November's Asset of the Month is POSITIVE CULTURAL IDENTITY
"Young people feel comfortable with and proud of their identity, including but not limited to disabilities, ethnicity, faith/religion, family status, gender, language, and sexual orientation."
The Importance of Positive Cultural Identity
The way that youth are treated with regard to their ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender directly affects their ability to develop a positive personal identity. As adults, it’s critical that we model recognition, understanding, and celebration of all cultural identities, including the cultures to which we and/or our children do not belong.
Sharing and celebrating different cultural identities increases individuals’ self-esteem and promotes cultural competence among all young people. This is why Santa Clara County adopted the 41st developmental asset – positive cultural identity.
Building a positive cultural identity and respect for other differences starts early. After age nine, racial attitudes tend to stay the same unless a child has a life-changing experience. Before that, however, we have a good chance to help children develop positive feelings about their racial and cultural identity. Many of us think that because our kids are raised in a diverse community, they will be tolerant and color blind. Research by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman shows us that children need to be taught about racial and cultural differences. We need to be able to talk about the differences that kids see and why these differences don’t create barriers to acceptance.
Children should be taught about the differences among us, whether they are due to disabilities, ethnicity, faith/religion, family status, gender, language or sexual orientation. Children should be encouraged to accept and celebrate these differences. We want to help all children develop a positive self-concept and feel proud of who they are, but also to recognize that they are not superior to other groups. If this positive sense of self and others is allowed to flourish, today's children will become adults who accept and affirm differences, identify unfair situations, and strive to eliminate racism of any sort. Bullying will decrease, since many acts of bullying occur when children identify someone as different and are afraid of, or don’t understand, those differences. Palo Alto’s exceptionally diverse community can only benefit from building greater esteem and understanding both within and among the many cultural groups in our region.
The following discussion topics* can help families talk with young people about their cultural identity:
• What is our cultural background?
• What is something that you value because it’s valued by our culture?
• What are some things about our culture that you would like other people to know?
• Do you know anyone who’s from a different culture? In what ways are your cultures similar and different? Do your cultural differences make it difficult to be friends? How can you share your cultural differences in a positive, nonjudgmental way?
*Adapted from the Canadian Child Care Federation’s “Supporting Our Children’s Social Well-Being…It’s a Team Effort!” workshop
This article was adapted from Project Cornerstone Asset of the Month and Activities that Promote Racial and Cultural Awareness (Biles, Barbara). See the Project Cornerstone Resource Kit here http://www.projectcornerstone.org/pdfs/November_PositiveCulturalIdentity_ResourceKit.pdf