In a time where cultural appropriation continues to be a hot topic, if you have been standing in the sidelines, it’s time to ask yourself what role you are playing in the larger conversation. The answer ought to be more on a personal and organizational level because the former feeds into the latter. While it has been happening to years, the changes now we are seeing is in the uproar and outrage that comes after something culturally insensitive sees the light of day.
On social media and in the news, we see people up in arms on issues, along with sympathizers keen to let others know their reaction is unwarranted. Opinions are welcomed in such forums, but it is vital that all parties understand the context in which the conversation is taking place. Otherwise, the back and forth is endless, resulting in a partial apology and another mishap in the horizon.
Cultural sensitivity speaks of the awareness that people ought to have about the similarities and differences in people’s culture objectively. That means that you have no personal feelings or opinions about another culture but know about them. The context is widespread and touches on almost all corners of the planet.
A family law Ontario professional wanting to start an affiliate firm in Los Angeles will need to have an extensive understanding of the culture before setting roots. Same applies with students in an exchange program. When you are put in a culture different from yours, recognize what makes matches or differs from yours and leave it at that. Sounds easy, right?
How capable are we of being culturally sensitive?
The correct answer is ‘No, not at all.’ The reason is we live in polarize times where it is often about them against us. It is particularly so for those in the majority group. Those in the minority don’t usually have much choice and for the most part end up assimilating, in some cases, for survival purposes. It is also people of these cultures that are branded with the most stereotypes, none of which do anything to promote cultural sensitivity.
On a personal level and when in an organization, we ought to challenge ourselves to be more aware and mindful of the various cultures that exist. While initially there might be some remnant opinion or feelings about the other culture, there are tricks to teach one to suspend these. The easiest is this, “did you choose the culture you were born in?” The answer is no, and continue the thought process until any inferior or superior remnants no longer exist.