Cultural Competence vs. Cultural Responsiveness: Is One More Important Than The Other?

We often discuss cultural responsiveness and cultural competence as if it’s one. Still, there is definitely a need to understand the differences and what they mean. 

The National Education Association states that cultural competence is having an awareness of your own culture, to identify and view the differences and have the ability to learn and build on different cultural and community norms of others.   

The National Center for Culturally Responsiveness Educational Systems state that cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully to your own culture as well as those cultures around you. 

So, in perspective, it is one thing to be aware of your lifestyle, the culture of those around you, or the culture of the clients that you serve. Still, it’s another thing to actually learn the norms, respect the norms, and take those things into consideration when treating, teaching, and interacting with those different cultures.

So, what is the difference?  Is one more important right now than the other?  What we are seeing right now is the world going through one of the scariest pandemics that my generation has seen.  The world shifted so quickly that we simply reacted.  There wasn’t much time to be teach anyone to be culturally competent , and it definitely does not seem as though there is much cultural responsiveness right now.   So, as I go back to that question of one being more important than the other, I would clearly say yes. Cultural responsiveness is more critical during this COVID19 pandemic and will be just as critical afterwards.

It’s critical because there is a clear delineation of the haves and have nots.  Those not financially stable are going to put their lives on the line every day to provide for their families and this is not because they want to do so but because they have to do so.  Wouldn’t you? Families are out here simply trying to meet their basic needs and the needs of their families.  They are in survival mode right now.

Understand one thing, and that is wealth does not mean equity. So therefore, if wealth does not mean equity, can you begin to even imagine what poverty means? What it appears is that poverty and/or low income means, no one cares.  It means that $1,200 is enough to get you through right now.  It means that we will get to you when we can.   It simply means figure it out because we have the 1 percent to think about.  Its only an opinion, you are entitled to yours.

Interventions during this crisis are not responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable populations.  No, I am not in the room where many of these ideals are coming to the table, but from where I sit, I am comfortable saying that I am not far off from my assumptions. 

The bottom line, I choose responsiveness because if we continue to ignore the need to be culturally responsive to those who do not look like us or those who may live their lives differently or those who may not be in the same “class” as us,  we will forever live in a world of The Haves and Have Nots.

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