Happy New Year! Although I am not one who makes many New Year’s Resolutions, I did commit to write at least one article every month in 2019. One of the reasons I want to write more is due to the current climate in our country. It seems to me that we are living in difficult and dangerous times. Our responses to cultural differences are deeply dividing our nation. Since the presidential election, our country is witnessing a dramatic rise in hate crimes (Click here to read more) and teachers are reporting an increase in bullying (Click here to read more). It seems that overt prejudice is becoming more normative and socially acceptable with each passing day. I am deeply troubled and heartbroken by these trends. I want to help ease the tensions and increase the amount of respect we have for each other. In short, I believe that we need to talk about culture more than ever.
In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, let’s talk about concrete actions you can take in 2019 that will help bring more understanding, respect, and love into the world. I encourage you to commit to doing at least one activity that will increase your cultural competence every month, if not every week. If you want to think about it another way, make a commitment to look out new windows in the New Year.
Below is a list of small steps you can take that will, hopefully, push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to expand your understanding of your own culture, as well as other cultures. If you need a reminder, read Dimensions of Culture and Additional Cultural Dimensions to help you think about culture in a more inclusive and expansive way.
Action Steps to Begin or Continue on Your Cultural Competence Journey
- Read literature about and written by different cultural groups.
- Shop at ethnic stores and dine at ethnic restaurants.
- Watch foreign language movies or watch a movie with no sound and only use closed captions.
- Find a way to be in the minority. If you have the resources and opportunities, travel to areas where you can immerse yourself in another culture.
- Attend festivals and events that celebrate specific cultural groups, such as art galleries, theaters, dance companies, museums, libraries, music groups, and places of worship.
- Volunteer at a non-profit organization that serves a diverse population.
- Read newspapers, magazines, websites, and other educational resources that are dedicated to specific cultural groups.
- Get involved with an organization that works for social justice.
- Reach out to someone from a different cultural group.
It is better to think of these steps as a journey, rather than a destination. Doing any (or all) of these activities will not help you arrive at a fully-developed sense of cultural competence. Becoming culturally competent takes a lifetime. However, these action steps can get you started or help keep you moving.
As Lao Tzu wisely stated, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I look forward to embarking on this journey together and hearing how these activities helped change the way you see the world and others around you.