Practicing Cultural Humility in a Time of Crisis

 In moments of crisis, it is crucial to be mindful and not let fear and anxiety drive how we interact with one another. As a campus community, let us raise our awareness about the health concerns affecting our global society without stigmatizing any one group. The biological disease should not be an excuse to display symptoms of bigotry. COVID-19 is a human virus and not a “foreign virus.” The virus does not discriminate against anyone and neither should we. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) is committed to supporting our campus community virtually – please stay tuned.  Let us start by coming together and putting into practice the principles of cultural humility.

Cultural Humility is defined as a “lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of [their] own beliefs and cultural identities” (Tervalon and Murray-Garcia, 1998).

Let us practice Cultural Humility by committing to supporting our students and our colleagues and communicating in ways that are responsive to their feelings. In a time of crisis, from the students’ perspectives, “it is best to do something” (Huston and DiPietro, 2007).  Let us start by humbly acknowledging that we do not have all the answers but can learn from one another and share information that is accurate and debunks myths associating the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) with a population or nationality.

Building Resilience

Cultural humility requires a historical awareness and being sensitive that in times of crisis “xenophobia spreads like a virus.” During a crisis, it is easy to forget that Humboldt State University (HSU) stands for equity, inclusion, social justice and we all contribute to the diversity of the institution. Profiling and stigma affect students’ sense of belonging and their learning as documented by social science research.  We have to be intentional and instead promote and build resilience. 

Building resilience in the classroom:

  • Let the students set the ground rules and engage in active listening to hear the concerns they might be facing in and outside the classroom;
  • Raise awareness and share accurate information with your students about the crisis without increasing fear;
  • Self-reflect and understand that intent is different than impact, the effects of micro aggressions affect how students will interact with you; some groups experiencing stigma are; persons of Asian descent; people who have traveled; and emergency responders or health care professionals.

 Building resilience in an alternative teaching mode:

  • Ensure digital equity by asking students if they have access to Wi-Fi, a laptop, computer or a smartphone;
  • Remember that the biases we carry do transfer online, there are unequal digital access and unequal digital skills
  • Address clear engaging learning objectives, be clear about expectations for online, Zoom or other forms of participation;
  • If possible include virtual lectures, live chats, or virtual tutorials to maintain a human connection.

Equity-Mindedness in Time of Crisis Resources

 References and Resources

CSU Statement on Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion are foundational values for the California State University, and every member of the CSU community is encouraged to exemplify those values. This is especially true as incidents of bias and xenophobia have increased during the Coronavirus outbreak. Any such actions or attitudes, ranging from microaggressions to overt harassment, have no place within the California State University; students, staff and faculty are actively encouraged to reject and denounce xenophobia and bigotry, and to treat all with dignity and respect.