Cross-Cultural Understanding

Cultural Sensitivity

Cultural Sensitivity #1

Length of the session: 1 hour

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this session, 75-80% of youth will be able to:

  1. Examine their own cultural heritage.
  2. Understand how they make assumptions about others.
  3. Develop cultural sensitivity

Materials: Newsprint, markers- one for everyone, if possible. Written definitions on index cards, Challenge Report forms, Attendance Sheet

Methods of Learning:

Definitions of Culture, Race, Prejudice and Discrimination (20 minutes):

Begin session by emphasizing that peer trainees need to feel comfortable and confident working with people from different backgrounds. This may also mean feeling comfortable working as a group of peer leaders (if the group is culturally diverse): they may need to address differences among their own cultures in order to communicate better with each other and build a strong team. To begin addressing how to work with people different from oneself, the first step is to define several terms. Ask for four volunteers to act out a definition. Give each volunteer an index card with one of the four terms written out with its definition (see below). The volunteer is asked to describe the term, and the group will guess what the term is. For example, if the term is “prejudice,” a volunteer could say, “I influence people to dislike other people that they don’t even know. I can cause big problems with communication, building trust and working as a team. Wars have been fought because of me. Who am I?” After the group has guessed what term the volunteer is acting out, lead a short discussion about the term by asking some open-ended questions such as, “What does the term mean to you personally? How is it part of your lives? How does it affect the group of peer leaders?” Ask the peer trainees to think of one or two population groups that are of the same race, but not the same culture.

TERMS

Culture- the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group or the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

Race- a group of persons related by common descent or heredity

Prejudice- an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

Discrimination- Unfair treatment of a person, racial group, minority, etc. action based on prejudice.

Break (5-10 min)

Meeting Someone Different (30 minutes):

Lead the group of peer trainees through a visualization exercise to recall the first time they discovered that all people were not from the same culture, race, or religion as theirs. Ask everyone in the group to relax and get comfortable, and to close their eyes. Tell them to think back to when they were four, five, six, or maybe even older. Where did they live? Who were their friends? Who were their family’s friends? Ask everyone to try to remember the first time they met someone who was of a different race, culture, or religion. How old were they? How did they react? What was the situation? How did their family respond? What were their feelings at the time? Give everyone a few minutes to think about all these questions and then ask the group to open their eyes and come back together as a group.

Discussion:

Ask if someone would begin the discussion by sharing what they remembered about this experience. Write down feelings and reactions described by each person. After each person has explained her experience, ask how their feelings have changed over time, if they have, and what has influenced the change.

When you summarize this exercise, mention the following points:

  • Families influence how children react to people different from themselves.
  • Media often reinforces racial and cultural stereotypes.
  • Often the more someone knows about a different culture or religion, the more comfortable she will be with people of the culture or religion.
  • Some people are exposed to people of different cultures and religion very early in life, and others much later. Some people live in closed cultures and have very little exposure to people different from themselves.
  • Given the various circumstances, some people feel nervous meeting someone different, others feel curious.

 

Cultural Sensitivity #2

Length of the session: 1 hour

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this session, 75-80% of youth will be able to:

  1. Examine their own cultural heritage.
  2. Understand how they make assumptions about others.

Materials: Newsprint, markers- one for everyone, if possible. Written definitions on index cards, Challenge Report forms, Attendance Sheet

Methods of Learning:

Open Communication (20 minutes):

Brainstorm with the group about how to keep open communication with someone who is different from them. The list of talking points below can serve as an outline for the discussion. What is needed for open communication?

Talking Points:

  • People are individuals, even if they can be identified as a member of a certain cultural group. Avoid assumptions.
  • Not all whites in the United States are identical-age, socioeconomic status, regional culture, language, and religion can be different. Not all Latino(a)/Hispanics are the same. Some may have been born in the U.S. others may have recently immigrated. They may have come from Central America, South America, or Puerto Rico. Spanish may be their first language or they may not know Spanish at all. If they do speak Spanish, the dialect will vary depending upon where they or their parents were born or live.
  • Diversity is positive.
  • By learning about another culture- the food, religion, values- we learn more about our own culture and expand the way we think about the world and how we approach life.
  • It is better to admit that you know very little about a culture and to gather information than to make assumptions.
  • If the group of peer leaders will be providing a workshop to youth from a different culture, have the group find out as much as possible about the group before they do the workshop. What do they want to know? What are the cultural beliefs related to alcohol and other drug use? Are there topics that are taboo to discuss in public, such as sexuality? Will there be any language barriers? If providing handouts, will they be appropriate to this particular group? If showing a film, is it culturally appropriate?

Break (5-10 min)

Cultural Roots Activity (40 minutes):

This exercise is designed to celebrate diversity. Give each person in the group one sheet of newsprint and a magic marker. Ask each person to write or draw a picture that conveys the following information for the group:

  • Their cultural heritage, such as French-African, Haitian, English and French, Mexican, and Anglo-Saxon.
  • One food dish that is important to their cultural heritage.
  • A type of music that is part of your cultural heritage, and
  • One holiday or celebration that is central to their cultural heritage.

Give the group approximately 10 minutes to design their newsprint. After everyone is finished, ask each person to share her newsprint with the rest of the group.