Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cutural Competency and Lifelong Learning

After every workshop I teach, I leave with something. A book title, a website, a human story that really illustrates an important point.

And sometimes I leave with a correction, or a dressing down. Or an entirely new way of seeing something that I thought I had nailed down.

A few weeks ago, a workshop participant spoke with me during the morning break. She spoke positively of the way I was addressing some material that was particularly important for her clients, and she affirmed that she was glad she'd decided to attend the training. And then she shared a perspective with me that she thought would complement my own perspective. Something I might be missing. During the workshop I had said something I've frequently pointed out, something along the lines of "we tend to forget how toxic racism is, and the impact that prejudice has on our clients' mental health, because it's so ever-present and constant that we stop noticing it and considering it as a factor in clinical evaluation and treatment." Something like that.

And what this participant shared with me was that as I was making this comment, she was looking around and making contact with a few other attendees. And thinking to herself that she, and other people of color, do not in fact "forget" about the impact of bias and racism. Thinking in fact that "forgetting" this is a privilege that some of us cannot lay claim to. Wondering - to whom might the "we" in my comment refer?

I've shared this story with a few friends and colleagues and hope that this "ongoing cultural competency education" - this gift from a workshop participant to me - makes me an even better clinician and educator with people who are different from me in all the 57 ways that people can differ from each other.

What am I going to learn next?

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