The Importance of Seeing Yourself

Early on, I wrote about the need to balance windows and mirrors in our lives. An important anti-bias framework suggests the importance of “mirrors” and the need for people to see themselves reflected in the world around them. Equally important is the need for “windows” and opportunities for people to gaze outside their own world, to see and learn about other people’s realities. Minority groups are less likely to see mirrors and more likely to see windows. The windows they see are often focused on the majority group and this imbalance can hurt one’s sense of self-worth and confidence. It’s easy to feel invisible if you don’t have mirrors around you, whether you are a [...]

By |2017-07-01T12:36:47-05:00June 30th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Are We There Yet?

If you have children or have been around children, you know that every road trip involves the dreaded question: “Are we there yet?” Adults often moan and may eventually shout a response to the question depending on how frequently it is asked and how much more time it will take to reach the final destination. I think the journey to become more culturally competent is somewhat similar. You might wonder if you are there yet. You’ve read some blogs, you have read some children’s books, and you think it’s important to talk about differences. Are you done? Are you there yet? The answer is no. I’ve been on my journey for over 25 years [...]

Planting the Seeds

Since 1990, Search Institute has been conducting research to better understand what kids need to be successful and contributing adult members of society. They have identified 40 developmental assets that are based on skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors. The research indicates that the more developmental assets children and youth have, the more likely they are to succeed in life. The developmental assets data is based on more than 5 million children and youth across the United States. The power of these assets is evident across all cultural and socioeconomic groups. Research suggests that developmental assets protect young people from many different problems, such as alcohol use, illicit drug use, sexual activity, and violence. In [...]

Finding Your Way

Writing about skin color reminded me of an experience I had many years ago. Not surprisingly, it involves making a mistake. As a result, I learned two great lessons. One, words can cause harm even without intending to do so. Two, it is important to have teachers and mentors on your personal journey. (Trigger warning: racial slur) During my junior year at Cornell, I was walking back to my dorm with a group of friends. I was the only white person in the group and we were all leaving an African American history class. During the conversation, I used the word mulatto to describe a fellow classmate. It was a word I had heard to describe someone [...]

The Human Race

In a past blog post, I discussed different dimensions of culture. You may have noticed that race was not included in my list of cultural dimensions. This usually surprises people because race is often the first thing people focus on when we talk about cultural diversity. However, not including race wasn’t a mistake. It was a very deliberate decision. Why? The answer is pretty simple. There is no such thing as race. By definition, race is a divisive term created to classify people into categories based on their skin color, hair texture, facial features, and body size. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement in 1950 [...]

By |2017-06-16T17:19:33-05:00June 14th, 2017|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Happy Loving Day

Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that state bans on interracial marriages were unconstitutional. The landmark decision was based on the case Loving vs. Virginia, named after Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving. The two fell in love and got married but since he was white and she was part Native American and part black, their marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia. In fact, they were both arrested and jailed for breaking the law. In 1967, the Lovings won the right to be legally married and the Supreme Court decision overturned the law in the 16 states that had banned interracial marriage. Since then, June 12th has [...]

The First Ripple

As I mentioned in my first post, I grew up in a homogeneous suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Most people looked like me, worshipped like me, and lived like me. I was surrounded by mirrors. My slow journey towards cultural competence started when I was an undergraduate student. Although I am ashamed to share my experiences, I feel the need to put a stake in the ground so you can understand how far I have traveled. The event I want to share with you took place in 1989 at Gettysburg College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. I refer to this experience as "the first ripple." I apologize in advance for being offensive and [...]

Additional Cultural Dimensions

As I mentioned in my last post, there is an endless list of things that help determine how we see the world around us. I have been fortunate enough to discuss this topic with a diverse group of people and with their help, I have added these additional dimensions of culture: Geographic Region: If you were raised in the U.S., what part of the country do you call home? Military Experience: Have you been actively involved in the military? Time Orientation: Do you place more value on the past, present, or future? Personality: Are you an introvert, extrovert, or a combination of both? Community Type: Is home in a rural, suburban, or urban community? Body [...]

Dimensions of Culture

Let’s continue exploring the question: What is culture? I hope you have spent time thinking about this important question and writing down those cultural dimensions of your life that have shaped and guided your worldview. You'll find that there are many different ways to teach about culture. One popular approach is to think of culture like an iceberg. The main idea is to remind people that the visible aspects of culture (food, clothing, language, skin color, etc.) often make up a small part of a person’s culture. There are also invisible aspects of culture that are below the surface and invisible to an observer. These dimensions of culture are more numerous and contain more depth. [...]

What is Culture?

If a stranger came up to you and asked about your culture, what would you say? If you don’t have an immediate response, think about this academic (i.e., long) definition of culture, “the behavior, values, beliefs, language, traits, and products shared by and associated with a group of people, which are passed from one generation to the next.”[1] A simpler definition of culture is a “framework that guides and binds your life practices.”[2] I like to think of culture as a pair of glasses. These glasses influence the way you see the world but they don’t come off. They frame your perspective, impact the way you interact with others, and they were given to [...]

By |2017-06-06T00:28:02-05:00June 3rd, 2017|Tags: , , |0 Comments