Telling Painful Truths around the Table | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Telling Painful Truths around the Table

Pioneers of multiculturalism share their own experiences at TC's 27th annual Winter Roundtable
The focus was on the often bruising experiences of minorities in the professional arena, and the attendees gathered on February 20th in TC’s Cowin Center—a group of nationally-recognized psychologists, diversity practitioners and social justice activists—were doing something not always associated with academic conferences: get personal.
Then again, this was the College’s 27th annual Winter Roundtable, where personal experience is text rather than subtext, and inconvenient truths are tackled head-on. This year themed “Act Together: the Hope of Community,” the two-day venue, co-sponsored by the Dean’s Office and the Counseling and Psychology Program, did not disappoint.
The opening segment of the plenary session, “A Conversation with Multicultural Pioneers: Lessons for the Past, the Present and for the Future,” featured candid life-lessons and refreshing narratives from Nancy Boyd-Franklin, Professor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University; Eduardo S. Morales, Distinguished Professor at the California School of Professional Psychology; and Thomas A. Parham, Assistant Vice Chancellor at the University of California-Irvine.
Moderator Derald Wing Sue, TC Professor of Psychology and Education and author of the recently published Microaggressions in Everyday Life, began with the observation that “Our white brothers and sisters have difficulty understanding the racial reality of people of color.”
After recounting a slice of his upbringing by Chinese-American parents in the Pacific Northwest, Sue asked the panelists to describe their own experiences growing up as a minority in a predominantly white society. Audience members listened intently as Boyd-Franklin spoke of her early childhood memories living in largely black and Latino projects, pre-Brown v. Board of Education, and Morales relayed his experience in a doctoral program, where he was one of three minorities in a program with one 160 students,
Parham (this year’s recipient of the Roundtable’s annual Janet E. Helms Award for Mentoring and Scholarship). Recalled being an 11-year-old during the Watts Riots and said the recurring question throughout his life has become, “As a black man, who do I maintain cultural integrity in a society that does not support my humanity?”
Referring to incidences of racism and other bias in professional settings, Boyd-Franklin spoke directly to the next generation of social justice advocates: “It’s important—you need to know—it doesn’t go away as you go up the food chain.” Entering Rutgers as a full-tenured professor, Boyd-Franklin read a student’s journal, in which he expressed surprise at her exemplary lecturing skills, explaining that he’d been under the impression that she was “an affirmative action hire.”
Additionally, panelists also discussed the need to have strong support systems of friends, family and professional colleagues—or, as Parham put it, “people whose knees will not buckle under pressure.” Boyd-Franklin credited her husband, a psychologist, with helping her process her that journal entry before she addressed it with the student.
A second segment, moderated by Marie Miville, TC Professor of Psychology and Education, featured another set of prominent multicultural psychologists, including Etiony Aldarondo, Associate Professor in Educational and Psychological Studies at the University of Miami; Norweeta Milburn, Associate Research Psychologist at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Community Health; Micheal Mobley, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Rutgers University; and Rebecca Toporek, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Career Counseling Specialization at San Francisco State University.
Responding to the first portion of the session, Mobley cited the “ethical principle of truth-telling” and expressed his gratitude for the previous panelists’ honesty. “In a professional context, you don’t often hear about hidden aspects and challenges like these,” he said.
The Roundtable’s Social Justice Action award went this year to Dr. Concepcion Saucedo Martinez of Instituto Familiar de la Raza.

Published Monday, May. 10, 2010


More Stories