What language do you speak? What is your religion? What holidays do you celebrate? What is your racial identification? What is your ethnic identity? What is your culture? Why is cultural diversity so important?
Our culture is what shapes us, it shapes our behaviour and our identity. Culture is our way of living, it refers to the shared language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviours, and material objects that are passed down from one generation to the next.
What does “culturally diverse” mean?
The term “culturally diverse” is often used interchangeably with the concept of “multiculturalism.”
Sociologist Dr. Caleb Rosado, who specializes in diversity and multiculturalism, described seven important actions involved in the definition of multiculturalism:
- recognition of the abundant diversity of cultures;
- respect for the differences;
- acknowledging the validity of different cultural expressions and contributions;
- valuing what other cultures offer;
- encouraging the contribution of diverse groups;
- empowering people to strengthen themselves and others to achieve their maximum potential by being critical of their own biases; and
- celebrating rather than just tolerating the differences in order to bring about unity through diversity.
Why is cultural diversity a “good thing”?
Cultural diversity is important because our country, workplaces, and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. We can learn from one another, but first, we must have a level of understanding about each other. Learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within the world in which we live. It helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups.
In addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own. So that as we interact with others we can build bridges to trust, respect, and understanding across cultures. Furthermore, this diversity makes our country a more interesting place to live in. As people from diverse cultures contribute language skills, new ways of thinking, new knowledge, and different experiences.
How can you support cultural diversity?
- Increase your level of understanding about other cultures by interacting with people outside of your own culture
- Avoid imposing values on others that may conflict or be inconsistent with other cultures
- When interacting with others who may not be proficient in English, recognize that their limitations in English proficiency in no way reflects their level of intellectual functioning
- Recognize and understand that concepts within the helping profession, such as family, gender roles, spirituality, and emotional well-being, vary significantly among cultures and influence behaviour
- Within the workplace, educational setting, and/or clinical setting, advocate for the use of materials that are representative of the various cultural groups within the local community and the society in general
- Intervene in an appropriate manner when you observe others engaging in behaviours that show cultural insensitivity, bias, or prejudice
- Be proactive in listening, accepting, and welcoming people and ideas that are different from your own
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