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Beyond Implicit Bias - Becoming Culturally Competent

So often we have a dialogue this year about becoming culturally and racially sensitive and inclusive. Many of us have read and watched videos related to DEI training. We want to take this a step beyond. Yes, it is wonderful and essential to understand the basics of DEI training and what it means to be inclusive. It's also essential to understand and accept that we all have biases that come into our work and daily life.

Just like becoming physically fit requires actual exercises, we need more cross cultural experiences in order to become culturally competent. Developing this skill also will enrich our ability to develop a wider worldview and enable us to limit the impact of our biases.

Cultural competency refers to the ability to work and communite with ease across cultures. Here we are using culture to reference any community and subgroup or demographic.

There are various levels and ways to become culturally competent, including formalized course material, reading and watching videos, visiting other communities, and socializing with people from different demographics. Each of these has an impact on our perception and worldview. The more extensive the experience, the more these perceptions become clarified and updated.

For example, when we are reading about or watch movies about cultures, we have a certain impression, when we go to that neighbhorhood or community that we read or watch a movie about we have even more impressions. These impressions may be updating or adding to our previous impressions. When we talk to more people from that community we add to our experiences. These experiences create a new pattern for us to expect with this community. The more impressions we have the more our understanding and awareness is enhanced.

For example, if I watch a travel video about Jamaica, I have an impression of it as a tourist. If I go to a Jamaican retaurant in Chicago and try the food, I form additional impressions based on this experience in addition to the experiences I have about the interactions with the restaurant host and staff.


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