Inoculation in Paradise or Keeping Us Recruited, Retained, Trained, or Sane (Enough): A Sprinkling of Qualitative Data Gathered Since 1985 or What I Have Down So Far

Jesus (Jesse) R. Aros uses brief vignettes as a means for increasing awareness and providing suggestions for increasing resilience against interpersonal challenges related to racism, sexism and hatred that can be troublesome in recruiting, retaining and training psychologists of color.

Jesus (Jesse) R. Aros, PhD

Blossoming Rose Foundation of Aztlan

Jesus (Jesse) R. Aros, PhD Three (3) illustrative observations within our field are presented and discussed relative to the recruitment, retention, and training of psychologists, especially those of us from racial/ethnocultural *minority* backgrounds. The focus is on describing possible challenges and opportunities that tax our resilience and resolve to "stay in the game" for early career and more established colleagues of color. The purpose is to succinctly validate individual and collective struggles while pointing out some of what we know and don't, have down or are still resolving, and/or are cognitively inoculated against or are still affected by.

The techtonic-like stress we experience as racial/ethnic psychologists as the planes of our psychosocial identity collide in multiple roles, expectations, and environments with mixed privileges and oppressions are exacting, ponderous, and often taboo, making each of us painfully prone to manifestation in areas of our work, family, and sanity if left unexamined and unmanaged (Horowitz & Turan, 2008; Pope, Sonne, & Greene, 2006; Racker, 1957). Thus, effective and frequent cognitive behavioral inoculations against the perennial stress of our being figuratively both lamb and coyote among historical and current types of psychosocial prey and predators while trying to resolve the ensuing enmities, intrapersonally and interpersonally, are definitely in order (Meichenbaum, 1985; Morrow & Aros, 2003). This brief article seeks to boost our awareness, wellness, and resilience via the presentation of three (3) vignettes in hopes of better and deeper inoculations against a perennial source of our anxiety: Collective prototypes and personal templates of respect, love, hate, anger, and jealousy in our close relationships with self and others that impact the double whammies of individual and organizational racism that we face and may even unintentionally initiate even as experts in our field (Arredondo, 1996; Fitness & Fletcher, 1993; Frei, & Shaver, 2002; Glaser & Chi, 1988).


Vignette 1: 

A Mexican candidate for a clinical directorship is met with tortillas, eggs, salsa, and potatoes at the start of the breakfast meeting on the first day at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), when beans were inquired after, a senior member of the committee immediately asked in a loud voice where the chicharones (cracklings) were? At which point, all the committee went completely quiet. 

As psychologists of color we must be prepared that once in a great while we may say or do usually small things we or others find offensive; however, appropriately processing responses are generally preferable to letting it ride, engaging in passive-aggressive subterfuge, active splitting, etc. Any individual or organization unwilling or unable to do this may not be as fully competent yet as possible (Arredondo, 1996). 


Vignette 2: 

In an organized, collective bargaining setting, a psychologist of color invokes contract due process and brings another racial/ethnic minority colleague to an executive meeting regarding his/her retention. Upon arrival, non-service animals (e.g., toy poodles) are in the White executive's lap and office while the executive refuses to seat the accompanying colleague until the psychologist cites and quotes the provision from the contract allowing a colleague to accompany him/her. 

In our post civil rights era, we often do not expect or experience such a clueless yet nasty frontal assault like the above. Incidents imbued with infrahuman messages need to be addressed at the get-go and often followed up by internal grievance procedures later. Again, we need to be prepared to calmly address and firmly handle the situation with its internal and external sequelae, neither understandably exploding on the spot from the anger we feel, or being shocked into silence through the incredulity. Avoid becoming isolated, and process as if a counter-transference — yet accepting fact as fact (Gelso & Hayes, 2007).


Vignette 3: 

In selecting candidates for a nationally coveted slot, the director and several others inquire about a candidate's "commitment" to other diversity issues besides race/ethnocultural ones. A member speaks up, then several others. The qualified candidate with multiple, relevant interests is slated, but was not finally selected.

"Fit" and "commitment" continue to be questionably used as PC cop-outs or part of the not-so-new post civil rights covert racism we usually face or even dish out (Arredondo, 1996; Morrow & Aros, 2003). So, when in doubt, talk about, listen for, and then actively process group or individual expressions of "confusion" or "discomfort" by real or assumed leadership that seek to shift responsibility from the one expressing it to the one who "caused it". This seems to be an emerging shibboleth for problematic cognitive appraisal strategy that needs to be better understood, debunked, and more actively inoculated against. In short, anytime we have a situation where someone else is asked to explain what someone else is thinking or feeling, we likely have a postcolonial peril as/if we do not look to the possibilities that give rise to the misattribution, including latent aspects of jealousy, anger, hate, racism, homophobia, sexism, and all other "negative expressions" attached to our cognitive appraisals and within our psychosocial milieu (Arredondo, 1996; Fitness & Fletcher, 1993; Gelso & Hayes, 2007).

As sane psychologists of color, we must keep addressing jealousy, anger, hate, racism, sexism, and the negative impact of "isms" while boosting respect and love in close relationship among us. Our challenge may be inoculating against oppression while looking at our privilege?


Arredondo, P. (1996). Successful diversity management initiatives: A blueprint for planning and implementation. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.

Fitness, J. & Fletcher G. (1993). Love, hate, anger, and jealousy in close relationships: A prototype and cognitive appraisal analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 942-958.

Frei, J. & Shaver, P. (2002). Respect in close relationships: Prototype definition, self-report assessment, and initial correlations, Personal Relationships, 9, 121-139.

Gelso, J. & Hayes, J. (2007). Countertransference and the therapist's inner experience: Perils and possibilities. Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.

Glaser, R. & Chi, M. (1988). Overview. In M. T. H. Chi, R. Glaser, & M. J. Farr (Eds.), The nature of expertise (pp. xv-xxviii). Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.

Horowitz, L. & Turan, B. (2008). Prototypes and personal templates: Collective wisdom and individual differences. Psychological Review, 115, 1054-1068.

Meichenbaum, D. (1985). Stress inoculation training. NY: Pergamon.

Morrow, S. & Aros, J. (2004). On lambs, coyotes, and counseling psychologists: Dialogues on multiculturalism in the badlands of privilege and oppression. In G. Howard & E. Delgado-Romero (Eds.), When Things Go Wrong. Lanham MD: Hamilton.

Pope, D., Sonne, J. & Greene, B. (2006). What therapists don't talk about and why: Understanding taboos that hurt us and our clients. Washington DC: APA.

Racker, H. (1957). The meanings and uses of countertransference. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 26, 303-357.

Dr. Jesus (or Jesse) R. Aros is the Director and Co-founder of the Blossoming Rose Foundation of Aztlan; past Director of Student Counseling and Disability Services for Students at Texas A&M International University; former Director of Graduate Counseling Programs at St Mary's College of CA; and, prior Tenured Associate Professor of Counseling at the University of Guam, Mangilao campus. He is a current member of the APA Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology and a lifetime founding member of the National Latino/a Psychological Association.