Being ignorant about cultural differences doesn’t make you a bigot.
However, perpetuating negative stereotypes, laughing at jokes at the expense of others cultural differences and minimizing minorities feelings by saying “they should just get over it” spreads the seeds of discrimination and is a breeding ground for cultivating hate.
Just because you aren’t offended doesn’t mean that someone else’s feelings aren’t valid. It’s simple. It’s called empathy.
The things that we are seeing on the news and in our country have people asking themselves,
“Am I doing enough?”
“Am I saying the right thing?”
“How can I show people that I care?”
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself (ideas & belief systems) to ensure cultural competence:
Do I understand that limited English proficiency is not a reflection of their level of intellectual functioning?
How many times have you heard someone speak louder and slower to someone who doesn’t speak English? In fact, many non English speakers speak multiple languages.
Do I avoid imposing values that may conflict or be inconsistent with those of other cultures or ethnicities other than my own?
As a school counselor intern, this was something that my supervising professor preached to us repeatedly. It is something that I am very concious and aware of. Growing up in a Jamaican household, my parents were very strict on many things.
I remember my friend’s parents often making comments about how they felt sorry for me and how they thought certain things were weird. Even though I was a child, I internalized those comments.
Do I intervene in an appropriate manner when I observe other people (staff/family/friends) engaging in behaviors that show cultural insensitivity, racial biases and/or prejudice?
This one is huge. You may not be the one making the comments, but if you sit back and smile, laugh or even squirm in your seat uncomfortably without saying a word, you are in fact part of the problem too.
Do I recognize & accept that individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds may desire varying degrees to adopt their beliefs and behaviors within the dominant culture?
As a southerner, I can tell you that we are bad about this. I HATE grits, and people always give me a hard time about not eating them. If I eat porridge (a Jamaican dish), people look confused and disgusted at my plate.
This is a simple example, but recognizing that someone may live life different from you does not mean that the way they do things is wrong. Cultural competence allows you to respect someone else’s culture.
Do I accept & respect that male-female roles may vary significantly amoung different cultures and ethnic groups?
In some cultures, the elders in the extended family hold the most power and make decisions on behalf of the family. Some family members may share little details with the school about family events due to their beliefs about family business.
Do I keep abreast of the major concerns and issues for ethnically & radically diverse populations residing in the geographical area that I live in?
I’m from South Carolina. For years there have been discussions (even heated debates) about the conferderate flag being flown on the state building. Recently with all of the issues in Charlottesville, many cities are evaluating whether or not they will remove civil war monuments. On one side, people are saying leave history alone, and on another, people are saying why should we glorify a history that objectified human rights.
Minorities want to be heard and respected. We grow weary of hearing that our feelings are complaints. Just because something doesn’t bother you, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be educated about how/why it offends others.
Dismissing people’s feelings never moves us in positive directions.
Am I aware of the socioeconomic and environmental risk factors that contribute to the major social problems of culturally, ethnically and racially diverse populations in the geographical region that I live?
I see this is being a major issue in the school system. Schools with high minority populations are viewed as the “bad/poor schools” when this is clearly not the case. Poverty & crime exist in every ethnic group.
Taking a good look at yourself from the inside out is tough.
Being culturally competent often requires you to challenge the biases that you were taught growing up (either subtle or not). challenging those negative belief systems is the first step to change. Remember, cultural competence doesn’t happen overnight. Recognizing your own biases can help you stop the cycle with your own children.