While developing a training that offers mental health providers specific cultural and racial assessments, tools, and interventions that could improve one's quality of care, I began my search by asking the question: How many races are there in the United States? If you ask the US Census Bureau there are 5 identified races: White, Black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.
This led me to expand my search further and ask: How many countries are there in the world?
An internet search revealed the number varies between 193 to 247 countries identified in the world today.
Knowing that a country may have many different cultures, I asked: How many different cultures are there in the world? I found the number is somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 cultural variations.
All this led me back to the original question and why America only recognizes 5 races and lumps everyone into those 5 classes. How can we be racially sensitive when we ignore the majority of races in the world, and how can we say we are culturally competent when the number of cultures are beyond comprehension?
Encouragers Counseling & Training is a multi-cultural organization. We have therapists who identify as Chinese American, Mexican American, Black, African American, Caucasian, and by-racial. We have ancestors from all around the world from varying cultures, faiths, and identities. We honor and respect each individuals’ perspective and don't assume we know everything about them. We also honor our clients by respecting their uniqueness. We don't discriminate, judge, presuppose, or impress upon others our beliefs, our paradigms, or our opinions. We open the door for understanding.
When people look only at a person's skin color, they do not see the generations of blended races, cultures, and beliefs that are alive in the other person. You cannot appreciate someone's rich heritage unless you inquire, and you cannot embrace the culture you know nothing about. We shouldn't judge a book by its cover and we shouldn't limit people by their skin color either. Open the door to understanding. Look beyond the external and into the hearts of those around us. You'll be amazed at how much we have in common if you only take the time to learn.