The term “cultural competency” has become controversial within the racial equity field, because it has become understood as helping people (often white, middle/upper class people) provide effective services to other people (clients, new immigrants and refugees) who are from different racial/ethnic and class groups than the service provider. Some of the work done under the guise of cultural competency came to be associated with white dominant culture thinking.
Paul Kivel, who uses the term multicultural competency, notes that this is a lifelong process that “… should provide you with skills for promoting the leadership of those from the cultures in which you are competent. As we become more multiculturally competent, we increase our effectiveness in working with diverse populations, but we cannot substitute for people who are experts in their own culture.”
Beyond Diversity: The Role of Cultural Competence in an Effective Michigan Public Defense System
Cultural Competence and Public Defense, Michigan Workgroup
CSSP Staff Core Competencies for Working to Achieve Racial Equity
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Developing Culturally Responsive Approaches to Serving Diverse Populations: A Resource Guide for Community-Based Organizations
Michael López, Kerry Hofer, Erin Bumgarner, and Djaniele Taylor
National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families
National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities
Wendy Nolan et al.
On the Road to Social Transformation: Utilizing Cultural and Community Strengths to End Domestic Violence
Elsa A. Rios
National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence
Cultural Competence and Social Justice: A Partnership For Change
Jonathan Stacks, Andrés Meléndez Salgado, and Sara Holmes
Youth Empowerment Initiatives
Cultural Competency for Social Justice
The Role of Self-Assessment in Achieving Cultural Competence
National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC)
“Any attempt to change a situation either politically or otherwise should be based on the transformation of our own consciousness… You have to understand yourself to some extent, and to the people in the communities, to their deepest desires, their suffering. That kind of deep looking will bring about more understanding of self and of the community… You learn to look not with individual eyes, but with the community eyes. Because the collective insight is always deeper than individual insight.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk
Reverse Racism – Aamer Rahman, Fear of a Brown Planet
Also in this section:
Addressing Trauma and Healing
Caucus and Affinity Groups
Hate Crimes Prevention and Response
Organizational Change Process
Training and Popular Education
Conflict Transformation and Restorative Justice
Policy and Legislative Change
Youth Activism and Intergenerational Work
Arts and Culture
Dialogue and Deliberation
An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression of ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity.
SOURCE: Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.
Caucusing (Affinity Groups)
A caucus is an intentionally created space for those who share an identity to convene for learning, support, and connections. Caucuses based on racial identity are often comprised, respectively, of people of color, white people, people who hold multiracial identities, or people who share specific racial or ethnic identities.
To advance racial equity, there is work for white people and people of color to do separately and together. Caucuses provide spaces for people to work within their own racial/ethnic groups. For white people, a caucus provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. A white caucus also puts the onus on white people to teach each other about these ideas, rather than placing a burden on people of color to teach them. For people of color, a caucus is a place to work with peers to address the impact of racism, to interrupt experiences of internalized racism, and to create a space for healing and working for individual and collective liberation. At times, people of color may also break into more specific race-based caucuses, sometimes based on experiences with a particular issue, for example police violence, immigration, or land rights. Groups that use caucuses in their organizational racial equity work, especially in workplaces and coalitions, generally meet separately and create a process to rejoin and work together collectively.
SOURCE: RacialEquityTools.org (ACT / Strategies / Caucus and Affinity Groups)
Related Resources: Caucus and Affinity Groups
Location: ACT / Strategies
Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is often used to measure implicit biases with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and other topics.
SOURCE: Cheryl Staats, State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University.
Related Resources: Implicit Bias
Location: ACT / Communicating
The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
SOURCE: Derald Wing Sue, PhD, “Microaggressions: More than Just Race” (Psychology Today, 17 November 2010).
Related Resources: Racism (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Interpersonal Racism”)
Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts
A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.
SOURCE: Paul Kivel, “Multicultural Competence” (2007).
Related Resources: Multicultural Competency
Location: ACT / Strategies
Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power overother individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing for progressive social change.
Power may also be understood as the ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs. All power is relational, and the different relationships either reinforce or disrupt one another. The importance of the concept of power to anti-racism is clear: racism cannot be understood without understanding that power is not only an individual relationship but a cultural one, and that power relationships are shifting constantly. Power can be used malignantly and intentionally, but need not be, and individuals within a culture may benefit from power of which they are unaware.
To restore to health or soundness; to repair or set right; to restore to spiritual wholeness.
SOURCE: Michael R. Wenger, Racial Equity Resource Guide (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2012).
Locations: ACT / Strategies and PLAN / Issues
Reconciliation involves three ideas. First, it recognizes that racism in America is both systemic and institutionalized, with far–reaching effects on both political engagement and economic opportunities for minorities. Second, reconciliation is engendered by empowering local communities through relationship-building and truth-telling. Lastly, justice is the essential component of the conciliatory process—justice that is best termed as restorative rather than retributive, while still maintaining its vital punitive character.
Related Resources: Racial Reconciliation
Location: ACT / Strategies
Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by a wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community. Restorative responses are meant to repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying reasons for the offense. Restorative Justice emphasizes individual and collective accountability. Crime and conflict generate opportunities to build community and increase grassroots power when restorative practices are employed.
SOURCE: The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), “Glossary.”
Related Resources: Conflict Transformation and Restorative Justice
Location: ACT / Strategies
White Supremacy Culture
White Supremacy Culture refers to the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. These standards may be seen as mainstream, dominant cultural practices; they have evolved from the United States’ history of white supremacy. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms – a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. But it operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what “normal” is – and likewise, what “professional,” “effective,” or even “good” is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, “at risk,” or “unsustainable.” White culture values some ways of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing – ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition – while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways. And it does this without ever having to explicitly say so...
An artificial, historically constructed culture which expresses, justifies, and binds together the United States white supremacy system. It is the glue that binds together white-controlled institutions into systems and white-controlled systems into the global white supremacy system.
1. Gita Gulati-Partee and Maggie Potapchuk, “Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity” (The Foundation Review vol. 6: issue 1, 2014).
2. Sharon Martinas and the Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, 4th revision (1995).
Related Resources: Organizational Change Process (see the first section: “Addressing White Dominant Culture”)
Location: ACT / Strategies