Green (1982) defines cultural competency as “the ability to conduct professional work in a way that is consistent with the expectations which members of distinctive culture regard as appropriate among themselves.”
Resistance maintains “that teaching cultural competence through the use of fact-learning about specific populations is deeply flawed and limits thinking.”
“I don’t believe that “exposure” necessarily creates competence. Short answer, I know lots and lots of white people who regularly show up in my cultural groups who are shockingly, horrifyingly non-culturally-competent and racist.”
“The problem with having an almost religious faith in ‘exposure’ is that too often, people want to treat cultural exposure as if it were a magical panacea that will overcome all cultural ignorance, obstacles, awkwardness and will above all, ‘transcend’ outsider status; almost as if, once you read a little (or a lot), travel and talk to a few native or locals you’re “set” and you will thereafter move from culture to culture with complete grace, fluidity and ease just like a local or native, thus garnering you insider status. But that is just a childish fantasy (like the white kid who dreams of being embraced and adopted by Native American Indians, marrying the princess and leading ‘the tribe’ to victory)
Reality simply doesn’t work in this manner.
It takes a certain degree of humility to realise that no matter HOW much you study or ‘expose’ yourself to another culture, you are still an outsider who didn’t grow up in the culture. (But instead, people pick up a few bits and pieces of a culture then run with it as if it were the sum total.) There is always an important and NECESSARY distance between you and other groups and what true cross-cultural competence involves is having the awareness to realise, accept and *respect* distance while still attempting to communicate and forge bonds.
But many people – particularly white people – greatly struggle with this because of their overwhelming desire to control all interactions; they fear of having to admit to being ignorant, uncomfortable, alien or at a disadvantage because it clashes so violently with how their white identity is constructed. (i.e. all-knowing, at “home” in any place or clime, ‘innately’ native to everywhere, and perpetually privileged. So they become cultural fetishists or self-proclaimed experts to avoid having to surrender control.
Cross-cultural competency is not a set test that you can prep for then pass or fail.
My reading of the OP is: don’t overestimate the benefits of ‘exposure’ to other cultures or feel that it, in and of itself, ‘solves’ everything. If done in a respectful manner, it *can* at best, be helpful; but even then, you still have to be prepared to make missteps, be confident enough to admit to them, not repeat them then recover and continue. But that takes confidence, rather than pride as to how knowledgeable you are and how well-versed or ‘exposed’ you are to other cultures. Too many people who have had a little cultural exposure have such overweening pride that they can’t recover from a gaffe or a mistake.”
(via What does cultural competence look like? | Resist racism)
The summary of my 2 cents? It’s not just a “skill” you learn, that you can check off. Oh, I learned some essentialist stuff about a culture, I’m not racist, I know how to deal with them!