In order to best serve clients in the field of Mental Health Counseling, it is imperative to explore personal background and culture. This exploration helps the aspiring counselor understand their biases, and how their worldview shapes their practice.
Military service was a backbone in our familial identity, as my maternal family had originated from a military relationship. According to Bailey and Sykes (2018), those who enlist in the military come from low socioeconomic status’; there is a misconception that enlisting in the military allows socioeconomic opportunity and social mobility for lower socioeconomic classes, when in fact the most important indicator of social mobility among veterans are the opened opportunities for higher education that previously could not have been afforded. Bailey and Sykes (2018) explore in their research the outcome of social mobility among veterans from WWII onward, and found that the most socioeconomically advantaged by veteran status are Black males due to education opportunities being introduced that were previously unavailable to them. Despite research demonstrating that social mobility does not increase significantly with veteran status and benefits, there often is pride in serving the country on the part of the individual and from the public. Bailey and Sykes (2018) cite that despite veterans coming from low socioeconomic status’, the public perceives them as worthy of respect and sympathy due to their service to the country; thus, while there are no significant income increases based on veteran status, social status has the potential of being elevated through military association.
In Nancy Isenberg’s novel White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America (2016), the social inequalities of America are acknowledged in a way that supports racial discrimination within groups by examining the “white trash” of the country, which separated poor families (referred to as “human waste” by those in upper socioeconomic classes) from the ideal of the White Standard. The comment made about my family shed light on the power of “White Identity” – even as a white person. “White Trash” is never something that I had considered myself or my family, because it is dehumanizing and derogatory. Because we came from a lower socioeconomic status and placed a large emphasis on community, rather than personal achievements, my family was viewed as lesser than the “White Identity” – particularly because we identified as American instead of our various ethnic backgrounds, and we came from a largely rural, republican, and impoverished community… There was justification in using these terms by stating that “not all people of this ethnicity are this” and then redefining the stereotype to ascribe personal attributes rather than racial attributes – which is allowing oppression to continue to discriminate against cultures based on the selective use of these derogatory terms.