Multiculturalism: Culture and Social Workers

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Multiculturalism refers to a society that recognizes values and promotes the contributions of the diverse cultural heritages and ancestries of its entire people. A multicultural society is one that continually evolves and is strengthened by the contribution of its diverse peoples. It dictates that SSW has to be culturally competence in order to truly meet the needs of diverse and growing communities. Cultural competence refers to the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each. Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or agency or among professionals and enable the system, agency, or professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. In discussing cultural competence this paper will prove that without awareness of one’s one cultural worldview, positive attitudes towards cultural differences and knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews many people in the greater multicultural society will be underserved and unfairly treated.

The goal of multiculturalism is to increase knowledge, awareness, empathy and respect for different cultures. One of the challenges many individuals experience in recognizing and valuing other cultures is that they do not have an awareness of themselves as cultural beings. SSW needs to be culturally aware in order to increase their effectiveness in their jobs and to reduce conflicts, misunderstandings and most importantly, stress. Awareness requires that SSW examine their myths, attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes and worldview. In Canada, we live in a multicultural and multilingual society. We see and interact with Asians, African Americans, Africans, Native Americans and people of many other nationalities. As a result, we must create an environment where we can work, serve, educate and communicate with culturally diverse people. We can do this by increasing our knowledge, understanding and respect for other cultures - by noting our differences and learning how to work with one another. This can be done through awareness training, which is an effective method of promoting multicultural understanding. SSW can begin to increase their awareness by learning about the verbal and nonverbal communication styles of different cultures. The verbal communication of a culture may be direct (assertive) or indirect (non assertive), boisterous or silent. Another difference can be found In African cultures, where dialogue may sound more intimidating than it actually is. This may be attributed to the language difference. The fact that English is a second language in this culture suggests that SSW need to be aware of the tone and inflections used in a culture's language. SSW should be aware that client from African American, Asian or African cultures who exhibit these verbal styles are simply reflecting the patterns of their culture not reacting to the SSW personally. Therefore, the perception that the client's loud, boisterous or intimidating communication style is disrespectful may be simply a matter of cultural differences. SSW should also be aware of what is valued in a culture. In some cultures, religion is highly regarded. For example, in African American cultures, there is a great deal of respect for religion and spirituality. With this in mind, the SSW may seek assistance from the client's minister, priest or spiritual leader when handling clients from these backgrounds. In addition, Cultural competence requires social workers to examine their own cultural backgrounds and identities to increase awareness of personal assumptions, values, and biases. The workers’ self-awareness of their own cultural identities is as fundamental...
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