We’re all Different
This statement is fundamental to understanding the importance of and inherent challenges in community engagement. To engage with a community and achieve the best outcomes for everyone, we must lay a foundation of cultural understanding and maintain an awareness of our own personal biases.
What is Culture
Spectrum of Cultural Competency
Cultural blindness is the state of ignoring or refusing to acknowledge existing biases that function within social structures. When one hears the phrase “I don’t see color”, it exemplifies an individual’s blindness to a problem that does indeed exist, though it occurs outside the individual’s circle of understanding.
Being culturally competent means that one may have the capacity to be an effective communicator by understanding and considering another’s cultural needs, beliefs, and behaviors. This should be the minimum goal in all our work and, indeed, in everyone’s personal lives.
Culturally proficient individuals hold culture in high esteem and are comfortable with navigating day-to-day interactions. One’s ability to value others for who they are is key to respecting each other and to continue the learning process of life. This requires a willingness to look beyond themselves and to find truth in a reality that is not solely their own. The result is not only more effective and meaningful community engagement, but it can also bring personal rewards beyond what they might have been able to understand before they reached that point.