What does it mean to be culturally sensitive?

Understanding cultural sensitivity means to understand difference and incorporate it in your day-to-day life. We live in a diverse world, with people originating from different racial and cultural backgrounds. Our race and culture contributes to our identity, self-worth and how we see the world.

Often, we recognise the influence of race and culture within ourselves but can neglect it when engaging with others. It is just as important to others as it is to us; there is a sense of pride and honour that comes with who we are and where we come from. Imagine how our pride and honour is impacted when we experience insensitivity towards our race and culture? The feelings and trauma it can trigger. No one likes to feel misunderstood; the behaviours of cultural insensitivity can compromise our sense of self, cultivating low self-worth. It can trigger other behaviours and emotions such as mistrust, anger and shame. Subsequently, impacting one’s mental health; people from marginalised communities have a history of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and imposter syndrome, caused by experiences of social disparities, microaggressions and discrimination. Imagine be judged because of your racial and cultural background? Being told your actions and behaviours, the way you live your life, does not fit into the society you live in. How do you change, something that cannot be changed? It is like being told who you are is not good enough.

The beauty of our world is that it is constantly changing and growing. This can become overwhelming when we are talking about being more culturally sensitive. Understanding different races and cultures can seem like a daunting task because of how diverse society has become. How do I engage with someone from a different racial and cultural background to me, without offending them or invalidating their experiences? Often the misconception is that, only people from the same race and culture can truly understand each other. Although there is some truth in that, you can still be understanding towards someone who is different to you. Remember, you can be from the same racial and cultural background as someone but still have indifferences; we are still individuals with our own morals, values and experiences.

So what does it mean to be culturally sensitive? It means to be open to understanding others and to express any misunderstandings. Cultural sensitivity is a reflective process; identify what your unconscious biases are, how do your biases impact the way you manage indifference and what is making you uncomfortable? Be open to listen and educate yourself. Do not be dismissive and be compassionate when asking questions about someone’s experiences.

Remember, to see yourself, is to see others.

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