May 27, 2021

Cultural Humility: Fostering Respect and Understanding

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Cindy Lopez:
Welcome to Voices of Compassion, CHC’s podcast series providing courage, connection and compassion, highlighting topics that matter to our community, our parents, families, educators and other professionals. My name is Cindy Lopez. Today, we’re talking about cultural humility, we’re all different from one another, not better, just different and diversity, equity and inclusion are really hot topics in our nation today. So perhaps building cultural humility is a good place to start. Cultural humility includes a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique in an effort to address power imbalances and to advocate for others, that’s an official definition. So the principles of cultural humility put emphasis on the need to connect and it starts with self-reflection, building greater self-awareness that allows you to practice empathy and compassion for others. So listen in today, as we talk with Tony Cepeda, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Program Manager at CHC, you’ll hear about strategies you can use to develop cultural humility, starting with yourself and your own family. So Tony, thanks so much for joining us today. Is there anything you’d like to share with our listeners as we get started?

[00:01:25] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
Well first off Cindy thank you for having me. For over 30 years of experience, I’ve really had the opportunity and the privilege to work with a diverse group of people coming from different racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic backgrounds, people from the LGBTQ community. So lots of interactions with different people.

[00:01:54] Cindy Lopez:
And that’s so perfect for our topic today as we consider and discuss cultural humility. We know there’s a lot going on in the world today on top of the pandemic, we’re also coming to terms with issues of equity and social justice. And we’re all asking ourselves, how can I make a difference and how can I make a positive impact? So Tony, I’m wondering, in your role as a therapist, what advice would you give to people as they’re trying to figure that out?

[00:02:26] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
So I’d like to share some statistics just to put things in perspective. First off, there is about a third of racial or ethnic minority youth that are as likely as their white counterparts to receive mental health services. And then another statistic is that less than 40% of minority youth with mental health needs actually receive mental health services, so there’s a disparity.

Now you had mentioned diversity in our world today and community. CHC is based in Palo alto, and so for Santa Clara County, there are 52% white people, about 2% african-American, about 1%, american indian, Asian Pacific Islanders about 39%, latinos about 25% and in San Mateo county whites comprise about 48%, 2% african-American, Asian and pacific Islanders 32%, latinos 25% and american Indians about 1%. So really in our community we really are living in a diverse world with lots of differences amongst the groups. And we are also really getting bombarded in the media with racial and ethnic issues and social justice issues. So we are exposed to diversity on a regular basis.

[00:04:14] Cindy Lopez:
Where we live it’s a pretty diverse community. and certainly those of us who have lived in this area and grown up in this area are really reflecting on our own personal experiences and thoughts as we encounter all kinds of people. So, we are not isolated. I think another point that comes out of that is that we’re all affected by others’ experiences. So it’s really much more of a shared experience in some ways. So, let’s talk about cultural humility right now. What is that and why should people care about it, and what are the components of cultural humility?

[00:05:01] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
With diversity it helps us to increase our understanding of other groups because we come across people that are different than us. We need to improve the way that we communicate cross-culturally and with diversity comes an increase in productivity, in creativity and we have more diverse ideas and solutions to problems. Now cultural humility, key word in there is humility, the idea is to be humble and not be full of pride or arrogance and with humility comes wisdom, and that is a key component of cultural humility is the opportunity to learn and gain wisdom. So acting with humility really has to do with having an openness and a willingness to learn about difference. It’s also about admitting that I don’t know everything about other cultures and I really want to learn more. Part of that is we have to acknowledge that there is a history, a major history in our country with oppression and that systemic oppression still occurs. So another key component of cultural humility is this idea of not only respecting other cultures, but also acting with a sense of reverence in trying to learn about other cultures. Now reverence has to do with listening from your heart and learning from your heart and treating people that are different with wonder and awe in terms of learning more about their culture. So I think that’s an important piece right there, the sense of reverence towards people that are different.

[00:07:11] Cindy Lopez:
Yeah, I really liked how you just referenced reverence. It’s so important right now. And so I’ve been 30 years in education, and I have spent the last half of it working with kids who learn differently. When I started working with kids who learn differently that was an eye opening experience for me as a teacher, learning to understand that it’s just different. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different. And as a result for kids who are learning different, they need to be taught differently. So that’s kind of how I approach these issues around equity and social justice like we’re all different and that difference brings that kind of creativity and new solutions to problems and new thinking. And so, you know, it’s important to embrace all of that. So now that we kind of know a little bit more about it, how can we develop cultural humility?

[00:08:10] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
One key factor is to develop compassion and empathy for our own cultural beliefs and our own cultural identity. So in a way it’s a self-exploration of our cultural identity and a reflection and an awareness of where our culture comes from; where did we learn that and what is the significance to us for why we do particular things or have particular beliefs. With this reflection, I think one really powerful thing is that it really helps us to get in touch with aspects of our culture, where we have a sense of pride or feel very full of pride in terms of our belief system and areas that may bring us joy and comfort and that comes from our own individual identities of our own cultures.

[00:09:20] Cindy Lopez:
Self-awareness kind of comes up over and over again as we’ve done like 30 podcasts episodes. And that ability to reflect on your own thinking and why you react in certain ways or do certain things, that self-awareness is a big piece of, as you already noted, empathy and compassion. So, once we start understanding where some of our own perhaps biases come from, we can work to change that. A lot of our listeners are parents, right, so let’s talk for a minute about how family plays a role in developing cultural identity?

[00:10:07] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
Families are where it starts and families are the first place that we learn about our own culture and where the lessons are passed down. Parents are the primary source of teaching and leading and guiding children in developing their cultural identity. So there’s a lot of power there for parents in terms of forming and shaping children’s cultural identities and then also how they teach children in terms of interacting with other cultures and other people that have different beliefs that is also part of culture.

[00:10:55] Cindy Lopez:
Thank you for tuning in! Just a note, before we continue on with today’s episode, we hope you’re following us on social media, so you don’t need to wait a whole week between episodes to get engaging, inspiring and educational content from CHC. Our social handles are linked on our podcast webpage at

The more we’re kind of aware of our own experiences and how we’ve been shaped by those, the more I think we can begin to understand how others’ experiences have also shaped them. So there’s that piece of cultural identity and you’ve talked a little bit about humility, but let’s talk a little bit more about what that looks like.

[00:11:41] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
The first thing to do, the first goal I believe is for parents to engage in cultural self-reflection and examination of their own culture and learning about your history, where your ancestors came from, why you believe what you believe, I think it’s important to have that examination. I had referenced the idea of reverence earlier and I believe treating other people with reverence when you’re curious and want to learn is a respectful approach in terms of wanting to be more educated and wanting to learn more about somebody’s particular beliefs.

Another thing that parents can do is to really have open conversations and discussions with your children, not only about your own culture and about your family’s culture and your belief system, but also open conversations and questions about other people’s beliefs. And if during those conversations, you discover that you don’t know something, it’s a great opportunity for both the parent and the child to explore ways of getting more educated and maybe talking to people in the community and asking them questions about the different cultures.

A couple other ideas that I have for families and parents, one is to join organizations that have a commitment to advocate for other people and have equity and inclusion and trying to lessen differences between different groups, and I recommend this because a lot of times it’s easier to do and get more activated with a group of people as opposed to getting activated and doing activities by yourself. So getting involved with other people in organizations, and then the last piece of advice that I have for parents is encourage your kids to volunteer or donate money to organizations that help out other people or support other people out in the community. One thing that stands out for people of color is that over 30% of african american children, latino children, and american indian children, over 30% for each one of those groups live in poverty. So there’s an opportunity to help other people in need.

[00:14:35] Cindy Lopez:
Yeah, just to know and understand that people live differently than we do. And so that in itself creates a different experience for them. And I also liked your point about being curious. I think that genuine curiosity, right, not in an offensive way, but a genuine curiosity about why and how do other people live differently and how have their experiences been different. So Tony, just wondering if there’s one thing you would hope our listeners take away from this episode, what would that be?

[00:15:17] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
Well, I’m gonna cheat a little bit and I’m going to say two things. So the first thing is just out of the curiosity in wanting to learn and get better educated, you may find that you have more similarities with other people than you have differences. And then, the second point I want to make is that there is a lot of power in just being open to having conversations and discussions and just not being so caught up in having the right answers. It’s okay if you don’t have the answers, this is part of the learning is trying to find the answers.

[00:16:00] Cindy Lopez:
Yeah I think that open conversations and that kind of communication that’s an important tool to develop. And just to note, as we wrap uphere at CHC, just as in many other organizations across the US now are really taking a close look at diversity, equity and inclusion. And so Tony is one of our therapists and he is also part of a group, DEI, diversity equity, inclusion council so to speak that we’ve developed here at CHC, where we’re just taking a harder look at who we are and what we do and how we can just develop this cultural humility and become more aware of our own practices, both individually and as an organization. So, it’s not only a topic for this podcast episode it’s part of what we’re doing at CHC and it’s part of our work. So Tony, thank you so much for joining us again. It’s always great to talk with you and appreciate hearing your perspective and insights.

[00:17:10] Tony Cepeda, LMFT:
Well thank you Cindy, it’s my pleasure thank you so much.

[00:17:14] Cindy Lopez:
And to our listeners thank you for listening in today, and we hope that you’ll join us again next week for a new episode.

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