Introduction to Cultural Diversity

Introduction to Cultural
Refujio Rodriguez
Cultural Diversity: A Primer for the Human Services by Jerry V. Diller (2010, Paperback)
Why Culturally Different Clients
Underutilize Mainstream Agencies
Mainstream agencies may inadvertently make
clients feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
Clients may not trust the motives or abilities of
providers because of past experiences with the
Clients may believe that they will not be
understood culturally or will not have their needs
met in a helpful manner.
Clients may be unfamiliar with the kinds of
services available or come from a culture in
which services are conceived very differently.
What is Discrimination in This Context?
of one’s own prejudices and how they may inadvertently
be communicated to clients;
of differences in cultural style, interactive patterns, and
values, and how these can lead to miscommunication;
that many of the theories taught during training are
of differences in cultural definitions of health and illness
as well as the existence of traditional cultural healing
methods; and
of the necessity of matching treatment modalities to the
cultural style of clients or of adapting practices to the
specific cultural needs of clients.
Both clients and providers come to their
interactions with baggage about the ethnicity of
the other.
– Clients may feel mistrust, anger, fear, suspicion, or
– Providers may respond with feelings of superiority,
condescension, discomfort, fear, or inadequacy.
These reactions may be subtle or covered up,
but they will be there.
Providers must not take them personally.
A good strategy is to acknowledge them and
raise them as a topic for discussion.
Usefulness of Cultural Competence
With clients from different cultures
With clients who are different in other ways
(besides culturally):
Gender/gender identity
Social and political leanings
Terminology Used in the Text
Cultural diversity—the array of differences that exist among
groups of people with definable and unique cultural backgrounds.
Culturally different—used synonymously with cross-cultural or
ethnic and implies that the client comes from a different culture
than the provider; suggests no value judgment about the
superiority of one culture over another.
Culture—a lens through which life is perceived; each culture,
through language, values, personality and family patterns,
worldview, sense of time and space, and rules of interaction,
generates a phenomenologically different experience of reality.
Thus, the same situation or event may be experienced and
interpreted very differently depending on the cultural background
of individual clients and providers.
Terminology, continued
Ethnic group— any distinguishable people whose
members share a common culture and see themselves
as separate and different from the majority culture; their
observable differences frequently serve as a basis for
discrimination and unequal treatment within the larger
Racial group or race—a biologically isolated, population
with a distinctive genetic heritage. This biological
concept does not mean the same thing as the concept
commonly used to define group differences; that concept
of race is scientifically invalid.
People of Color or Clients of Color—terms used to refer
to non-White clients.
Terminology, concluded
Communities of Color— collectives of ethnic groups who
share certain physical, cultural, language, or geographic
origins/features; identified by the term or referent
preferred by members of that group (e.g., African
Americans, Latinos/as, Native Americans, and Asian
Whites—members of the dominant or majority group
members whose origins are Northern European.
White ethnics—dominant or majority group members
whose origins are not Northern European.
Examples of Problems, cont.
Many Latinos/as and Asians, as immigrants, face
ongoing dilemmas regarding assimilation,
bilingualism, and the destruction of traditional
family roles and values.
Native Americans, as victims of colonization in
their own land, have faced destruction of traditional
ways and identities.
African Americans, as victims of slavery, have
faced similar issues.
White ethnics find themselves suspended between
two worlds—culturally different yet perceived, and
often wishing to be perceived, as part of the
Assessing Clients’ Demographic
and Cultural Situations
Ask about:
Place of birth
Number of generations in America
Family roles and structure
Language spoken at home
English fluency
Economic situation and status
Amount and type of education
Amount of acculturation
Traditions still practiced at home
Familiarity and comfort with Northern European lifestyle
Religious affiliation
Community and friendship patterns
Examples of Cultural Racism