‘Cultural competence’—a skill for understanding the Cliven Bundys, Donald Sterlings of this world

| May 6, 2014
Chasiti Falls

Chasiti Falls

By Chasiti Falls

It seems like every one the past week is disappointed and astonished that two men have recently been exposed to the world on how they feel about minorities.

One can call me whatever they would like, but I am not shocked, bothered or emotionally altered by these comments. I live in America and I have cultural competence that makes me aware that this type of person exists and I over stand that their viewpoints are just their points of view.

Cliven Bundy is a rancher in Nevada who has been illegally grazing his cattle on public land since 1993, and owes the government more than $1 million in back fees which he refuses to pay. Mr. Bundy claims that his Mormon ancestors settled the land in the 1870s, although he has no documented proof.

On the flip side it is documented and well known that Mormon culture prior to 1978 regarded African Americans as cursed by God. The church had to revamp their belief system after President Jimmy Carter gave an ultimatum to their president that they would lose the Church of Latter-day Saints tax exemption status if their discriminatory practices and promotions did not end. Needless to say LDS chose M.O.E.—money over everything.

Mr. Bundy became a martyr when the federal government started impounding his 900 head of cattle in early April, following a 20-year battle over cattle-grazing on federal land.  They say he rode a horse with the American flag protesting that he does not recognize the U.S. government. Some Republican politicians in hast were supporters of the rancher.

According to The New York Times, Mr. Bundy had his belt on tight enough to give his opinion of people in public housing:

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton…And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom…,” said Bundy.

Just as Black America has what some intellectuals call “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” (PTSS), unfortunately White America developed “Post Slave Owner Syndrome.”

In the 2005 book by Joy DeGruy, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is described a set of behaviors, beliefs and actions associated with, or related to multi-generational trauma experienced by African Americans.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is an explanatory theory which posits that centuries of slavery in the U.S., followed by systemic and structural racism and oppression have  resulted in multigenerational maladaptive behaviors, which originated as survival strategies. The syndrome continues because children whose parents suffer from PTSS will often be indoctrinated into the same behaviors, long after the behaviors have lost their contextual effectiveness.

William Lynch had a very effective modus operandi, which he stated in 1712 would have effects for 400 years. So why would one think African Americans were the only ones affected by this American way of the time?

The other person that has the NAACP’s holding press conferences is Donald Sterling the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Allegedly, Sterling and his mistress V. Stiviano (born Maria Vanessa Perez), who happens to be African American and Hispanic, were recorded having a debate about if she should associate with famous African Americans like Magic Johnson and saying that he did not want her to bring them to LA Clippers games.  Sterling is also a fine example of “Post Slave Owner Syndrome”—a Caucasian married man with a minority mistress who has uncountable people of color working for him that are still not worthy to being in the same circles as he. This scenario doesn’t sound familiar to anybody else?

Donald Sterling (born Donald Tokowitz) is known for his various charity events that have benefited organizations that help the needy, including nonprofits serving the local Latino and African American communities. For these things, the NAACP had chosen to give him the Lifetime Achievement Award. The NAACP has backtracked in the wake of the controversy around Sterling.

“He is not receiving a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP,” Lorraine Miller, the organization’s interim vice president, said on Meet The Press Sunday morning.

Why take the award away now? This is not the first time Sterling has been accused of racial indecencies.  In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination for using race as a factor in tenant selection for his apartment buildings. In 2009, he agreed to pay a fine of $2.73 million to settle the claim that he engaged in discriminatory practices against Hispanics, African Americans and families with children.  I thought that was who he was helping with the donations.

President Obama even felt the need to denounce Sterling’s comments.

“We’ve made enormous strides,” the president said, “but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And, I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.”

These recordings have definitely created a distraction for Black America and the NBA Playoffs. The Clippers wore their shirts inside out during warm-ups as a silent protest; however Sterling wasn’t there to see the protest or his team lose 118-97 to the Golden State Warriors.

To date, the NBA has banned Sterling—whose net worth is $1.9 billion—for life and fined him $2.5 million the maximum allowed.  This will not stop him from bad mouthing minorities behind closed doors, but it does send a message, and a NBA team is definitely up for sale. Believe me, Donald Sterling “ain’t worried ‘bout nothing.”

What will the people say who have denounced these men when the smoke and mirrors disappear? For example, remember when America focused on Cooking Show host Paula Deen using the N word, eventually the charges were thrown out of court and the judge referred to Deen’s accuser as, “an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.” She was innocent until proven guilty but ended up not guilty and financially ruined.

I do not equate silence with complacency; however they say a hit dog will holler. Don’t follow the shiny quarter of distraction while stacks of bills are rolling by. It is truly all about money at the end of the day.

You have to ask yourself why this investigation and condemnation is moving so fast. Why release the tapes during playoffs? Why is President Obama talking about this guy and not the 200 Nigerian girls that were kidnapped from school and have been missing since mid-April? Race just happens to be the trump card on the table at the moment.

My cultural competence has allowed me to shift how I view myself; how do you view yourself?

When a person has cultural competence, these types of events are not shocking to the system.  When a person is aware of how culture influences the way people think about the world around them another’s diverse opinion is not so piercing anymore nor distracting.

Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The word culture is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The word competence is used because it implies having the capacity to function effectively with different groups.

I am not implying that one has to accept why things are the way they are. I am suggesting that one learns why things are the way they are.  Ultimately, when you understand why someone in a different culture operates differently from yourself, one can counteract these thoughts and actions in their own homes and families as President Obama stated.

Black America has to be aware that we are different and are capable of functioning is a separate society. This society should not supplicate itself for the approval of the dominating society.

“…know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”—Audre Lorde 1984

April 29, 2014 marked the anniversary for the first day of Los Angeles riots after the 1992 Rodney King verdict of not guilty for the four white cops that beat him down on camera. Apparently we still can’t get along in L.A. if you got money or not.

To conclude I think Zora Neal Hurston said it best.:

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can they deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

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Category: Opinion, Politics, Sports

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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