Cultural Competence For Public Administrators

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Cultural Competence for Public Administrators

Cultural Competence for Public Administrators

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence refers to the set of attitudes, practices, and policies that enables a person or agency to work well with people from differing cultural groups. Other related terms that have been used are cultural sensitivity, transcultural skills, diversity competence, and multicultural expertise.

Until the early 1990s literature on cultural competence in interpersonal violence was virtually unknown, although there were a few limited studies on particular problems (e.g., rape, battering) among members of specific groups. The literature began to grow in the 1990s (Hersey & Blanchard, 1993), but many areas remain underexplored. There is a particular dearth of information on the effectiveness of cultural competency training and culturally competent approaches to interpersonal violence.

Discussions of cultural competence can be divided broadly into two groups. The first takes a cultural literacy approach. In this approach, information is provided about working with people from a specific culture on issues of interpersonal violence in general, or on a particular problem of interpersonal violence. Cultural literacy approaches emphasize learning about the history, values, and practices of members of particular cultural groups, so work can be adapted to them. While the cultural literacy approach is helpful, it can also be misleading since not everyone from a single culture behaves the same way or shares the same values, and the culture itself evolves and changes every day.

The second broad group of discussions takes a multicultural approach. The multicultural approach describes ways to be as fair, supportive, and effective as possible to individuals and families from a variety of cultural groups. Rather than offering information or guidelines about people from a specific group, the multicultural approach takes the position that there are ways to address interpersonal violence that “fit” a variety of cultures. Multicultural approaches emphasize openness, flexibility, and a respectful curiosity toward the people with whom one is working.

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers to the intentional or unintentional manipulation or toleration of institutional policies that unfairly restrict the opportunities of particular groups of people (Jones, 1997). Unlike individual racism, which involves the adverse behavior of one person or a small group of people, institutional racism comprises the adverse behavior of organizations or institutions. Aside from law school admissions, institutional racism appears in mental health care, the judicial system, business, politics, education, the media, and medicine. Given the insidiousness of institutional racism, individuals must understand how it permeates ...
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