Friday, October 7, 2016

Cultural Competence: A Crucial Skill to Have

Raquel Devariel

Culture. It is an easy concept, but why is it extremely difficult to understand?

As a Latin American student studying journalism, it always intrigues me to hear people talk about this and diversity. I like to see different perspectives that people with different backgrounds have. It may seem like we have many things in common, but once we take the time to explore diversity, we uncover much more than expected.

Being from another country, I’ve learned that our experiences and the things we’ve been exposed to definitely shape the way we see issues in society. When I first came to the to the states to attend Ohio University and become a journalist, I experienced what some would call cultural shock. It was difficult to adjust at times and understand the reasoning behind those who surrounded me. I found myself lost in a place where everything was new.

Finding at least a handful of Latinos that understand my background made everything better.

As Lilleana Cavanaugh, the Executive Director of Ohio Latino Affair Commission, explained in her interview at the 90-minute talk held on Wednesday, October 5 on Morton Hall, we Latinos want to find connections that link us to our cultural backgrounds. We find shelter in those that speak the same language as us, and we cling on to those ties.

Having great experiences has helped me understand different aspects of the American culture. However, sometimes I find myself in situations and scenarios where sensitive topics regarding my community are brought up. I get paralyzed and don’t know how to react.

However, as a journalist, I’ve learned to think objectively by putting aside those differences that set me apart for the crowd. It seems unreal, but the whole world does not share the same views with me. I try to understand the way people think and why sometimes different cultures get victimized.

I come to learn that it is important to carry values that will guide your decisions in the journalism world, but we must always have cultural competence.

Cavanaugh said, “cultural competence is the ability of us to be able to interact with people that are different than us.”

Others define cultural competence a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.

This concept forms part of the journalistic values that every reporter should have. It is when we understand this concept that we can avoid different stereotypes that might be used

“We have to understand that Latinos in Ohio are from different paths of life. Not all are undocumented,” says Cavanaugh.

This problem of lacking cultural competence is not only happening within the Spanish speaking communities. Other multi-cultural groups suffer from interactions with people that are lacking this value that is so crucial in order to have success.

It is for people that don’t understand this term that we have stories that cover the violent acts towards minorities and the LGBTQ+ community.

Cultural Competence Model
As advocates to society, it is our moral duty to report without stereotypes and give the news as it is. It may be difficult, but we must perform in this manner to achieve our purpose. Therefore, next time you see yourself in a situation where cultural traits are seen as the blame for the violence, ask yourself: How can I act and report with cultural competence?

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