Understanding pivotal for multicultural competence

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, September 24th, 2015 at 12:01 AM

Cultural tensions are at an alltime high in this country.

But I don’t want to talk about whether the confederate flag should stay up or come down, or discuss the importance of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, or emphasize how disgusting Donald Trump’s comments towards Latino immigrants were, or argue whether the Washington Redskins should change their name to something less offensive.

I want to take a step back and focus on the bigger picture. This thought came up when I was taking a “Multicultural Counseling” course in my final semester in Edinboro. Being a black male, I felt like I knew everything that I needed to know about racial and cultural issues. I went in assuming that the class would be a cakewalk.

Boy, I was so wrong.

However, I had never been so happy about being wrong.

Dr. LaBine, the instructor for the course, was a godsend. At first, there was some hesitance from the students in the class, which was understandable, since some of the topics discussed were incredibly controversial. But he encouraged us to share our experiences, ask questions and get out of our comfort zones.

The raw emotions people displayed in that classroom were more powerful than anything a textbook could ever teach. People told their stories, they argued, they laughed, they cried, they were not afraid to admit they were wrong. The class wanted to make change and the desire to do so was evident.

Unfortunately, looking at it from a societal standpoint, we have stagnated. We are not sharing our experiences so we can better understand each other. In fact, a differing opinion is enough to start an argument in which we’re more concerned about making our voices heard than listening to a different point of view.

What we don’t understand is that we’re developing animosity towards one another. For example, it’s one thing to not agree with gay marriage. But telling homosexuals they will burn in hell and that they don’t deserve to be alive is just wicked. Why can’t we just listen and try to understand differing points of view before jumping to conclusions?

Another thing we should be more aware of is the association of certain races with criminal activity, without taking socioeconomic status into consideration. I don’t understand society’s fixation with perpetuating stereotypes. Don’t people understand that if an African-American or Latino child from a low-income family listens to some of these ideas repeatedly, they will begin to internalize them and believe they’re right?

It’s easy to say that these people from low socioeconomic groups should just go get an education and stay away from the streets. But things are not as easy as they seem. Not only is the quality of education provided to people within this socioeconomic bracket subpar, the value of completing high school and pursuing a trade or a college degree is diminished in these environments. Couple that with those negative ideas stated above being hurled around and we get a big problem.

Imagine a child being told they will end up becoming a druggie, or another deadbeat father who mooches off the government, or they are white trash and will never amount to anything. Now, multiply that by 365 days of the year.

That idea becomes real.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is born.

In order to become culturally competent, we need to take our time and listen to those who are different than us. We need to embrace the different cultures and populations that compose this country we live in. We must throw away the negative ideas we have and exchange them with the desire to bring fairness and equality to our society.

It goes beyond forcing ideologies down others’ throats. We need to try to appreciate the good that every ethnic group and population brings to the table. The more we are united, the stronger we are as a society

Jideobi Ezeonu is a Staff Writer for The Spectator

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