A fellow nurse and a very good friend of mine confided in me that she is struggling with some issues with coworkers at hospital she works at repeatedly making culturally biased comments regarding patients. She, coming from a culturally diverse background, and having spent years living in a very progressive community, she is struggling to say the least. Hurt, offended, and knowing she should say something, but is in fear of retaliation. From what it sounds, it sounds like a case of more than just pure ignorance. However, I thought it would be a good time to approach the subject, and use it as an opportunity for learning and self reflection.
I grew up in Milwaukee, and worked as a nurse in multiple large cities throughout the US. When I moved to a smaller city in the midwest, I realized that there are a great many people that haven’t traveled outside of their state. Some rarely leaving the small town they grew up in. I have learned that in parts of the midwest there really are schools that have little to no diversity. This is not meant to be taken as a fault, or a negative attribute of a community. Keeping in mind many of these communities are simply made of generation after generation of families who chose to never leave their hometown. The town that their great grandparents, grandparents, and parents lived their whole lives. Moving from large cities to a smaller city was a bit of a culture shock to myself. Not really understanding life in a small town. Never working at a hospital along side coworkers that are actually farmers as well. Now understanding how little we as people actually know about communities or lifestyles outside are own. So when my friend presented this issue she has been struggling with, I thought it would be a good time to take pause, and take advantage of an educational opportunity.
The type of education I am talking not what you learn in school, or in a history class. The education I am talking about is teaching ourselves, our children, families, and peers how to have self awareness, and know what their own bias’s might be. Remembering that cultural awareness does not just mean race. It means anything from religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, a system of beliefs, to financial background. This is why it is important to have self awareness. Where do I have opportunity to grow? Can I improve upon myself, impress upon my family, my peers, or within my own community? If I witness a coworker making inappropriate comments, do I have the ability to rise above my own fears to make a correction? Do I have the ability to step in when that co-worker or that child on the playground is getting bullied? Can I raise my son to befriend that only muslim, disabled, gay, immigrant, farm girl, or poor child in his class? Please just take pause and think before you talk to a neighbor, a coworker, a child, and ask yourself “am I passing on the right message?”
Resources for parents, and the classroom.