I went to a local community niche hui (meeting) today, and one of my first thoughts [other than frustration of the wide range of cultural obliviousness] became a very overpowering distraction of critical analysis, while gazing out the window at the sunshine and watching a cat play amongst the grass.
This hui lit many flashes of critical whakaaro (thoughts), but most of them, whether niche specific or not, in someway related back to the idea of cultural competency and working in a way that is respective to tangata (people) as human, as unique individuals, and bringing me back to my constantly reoccurring and one of my most treasured values – unquestionable/unconditional validity.
Bear with me, as I try to word my whakaaro in a way that is both, expressively satisfying and as perspicuous and entertaining as I can (while also still critically analysing said whakaaro).
If you’ve read this far, thank you – and if you continue reading, buckle up, it’s gunna be a bumpy ride. At this point, I am thinking out loud (which is multitasking at its most intriguing, yet most at risk of foot in mouth).
Firstly, I want to start by reinforcing that Culture is NOT solely ethnicity. Culture can include race, ethnicity, nationality, language, gender, status, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, individual values, beliefs and behaviours, health, well-being, occupation, environments (ie work, school, family), experiences, and so much more!
The Collins Dictionary 2019 definition of cultural awareness is:
Someone’s cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values.
Intriguingly, there is no definition (from Collins Dictionary) for Cultural Competency. However, searching ‘culture’ and ‘competence’ as two separate words, we can create a definition that could perhaps appear in an edition of Collins Dictionary in years to come.
So, the Collins Dictionary 2019 definition of ‘culture’:
Culture consists of activities such as the arts and philosophy, which are considered to be important for the development of civilization and of people’s minds.
and the definition for ‘competence’:
the ability to do something well or effectively.
Note: it does not say well AND effective, it says well or effective.
Translating (not to be mistaken for contextually-accurate interpreting) these definitions for collaboration, we can argue that a (poorly done) future Collins Dictionary definition of Cultural Competency may look something like this.
The ability to effectively do culture
The ability to do cultural awareness well or effectively
So neither definition sits too fondly with me, so I have broadened my search.
Health Navigator New Zealand has a page dedicated to ‘what is cultural competence’, discussing the progressive definition of cultural competence, acknowledges the implicit or unconscious bias, and has a rather detailed account of what cultural competence isn’t, rather than what it is.
Most notably though, they quote two definitions of cultural competency – from Mauri Ora (a Health, Education and Research organisation) and Medical Council of New Zealand.
Individual values, beliefs and behaviours about health and wellbeing are shaped by various factors such as race, ethnicity, nationality, language, gender, socioeconomic status, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation and occupation. Cultural competence in healthcare is broadly defined as the ability of health practitioners to understand and integrate these factors into the delivery of healthcare practice.
– Mauri Ora
Cultural competence requires an awareness of cultural diversity and the ability to function effectively, and respectfully, when working with and treating people of different cultural backgrounds. – Medical Council of New Zealand.
Adjusting the last sentence of the quoted definition from Mauri Ora to be as niche generic as a Collins Dictionary definition, I suggest: Cultural competence is broadly defined as the ability to understand and integrate culture and factors of.
This is still only ‘broadly’ defined (and also only New Zealand context defined).
So collaboratively interpreting and reconstructing these definitions to adopt a more apt definition, while also ignoring the tinge of blatant ignorance in assuming it is only for “working with…people of different cultural backgrounds” – let me come back to this.
Anywho, this more apt definition could/should look something more like:
Cultural competence is the ability to integrate the awareness and understanding of cultural diversity.
Now if we just think back to our previous attempts of prospective Collins Dictionary collaborative definitions, can we assume that misunderstandings can derive from people attempting their own definitions also, or that merely a lack of awareness of those differences in definition?
Or, could we even see it more like a 90s video game?
Welcome to Cultural Competence – the game everybody plays!
Firstly, you need to be born and raised into a world that will likely teach you that your cultures are the best or at least that other cultures are lesser (in this game, we call that privilege). If you did not learn this, chances are you are actually just less consciously aware of cultural influences, and/or a member of at least 1/or more minority groups. Sadly, this does not mean you can skip ahead, because you can still be part of minority group/s or not aware of cultural influence, while also having privilege (confused yet?).
Level 1 – You’ve been born into a world as a blank canvas – no preferences, no discrimination, no hatred.
As you navigate your way through this level, you will be uncontrollably attacked with a diverse range of colours, patterns, and textures – such as the red with anger or love (confusing I know) black of hatred or depression or the green of envy or lust or even pink for hope, yellow for happy, as well as a diverse range of tools and techniques – paint, pastel, pencil, lollipops, rainbows, unicorns, even scissors, permanent markers, drugs, alcohol and abuse. Good luck!
Congratulations! You made it!
You may notice your character is incapacitated and barred from taking that Health bar low, battered or bruised from the scramble of Level 1. If so, go to the Shop icon and purchase Therapy, Self Reflection or Healing (this may cost privilege points), but be warned, it may not work the first time round.
Level 2 – You’re grown, no longer a blank canvas, filled with colourful decor, embellished with wears and tears. Now you have control over the colours and techniques that you add to your canvas. If you have not already purchased a Healing potion or need to buy more, you have the decision in this level to Heal your character or alternatively, you can just paint over your existing decor (at no cost), suppressing your characters long term Health points. Good luck!
Congratulations! You made it!
Level 3 – You’re now a beautiful canvas of influences and self discovery, and in this next level, you will acquire some social decor, interacting with other characters or influences will add colour to your canvas, like friends, peers, enemies, partner/s, other relationships, and media, advertising, environment, abilities, attitudes, social media, and more! As you endeavor through this level, you will have decisions to make, but you might have some other characters influences on your decisions, sometimes without even noticing! Good luck!
Congratulations! You made it!
Level 4 – Look how far you’ve come – from just a baby blank canvas to a colourful, more experienced canvas. This level is called Cultural Awareness. In this level, you’ll maneuver through obstacles and decision platforms, each one will lead you up to the final platform. Your decision on the final platform will decide whether or not you can progress in this game, or stay stuck on this level until you can make the appropriate decision/s.
Final Platform: Does culture matter?
Congratulations! You have Cultural Awareness!
Now would be an ideal time to visit the Shop to purchase some of the many offers, such as minimum wage job, drop out of high school, move out of home, go to college, get a pet, or our more luxurious items like go to jail, do drugs, beaten for something out of your control, living wage job, do drugs again, or fall in love.
Level 5 – This level introduces Awareness Points. In this level, we’re going to start getting into the nitty gritty parts of this game. It is a race between you and other characters to use your privilege points to overcome obstacles. However, it is again your answer to the final platform that will determine your progress – Do you have privilege/s?
Congratulations! You made it!
You’ve unlocked new items in the shop! Now available with Awareness Points – our much loved ‘hard to swallow’, ‘I am privileged, and not!’, ‘I am triggered’, ‘offended by someone pointing out my privilege/s’,‘My inter-generational trauma hurts’ , ‘accepted someone pointing out my privileges’, ‘colonisation is real, and still exists’, ‘I cannot change my ancestors actions’, ‘I accept this’ (you may need multiple of this), and much more!
Level 6 – Now, depending on what items you’ve purchased from the Shop, you may need to redo Level 5 – however, Level 6 is less confronting. The most effective way to get through this level, is by interacting with other characters and seeing what colours glow on your canvas depending on the characters attributes. If at any point your glowing colours are fear purple, anger red, or green disgust, you will unlock a bonus level, where you will be encouraged to confront those colours and attributes by stripping away the layers that have suppressed them, before progressing onto the next level.
Congratulations! You made it!
Level 7 – In this level, you will continue to encounter influences, like media, attitudes, advertising and social media, as they throw colour at you – make sure you dodge the colours to unlock mystery boxes filled with Awareness Points and other exclusive prizes, like ‘a day away from negative media’ and ‘one slap to a bigot’. If you get hit with colour, be sure to visit the Shop for an Awareness potion of ‘unpack this with a friend’ or ‘self reflection’ before continuing through the level.
Congratulations! You made it!
Level 8 – This level may be a bit harder, as we trade our Privilege and Awareness points for Competency Points. You have privileges (It’s okay, everyone does in some way), and you have gained an insight and awareness to how culturally diverse this game is!
To get through this level, your character Health should be near full, as we integrate our Awareness of cultural diversity and crusade into real-life situations, like witnessing discrimination (even minor), fuelling Capitalism and/or Colonialism, experiencing discrimination, offering support to someone with cultural difference, I have biases against a culture I’m a part of, being pressured to conform to a cultural bias, and the crowd-favourite, accidentally discriminating and deciding whether to apologise, and learning from mistakes.
Based on your decisions in each solution, will depend on the Competency Points you recieve, and these points will never mean you are Culturally Competent, but they will help you on your way to procuring Cultural Competency/s.
Congratulations! You have Cultural Competencies. AND
like any classic 90s movie, when you wake up tomorrow, you will redo it again, and need to continue to relive the following levels daily to maintain your Cultural Competencies (and to add to them/continue to learn more).
Level 5 – If Applicable
Level 6 – Optional/Recommended
Level 7 – Compulsory
Level 8 – Compulsory
As fun as that was, it was a slight distraction (thought also a light-hearted, little therapeutic refuel).
So with our new (and much better) prospective Collins Dictionary definition of the future (with minor changes, because it’s my definition, so I can)
Cultural competence is the ability to integrate cultural awareness with the understanding and blatant respect of cultural diversity.
I am still left feeling like this is such a broad definition that it can too easily be misinterpreted (especially by the likes of air-headed, bigots and Trump supporters – but I suppose that is possible with any definition).
And this question is sitting on my mind.
Can you have cultural competencies while being culturally ignorant/oblivious?
For those who are bored – simply, I believe yes, now skip this long winded explanation (also, if you’re bored, take this time to go make a cuppa tea or take a nap).
For those equally intrigued to pull this apart, bear with me.
Ignorance refers to lacking knowledge or concern, while obliviousness is the lack of awareness. So – similar, but different. The reason I refer back to this is so we can really contextualise the origins of this question. For example, if Jon Doe has played our 90s video game of Cultural Competencies, and has “the ability to integrate cultural awareness with the understanding and respect of cultural diversity“, but has and/or expresses (important distinction) disregard or disrespect to something of/relating to culture/cultural importance/cultural difference/etc – this is still (whether intentional or not) an oopsie, a doodoo, a steamy pile of poopie, & it is still discrimination.
BUT D O N ‘ T P A N I C !
All Jon needs to do is “live and learn” – cliché, but true (& cliché for a reason, right?). Jon has the opportunity to implement a tool from our video game Shop into a REAL LIFE situation! How exciting. Jon can now use the crowd-favourite, accidentally discriminating and deciding whether to apologise, and (hopefully) followed closely by ‘learning from mistakes’ (not to be mistaken for ‘makes mistake again due to arrogance’ or ‘oops i did it again, sorry, i’m still learning’). So although Jon’s intentions may not have been explicitly brutish, he has the opportunity to learn, to add to his kete (basket) of Cultural Competencies and minimise that particular cultural ignorance/obliviousness.
Welcome back to those who skipped ahead – hope you enjoyed your cuppa/nap.
I previously stated that I would come back to the quote from the Medical Council of New Zealand that I stated had “the tinge of blatant ignorance in assuming it is only for “when working with…people of different cultural backgrounds” – so I’ve come back to this kinda. So what if Jon Doe is (insert culture choice here) and is not informed/as informed or is differently informed to another person/s of the same culture? That doesn’t necessarily mean that he is wrong, or intentionally disrespecting, but it does mean that Jon’s cultural awareness or competencies is different – hence cultural diversity. Even within the same culture, there is cultural diversity. For example, I am Māori, and my cultural practices and competencies are not the same as all other Māori people, perhaps similar and perhaps completely different. I’m also a member of the rainbow community, but my experiences and understandings are in no way universal. It doesn’t mean I go back to Level 4 and 5, but it also doesn’t mean that I disregard or disrespect differences (nor do they of me or mine). That is the epitome of cultural competency – R E S P E C T I N G D I V E R S I T Y
– Cultural Awareness and Cultural Competency are two different things
– 90s video games were far superior to those of today
– The most fitted (& prospective Collins Dictionary) definition of Cultural Competency would be “Cultural competence is the ability to integrate cultural awareness with the understanding and unconditional respect of cultural diversity”.
– You can have Cultural Competency while still having cultural obliviousness (we can’t know everything about everything) and that’s okay!
– No matter how hard any of us try, like Jon, we will still make mistakes – it’s about how we conduct ourselves afterwards (apologise) that counts.
– You (nor I or anyone) will NEVER be Culturally Competent (and that’s okay!)
– The epitome of cultural competency is respecting diversity
– If we all treated each other with individual unquestionably valid as valuably human, the world might be a little less sh!te.