Invitation to Dialogue

This openness constitutes an invitation to dialogue with culturally different others in which both points of view are compared, con- trasted, and questioned . . . . Dialogue provides a way both to take cultural truth claims seriously and yet avoid the tendency to claim universal truth. No one can predict the directions that this kind of dialogue will take. It is an open-ended endeavor that requires courage and a steadfast commitment to learning. The aims of this kind of conversation are to better appreciate the truths in each perspective, to better articulate and live up to the truths in one’s own cultural standpoint, and to address the tensions and shortcomings in one’s worldview.

What is our interest in multiculturalism, diversity, culture, and so on? Are we invested because we “should” be, or are we invested because we have a genuine interest in understanding the “other?” My fear is that, as practitioners, we are reacting to a wave of culturally diverse peoples and ideologies that are too overwhelm- ing for us to understand, without the much-needed foundation to respond in ways that are contextually consistent. If it is a genuine interest that we have, then we know our commitment is life-long and ever evolving and to say that “we are doing that already” is simply inconsistent and culturally irresponsible.

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To be culturally responsive means having a set of defined values and principles and requires individuals and organizations to “have the capacity to value diversity, conduct self-assessment, manage dynamics of difference, institutionalize cultural knowledge, and adapt to diversity and cultural contexts of the communities they serve”. This framework permits us to view “difference” without patholo- gizing, blaming, or invalidating the experiences of the “other.” It is important to reiterate that to be culturally responsive is not a concept at which one arrives, but more a process that is life-long and ever evolving. Knipscheer and Kleber reported that culturally diverse clients consider a psychothera- pist’s cultural responsiveness and understanding of their world- view as more relevant than ethnic matching. If we believe in the core of what it means to be culturally responsive, then we also believe that we have not arrived yet, nor are we where we need to be. Similarly, critical in our discourse on cultural respon- siveness is an understanding of culture that is more expansive and inclusive.

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