Cultural Competence

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Assessing one’s position on the cultural competence continuum is a task of ironic proportions. Because it is a fluid process, it is difficult to precisely place one’s self on a continuum that is not quite linear. It seems that as soon as one feels that they are becoming competent and embodying the characteristics of one who completely respects and accepts another culture, there is yet another dimension of this competence that requires assessment and adaptation. For the time being and that being said, I would probably feel most confident by placing myself on the cultural pre-competence (but closely approaching competence) level of awareness.

The movement towards learning and understanding more about other cultures is fluid as well. Cultures are constantly shifting, with new roles and norms being established as well as abolished. Therefore, our position on this continuum is always shifting. In addition, as we reach a new level of understanding and practical application, we will find that, upon assessment, these practices may need to be re-evaluated to reach the next level of understanding and appreciation. It is possible that the continuum would be better thought of as a stair step rather than a linear concept.

While working in various programs at a local health department, it is evident which programs are more “graduated” on the continuum in addition to the agency as a whole. While it is a nice idea to think that because I believe in equality and have friends “of color”, I am therefore culturally competent, this concept cannot be so simplified. It takes a concerted effort of purposefully assessing and seeking guidance from “experts” to move along this range. In one of the programs I work in, we regularly addresses issues of culture and how we have been challenged either by ignorance (others or our own) or opportunities of education. This is often times challenging as well as humbling, but is rewarding in assessing our level of awareness...
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