Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Cultural Humility

Cultural humility is an ongoing, lifelong process of self-reflection and learning about how social identity and experiences are shaped by systems of oppression, power, and privilege.
Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership, which can reflect physical, social, and mental characteristics (e.g., race, gender, class, ability, sexuality, religion), and can be self-claimed or ascribed by others. Everyone has multiple social identities.

Cultural humility is not cultural competence.

  1. Cultural Competence:
    • Definition: Cultural competence refers to the ability of an individual or organization to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. It encompasses being aware of one’s own world view, developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences, gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views, and developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.
    • Focus: This approach often focuses on acquiring a set of skills or knowledge about different cultures and applying this knowledge to improve interactions.
    • Critique: Critics of cultural competence argue that it can sometimes lead to a checklist approach, where individuals believe they are competent if they know certain facts about a culture. This can potentially lead to stereotyping and oversimplification of complex cultural dynamics.
  2. Cultural Humility:
    • Definition: Cultural humility is a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of their own beliefs and cultural identities. This concept emerged as a response to the limitations of cultural competence, emphasizing lifelong learning and critical self-reflection.
    • Focus: The focus is on understanding and respecting different cultures without assuming full understanding, acknowledging personal and systemic biases, and maintaining an attitude of openness and willingness to learn.
    • Application: Cultural humility involves recognizing the dynamic and fluid nature of culture and that cultural identities are complex and can intersect with other facets of identity. It’s less about mastering knowledge about other cultures and more about developing a respectful attitude and relationship.

We focus on cultural humility because it encourages ongoing learning and adaptation in multicultural environments.

Recognizing power, privilege, and oppression

Power: the ability to influence an outcome in a desired direction, including outcomes that relate to another person’s actions, feelings, or thoughts (e.g., social or relational power)
Privilege: unearned power and benefits, based on identities, status, or background variables.
Oppression: the harmful experiences related to having identities, status, or backgrounds that have been constructed (currently or historically with current legacies) as less deserving, less worthy, or less human

It’s important to recognize that thinking about this may feel a little uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve never been asked to think about the power and privileges you may hold or the systems of oppression you may benefit from. The goal here is not to make anyone feel bad or pin the blame on individuals. It’s to get us all thinking about how social identities are shaped by these issues and when we work with youth, especially marginalized youth, these things are always present and in the room.

Engaging in self-reflection

Engaging in this critical self-reflection may bring up uncomfortable feelings,such as anger, shame, guilt, fear, or sadness.

These feelings are a normal part of this self-reflection process around social identity, oppression, and privilege, and it is important that you explore these feelings further and sit with them.

We suggest that you engage in this self-reflection before, during, and after your mentoring relationship takes place. By engaging in this critical self-reflection, you will be ready and more open to learning about your mentee’s experiences.

Why is it important to practice with cultural humility?

Video transcript
  1. Acknowledging and Valuing Diversity: Cultural humility allows mentors to recognize and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of their mentees. This recognition is vital in creating an environment where mentees feel valued, understood, and respected.
  2. Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Relationships: By practicing cultural humility, mentors are better equipped to create relationships based on equality and mutual respect. It helps avoid power imbalances that might arise from cultural misunderstandings or biases.
  3. Encouraging Continuous Learning and Adaptability: Cultural humility is a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique. For mentors, this means continually learning about different cultures, identities, and experiences, which enables them to be more effective and adaptable in their mentoring roles.
  4. Avoiding Stereotypes and Generalizations: Cultural humility helps mentors avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes or limited cultural knowledge. This approach encourages them to understand each mentee as an individual, rather than through the lens of broad cultural generalizations.
  5. Building Trust and Open Communication: Mentors who demonstrate cultural humility are more likely to build trust with their mentees. This trust fosters open communication, where mentees feel safe to share their thoughts, challenges, and cultural perspectives.
  6. Enhancing Personal Growth and Self-Reflection: Cultural humility encourages mentors to examine their own cultural biases and preconceptions. This self-reflection is not only essential for personal growth but also for becoming more empathetic and effective mentors.
  7. Improving Problem-Solving and Conflict Resolution: A mentor with cultural humility can better navigate cultural misunderstandings and conflicts. They are more likely to approach such situations with a mindset geared towards learning and understanding, rather than defending preconceived notions.
  8. Modeling Positive Behavior: Mentors practicing cultural humility set an example for their mentees, demonstrating the importance of respecting cultural differences and embracing lifelong learning. This can have a profound impact on the personal and professional development of the mentee.
  9. : In our globalized world, the ability to interact effectively across cultures is increasingly important. Mentors who practice cultural humility are better prepared to guide mentees in diverse and multicultural environments.