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Cultural Awareness From A New Friend

  Throughout our American history, there have been countless white people that have been willing to give a helping hand. They have gone out on the limb for minorities, people of color, and immigrants.  It’s far too easy to overlook or minimize their contributions.  It’s too simplistic and easy to adopt a polarized view of people and categorize people.  We must develop cultural awareness as all people are not the same.  People are people.  As a person of color, it would be easy for me to be resentful and close myself off to people that do not look like me.  I have since learned that I must be willing to see the heart and motivation of others that genuinely want to help. They efforts to assist in many forms to those of us that come from underprivileged communities. 

  I recently spoke with someone that helped me reaffirmed my goals and dream for Counselors of Color.  It was a powerful moment for me.  At the end of our dialogue, I said to myself, “He gets it.”  Below is a snippet of our exchange. I changed his name to protect his confidentiality. 

John Doe:  Dr. Dave, I certainly would like to join Counselors of Color, but I am Caucasian and wouldn’t want to mislead anyone by doing so.  However, I would certainly want to welcome people of color into my practice – especially in times like these. I believe these are times when we need to focus on building community and unity.

Me:  Counselors of Color is not about the therapists. It’s about the clients.  Statistically, people of color have a lower rate of seeking professional help.  I want to change that.  I can’t, we can’t accomplish this lofty goal on our own.  It takes partnerships within the community from therapist like you that are willing to say, “Welcome, how can I help?”  My aim is to create a niche directory where clients can go with the understanding they will be accepted by a group of self-selected therapists and counselors regardless of their race, ethnic background or primary language. 

Sadly, many therapists and counselors do not have cultural awareness nor make the effort to become culturally competent.  Counselors of Color is my effort of curating cultural competencies in one place.  Thank you, John Doe.  I appreciate your authenticity and hope you consider listing your facility.  We need therapists that are willing to put their convictions into actions.

  I’ve had many exchanges like this one throughout my life.  I find them incredibly hopeful and encouraging.  At the end of the day, my goal is about reaching back to my culture, my people and giving them every advantage that I had.  And my greatest advantage came from the multicultural diversity of my leaders, mentors, and teachers.  One way for me to replicate that advantage for others is by creating Counselors of Color.  If you are ethnically or culturally competent or speak a second language, Counselors of Color and your clients need you.  As a helping professional, what do you see as your part or responsibility regarding diversity? What are you doing to increase your cultural awareness?

About the Author

Dr. Dave Jenkins, DMin, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist in the Northern Virginia area.  He’s the founder of Family Room Services, LLC, My Marriage School, and Counselors of Color.  He’s been married to the same woman for 25 years and has four children and a daughter-in-law.
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