According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013, there were over 300 million people living in the United States.  Of those, about a quarter were minor children, half were females, about 40% identified with an ethnic group other than Caucasian, the vast majority did not have at least a Bachelor’s degree, and about 20% spoke a language other than English at home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015).  Since 1970, the number of foreign born persons has steadily increased (Foreign born, n.d.).  Likewise in CT, since SY2005/06, the number of English language learners has increased, as well as, the number of students who speak another language at home (CSDE, n.d.).  For the first time in U.S. history, America has an African-American president, a Hispanic Supreme Court justice, and legalized gay marriage across the country.  It is safe to say, we are moving towards heterogeneity rather than homogeneity.  America has been referred to as a salad bowl, and this cannot be truer than in the 21st century.


This truism requires that workers engage in culturally competent practices.  “Culturally competent care has been defined as a system that acknowledges the importance and incorporation of culture, assessment of cross-cultural relations, vigilance toward the dynamics that result from cultural differences, expansion of cultural knowledge, and adaptation of interventions to meet culturally unique needs” (Mirsky, 2013).


Cultural competency involves:


  • An increased awareness of one’s own experience

  • Clarification of one’s own value system

  • Acceptance of differences

  • Knowledge of client’s own culture

  (Mirsky, 2013; Zayas et al, 1997)


Courageous Conversations

In order to determine a youth’s culture, which is more than just race and ethnicity, one must engage in a respectful conversation with that individual.  Courageous conversation is a term used for conversations that involve taboo or uncomfortable topics for either party with the goal of building a more effective relationship.  These conversations are driven by four agreements; stay engaged, speak your truth, experience discomfort, expect and accept non-closure (Courageous, 2012).

Consider this…

Depending on one’s perspective, the same situation may look different to different people.  It is important to remember that there is never one story, but multiple stories derived from various vantage points.


Look at the image below…what do you see?

From one perspective, you may see a “3”, or an “M”, or a “W”, or maybe an “E”.  There is always more than one way to look at a situation.  There is never a single story.


To learn more about the “Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, click here to watch her 19 minute TEDtalk


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