I ask because I had an interesting discussion with a classmate yesterday afternoon about this very thing. Like me, she is a nontraditional (older) student majoring in sociology. We live within 2 miles of each other. We both like to talk. Those are our common traits. Our differences? Well, I am gay and she is straight with two grown children. She is African American and I am white. She is a devout Christian and I am not. However, our differences don't seem to matter and we enjoy talking after class and spending time together.
Yesterday, she told me about an unpleasant encounter with a faculty member in which she was treated with disrespect. She said it left her upset and troubled her all weekend. After we talked about the situation a bit, I asked if she knew about GSU's counseling center
which offers free counseling to students. As it turns out, she had not only heard about the center, but had called them to get information. However, as much as she wanted to go, she hesitated. I told her that it was normal to be anxious, but the experience should prove to be helpful.
She explained that she was not afraid, but that her children had expressed concern about her desire to get counseling. When she told her adult daughter about the center, her response was, "You've only been in school five weeks, Mom, has it already made you crazy?!"
I laughed at first because I assumed her daughter had been joking. She wasn't. My friend explained that, in her community, the only people who see psychologists are crazy people and crackheads. I was incredulous at first, but then I thought about all the therapy environments I'd been in - public as well as private. Just how many clients had been persons of color? I could think of only a handful compared to dozens of white clients. Also, the white clients were from a spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds. Could it be that African Americans view therapy that differently than whites do?
We talked for some time about the question and what we each knew from our particular background. In the end, we agreed that the question needed more research. I spoke with my partner last night about it. She is a psychology major and she offered some suggestions as to where to begin. I need a topic proposal for a term paper in Wealth, Power & Inequality next week. I think I may have found it. More later.