The USA is a multinational country, a home to people that represent diverse races and ethnic groups. The government, state and local authorities provide different services for the citizens and guests of the USA granting them various rights among which is the right for social equality. It suggests that the citizens and guests of the country have equal access to education, work and recreation opportunities without any restriction based on race or ethnic origin. However, there are cases of racism and xenophobia that take various forms – from a hidden neglect to open aggression. As a result, there is a need to protect these vulnerable groups of population from the actions of those who violate their Constitutional rights. This paper considers the case of a Human Service Professional, who works at a community mental agency where the White employees demonstrate a bias towards their Hispanic clients. It describes and classifies the forms of this bias, analyzes the forms of racial microaggressions, considers the level of acculturation of the disadvantaged population and provides solutions to the agency’s service delivery methods. It also shows the way human service agencies can test their workers for racial bias with the aim of improvement of the workplace atmosphere and the quality of their work. The proposed methodology allows bypassing this bias and avoiding workplace microaggressions towards the representatives of different ethnic groups.
Analyzing the Workplace Bias
The presented case involves Jeff, a Human Services Professional, who has started working for a community mental agency. Since he used to work with culturally diverse groups, he recognizes that the personnel at his new workplace are biased towards Latino/a clients. The therapists, who are mostly White, perform personality disorders assessment using Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) and see no progress when treating patients of different ethnicity. Moreover, some of them make negative comments about their Latino/a clients, which is a manifestation of their racial bias. The presented bias may have different characteristics that involve the procedures of diagnosing, assessment, and overall perceptions of Hispanic clients.
The identified bias may have different adverse implications for service delivery starting from conflicts in communication and misunderstanding to failure in treatment or adverse patient mental health outcomes. Thus, bias when diagnosing a client may lead to disregard of specific indicators of a disease or dangerous mental condition or, on the contrary, clients with mental problems may be diagnosed as healthy. Similarly, when assessing and treating patients, the personnel of the company may use better and more up-to-date equipment and medications when dealing with White clients. In the situations with Hispanic clients, the therapists at Jeff’s agency may use outdated or cheap equipment and medications without the required level of attention and responsibility. As a result, there is a need for assessment of the presence of bias in the workers of the discussed organization. One of the ways of performing this procedure is turning to meta-analysis and an Implicit Association Test (IAT), which focus on individual’s immediate perception of the representatives of people of other races. It considers such criteria as brain activity, response time, microbehavior, interpersonal behavior, person perception, and policy preferences (Oswald, Mitchell, Blanton, Jaccard, & Tetlock, 2013). The reason for using these tests is that Jeff observed one of its criteria – person perception – and there is a probability that other factors would testify to a strong presence of racial bias. Disregarding its origin, racial bias at the workplace discriminates clients of various ethnic groups being a stress and health risk factor. It is possible that the aggression of the White therapists against their Hispanic clients is unintentional and presents a particular form of microaggression. Experts claim that some microaggressions turn into an institutionalized racism where a dominant group of individuals oppresses People of Color in attempts to justify its superiority (Huber & Solorzano, 2014). There are three basic forms of microaggressions that gradually evolve into a daily practiced racism oppressing diverse ethnicities. They include verbal and non-verbal assaults often carried is subtle forms, and layered assaults, “based on race and its intersections with gender, class, sexuality, accent etc” (Huber & Solorzano, 2014, p. 2). There is a likelihood that both these forms are present at Jeff’s agency because the White therapists seem to negatively characterize the Hispanic clients without their presence concealing their attitude in a direct contact. Moreover, it also may be the third type of racial microaggression, which takes a form of cumulative assaults that “take a psychological, physiological, and academic toll on People of Color” (Huber & Solorzano, 2014, p. 2). The evidence of this is that the therapists fail to adapt the MMPI-2 test to the Hispanic population, which is why its result is irrelevant. In this respect, experts state that the interpretation of the variables of MMPI-2 that reflect racial and demographic parameters require accuracy because some scales are more relevant for specific populations (Butcher & Spielberger, 2013, p. 175). For instance, before applying MMPI-2 in China, its therapists analyzed cross-cultural differences and social norms for it to suit the mental framework of the Chinese population (Cheung, 2013). Failing to recognize this need, the workers assess all the Hispanic clients as mentally unhealthy whereas the problem lies in the irrelevance of interpretation of the test results and the therapists’ racial bias.
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The analyzed issue suggests that the case of a racial bias towards Hispanic clients may be present not only in this agency but in different settings. As a consequence, members of this ethnic group may face a strong acculturative stress when adjusting to living in America. It may include a language and communication signals barrier, differences in traditions and customs, food and consumption habits. All these issues cause a cross-cultural clash in which the Hispanic population may feel disadvantaged because of being a minority in another country. Thus, in the case with Jeff’s agency, the Hispanic clients may develop a wrong vision and self-characteristic of their identity and mental state. When told that they have a mental disparity, they may be psychologically pressured and proposed treatment, which in this case is invalid. Jeff’s agency may mitigate this issue by improving the relevance of the performed test after the consultation with specialists in cross-cultural studies and psychology. The modification of the available MMPI-2 test with regard to the mental framework of the Hispanic population should increase its relevance towards the disadvantaged patients. Last, the workers of the agency require raising their competency in cross-cultural and racial diversity issues and Constitution. They are expected to increase the level of racial tolerance after such procedures, which would improve the relevance of service delivery methods to the Hispanic clients.
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Summarizing the presented information, the cases of a racial bias of human service providers towards Hispanic clients and members of other ethnic groups can happen in different settings, but it is important to realize the presence of the bias and mitigate it by a series of initiatives. The first of them is the analysis and modification of the MMPI-2 test for its relevance to the cultural and mental framework of the Hispanic population. It is expected that the test should undergo changes that would increase its validity and allow to objectively reflect the mental state of the clients. In addition, there is a need for educating the workers that have a racial bias on the basic laws of the country that grant racial equality and aim at bypassing racism and racial microaggressions. The advised solutions should increase the relevance of testing procedures of the Hispanic clients and remove the cases of racial microaggressions at Jeff’s agency.
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