The Intersection of Race with the ACPA Worldview Climate Survey

Jenny L. Small, Chair
Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion & Meaning

Launched earlier this year, the ACPA Worldview Climate Survey is a research instrument that currently being used as a tool by the Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion & Meaning (CSFRM) to better understand the belief systems within the ACPA membership, as well as gauge the climate in which members are able to explore their own worldviews. The first internal ACPA instrument designed to assess the association’s climate for worldview expression, the team designing the survey (myself included) paid detailed attention to the myriad ways worldview can be held, expressed, learned about, discussed, privileged, and marginalized. And as Chair of CSFRM, I take responsibility for the fact that the same attention was not paid by the survey to other forms of identity, particularly racial identity.

Not long after the survey launched, it was brought to our attention that participants in the survey had experienced a microaggression, as the question asking respondents to define their racial identity (a piece of demographic information we felt would be vital to our analysis) did not allow for the selection of more than one response choice. Although “multiracial” was a provided option, it did not meet the needs of all respondents. While this microaggression was unintentional on the part of our research team, we immediately recognized the real hurt we had caused. Two members of our team joined a call with two leaders in the MRN and a member of the ACPA Equity and Inclusion team to address the problem as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

It is noteworthy to say that this conversation proceeded with an absence of rancor, accusations, and defensiveness. All of the participants were open and honest about the pain caused, the desire to foster healing, and the shared goal of building understanding around the intersection of racial and worldview-based identities. This discussion was a small microcosm of the work needing to be done within the field to foster understanding on both sides. Indeed, there are no actual “sides,” but instead people who want all forms of identity to be recognized and supported.

After this conversation and additional follow-up with the Standing Committee for Multicultural Affairs, the racial identity question was modified to allow participants to check as many boxes as personally appropriate. As well, some of the specific language around certain identities (such as Asian, Asian American, or Desi) was updated to reflect the most current terms being utilized. The question now reads as the following:

Racial Identity (select all that apply)

  • African American or Black [non-Hispanic]
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, Asian American, or Desi
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino or Latina
  • Multiracial
  • White [non-Hispanic]
  • Another identity not listed describes my racial identity. I identify as:

After adjusting the question, we added the following text to the introduction of the survey, as well as on advertising for it:

Please note: *If you looked at this survey prior to 3/14, you may have seen a different version of the question surrounding racial identity. CSFRM has recently updated this question to assure that it is inclusive and allows all to express their racial identity in a way that is in line with ACPA’s standards.

This has been a learning opportunity for those of us in the CSFRM who spend our professional (and personal) lives advocating for the inclusion of worldview identities in the conversations within ACPA and higher education. Although we may feel that this element of our and our students’ identities has been underexplored and undersupported, we cannot pursue knowledge and commitment around worldview without fully considering the other ways individuals self-define and make meaning of their lives. We are fortunate that we have supportive partners within the MRN who have helped us develop our understanding, and we hope that with the publication of the Worldview Climate Survey results forthcoming later this year, that partnership will continue as a means for making ACPA stronger and more inclusive than ever before. There are critical questions to explore on racial and worldview intersectionality, and we look forward to collaborating in this important work in the future.