I’m Not You and You’re Not Me :: A Lesson in Cultural Competence

In my adult years, I have found it difficult to understand how people handle differing opinions. Maybe it is because I took a debate class in college. Maybe it is because I am a minority, and I have had to live in a world where most people are different from me. It could honestly just be a matter of upbringing. I’m really not sure what it is that makes me long for people to learn how to communicate about their differences. What I do know is seeking to understand and educating people with different views seems to be a much more effective way to have unity, far more so than the highly opinionated tongue-lashings we see on social media (I have been guilty of this too).

I have recently tried to look at views on sensitive topics objectively before responding or forming opinions. What I have found interesting is how people can actually assume that just because they don’t experience something or see it, that it doesn’t exist. For example, my sister-in-law (who is white) who is married to my brother (who is black) recently posted that she and my brother receive looks of disgust and horrible comments about their interracial marriage (what year is it again?). Someone commented, “That just isn’t true. I never see that.” The person continued on to support the view that my sister-in-law had to be wrong. This person is not in an interracial relationship nor are they black. I find it baffling that people really think this way! We should not speak to a person’s experience (so expertly) when we are ignorant to those circumstances all together. 

This ranges from simple things like family size to complex things like race relations. I know it bugs me when people who have one child try to correct or educate me on how I should feel about parenting three children. Take it from someone who knows, it’s different (and the mommas said Amen).  

The truth is what is common sense to one person isn’t always common to another. People are products of their experiences and so are their thought processes. For example, unless you’ve grown up black in a very white America, you are probably not an expert on the topic. Just as if you are not the mom of a special needs child you would probably find it difficult to imagine their struggles and triumphs. 

These things seem so simple, yet I see and have been guilty of crossing this line many times. I am sure that there is no quick fix to this issue, but I am hopeful that we will continue to try. We will try to do what we teach our children to do: listen before we speak, be kind to others, accept people’s differences. I hope I am setting an example that, even in frustration, always attempt to educate and not retaliate. Inform  people on your experiences and be ready to hear and understand theirs. I hope the legacy of thought I pass on to my kids is that a different opinion doesn’t necessarily mean a wrong one. 

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