Have You Heard Me At All?

26 Apr

Courtesy of the Southern Nevada Diversity Roundtable website

The difference between you and me is that I know what I am thinking. I know where I have been, and where I plan on heading. I know, most of the time, how I feel despite not being able to express it well. You, on the other hand, could have come from anywhere.

We had a long group discussion on cultural competency today, which I found to be eye-opening in a respect completely different from most people in our class. We talked about expanding our knowledge of other cultures by reading books, meeting new people, volunteering in locations that we would otherwise not go to, blah blah blah. I was shocked to find such ignorance in what my peers were saying. I do admit, though, this ignorance could be directly related to naivety. But I wouldn’t know, because I am not them.

People talked about having friends from various cultures. They shared uncomfortable moments they had during a wide array of experiences. We recognized that we should go out of our comfort zone to further our cultural diversity experiences, and we discussed the internalization that is required to truly gain from times such as these. Our class reflected that our actions are not necessarily perceived as they were intended. How could we know what you were thinking?

Yes, all of those things are true. However, I feel as though a vital piece of our discussion is missing. To know one person is to know one person. It is not knowing a culture. To immerse yourself in a new culture for a day, a week, a month, is to flip through a history book in 20 minutes. Did you learn? Undoubtedly so. If you look back at the same pages, could you learn more? Sure. Do you know that culture, that language, those customs? Not a chance.

“But,” you say, “but I had an open mind! I reflected, I didn’t judge, and I treated a person as a person. I learned. I am always learning.” Did you forget, my friend? You only know in certainty your experiences. And those experiences are interpreted in a vast number of ways by others who experienced similar, or even identical, events.

Cultural competency isn’t about seeing the differences and reacting appropriately. Cultural competency is recognizing there are not differences that separate people, but understanding that our differences bring us together, even if disguised as being conflicting ideas.

How does one teach that? How do we get a firm grasp on an idea that is so vague? An even more difficult perspective: How do we implement into our daily lives a concept that is so vague?

The answer: We don’t. Even if we grapple with the idea of becoming culturally competent, we inadvertently become selfishly wrapped into our own comfortable experiences that are so commonplace we expect other people to think similarly, to act similarly, and to react similarly. Adding to that notion, in my experiences, I have been told to fight for what is right. I have been told to fight for what I believe in. I have been told not to let anyone change who I am, because I am perfect the way I am. I don’t know about you, but I find this is to be a cesspool breeding ground for ignorance and hate. If I fight for what is right, I may be fighting with the Taliban. I may be fighting for the red, white, and blue. If I fight for what I believe in, I may implement laws pertaining to eugenics in hopes of destroying entire races. I may fight for keeping individuals of color off buses. I may be fighting for gay marriage. I may be fighting in the name of Muhammad. If I am perfect the way I am, and have no flaws to change, I am not looking at what others do well.

While you may argue that my examples are extreme, I may agree. I may even be trying to prove a point. Where is the line drawn separating extreme from not extreme? Would you draw the same line as I would? If I were on the other side of the line, where would I have to stand for you to become defensive or even intervene in some way? Is there a point where you stood that I would consider using my constitutional right to free speech or bear arms or my god given right to shun you and wish you to hell? Is there a point where we might drop both you would drop your defense and offense simultaneously? Maybe, but I am me and you are you. You could have come from anywhere.

Have you heard me? Have you heard me at all?

Have you changed? Have you changed at all?


Posted by on April 26, 2012 in My Inspiration and Motivation


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 responses to “Have You Heard Me At All?

  1. John Haslett

    April 27, 2012 at 06:46

    Your points were well spoken and well thought out. I agree as well but I’ll take it a bit further. Unfortuneately I care as much about other peoples culture as they do about mine, which is usually not at all. Everthing to me is one-on-one. I’ll be friends with anyone if they meet my criteria; honesty, forthrightness, a great sense of humor, industrious, and loving. It’s a short list but regardless of race, color, or creed you can be my friend if you meet the requirements. I haven’t figured out a better way than that and it’s just possible I’ve simplified it too much but I’ll take my chances.

    • Nothing hurt

      April 27, 2012 at 09:08

      Broadly speaking, the overall lack of caring for other’s cultures isn’t a terrible thing, just so long as, like you, an open mind is kept. Unfortunately, herein lies the problem. A large portion of the world’s population are not willing/able to keep an open mind, or maybe they do have an open mind but have such formed opinions, they are unable to comprehend why anyone could ever think another way. The natural progression from here is intolerance of a person or population of similarly thinking people. Add in a touch of self-righteousness, and well, you get a greatly over-simplified snap-shot of the average person. A little tolerance goes a very long way, as I’m sure you know from experience.

  2. Wayne

    April 29, 2012 at 16:56

    So, we are taught to accept other people. We are programmed to put down people who are like we are ….



    • Nothing hurt

      May 2, 2012 at 12:22

      I believe we are taught to live by the golden rule as we grew up, but I may be looking and hoping for the best in that regard. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we are programmed to to put down those who are similar to us, however, I do believe that the more similar someone is to ourselves, we become more hypercritical of their actions as we expect them to respond in a fashion we, ourselves, would. On the opposite side of the scale, I do see where those with very formed opinions on a topic will have difficulties expressing constructive thoughts and criticisms, which can easily appear in a very negative light. All my point is trying to prove is that we, collectively, need to keep an open mind, remember we all have very different backgrounds, and to not portray a particular culture on someone that we know nothing about.

      • Wayne

        May 2, 2012 at 18:04

        I believe that those wishing to change from the historic good of society have the responsibility to show why their experiment would be good for society.

        I agree, they may have difficulty expressing intelligent ideas, but I do not believe they should be given the benefit of the doubt until they have shown they are not dangerous to society.

        Just look at the last 2 presidents. Bush ran up about 4 trillion over 8 years. Obama told us that was un-patriotic. I agree. But, we gave Obama permission to change without accountability. So, he chose to add about 6 trillion in 4 years.

        Not good for the people.

        What do you think?


    • Nothing hurt

      May 2, 2012 at 20:44

      Oh goodness, we just stepped into politics territory. I could go on for hours on this topic, and would rather not even touch it. Although budget is a very important part of this country, it is not the only factor to judge a president by. Speaking for myself, I would rather a president rack up our budget with a clean conscious and keep the general public in mind than keep the budget balanced by finding other “not-quite-legal” alternatives used for military advances that are hidden from the general public. And with that, I have probably already said far too much.

      • Wayne

        May 2, 2012 at 22:03

        WOW ….. We seem to agree.

        Then you know our current president promised to pull our soldiers out of war immediately, and thousands of brave American soldiers have died because he misled America to get elected?

      • Nothing hurt

        May 3, 2012 at 16:38

        I do know that. I also know that presidential nominees are not given the back story, all the information needed to make informed decisions, prior to election. Once elected, all the information and training needed for actually being the president occurs. This is where discrepancies oftentimes are noted. Had both Obama and the general public been presented all information openly prior to the election, which has its own obvious advantages and disadvantages, we would not likely be in this stagnate situation where some individuals are holding Obama accountable for statements he made and intended to keep prior to receiving the “game-changing” information once elected. Even if Obama would have brought our troops home on his original schedule, he would have been criticized for the similarities between Operation Iraqi Freedom and Vietnam. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

      • Wayne

        May 3, 2012 at 16:46

        Except, my cousin would still have his leg …. and thousands of soldiers would still be alive.

        Everyone said Bush was guilty of murder.

        So, I hope we can hold Obama accountable for manslaughter …..

        Bring our soldiers home.


      • Nothing hurt

        May 4, 2012 at 15:53

        So it goes. (referencing Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.)
        I, too, have been personally affected by the war. My brother is a different person after serving his tour than he was before. But he is alive; there is much worse that could have happened. But he is alive. The part he continually reminds me of is that he chose to enlist. It is not the times where the government chose for us. Hallelujah!
        And Obama does what anyone else in the same situation would do, play the cards the dealer dealt. I know I couldn’t do better than what he does, and I definitely could not keep as strong and positive as he has.

      • Wayne

        May 4, 2012 at 15:59

        He does play a great game of golf. And he vacations like a rock star.

        I could not do as badly as he has done. Not on my worst days. And on my good days, he cannot even begin to compare.

        But, I served in the US Army. That seems to build great character, or destroy it (seldom on the latter).

      • Nothing hurt

        May 4, 2012 at 16:11

        I thank you for your service to this country.

        Also, I would love to continue to discuss these topics, however, would rather do so in a more appropriate venue. If you, too would like to continue this discussion, please e-mail me.

      • Wayne

        May 4, 2012 at 18:14

        You are welcome.

        I will



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