I'm working on a project with a group of people who have all done their 'cultural sensitivity training' to work with the local First Nations groups.
First, some definitions, from this site:
Cultural Knowledge: Familiarization with selected cultural characteristics, history, values, belief systems, and behaviors of the members of another ethnic group (Adams, 1995).
Cultural Awareness: Developing sensitivity and understanding of another ethnic group. This usually involves internal changes in terms of attitudes and values. Awareness and sensitivity also refer to the qualities of openness and flexibility that people develop in relation to others. Cultural awareness must be supplemented with cultural knowledge(Adams, 1995).
Cultural Sensitivity: Knowing that cultural differences as well as similarities exist, without assigning values, i.e., better or worse, right or wrong, to those cultural differences (National Maternal and Child Health Center on Cultural Competency, 1997).
But does any of this mean that people should be treated with kid gloves? I'm a little annoyed at the way statements are couched...it's hard to re-create, so I won't try, but this pussy-footing around feelings, this skittish 'oh-we-mustn't offend' attitude gets to me.
When does treating someone with the respect due them become bending over backwards to ensure no slight can even be imagined?
I'm not expressing myself clearly here...but I hear it all the time in the USA -- the We must help Them attitude that will just keep the different 'groups' separated.
And now I'm hearing it in emails like this:
...The underlying issue is simply being sensitive to cultural issues, which is what the discussions we had at our last meeting were about. The “I treat everyone the same approach” is definitely not appropriate with First Nations communities. There are very strong historical and cultural reasons for this. I have been to cultural sensitivity workshops and have learnt a lot from them, very helpful.
As far as I know, I don't discriminate, nor do I have any (undiscovered) prejudices [just don't talk to me about jocks or beauty queens!]. And I do try treat everyone with the same respect -- my question is, why does anyone have to be treated with kid gloves?
Yes, one should be aware of cultural differences.
Yes, one should strive to act in a manner appropriate to the culture you are dealing with. Never touch a Thai child on the head. Don't blow your nose at the table in Korea. Don't mention the war to Germans (sorry, couldn't resist!). And all of the really subtle things that one should try to pick up, or yes, take a class to learn.
But we are not dealing with Star Trek first encounters with alien races...we're talking about people who we share a planet with. Why would it be "definitely not appropriate"?
Who wants to be put on a pedestal and be oh-so-carefully protected? As a woman, I don't. At what point does cultural sensitivity go too far?
Talk to me people!