Self-Reflection – Race & Ethnicity

(Originally written in October 2017)

In order to prepare myself for this self-reflection, I had to have a mini discussion about what is race, and what is ethnicity. For me, I am in a unique situation. On the outside, I look like just another average, white woman. However, it is unique for me because I am in a mixed-race marriage. My husband is black. I have told my husband that I don’t see him as a black man, I see him as my husband.

We recently celebrated our 4-year anniversary on Oct 18. Thinking back to our wedding day, my maternal grandfather did not attend my wedding. He just sent a check in the mail. He still probably doesn’t approve of our marriage, but we aren’t married for him. Recently, my parents visited Grandpa and my mom said that he still has the Confederate flag outside. I said, “Can you remind Grandpa that I didn’t serve in the Confederate military, I served in the United States military. Last I checked, that isn’t our flag.” I’m not sure if my Mom told my Grandpa that message, and who knows what he would’ve said. I find it very sad and disheartening, to say the least.

While discussing this topic with my husband, he enlightened me that sometimes when we are out; we get looks. Of course, it raised an eyebrow. “Looks?” He said, “They mostly come from older white folks.” (He never tells me when it happens because he doesn’t want to upset me.) I thought maybe they aren’t used to seeing a black and white couple eating together? Did they see our rings, to know that we are married? Perhaps, there are a certain demographic of people that aren’t used to seeing mixed race couples. However, we are nearing the end of 2017; at what point do “they” get used to it? I inquired further at what places, but my husband Phillip didn’t want to tell me. He knew I would be looking for the looks.

In reviewing the vocabulary, I noticed that both “African American” and “Black” are on the list. Growing up as a white girl in a small country town in Kentucky, I remember the term African American as being the “correct” term. Maybe I didn’t feel comfortable saying “black” up until recent years; I’m not sure. I became curious as to when one term might be more applicable in one context over the other. My husband agreed that some white people might use African American, as it might be “politically correct.” So when should I use the Black term? In conversation, if people need to know the difference between “I have a husband,” and a “I have a Black husband”; then I will only say it if it’s relevant. So far, I have not found anyone to be offended. Nor should I care right? Of course, that is my nature to always appease other people. However, and of course, I won’t let it impact my love and my relationship.

In my Foundations of Counseling class, we have already covered theories from Freud, Adler, and Jung. When considering transference and counter-transference, I will have to consider the client’s own background and/or their story. How are these things impacting the therapeutic process? I have been drawn to the person-centered approach, which was originally adapted from Carl Rogers. I’m not sure if Rogers addressed race as it applied to the Person-Centered approach. However, it is he that said, “It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried.”

When thinking about my future clients, I know that I need to be sensitive to their own racial experiences. Race, in general, is a social and political construct. I hope that some day we won’t have to have this discussion. What does it take for all of us to see each other as human?