NMCS Travel Award Winner Essays
Winner: Acknowledging the nuance of culture and diversity: Reflections on ethics at NMCS 2015
By Kevin Delucio, MA
The 2015 National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS) was a truly rewarding experience. By attending a conference with such a strong focus on multicultural issues, it was clear that this space was effectively utilized to foster a community of psychologists working towards remedying the numerous societal injustices and structural oppressions affecting marginalized communities in the U.S. A critical component in this remedying process is ensuring that we are performing our research and practice in an ethical manner, which was demonstrated through much of the conference programming.
Various symposia at NMCS addressed how ethical psychological work can, and should, encompass social justice goals to reach out to, and engage with, underserved populations in the U.S. Other presentations built on this notion by reflecting how ethically sound research and practice must work towards incorporating issues pertinent to marginalized groups, including how societal prejudices (e.g., racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism) affect psychosocial well-being, how to create more inclusive community-based research practices and how to provide mental health services in a culturally conscious manner. However, what is often missing in discussions of ethical practice with marginalized groups is an emphasis on groups who occupy multiple marginalized spaces and individuals whose experience reflects an intersectional reality.
As the U.S. continues to grow in its diversity, so, too, does the need to attend to intersectionality. A handful of presentations created spaces to engage in dialogue about intersectional identities and communities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*1 and queer (LGBTQ) people of color (POC). These spaces are critical given that intersectional communities often are rendered invisible in the midst of more mainstream activism and discourse focusing on one piece of their identity (e.g., same-sex marriage). Additionally, these populations may be the most vulnerable and may commonly face multiple levels of discrimination, prejudice and violence. For example, one issue facing the LGBTQ POC community is the systemic murder of trans* women of color. This has far-reaching consequences for LGBTQ POC, as these individuals may consequently feel unsafe simply expressing themselves and being who they are. As such, we must persist in increasing our knowledge of issues affecting these communities to address them with clients and/or research participants in an ethical manner.
The overarching message I took away from NMCS was one that encouraged continued awareness of our competency when working with marginalized groups, but in particular when working with individuals and communities who occupy multiple marginalized identities. As a field, psychology is only starting to pay attention to these communities, and it is important that we hear their stories and acknowledge their experiences. Through this we can continue our growth as practitioners and researchers as well as foster a more inclusive psychology.
1Trans* is becoming a common way to refer to transsexual people, transgender people, etc., in an attempt to include a range of people without making assumptions about whether or not they have had medical procedures or hormone therapy, etc.