Cultural Category(ies?)

With the political conflicts currently saturating the media, one of the opinions that continue to resonate is that the nation is divided. I spoke about this to one of my close friends, and he shared about the history of the states historically being separate entities. Originally, the  country was shared as “The United States of America ARE” then eventually was shared as “The United States of America IS.”

I love the USA for its cultural diversity.  Do I say that  our “culture is beautiful,” or do say our “cultures are beautiful?”

Part of me feels that unity and community is beneificial – one mesh pot of cultures uniting together. Although, I wonder how much this may take away from the specific identity that cultural identities may prefer?

I remember in high school, I was grouped into the “Asian-Americans” culture category. My Filipino friends were also a part of this cultural group, although they eventually preferred “Pacific-Islander-Americans.” Gradually, the school adopted the “Asian-And-Pacific-Islander-Americans.” Everyone seemed satisfied with this new cultural category at the time, although did this contribute to the “Asian-People-And-Other” group, as if already having separation?

I truly value the several trainings I received regarding cultural sensitivity. I feel that there is never an ending to learning more about how to enhance and fine-tune such knowledge. When I am providing one-on-one support to students, I wonder how much there is a preference for me to ask about their identified gender, partner orientation, religious beliefs, and other cultural identities that can assist with better understanding their ways of life. Then again, how much would they rather me not be “so sensitive” to cultural sensitivity? Should I always use the word partner rather than boyfriend/girlfriend? Should I always ask about their religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and ethnicity (or ethnicities)? I’m sure there are also people who identify with more than one religion and would value me asking rather than assuming? Then again, perhaps people rather prefer me to not ask about such details to where it cause annoyance.

My current preference is to ask the basics about each student’s cultural identities and welcome the opportunity for more to be shared if the student desires. If relevant to the session, I could ask more about the student’s culture. This can enhance therapeutic alliance. I found this to be rather effective, where I follow the student’s lead as to how much cultural information would like to be shared in session.

What do other FC community members feel about the categories we currently have? When we take demographic data, are there enough cultural categories for each section? Some educational entities still have gender binaries (male OR female) and even basic ethnic cultural categories (e.g., Asian-Americans). How might this affect each student’s identity on campus and how they see other students?

The movement toward enhanced cultural sensitivity is using a fill-in section rather than a check-box section for students to complete about certain identities. I am for this, and I also am curious how this may add to numerous categories that may complicate demographic data. Has this been an issue for anyone in their department?

I continue to learn more and more about the ways to enhance cultural sensitivity when supporting students. Yesterday, I attended “The Banned 7” forum where three FC Muslim students shared about their experience with immigration to the USA and the current challenges experienced due to the recent ban on particular Muslim immigrants. I noticed that the audience was extremely diverse – various ethnicities, genders, ages, and citizenship stati. Beyond the check-box cultures, this event united one community – FC community.

I am proud to be a part of FC, regardless of which cultural category(ies) I may represent. Not only do diverse students learn from my wellness support, I learn from them as well. They have taught me that the future generations will continue to be diverse, and that various cultures may unite as one when discrimination upon any culture/subculture arises.

This week has been full of learning and understanding beyond the textbooks…

As Albert Einstein said: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

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