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ture and capitalizing on client assets.

Rather, Sue and his associates character-


ized people of color as weak, psychologi-
cally vulnerable people who are unable to
respond effectively even to real incidents
of microaggression. White people, de-
spite a few obligatory protestations by Sue
et al. to the contrary, come across generally
as being consciously or unconsciously (a)
racially insensitive, (b) unwilling to share
their position and wealth, (c) believing they
are superior, (d) needing to control every-
thing, and (e) treating . . . [minorities]
poorly because of their race (p. 277). Al-
though all humans inherit and learn a cer-
tain amount of racial and ethnic bias
(Thomas & Weinrach, 2002), little is
gained by focusing almost exclusively on
problems instead of focusing on potential
solutions. Sue and his colleagues seem in-
tent on emphasizing the negative in inter-
racial interactions, whether these interac-
tions take place in the consulting room or
in everyday life.
REFERENCES
Camarota, S. A. (2005). Immigrants at mid-de-
cade: A snapshot of Americas foreign-born
population in 2005. Washington, DC: Center
for Immigration Studies.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005).
Positive affect and the complex dynamics of
human ourishing. American Psychologist,
60, 410421.
Jacoby, T. (Ed.). (2004). Reinventing the melting
pot: The new Americans and what it means to
be an American today. New York: Basic
Books.
Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person.
Boston: Houghton Mifin.
Seligman, M. E. P., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C.
(2006). Positive psychotherapy. American
Psychologist, 16, 774788.
Sue, D. W. (2004). Whiteness and ethnocentric
monoculturalism: Making the invisible vis-
ible. American Psychologist, 59, 761769.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C.,
Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L.,
& Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggres-
sions in everyday life: Implications for clini-
cal practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271
286.
Thomas, K. R., & Weinrach, S. G. (2002). So-
lution-focused versus problem-focused reha-
bilitation counseling research: Is there a racist,
sinner or apostate hiding under the bed? Re-
habilitation Education, 16, 313321.
Thomas, K. R., Wubbolding, R. E., & Jackson,
M. L. (2005). Psychologically correct race
baiting? Academic Questions, 18, 4953.
Tyler, L. (1958). Theoretical principles underly-
ing the counseling process. Journal of Coun-
seling Psychology, 5, 310.
Correspondence concerning this comment
should be addressed to Kenneth R. Thomas, De-
partment of Rehabilitation Psychology and Spe-
cial Education, University of Wisconsin, 432
North Murray Street, Madison, WI 53711. E-
mail: krtz28@yahoo.com
DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.4.275
Racial Microaggression?
How Do You Know?
Rafael S. Harris Jr.
University of Florida
In April 2007 during a paper presentation
at the University of Florida (Sue, 2007) and
then in the MayJune 2007 issue of the
American Psychologist (Sue et al., 2007), I
encountered Derald Wing Sues account of
a real-life incident in which he argued
that a racial microaggression was commit-
ted against him and an African American
colleague (p. 275). He likened their treat-
ment to that of human rights gure Rosa
Parks when he said to the ight attendant at
one point during the incident, Did you
know that you asked two passengers of
color to step to the rear of the bus? (p.
275). Sue noted that he and his colleague
came to the same conclusion: The ight
attendant had treated us like second-class
citizens because of our race (p. 275).
The story involved Sue and his col-
league being asked by the ight attendant
to move from where they originally sat in
the plane in order to balance the weight in
what seemingly was a small (propeller) air-
craft. Sues contention is that three White
men in business suits who entered the plane
after he and his colleague should have been
the ones to be asked to move, since he and
his colleague had entered the plane rst and
all of them were sitting around the same
area. As an Asian American, Sue expe-
rienced the ight attendants behavior as a
racial microaggression.
In the article, Sue concluded the nar-
rative of his story by saying, Were it not
for my colleague who validated my expe-
riential reality, I would have left that en-
counter wondering whether I was correct or
incorrect in my perceptions (p. 275). This
statement seems unnecessaryno one
needs to validate perceptions, they simply
are. It is facts that require validation and
scientic support. Of course his colleague
would validate his experiential realityhe
noted himself that they both came to the
same conclusion. This example of circular
reasoning is neither helpful nor explana-
tory.
While not indicated in the article, in
Sues April 2007 presentation, he made
what to me were extraordinary claims
about why the ight attendant behaved in
certain ways. The most striking had to do
with his comment that once the plane de-
parted and drink/snack service was to be
initiated, the ight attendant subcon-
sciously rolled the service cart toward
where he and his colleague were sitting in
the back of the aircraft in order to serve
them rst so that her intrapsychic guilt for
the alleged racial microaggression that she
had committed could be soothed. Sue vig-
orously emphasized this point in his paper
presentation.
Being a bit of an aviation fan and
hearing Sue use the word prop and de-
scribe the plane as very small, I wondered
if most likely the kind of plane he and his
colleague were in was of the type with only
one bathroom located in the back of the
aircraft. It is my understanding that it is the
airline industrys policy that in such sce-
narios, the service cart always begins in the
back of the plane because drink/snack ser-
vice often stimulates use of a restroom; if
the service begins in the back of the plane,
the aisle is cleared for those passengers
most recently getting drinks/snacks so that
access to the restroom is possible.
In wondering whether Sue had consid-
ered this alternative hypothesis for the
ight attendants service behavior instead
of what would otherwise conrm his racial
microaggression claim, I took him up on
his invitation to the audience at the paper
presentation to e-mail him with questions
or comments. I most respectfully e-mailed
him inquiring about his consideration
should my assumption about the plane be
correct. Of note, assuming is obviously
dangerous; this is why I was inquiring of
Sue prior to making the conclusion that he
was mistaken in his observation of the ser-
vice portion of the ight attendants behav-
ior.
Sues initial reply to my e-mail was to
send me an electronic copy of the Ameri-
can Psychologist article. This left me
dumbfounded as to whether he had read my
brief e-mail. In any event, I replied to his
reply by further inquiring and urging him
to respond to a seemingly reasonable hy-
pothesis. Sue quickly responded with an
e-mail that as an attachment had a word
document titled A Statement of Regret.
In it, Sue profusely apologized for the im-
personal nature of the form letter while
explaining that the requests for his time
have been so exorbitant over the years that
he is unable to respond to every such
request/e-mail/phone call/reference letter/
speaking engagement, and so forth.
I do not know Sue personally, and it is
easy to believe that he has an inordinate
number of requests for various matters. He
appeared like a very gentle and kind man in
his presentation (funny and articulate, too).
275 MayJune 2008

American Psychologist
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And yet, I was left with a sense much like
what he described feeling after the alleged
incident, invalidated in my hope that en-
gaging in some potentially helpful dialogue
might have advanced understanding and
goodwill. Sues work in the promotion of
human welfare cannot begin to be ques-
tioned, and his intentions are honorable
indeed. I suspect we have much more in
common than the difference I am articulat-
ing. Notwithstanding, I am left to ponder
the big question of how anyone who has
achieved celebrity status within psychol-
ogy and certainly superstar status within
multicultural psychology can be questioned
or otherwise held accountable. Once on the
pedestal, is everything uttered supposed to
be accepted as a fact? What if Sues ex-
periential reality (Sue et al., 2007, p. 275)
is not real yet is espoused in paper presen-
tations and professional articles as if it is
so? The dissemination of biases and self-
interests would be a tragic twist to both
multicultural psychologys mission and the
American Psychological Associations ex-
pressed interest in advancing psychology
as an evidence-based science.
REFERENCES
Sue, D. W. (2007, April). Racial microaggres-
sions. Paper presentaton at the University of
Florida.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C.,
Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L.,
& Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggres-
sions in everyday life: Implications for clini-
cal practice. American Psychologist, 62, 271
286.
Correspondence concerning this comment
should be addressed to Rafael S. Harris Jr., 301
Peabody Hall, Counseling Center, University of
Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. E-mail: harris@
counsel.u.edu
DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.4.276
Whats Missing From the
Dialogue on Racial
Microaggressions in
Counseling and Therapy
Renee Goodstein
St. Francis College
Sue et al.s (MayJune 2007) article on
racial microaggressions offers valuable in-
formation on the insidious, covert nature of
racism and its everyday impact on people
of color. Despite overwhelming evidence
of race-based social inequities in the
United States, the vast majority of White
people remain na ve and oblivious to the
realities of racism, and even well-meaning
and liberal Whites become defensive when
the topic is raised for discussion (DAndrea
& Daniels, 2001). Sue at al.s (2007) tax-
onomy of racial microaggressions and their
implications for clinical practice may help
some White therapists recognize racism
and how it might be mirrored in their clin-
ical work and in their everyday lives. While
I agree with almost every point made in
Sue et al.s article, I wish to comment on
two points and to share some of my con-
cerns about their practical implications.
The rst point has to do with the lack of
clarity in distinguishing race from culture,
and the second point involves brief phrases
in the article that implicitly create a hier-
archy of suffering that is problematic in the
therapeutic context.
Awareness of the realities of racism is
necessary in clinical work because the
United States is fundamentally a racist so-
ciety, and we psychologists have to try to
remediate hurts and not perpetuate them.
Sue et al. (2007) gave clear and poignant
examples of the myriad ways White clini-
cians can unconsciously and unintention-
ally perpetrate racial microaggressions in
counseling and psychotherapy, resulting in
underutilization of services, early termina-
tion, and other forms of harm to their cli-
ents of color. However, at times, Sue et
al.s language was problematic, as illus-
trated at the end of the section on manifes-
tations when they stated, Last, White
counselors and therapists can impose and
value their own cultural worldview while
devaluing and pathologizing the cultural
values of their ethnic minority clients (Sue
et al., 2007, p. 281).
The problem with this discourse is that
it confuses race and culture and also pre-
sumes that a Western European worldview, a
cultural rather than a racial construct, might
only be held by White people. This way of
thinking can be troublesome in the therapeu-
tic context because in order to help clients
articulate and realize their goals as they de-
ne them, we need to try as best we can to
deeply understand the people with whom we
work. Just because someone is a person of
color, can we assume that he or she is not
Western European in his or her world-
view? What does this do to our thinking
about the client?
We psychologists need ways to en-
lighten White people who are embedded in
racist thinking and ways of being without
intent, and we are left with the dilemma of
how we can show a White person (especially
in clinical practice) when racism manifests,
when he or she is the one creating and per-
petuating the problem. And yet, merging race
and culture as if they were the same runs the
risk of providing assumptions about individ-
uals based on their race, and then structuring
a way of working that may not be empatheti-
cally and authentically reecting the way a
client is thinking about himself or herself.
Along these lines, racial minority is not the
same thing as ethnic minority, meaning
that within White, Asian, Latino/Hispanic,
African American or Black, and Native
American racial categories, there are mul-
tiple ethnicities with often widely diverging
identities, cultures, and worldviews. Miscon-
struing this multilayered, textured nature of
identity may inadvertently impede the ther-
apy process and translate into invalidating
clients unique perceptions and experiences.
In a similar vein, when we presume to know
the worldview of a person based on his or her
race, we risk closing our minds to innite
possibilities for how people might construe
and construct who they are culturally.
My second concern arises in exploring
the clinical implications of Sue et al.s (2007)
notion that racial self-awareness has always
been the [italics added] prerequisite for cul-
tural competence (p. 283) rather than a pre-
requisite. In making racial self-awareness and
racial microaggressions primary over other
types of awareness and microaggressions, we
risk missing the integrity of clients stories.
While Sue et al. acknowledge that gender,
physical ability, and sexual orientation mi-
croaggressions, as well as interethnic racial
microaggressions [sic] (p. 284) between
people of color, can have equally detrimental
effects on individuals, the message needs elu-
cidation. In clinical work, there is no hierar-
chy of suffering, and our thinking that does a
disservice to the client and to the therapeutic
relationship.
The thoughts I am raising are impres-
sionistic and reect dilemmas that I think
plague multicultural concerns. I hope it is
clear in my comment that given the un-
equivocal evidence of the magnitude of
racism, and its insidious manifestations in
the context of supposed helping, I think
Sue et al.s (2007) article makes a vital,
important, and needed contribution to the
psychological and multicultural literature.
At the same time, I also think our dialogue
about race and racism often blurs the dis-
tinction between racial group and culture
and may not exactly convey how people
identify with racial or cultural groups. In
addition, I think that hierarchical para-
digms of suffering in the therapeutic con-
text are irrelevant.
Can we psychologists nd a language
that more accurately reects the distinction
between race and culture and perhaps other
dimensions of identity? How can we help
White people recognize and alter their par-
ticipation in behaviors shaped by racism
276 MayJune 2008

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