I've gotten some great feedback on the survey that we have on the site. It was so interesting to see what people are thinking when they read, hear, and talk about diversity and culture. I am especially thankful for the information given about what could make discussions on diversity better. My mind is already churning away with ways to put much of what was mentioned in place. But first I wanted to address something that was not explicitly stated, but certainly alluded to...
I got the impression from many responses that people are quite worried about making mistakes when it comes to diversity. I completely understand where that comes from. I often have that same fear. I know quite a bit about cultural competence, but I am by no means perfect. I say the wrong thing. I react the wrong way. I cringe at some of my automatic thoughts. But we are all going to make mistakes when it comes to cultural competence. Why? Because full, total, and complete cultural competence is not possible. There is no way to know everything there is to know about every culture out there. And even if you did know everything, you were still raised and socialized to have biases. We all have them and they are automatic. We can't always control our gut reactions and feelings when engaging with people from other cultures. What we can do is become aware of these reactions and control our behaviors. With enough practice, our actual mindset will begin to change.
**For those of you who are not mental-health professionals, this is a crash course in cognitive-behavioral therapy. It gets a lot of attention because research shows that it's very effective. But it doesn't have to just be for therapy. People often think that they have to change their mindset and then their behaviors will follow. More often than not, it's actually the opposite. Change your behavior and your mind will follow. Try it sometime. IT WORKS.
We are human. We make mistakes. In every aspect of our lives. We shouldn't expect perfection for most things or from most people. It's really important to be forgiving of yourself and model that for your kids. Don't expect them to get a perfect score on every. single. test. Don't expect them to be the best at every sport. And don't expect that they will always do the 'right' thing when it comes to diversity. Give them the experiences and knowledge they need to continue to ask questions and then let them make a mistake every once in awhile. And while you're at it, do the same thing for yourself. Then give yourself a nice pat on the back for doing all that you could as a parent. Perfection NOT Required.
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Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
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