culture is the lens with which we evaluate everything around us

December 18, 2012  |  Dr. Lisa D. Belfield

What language bởi you speak? What is your religion? What holidays bởi you celebrate? What is your racial identification? What is your ethnic identity? What is your culture?

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Culture is that which shapes us; it shapes our identity and influences our behavior. Culture is our “way of being,” more specifically, it refers to lớn the shared language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and material objects that are passed down from one generation to lớn the next.1

According to lớn the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2009 population in America was:

  • 80% White
  • 16% Hispanic or Latino origin (may be of any race)
  • 13% African American
  •  5% Asian
  •  1% American Indian/Alaskan Native
  •  0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander2

Each race encompasses a multitude of different ethnic groups. An ethnic group refers to lớn people who are closely related to lớn each other through characteristics such as culture, language, and religion.3 There are many ethnic groups in the United States, due in large part to lớn its immigrant population; each of these groups contributes to lớn America’s cultural heritage. From African Americans to lớn Russian Americans, the United States is one of the most diverse nations in terms of culture.

What does it mean to lớn be “culturally diverse”?

The term “culturally diverse” is often used interchangeably with the concept of “multiculturalism.” Multiculturalism is defined as:

“…a system of beliefs and behaviors that recognizes and respects the presence of all diverse groups in an organization or society, acknowledges and values their socio-cultural differences, and encourages and enables their continued contribution within an inclusive cultural context which empowers all within the organization or society.4

Sociologist Dr. Caleb Rosado, who specializes in diversity and multiculturalism, described seven important actions involved in the definition of multiculturalism:5

  • recognition of the abundant diversity of cultures;
  • respect for the differences;
  • acknowledging the validity of different cultural expressions and contributions;
  • valuing what other cultures offer;
  • encouraging the contribution of diverse groups;
  • empowering people to lớn strengthen themselves and others to lớn achieve their maximum potential by being critical of their own biases; and
  • celebrating rather than vãn just tolerating the differences in order to lớn bring about unity through diversity.

Why is cultural diversity a “good thing”?

Culture is the lens with which we evaluate everything around us; we evaluate what is proper or improper, normal or abnormal, through our culture. If we are immersed in a culture that is unlike our own we may experience culture shock and become disoriented when we come into liên hệ with a fundamentally different culture. People naturally use their own culture as the standard to lớn judge other cultures; however, passing judgment could reach a level where people begin to lớn discriminate against others whose “ways of being” are different than vãn their own—essentially, we tend to lớn fear that which we bởi not understand.

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Cultural diversity is important because our country, workplaces, and schools increasingly consist of various cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. We can learn from one another, but first we must have a level of understanding about each other in order to lớn facilitate collaboration and cooperation. Learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within the world in which we live, and helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups.

In addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own, so sánh that as we interact with others we can build bridges to lớn trust, respect, and understanding across cultures. Furthermore, this diversity makes our country a more interesting place to lớn live, as people from diverse cultures contribute language skills, new ways of thinking, new knowledge, and different experiences.

How can you tư vấn cultural diversity?

  • Increase your level of understanding about other cultures by interacting with people outside of your own culture—meaningful relationships may never develop simply due to lớn a lack of understanding.
  • Avoid imposing values on others that may conflict or be inconsistent with cultures other than vãn your own.
  • When interacting with others who may not be proficient in English, recognize that their limitations in English proficiency in no way reflects their level of intellectual functioning.
  • Recognize and understand that concepts within the helping profession, such as family, gender roles, spirituality, and emotional well-being, vary significantly among cultures and influence behavior.
  • Within the workplace, educational setting, and/or clinical setting, advocate for the use of materials that are representative of the various cultural groups within the local community and the society in general.
  • Intervene in an appropriate manner when you observe others engaging in behaviors that show cultural insensitivity, bias, or prejudice.
  • Be proactive in listening, accepting, and welcoming people and ideas that are different from your own.6

Cultural diversity supports the idea that every person can make a unique and positive contribution to lớn the larger society because of, rather than vãn in spite of, their differences. Imagine a place where diversity is recognized and respected; various cultural ideas are acknowledged and valued; contributions from all groups are encouraged; people are empowered to lớn achieve their full potential; and differences are celebrated.

“Diversity is the one true thing we have in common. 
Celebrate it every day.”

About the Author

Dr. Lisa D. Belfield

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Dr. Lisa D. Belfield is an adjunct professor in the Purdue Global Human Services Department. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Mansfield University, a master’s degree in social relations from Lehigh University, and a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Wilmington University. In addition to lớn teaching, she works as a methodologist and nội dung expert on doctoral study committees, and is an education research consultant for LeadingEd Consultant Network. She has worked at organizations and institutions in positions which focused on behavior modification and therapeutic tư vấn, social welfare, college admissions, and education research.

Dr. Belfield’s current research interests include: self-efficacy; the mentor-mentee relationship in higher education; and the impact of multiple social identities (race, gender, social class) on personal, social, academic, and career functioning.

Dr. Belfield continues to lớn have valuable experiences, lifelong mentors, and friendships that have made her personal and professional life quite meaningful and fulfilling. As a professor, she enjoys engaging students in taking a critical look at the world in which they thrive, and encourages them to lớn see themselves as lifelong learners in an intellectual arena. One of her favorite quotes is, “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.”  She encourages everyone to lớn choose the option to lớn grow.