Blog post on ICC - responses?

Darla Deardorff's picture

All - here's a blog post I just read on a blog called "Between Worlds" - and would be interested in your response to this - I found it at - Darla Deardorff

Blog excerpt:
“Culturally competency” is a popular term these days, and while I appreciate the sentiment of the phrase, I’ve been feeling terribly inept culturally. When it comes to race relations, failure is simply inevitable. I recently mistook an Iranian student for an Egyptian and suspected immediately that I’d offended him. I hadn’t meant to – I’d really just confused him with another student – but I couldn’t take my words back either, and didn’t know enough about Middle Eastern culture to know how offensive my assumption truly was. After stumbling a little trying to retract my words, I fell back not on competence, but humility, “I’m sorry,” I admitted. “I didn’t know. Please forgive my mistake.”

A colleague recently introduced me to the term “Cultural humility” and I instantly connected to it, for even with all my practice being married cross-culturally, earning a degree in multicultural education, speaking several languages, traveling on 4 continents, and spending my days with immigrants from around the world, I often feel culturally incompetent. I only speak two languages fluently, not six like some of my students. I grew up in a monocultural cornfield and have had to work to learn anything I know about the rest of the world, which is still not really enough. I have always lived in my country of birth, and don’t have near the depth of experience or insight about cultural adjustment that the world’s resilient immigrants know.

Culturally, I am far from competent.

But cultural humility? This makes sense to me.

Instead of “Get over it”, cultural humility responds, “I don’t understand. Can you help me understand more deeply?”

Instead of some variation of “quit whining”, cultural humility responds, “I’m so sorry this hurts you. How can I walk alongside you in this?”

Instead of reading only the white megachurch types, cultural humility also seeks wisdom from the pages of leaders from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Instead of “Why do you keep causing problems?”, cultural humility responds, “I’m sorry I keep hurting you. It seems like I’m missing something big. How would you recommend I start to better understand your experience?”

Instead of keeping quiet because you don’t know, cultural humility clumsily admits, “I’m a little embarrassed I don’t know much about your background. I don’t even know how to ask you questions about it, but I really would love to learn more.” (God bless the dear man who actually said this to my husband.)

While all of this might sound a lot like an us-vs-them scenario, I want you, my white brothers and sisters, to know that it does not have to be. While I have never lived in a different skin, I fiercely love those who do – their very DNA runs through my veins. I share my perspective here from a bridge between worlds, longing to see those on both sides listen to and love each other so much better than we currently do.

When white people don’t recognize how our position of cultural dominance influences us – when we don’t know that we’re being white – we can be like bulls in a china shop, throwing everything in our wake askew without even realizing what we’ve done. For us, this understanding begins with learning a perspective of cultural humility and seeking to understand another’s experience without judgment. May more of us boldly begin to walk on this long and winding path.

(And just for the record, I kinda like white hipster music.)