Frequently Asked Questions
For Cultivating Cultural Competency


1) My community lacks diversity. I don’t know anyone who is different from me. Why should I care?

According to the US Census and the State population projections, demographics are changing and we need to prepare for the eventuality.

Diversity already exists and you may not be aware of it. Diversity does not only refer to people of color. It refers to differences in beliefs, traditions, heritages, generations, social economic levels, and cultures. As an example, European American women and men may be of the same heritage but they exhibit different gender values and may share different religious beliefs. To live and work in a pluralistic society, we need to learn to communicate better and effectively.

2) What can I do to enhance my cultural competency?

Exposure to and interaction with different people, cultures, beliefs are key to increasing your cultural competency and open-mindedness.

3) People of different races and religions have not been able to get along for thousands of years. What can I do to possibly change that?

It’s true that conflict has and continues to exist. However, each individual should be judged based on his/her actions, not what one group (nation or religion) chooses to do. Just as you don’t support all of your group’s decisions (family, government, church, etc) and don’t want to be judged by them. Also, we live in a multi-cultural society. Even if you choose to not value diversity or interact socially with people of different ethnicities, you are expected as a court employee to work with (co-workers) and serve (court users) them respectfully.   However, if you choose to reach out to others, you will be pleasantly surprised by all the commonalities you may share with others.

4) Don’t conversations about diversity lead to tensions that are more destructive than constructive in the learning/educational process?

Sometimes conversations about race and diversity are difficult. However, with practice (like anything else) it gets easier. That does not mean that we will learn everything, or that we will never experience conflict. It means we will be more comfortable discussing and learning about diversity. Also, if you make a genuine effort to learn about and understand other cultures or groups, most people will appreciate your efforts and be more willing to share their culture, customs, and challenges with you.

5) How can listening skills help me in working with people who are different?

Listening skills are crucial in life and are useful anytime and anywhere. Empathetic listening as discussed in this module lets the other person know that you are listening, and that you care about his/her issues. It also conveys a message of respect, which is essential to building trust in both personal and working relationships. 

6) A lot of people of color have made it. Why do we still need diversity education?

Yes, strides have been made since the passage of civil rights laws. However, racism still exists. The KKK and neo-Nazi groups are growing, hate crimes still persist, and racial disparity in juvenile and adult incarceration still exists. Also, diversity education is not just about race anymore. It includes sexism, sizeism, ableism, etc. Diversity education is also about fostering awareness and open-mindedness to differences that exist in our society and learning to interact positively with those differences and diverse people. 

7) Diversity is not important to me, why should I care?

Even if you are not personally interested, it is necessary as an employee of the courts. If you are the first person encountered by a court user, it may impact his/her perception of fairness and access to the courts. Therefore, it is necessary for you to enhance your cultural competency to serve our court users and to work with colleagues who may be different from you.

8) How are affirmative action (AA) and managing diversity different? 

The practices of AA are government initiated, legally mandated, and reactive initiatives that emerged in response to America's historical treatment of women, minorities and other protected groups. The goal of AA is to give the protected groups an opportunity to participate and be considered for employment, higher education and government contracts. It does not mean a “quota”.

Managing diversity is a non-government mandated management approach to creating an environment that values all employees and allows them to reach their full potential in pursuit of the agency’s corporate mission. It excludes no one.

9) What is the role of the employee in managing diversity?

As a court employee, you are responsible for your own behavior and for the performance standards of the courts. It is essential that court employees develop and demonstrate tools and skills to help bring about equal access to justice, including equality, fairness, and integrity. This helps to instill public trust and confidence in our judicial system. Every employee is responsible for focusing on inclusion and using appropriate, supportive workplace behavior.

10) What laws are there about diversity and the workplace?

No federal or state laws define a diverse work force.  The government does, however, let employers know that it champions the idea of employee diversity with its laws that prohibit discrimination:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. This mandate applies to all private employers; federal, state and local governments; educational institutions, and employment agencies or labor organizations that employ 15 or more people

The Age Discrimination and Employment Act of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older. It covers employees on all levels of government and private employers with 20 or more employees. 

The American with Disabilities Act, which took effect in 1992, prohibits discrimination based on disabilities. It applies to the same employers as the Civil Rights Act, with the exception of federal employees, who are covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Washington Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60.030) mandates freedom from discrimination. The Declaration of Civil Rights prohibits discrimination based on of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained guide dog or service animal by a disabled person. 

11) As a person of color, I know what it means to be culturally sensitive.  I don't need any special training on how to practice cultural competence.

Each person has different levels of awareness and sensitivity about his or her own and other cultures. Everyhuman being, however, holds preconceptions about "different" cultures.  Every person, including a person outside the prevailing culture, demonstrates bias behavior unconsciously or consciously. Therefore, it is important to recognize that all people need to make a deliberate effort to examine cultural misinformation and strive for cultural competence in each individual case.

12) Who can I contact to request a guest speaker?

The following is a sample list of organizations that may be willing to provide a speaker or may be able to refer you to an organization that may provide a speaker.

Washington State Human Rights Commission

U.S. Department of Justice-Community Relations Service
Region X office

Anti-Defamation League

Arab American Community Coalition of Washington State

Arab Center of Washington

Hate Free Zone of Washington

Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs

Washington State Commission on African American Affairs

Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs

Washington State Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs

13) Could you recommend some books on diversity?