By Fulterius King, Student Intern
A cultural competency pursuit (CCP) course was held in the student union building on Friday, September 11. Representatives from various offices on campus associated with Student Affairs discussed essential components related to cultural competency and skill. Cultural competence is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. This workshop primarily presented cultural competence at an introductory level, reviewing main concepts and ideologies that can be useful when interacting with individuals from various cultures and identities (worldview; race and ethnicity; socioeconomic background; dis/ability; gender and pronouns; sexual orientation).
During the workshop, we explored the idea of privilege or “societal privilege” that is pertained to a person by looking at their race, socioeconomic status, sexual identity/orientation, religion, etc. For example, a person who is white, male, Christian, and heterosexual is presumed to be most privileged in the United States. Primarily due to the fact that white, male, Christianity, and heterosexuality are all dominant in regard to race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation in the United States. Whereas, a black woman who identifies as an atheist is thought to have lesser privilege in regard to sociopolitical and economic concerns. The take away from this is: It is important to recognize areas where we are privileged and where we’re not as they can facilitate connections between our differences and bring about progressive conversations amongst diverse populations. It is important to note that cultural competence is not mainly focused on minority populations. We should always consider individuals who have privilege(s) within majority populations whom are also within the concept of cultural competency. We should not have negative attitudes about others who have privilege but only address the systematic oppression of abusing privilege.
With a relevant exercise, we explored our own identities by looking at what parts of identity (e.g. dis/ability, homelessness, race) do we think about on a regular basis versus those that least likely concern us. This exercise is a valuable tool as it helped me realize how implicit biases can come about which may lead to false generalizations and misconceptions of oppressive, marginalized populations. For instance, over the past year I have been more aware of my privilege as being male in society due to becoming knowledgeable of statistics of unequal pay between men and women. I realized that I think about the levels of my privilege as being black, nonreligious, and queer more often than other areas of privilege. This is mainly because they are within lesser privilege conditions from a societal framework. For my undergraduate years, I attended Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta where homelessness is very common. During this time I began to think about my privilege in regard to socioeconomic status. Prior to college, I never realized how much having shelter was a privilege.
In am a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. As an aspired Mental Health Counselor, cultural competence is an essential component when counseling others. It is imperative that counselors are aware of their culture and other cultures to get a sense of what it is like to be in a client’s shoes. Opportunities such as CCP training and my work experience in the Interfaith Center office is progressively bringing more awareness of the world around me.