Seeing The Invisible Privilege

by edang97 on November 15, 2016 - 1:54pm

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  1. Summary:

Paone, Malott, and Barr’s (2015) study investigated the relationship between race-based training for counselling students and the increase of racial awareness. To begin with, the purpose of the study is to study the behavioural changes in a group of White students after subjecting them to a series of courses that surround the ideas of race and racism. In the study, the authors gave four hypotheses that they were going to test, however, the main hypothesis was that the students will have a higher level of awareness to their own position in the racial pyramid. This meaning that students will understand their privilege while being more empathetic with those that are not as fortunate due to their racial backgrounds. The study was conducted on 121 White counselling-students that are currently completing their Master’s Degrees. The participants were asked to disclose the following variables: gender, ethnicity, age, Master’s Degree program, and Multicultural Training experience. The study was done over 5 years in which the participants were to take a race-based course for the duration of these years. The research found that the participants realized the severity of their privilege through the experiment and thus, experienced what has been dubbed “White Guilt”. White Guilt is the phenomena in which people of the “White” background feel bad for profiting in the opportunities that are readily available for them due to their skin colour. In accordance to this, the participants were also reported that following the experiment, they are now more likely to confront “White Privilege”. Finally, another major finding is that the participants that disclosed that they had quite a lot of Multicultural Training experience ranked lower than those without that training experience in terms of racial privilege. That being, the more exposure the participants had with other cultures, the less they considered themselves “higher” or better than their other “race” counterparts. The participants noted that after the experiment, they were more anxious about their futures in this career because they realized that they would have to deal with racial problems with their clients. In conclusion, the authors found that most participants had higher racial awareness and they were able to acknowledge their privilege. They also concluded that it is beneficial for counsellors-in-training to receive courses that are race-based during their training. This is due to the fact that the students would then be more aware and it would help them in being empathetic towards their future clients and to provide more insightful responses to the client’s issues. 

  1. Response:

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In my opinion, this study was beneficial because it was said that there is not a lot of research in this area and that findings are very scarce. However, it is important to research this due to the fact that counsellors need to understand and be empathetic with their clients. These courses would help them be more insightful and understand the clients better. A drawback of this study is that they only worked with 121 students from one educational institution. This meaning that their sample did not include “White” students of different culture, socio-economic status, and thus, not recording very accurate findings. The experiences of these students might not be in concordance with those of other “White” students in a different part of the world. Another drawback is that this study is basing itself on the traditional ideas of “race” in which skin colour is the main dividing factor between “races”. The study does not take into account that these “White” students may not be of the same cultural background, and/or they may not even identify as “White” although they may have lighter skin. I think that this study is useful for the norms that our society has at the moment but it is still problematic in the fact that it enables this definition of “race” and “racism”. 




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Paone, T. R., Malott, K. M., & Barr, J. J. (2015). Assessing the Impact of a Race-Based Course on Counseling Students: A Quantitative Study. Journal Of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 43(3), 206-220. doi:10.1002/jmcd.12015



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