On Cultural Competency

Since we’re already on the topic:

I have long maintained that teaching cultural competence through the use of fact-learning about specific populations is deeply flawed and limits thinking.  You know, those books with the special sections on “African Americans,” “Asian Americans” and “Hispanic Americans.”

There are times when I think some facts about specific cultures are useful.  For example, I think it’s helpful to know that some people don’t wear shoes inside the house.  But you wouldn’t need to know that little factoid if you were an observant sort.  And even if you were not, you could simply gracefully remove your shoes when asked.

I used to naively believe that educated people were less racist.  Instead I found they are simply representative of the population at large.  In fact, sometimes they are more racist simply because power and privilege blind them.  Similarly, cultural competence has little to do with formal education.  I used to think that cultural competence has to do with exposure, but now I don’t believe that either.

Read the full article over at Resist Racism.



One response to “On Cultural Competency

  1. Absolutely, having factoids is not “the” answer. What happens with some information but not a solid skill and experience base is that people have a little awareness – “I don’t want to be racist, or give this non-English speaking immigrant sub par care, or give this alt-gender person anything to pin me down about..” In other words, a freak out – “Therefore, I’m going to be very stiff, protocol oriented, and mechanistic cause I’m scared witless.” Which is the opposite of what is needed.

    I think this article is fascinating (and human in some useful ways) in that it illuminates that insidiousness of that kind of uncertainty: Professional Uncertainty and Disempowerment.

    I’m really excited to see where you go with your passion in this.

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