon's alert sprang from his understanding of the struggle in Algeria to be a healer, [Page xx]a professional in the ugly theater of French colonial domination. This domination forged the dehumanization of Africans as its primary strategy, the crushing of souls and spirits. The only way for this strategy to have worked was to base it on academic legitimation.
This book is about rescue. It is about resistance. It is truth telling about the African cultural and political experience. Above all, it is about healing, about making whole.
Within its pages, we see the struggle of the authors to break out of the conceptual incarceration learned from systems that were and still are rooted in hegemonic ideologies, philosophies, and theories that were designed to elevate Europeans at the expense of dominated populations. The authors seek to modify and to create new philosophical, theoretical, and practical tools, tools that depoliticize professional practice as much as is possible and that advance the healing arena based on cultural truth.
The authors are correct—the central issue is one of competence of professionals when dealing with people of African ancestry. Any approach to healing for African people must, of necessity, begin with who rather than what Africans are. In Western psychology, there is virtually no understanding of who Africans are. Even a cursory view of psychological literature reveals the abysmal ignorance of African historical and cultural reality, on the African continent or in its connected diaspora, including the United States.
A brief glance at the bibliographies in mainstream psychological texts and other literature will show two very distinct deficiencies. One is the absence of valid and relevant cultural material on African people. In part this is due to the Western ideological commitment to individualism in which personality but not culture is of interest. For Western- or European-centered psychology, the African as a member of an ethnic group does not exist. An alternative reason is that those who use the field to dominate Africans and others actually must calculate to destroy African culture, not to acknowledge or to affirm it.
The second deficiency in European-centered psychology is the absence of an awareness of the important work by psychologists and psychiatrists of African descent who have gone far beyond their standard training to develop and to include culturally salient materials pertaining to people of African ancestry. They have also constructed powerful paradigms, definitions, and assumptions that differ fundamentally from European psychology. They have created approaches that have resulted in powerful professional services.
At the outset, the central issue before us is the existence of African people as a people. It is an issue of ethnicity and cultural identities. The primary hegemonic strategy under slavery, colonization, and White supremacy ideology was the reduction of a cultural people to their finite “racial.” social class, or oppressed condition. Thus, they became, “the [Page xxi]Black,” “the poor,” “the oppressed,” or the “minority.” Of course, their derivatives are “the disadvantaged,” “the inner-city,” “the at-risk,” and so forth. Although each of these may have meaning, the reduction of African essence to them is a scientific error of major proportion, stripping heritage, ethnic bonds, worldview from our understanding of who African people are (Hilliard, 1997).
It is essential that we call attention to the record here of the extensive and well documented White supremacy uses of science and behavioral science in particular. Those uses continue to the present time (Herrenstein & Murray, 1994). It is for that reason that we must articulate the hegemonic influences on the discipline, studying them as ever-present intervening variables in professional practice and in the social environments that we study.
However, that is far from sufficient. Yes, we must articulate White supremacy ideology and behavior and we must articulate White supremacy psychology and psychotherapy. But this is still not enough. We must articulate the realities of African life in the past and in the present, on the African continent and in the diaspora. We cannot fall victim to false glorification of and nonempirical rhetoric about African people anywhere. We must rely on the enormous empirical record. To be ignorant of the vital record of African culture, or to ignore it, is a scientific error, not merely an “inequity” or “fairness” issue.
In understanding the African cultural reality, we display our understanding that there is no normative population anywhere in the world. Certainly, Western European behavior is not normative, nor is European American behavior normative, except for Europeans. All human behaviors are rooted in a context that has evolved out of their own unique experiences. For professionals, there can be no attack on or minimization of the culture of any group, including European culture. Any attack by Africans is on European hegemony over African culture and African people, not on European culture nor European-centered thinking. It is just that the thinking and culture hold no authority over Africans. The bias issue is the small one. The ignorance issue is the big one.
On the African side, clarification about identity and its behavioral meaning as a cultural reality is critical. We must recognize that people of African ancestry have choices. At the core of the choices is the question “To be African or not to be.”
Many people of African ancestry, whether they use the name African or not, have been and continue to be African in behavior, maintaining cultural connections to traditions. Other Africans have, sometimes quite consciously, chosen alternatives to their own historical identity, and have made their commitment to resocialize or “integrate” themselves into other cultural contexts. Some even choose to reject any conscious association with African people at all, occasionally even becoming what Dr. Nairn Akbar has called “Anti-Self along with “Alien Self.” Still others exhibit identity [Page xxii]confusion. Some simply choose not to choose. Those alternatives are simply the realities of the adjustment of people of African ancestry to their contemporary conditions. No choices can or should be forced. They simply must be recognized as the realities that they are.
These are the things that those who reduce African people to their pigment, their “race,” or “racial identity” overlook or ignore. These are things that deal with who the person is. Ultimately, this is the question of the humanity and worldview of people of African ancestry. After all, it was the attack on African humanity and the worldview of the African that was at the core of the hegemonic strategy of European exploiters.
Within the text, Dr. Parham quotes Fanon, who says that the identity question contains a response to three queries: “Who am I? Am I who I say I am? Am I all that I ought to be?” European-centered psychology responds to these questions only on the individual “personality” level. Currently, they are almost totally incapable of helping people of African ancestry to answer these questions. European-centered Europeans and European-centered Africans cannot accept these as valid questions.
The rescue attempted here is to seek better options in defining what is healthy and what is healing. This will be a long-term struggle. This book is a very strong beginning. It provides documentation, description, and interpretation of things that are almost totally outside of mainstream Western psychology, such as an African worldview, value system, and understanding about what it means to be human. It combines the insights of students of culture, students of African descent, both on the continent and in the diaspora. In some cases, this is work that is rooted in innovative clinical uses of our cultural traditions in therapy, nurturing, and teaching, on the African continent and in the diaspora.
This is cutting edge work, putting the pieces back together again. This is work that goes far beyond justifiable criticism of European hegemony and worldview. It is work that offers something essential to people of African ancestry, and even something essential to anyone in the world.
Even though there is much more to be done—more criticism, more documentation of African cultural reality, more validation of therapeutic approaches, more creative application of our understandings of culture—this book can, and I predict will, serve very important heuristic functions. The views provided here do indeed open fresh possibilities and allow open-minded psychologists, both African and others, to see possibilities for becoming more competent, more culturally salient, and in doing so, to have a model that applies to other cultural and ethnic groups as well.
If there is universalism, it will occur at the level of cultural deep structure, not at the surface. Particular manifestations of humanity are just that. Only arrogance and hegemonic intent can explain the blind application of particular experiences of humanity as if they were valid global models. This work is a major contribution to breaking the back of that fantasy.[Page xxiii]
We all have much to learn. I am impressed by the way the authors of this book have attempted to synthesize a wide range of diverse ideas, even diverse ideas within the African community. I am impressed by their critical, honest, and open examination of their own ideas. One thing must be emphasized and that is that for those authors who I know very well, and I suspect for all of them, the views expressed in this text are not merely abstract and theoretical. They actually are manifest in the day-to-day personal and professional lives of the authors. They have made transcontinental cultural connections, academically, in their therapeutic work and in their service and lives in their communities. They have been involved in African and African American communities, in healing activities that go far beyond the therapists’ office, to such things as rites of passages, and assisting organizations to become more conscious and more effective and salient to their communities. In that sense, what is on paper here is a reflection of a reality of success and commitment by the authors.
Yes, T. Parham, W. Parham, Connor, Grills, Obasi, and Ajei give us models of how to put the family back together again, and to restore health to the broken body. They offer the leadership to make us whole.—References1965A dying colonialism. New York: Evergreen.. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: W.W. Norton.(1976). Even the rat was white. New York: Harper and Row.(1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Free Press., & (1997). SBA: The reawakening of the African mind. Gainesville, FL: Makare Publishing.(1974). The science and politics of lQ. New York: John Wiley and Sons.(2001). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. New York: Zed Books Ltd.(
Healing is therapeutic, but not all therapy is healing.—
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About the Editor[Page 173]
Thomas A Parham, Ph.D., is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Counseling and Health Services and Director of the Counseling Center, as well as an adjunct faculty member at the University of California, Irvine. He is Past President of the National Association of Black Psychologists and of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (a division of ACA). A current member of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association, he is also a member of the Orange County Chapter of the 100 Black Men, where he has served as Chair of the Education Committee. He is the architect of the “Rites of Passage” program for the 100's “Passport to the Future” program and for the Los Angeles-based “College Bound” program.
For the past 20 years, Parham has focused his research efforts in the area of psychological nigrescence and has authored many articles in this area. Research in the area of racial identity development remains his primary focus. He is coauthor of the 2nd and 3rd editions of The Psychology of Blacks: An African-Centered Perspective and the author of Psychological Storms: The African American Struggle for Identity.
Among his many honors and awards are his selection as an American Psychological Association Minority Fellow in 1979 through 1982; the 1988 Research/Scholarship Award from the National Association of Black Psychologists; the 1989 Research Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association's Minority Fellowship Program; election to Fellow of Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) and Division 45 (Society for Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) of the American Psychological Association; and his election to Distinguished Psychologist by the Association of Black Psychologists in 1998.
About the Authors