The Destructive Nature of the Term Race: Growing Beyond a False Paradigm


  • Susan Chavez Cameron,

    Assistant Professor, Corresponding author
    • University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Simpson Hall 119, COE, Albuquerque, NM 87131

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    • Susan Chavez Cameron (Navajo) is an assistant professor in the Counselor Education Program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque

  • Susan Macias Wycoff

    Assistant ProfessorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Susan Macias Wycoff is an assistant professor in the Department of Counselor Education at California State University, Sacramento.


Originally based on a system of folk taxonomies, the term race has been used to group people by physical appearance, often with disruptive and harmful social consequences. Given that many national and international scientific groups have diminished their use of the term race in the classification of people, it is time for mental health professionals to seriously discuss the role and assess the usefulness of the term race. We recommend that the profession follow the lead of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1950/1978) in taking steps to question the use of the term, which UNESCO views as implying biological significance. In light of the lack of support to retain the term race as a scientific concept, and given the development of a no race position by anthropologists and geneticists, it is time for mental health professionals to become more active in addressing the use of this term. Specifically, although counselors in training are taught to use the term race to refer to cultural aspects of different groups of people, we believe the term itself is passé. In our opinion, the term, in varying degrees, contributes to the formation of false perceptions about various groups of people. These false perceptions are encountered by counselors when working with clients, professionals, and systems.