Star Trek and Enterprising Multicultural Counseling

By Jonathon Sumpter — For some reason, while sitting in multicultural class around halloween time, I had images of Star Trek flashing through my mind (yes, I am a Trekkie). At first I thought, ah, yeah, this counseling thing is just like Star Trek, and I’m just like James Tiberius Kirk (not THE… NEW… one, but… sure…ly… SHATner). Star Trek encompassed acceptance, tolerance, and respect of culture. The Prime Directive ruled everything. This Directive prohibited interference with the natural development of a society.

The Enterprise brought values of structure and space for space-disputes, peace, fair and equitable justice for civilizations that would be marginalized or destroyed without the mediation of a witty-charismatic Star Ship Captain. Unless someone impedes these values, the Prime Directive dictates a hands off approach.

However, I would be remiss to not bring up the other, unintended, effect of Star Trek. Somehow, a mistaken propagation of racism echoes in Star Trek. I realize this is Trekkie sacrilege, but someone has to say it. Despite the fact that the crew was culturally different, they all wore the same uniforms (shout out to Warf’s Klingon apparel struggle). The crew all spoke the same language (lucky for the future, all aliens speak proficient English). The crew all fit into the operating hierarchy (all reporting to an old rich white guy). Finally, the crew all acted and conducted themselves in accordance to expectations of a Starfleet officer or personnel (again, like old rich white guys). Anyone on opposite sides of these cultural values got blown out of the space yard.

Despite the Prime Directive, they inevitably found themselves morally compromised by some differing value system, for which they felt morally obliged to react. I’m not saying Cardassians should be given free reign (just look at what the Kardashians are doing with their uninhibited, and unwarranted, success), that the Prime Directive is wrong, or that one side or the other is right. I am merely pointing out of the discrepancy.

This seems to echo in today’s society. People have to fit into cultures to gain admittance to college or the work force. A person might want to speak English to get the full benefit of health services. People have to fit into cultural sub-brackets to take advantage of monetary aid. When someone wants to move into a small community, they may try to fit into that culture. I’m not going to say what is right or wrong, or even suggest what should be done. It just seems like we are all flying in different fleets, in different directions. Those in the majority (Starfleet) have the corner on the market, but we have to find a way to coexist without blowing other’s cultural perspective out of space. Perhaps sometimes, in hopes of mediating underprivileged or bringing structure to marginalized areas, we may be bringing a boat-load of cultural expectations with us.

So, what do I do with that? I really, really wanted to be like Kirk. How do I truly make cultural competence an enterprising process? Maybe I need a reevaluation of how I engage my counseling sessions.

1 Response to “Star Trek and Enterprising Multicultural Counseling”

  1. 1 Rene Sandoval February 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    This is quite interesting. I am a psychologist working at UWC CR and we are developing a set of workshops regarding multiculturalism and then I thought about Star Trek and how it depicts a lot of culture shocks and even subcultures. And then I research and I found your article, which gives an interesting point of view about how it falls into a system, which I guess happens in any multicultural environment, but the most necessary part as you suggest and something that we have talking about and planning is to evaluate our own cultural backgrounds as well our expectations.
    Pura vida


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