Moving Along the Cultural Competence Continuum: An Ongoing Journey

photo of children drumming

Cultural Competence: a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that are present in a system, agency, or individual to enable that system, agency, or individual to function effectively in interactions with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds (adapted from Cross et al.). The ability of human beings to authentically relate to one another with acknowledgement, appreciation, and respect.

Three Critical Steps in the Cultural Competence Process

  1. Unlearning: Identifying and correcting learned biases
  2. Learning: Acquisition of information, knowledge, and wisdom
  3. Diversification: Increased collective capacity

Helpful Ideas and Concepts

Authentic Representation: The integration of people from diverse backgrounds where mutual respect, appreciation, and full value for the contributions of all participants is demonstrated.

Tokenism: When an organization considers the perspective of one person to be reflective of their entire cultural group-when relationships are approached as a "for" people instead of "with" people dynamic-when decisions are made "about" people "without" people--and where people are devalued in positions with no power.

Identity: This includes awareness of self, identification (the label used for one's own group), attitudes about the group you belong to, and attitudes about other groups and the patterns of behavior that are commonly associated with a specific group: "How we perceive the world and how the world perceives us."

Diversity: Relationships of difference, including differences in communication, life view, definitions of family, identity, culture, experiences of institutional racism/sexism/ageism/homophobia/and other biases: "How our spirits behave when they intersect."

Experience: This develops a base of information-which may translate into knowledge-which can transform into wisdom. "Experience of our ancestry shapes our history--our history shapes our experiences-our experiences shape history-which shape the experience of our descendants."

Culture: This is a pattern of behavior among a group that includes what they think, value, and believe; how they communicate, behave, and celebrate: "Not necessarily who we are as a result of where our ancestors came from, rather who we are as a result of where we have been. However, where our ancestors came from does play a role in the experiences we will have."

Source: Sonia Alvarez-Robinson, 2000