Steps toward cultural proficiency
Ideally, the first step toward cultural proficiency is busting the myths that are connected to it. There are two persistent myths that serve to impede the development of a deeper understanding of cultural proficiency and implementing it in our personal and organizational and/or institutional interactions.
Cultural proficiency as a “program”
The first myth is that cultural proficiency is a “program” and as such provides a cookie cutter remedy to dealing with issues connected to human diversity. The reality is that cultural proficiency is a “way of being” and as such is less about “doing” cultural proficiency and more about being culturally proficient. In other words, cultural proficiency depends on each of us to know who we are in our cultural identities (recognizing that we have individual and group identities) and on the development of a keen awareness of how we culturally impact the individuals, groups and environments we encounter.
Cultural proficiency and race and ethnicity
The second myth is paradoxical in that many tend to refer to cultural proficiency only in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, and yet others believe cultural proficiency to be a threat to addressing issues connected to race and ethnicity.
The reality is that cultural proficiency is an approach that complements existing diversity programs and provides tools that allow individuals, groups, organizations and institutions using these tools to assess and inform behaviors as they address their needs and goals.
So, cultural proficiency is:
- A way of being or a mindset that addresses needs and goals connected to human diversity on individual, group, organizational and institutional levels.
- An approach that focuses on all human diversity inclusive but not limited to language, age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, physical and mental abilities, and gender.
- Behavior that is proactive and provides tools that assist in the development of cultural knowledge, valuing and adapting to diversity, an ability to manage the dynamics of difference and ways to use the cultural knowledge gained.
Another step toward cultural proficiency is acknowledgement of the historical and contemporary harm of systems of oppression, recognition of where in our cultural interactions lies a sense of privilege and entitlement, and understanding resistance to change. Each of the aforementioned considerations are common barriers to being culturally proficient.
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How culturally proficient am I?
Becoming culturally proficient is an ongoing process. One of the tools of cultural proficiency is its essential elements. Learn more and download this assessment tool.