Competency 9 – Multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills

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9) Multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills

Graduates of the CSSA Program should be able to demonstrate multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their…

Awareness of their own cultural heritage and how it affects their worldviews, values, and assumptions
When I started the CSSA program I was an advocate and ally for people with disabilities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. I was not very aware of my cultural heritage and how that lack of self-awareness shaped my worldview, values, and assumptions.

I read Janet Helms’ White Identity Model in the CSSA Student Development Theory I class. This really challenged my self-awareness. I had never thought of myself as being racist before. I went through a process of self-reflection that expanded my self-awareness. I went to a talk by Tim Wise and I learned that oppression harms the oppressor.

Self-awareness was the first step of my multicultural competency journey. To increase my self-awareness I took several course on diverse issues including: Feminist Philosophies, Cross Cultural Counseling, CSSA Multicultural Competency in Student Affairs, Disability Issues Reading and Conference, Racial Patterns of Urbanization, and the Ethics of Diversity. Each one of these classes led me to greater understanding of myself, my culture, and my white identity.

This blog has even led to my personal development of this competency. Visitors to the site have engaged me in discussions which furthered my self-awareness. I learned about the problem with privilege.

I was able to take my newfound self-awareness and reflect on how my views and values affected the students that I worked with during my student conduct practicum.

Knowledge of systems of privilege and oppression as well as knowledge of groups and individuals who are different from self
I was very frustrated when I first learned about white privilege. White guilt was not something that I was prepared to experience. Fortunately, I had a core group of peers who were able to support me through my journey.

I think the primary sources of my learning with regards to privilege and oppression have come from three place places. Suzanne Pharr’s work on the common elements of oppressions, Marilyn Frye’s Birdcage model of oppression, and Janet Helms book, A Race is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being A White Person.

bell hooks’ book, Teaching Community gave me additional insight into my own multicultural competency. Janet Helms pushed me towards an understanding of white privilege and white guilt. bell hooks gave me information, tools, words, feelings, etc that I could use in my personal and professional spheres.

I was able to participate in several English Language Institute (ELI) orientation programs. This was an enjoyable experience as I was able to work with students from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Columbia. I worked as a conversant partner with an ELI student over the summer of 2005 to increase the student’s English skills as well as my own learning about international students. I was always cognizant of the “fish bowl” aspects of this type of work. I do not think that it is appropriate to swoop in and try to learn about a population and then say that I am competent. It is a process in which I have messed up and said things which were wrong. I am still learning. It is a journey. There isn’t a hierarchy of awareness.

To learn more about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community I have participated in several safe space trainings. I try to go to one training per year. During the spring term (2006) I was able to attend an “Advanced Safe Space” training. It was useful as both a refresher to my own awareness and for my LGBT knowledge.

Additionally, the courses that I have taken have provided me with tremendous knowledge about oppressed groups. I was able to further my multicultural competency with each course that I took. I am currently taking a Racial Patterns of Urbanization class which has challenged me to relate the history of racism in medieval Europe to a present day student affairs context.

I learned about patriarchy and sexism in my Feminist Philosophies class. I never knew how I had participated in the patriarchal oppression before this course. I was able to think critically about gender oppression in an occupational context as well as radical libertarian feminism and pornography.

In my reading and conference course on Disability Issues, I learned about how accessibility is extremely important in student affairs enrollment management technologies.

Skills to challenge and support individuals in a manner that maximizes multiculturally sensitive and develop appropriate interventions, rooted in multicultural awareness and knowledge, that influence the organizational performance
I think the skills necessary to “challenge and support individuals in a manner that maximizes multiculturally sensitive interventions” have been present throughout my learning with this competency. Each course has given me insights which I have used to improve my multicultural competency. I think that Dr. Ingram’s teachings in Fundamentals of Counseling on the importance of listening have proven to be invaluable. As a heterosexual white man who is temporarily able-bodied, I feel that one of the most important skills that I have is my ability to listen. People in the dominant paradigm need to listen and focus on restoring the dignity of persons who have been oppressed. I think it’s important to take my skills and to relate them in any position that I am in. I am an anti-racist feminist ally. One of my skills is that I can tell my story to other people in the dominant paradigm. I think that as student affairs practitioners it is crucial that people in oppressor groups work to end oppression.

Ability to identify areas of personal growth and develop a lifelong commitment to improving one’s own multicultural competence
There have been several ways in which I have worked towards improving my multicultural competence. I participated in Team Liberation training and learned how to facilitate discussions on racism, homophobia, and sexism. I continue to read and reflect and to challenge my own views. I have been very lucky in that I have had a great group of colleagues/friends who have let me ask questions and who have pushed me to continue my journey.

Examples of my reflections include:

Affirmative action

Crash reflections

Questions about students and self-segregation

W3C web accessibility guidelines

Native American imagery and mascots

Stanford University and childbirth policies

NASPA and the “Game of Oppression”

Ward Churchill and Native American imagery

*Whenever I have a bad social justice day, I read this post:
The hundredth monkey