The Hogg Foundation tries to reveal the human experience of abstract mental health concepts. One of these is “cultural competence.” As a grantmaker whose determination to address racial and ethnic disparities in the delivery of health care is built into the design of its grant programs, we are in a position to see who walks the walk as well as talks the talk. This is one thing that impressed us about Dr. Delida Sanchez, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, she received a mental health research grant from the foundation for her study on the relationship between depression and high-risk sexual behaviors among Latina adolescents.

For the November 20 2014 episode of Into the Fold, I was especially interested in her thoughts about the gap between the seemingly universal embrace of “diversity” and our as-yet evolving understanding of what cultural competency looks like in practice:

Most people don’t even recognizing that there is a distinction, between being diverse and working with diverse populations, and being culturally competent. And so, a big part…is really being aware of the impact of privilege or oppression, and where you stand with regard to different aspects of your identity.

But also, becoming culturally competent as an organization or even as a research foundation is really addressing and beginning to dismantle these unfair systems that maintain racism and oppression.

To brutally oversimplify, becoming culturally competent is at least a three-step process: seeing the presence of, systematically addressing, then working to dismantle the systems that hold us fast while denying the full privileges of community on the basis of arbitrary characteristics.

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