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  • Writer's pictureElisa Juarez

Cultural Humility

February 2024



“Year by year the complexities of this spinning world grow more bewildering and so each year we need all the more to seek peace and comfort in the joyful simplicities.”  -Woman’s Home Companion, December 1935


It’s been 89 years since that was written in a popular women’s magazine of the time. Complexity and bewilderment have reached a whole new level. And yet, there are common threads in our human experience which are woven throughout history. If we are willing to look back, listen, and learn with humility and honesty, we may find some grounding in this spinning world.


This month I am finding connection to Black History through reading, listening, and attending a series of Cultural Humility workshops. The Daily Guides in this month’s Science of Mind magazine are written by an African-American minister who shares stories and reflections on Black history. Today she included this quote by James Tyson, a White man and civil rights activist in South Carolina: “White supremacy and racism are perpetuated by White people, so the only way it’s really ever going to end is if we end it. We can’t expect Black people to end racism.”


I grew up sheltered in a predominantly White Midwestern town. There was one African-American student in my high school and we rarely crossed paths. I was taught the White version of American history, which keeps White people sheltered from the hard stuff, like the ugly and horrific reality of Black history. This “land of the free and home of the brave” was built on the backs of African-American slaves. They were extremely brave, but not free.


My parents instilled in me an openness to other religions, cultures, and viewpoints, for which I am very grateful. However, my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. It’s so nice to imagine the pilgrims and Native Americans living and working together and sharing a feast of turkey and sweet potatoes, but we all know by now that this was not the real story. I got to learn some of that history from my South Dakota roots and my dad’s work as an advocate for Native Americans. They were free until the White folks landed here.


Cultural humility is a level of openness to learn about another’s culture. It includes a willingness to accept the truth of our shared human experience in all its complexity. It takes intention to expand our awareness, understanding, and acceptance of other cultures. As I learned in the workshop this week, cultural humility is a lifelong process of self-reflection; it is love, compassion, and empathy. Instead of turning away from uncomfortable truths about our history and culture, we can lean in with courage and humility and see how our past helped create our present. This is the moral imperative of our time, as the skeletons of white supremacy rattle loudly and threaten our shared future.


Instead of holding onto our answers, opinions, and beliefs, perhaps we need to learn to ask powerful questions. These are open-ended and encourage dialogue and self-discovery. It starts with asking ourselves, “What do I need to learn?” “How can I grow?” “Where are my blind spots?” and “How can I serve?” These questions are followed by deep listening and intentional living. Moving from within outward, we ask others about their experiences and listen to understand. We seek common ground and shared humanity. Through this process, we will come to behold that which is brave and beautiful in other cultures, religions, and lifestyles. Fear and distrust will lose their hold on us.  


If we will have faith in ourselves, faith in our fellow people, in the Universe and in God, that faith will light the place in which we find ourselves, and by the light of this faith, we will be able to see that all is good. -Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind


Life is an ongoing adventure of learning and discovery. Embrace it with curiosity, humility, and joy. The complexities make life interesting and move us out of our comfort zones, if we choose to lean in, listen, and love.


Rise & Shine,

ej

Elisa J. Juarez

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