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Cultural Competence

 

I seem to have developed a growl reflex. It started a few weeks ago. At first, I thought I had a cough, or some kind of breathing disorder that would kill me at any moment. Butterfly looked at me with a wait-a-minute stare, as if I had finally spoken in her language, but it was my Mom who noticed that it only happened when the news was on.

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“You finally learned my language!”

There’s something dissonant about studying to become a social worker, with all of the inherent multi-culturalism and looking out for the vulnerable and oppressed that comes with that, and then turning on the news and being told that all of these values are passé. There’s a free-for-all feeling to the news in America since the election, as if no one’s quite sure how to cover the President-elect and still be “objective.” Every day is unpredictable.

For a long time now, we’ve lived in a country where white supremacy and neo-Nazi propaganda was beyond the pale, and now, not only is it main stream news, TV news people are tying themselves up in knots trying to discuss these people and their beliefs “objectively” and “without prejudice.”

Note the irony.

Since when did objectivity require the removal of your backbone and integrity? When did this mass surgical procedure take place, and can it be reversed?

I’m trying to find out when we as a society decided that talking about racism became “identity politics,” and therefore something to be avoided. There seems to be a consensus in the main stream media that the Democrats lost the presidency because they were too focused on identity politics – aka the needs and issues of minorities and oppressed and vulnerable groups within our society. The solution offered seems to be that we should not think in terms of groups and differences at all, but only of society as a whole.

This, pardon me, is nonsense. We come together in groups when we have shared issues that need to be addressed, and know that the larger our group, the louder we can be, and the better chance we have of being heard. If we can’t come together and speak as a group, we are effectively being silenced.

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The lessons people keep trying to take from this election are bizarre: it’s Hillary’s fault, because she wasn’t likable enough; it’s “identity politics” fault, because it made white people feel left out; or, it’s Black Lives Matter’s fault (a group which, by the way, has become invisible on the news since the election, though I can’t imagine that unfair treatment of black and brown people at the hands of the police has suddenly vanished in the warm glow of the anticipated Trump presidency).

The backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement may be as realistic an explanation for the election of Donald Trump as any, because while some Americans woke up to the reality of unfair treatment of minorities by the police and criminal justice system, because they could finally see the video evidence with their own eyes, many other Americans saw the resulting protests as a threat to peace and safety, and they wanted to shut it down.

The media has decided to take Trump’s election as a mandate to stop covering certain issues, and to stop advocating certain values, that had seemed to be universal in America. The media also seems to have decided to take Trump’s word for it that Steve Bannon, despite being the voice of the Alt-right, in his own words, is really not a racist, misogynist, anti-Semite. No, he’s just misunderstood.

My only consolation is that I have the loudest, most aggressive protester in the world living in my own household. Her name is Cricket, and she is a fourteen pound bundle of fluffy outrage. If things continue to get worse, I may have to pack Cricket into the car and bring her to Washington, DC to have her voice heard. I’ll just put her at the front of whichever march is underway at the moment: the women’s march (she is female, after all), or the rights of immigrants march (as far as I know, there is no such thing as legal citizen ship for canines, so her outrage would be real). She’d be willing to fight for a lot of different groups.

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“I have something to say!”

But watch out KKK. Cricket may be a white dog, but she does not like bed sheets. You have been warned!

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

115 responses »

  1. I think that Cricket would be an amazing advocate for a variety of groups, and I fully support her inclusion in any/all protests she finds appealing!

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  2. I am on Cricket’s bandwagon! Washington, here we come!

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  3. I think Cricket would have made a better president than DT.

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  4. There would certainly be no misunderstanding Cricket!

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  5. I share your condition of devastation around the daily reports of the collapse of everything we hold sacred with regard to multiculturalism and general compassion and inclusivity. And we are among the privileged; I cannot imagine the trepidation obvious minority members of the country must be feeling now. I still hold to the faint wish that this new dispensation of white supremacists will somehow be barred from entering the White House, but I know this is a vain thought. Hold close to Butterfly, Cricket and your Mom as I hold close to my pet companions and housemates. We need to look for every opportunity to stand up for liberal values.

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  6. The sheer joy on Butterfly’s face has me grinning from ear to ear. Cricket–make ’em squirm! We need our (well, really your) voice to be heard in DC!

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  7. Thank you for pointing out the change in the subjects the news is covering. I actually had not noticed. Perhaps that’s because I’m still numb from learning the results of the election.

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  8. Um, is the Straight White Christian Male an identity? Seems to me that it certainly is, since that’s the face of the predator-elect’s audience. Why’s that not identity politics?

    There’s a great article in The Guardian titled ‘Don’t play identity politics!’ The primal scream of the straight white male . (I’ve given up reading the mainstream media.)

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  9. I thought that this was an animal oriented blog.

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  10. hairytoegardener

    Sad & funny post all in one. I’d be happy to let Cricket lead me in any protest.

    I recently moved from a liberal city to a very conservative east Texas town.

    At least from the point of view of this town, I can give the reasons folks here voted for Trump.

    1. They were angry the Democrats were able to get a black man into office. They would never admit to their hatred of Obama because he is black, but it’s there. They blame Obama for everything bad, right or wrong. Obama is their piñata. (Racism)
    2. One woman told me she voted for Trump because of abortion. Killing babies wasn’t right. She said she was willing to overlook his crotch-grabbing proclivities for that reason. (Religious values)
    3. Another man said now that Trump is in office, perhaps the US oil industry will return. Many men here lost their job in the oil industry and can’t find another one. I’d be willing to bet others who lost jobs in the coal mining towns feel the same way. (Economy)
    4. Some hate Hillary solely based on the fact that she is a woman. They would never say this, but they believe only a man should be president. The idea of a STRONG intelligent woman in the White House appalled them. If Hillary looked sexy, it could be a different story. (Sexism)
    5. Others bunch all Democrats as environmentalist, bleeding-heart liberals, and climate change is a crock. Business interests rule over all else. I’ve endured two such individuals who spewed this stuff non-stop. (Party allegiance)

    I don’t think you could change these folks’ views even with heavy education and factual data. It’s ingrained.

    These aren’t my values. That’s why I hide in my garden and contemplate attending church in a different town. Reading Anne Lamott helps.

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  11. Have you met Golden Brodie at heartclosetblog? Cricket, Butterfly and Brodie would have a lot to discuss… (:

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  12. the nation
    can soundly sleep,
    knowing it’s protected 🙂

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  13. Hear hear!! Grrrrowwlll..!! 💚

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  14. Yay Cricket! I agree!!!

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  15. “Backbone and integrity” are sorely needed right now. We are being challenged as never before. From the wreckage of our values, many voices are calling for us stand up for what is right. I think we can prove that Love trumps hate.

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  16. Brilliant post, so refreshing! And the first picture is just awesome! ( Did I say awesome? I never say awesome! See what you’ve done there? 🙂 😉 )

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  17. Great post and pics! Those doggies say it all. You are a wonderful combination of serious and funny. I have stopped watching broadcast news altogether. My growl would turn into a roar and scare my three felines. Thank you.

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  18. If all animals on this planet could stand up against injustice we’d all be doomed……!!!

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  19. I could not agree with you more Rachel! I got a real chuckle out of your last comment about the KKK and bedsheets! I think your pooches and my pooch would make good protestors! Although he is a male, my dog Banner, (no relation to Bannon) speaks for the disabled and disenfranchised of the country. He was a homeless rescue dog with only one eye when we took him in. But even with that one eye he sees through the unfairness being presented as the new agenda of our president-elect. He agrees with his human companions and would like to take a big bite out of this administration before it even takes office!

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  20. I would bet a lot of people have that lost feeling right now…I’ve been doing volunteer work for the climate/carbon pricing movement, and I’ve found myself stopping and wondering, is there still any point to what I’m doing? Just have to keep reminding myself that this is too important of a fight to give up….

    Unfortunately, I would agree with you that a negative reaction to BLM probably contributed to the Trump victory. The assassinations of cops didn’t help, I’m sure–even though the insane people who committed those deeds did not represent the vast majority of peaceful BLM protesters. Sigh.

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  21. Humanity, liberty, fairness, community – these values are never passe. They were unfashionable in Germany in 1933. Do we now think they were not needed?

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  22. Wonderfully said, Rachel. What is also scary is the Holocost deniers. They may be setting this country up for what is to come. What is that old saying? Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it? I hope and pray not.

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  23. A powerful post – again- Rachel!

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  24. This is a powerful post Rachel so well written and thought out. Butterfly and Cricket are the best 🙂

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  25. watching this whole thing play out with amazement here in Aus. Not that we’re immune. We may not have anyone (yet) of the extreme grossness of Trump but we have some far-righters who are looking very smug.

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  26. Beautifully set-out, the paradigm where democracy doesn’t produce the right (or even sane) result. How to discuss the disaster without trashing the democracy that produced it; Cricket can’t do a worse job than the rest of us (maybe he could stand in 2020).

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    • I feel like the media has forgotten their role in a sane democracy, and we need to remind them that they are not meant to provide entertainment or just go along with whichever government is in place.

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      • You are exactly and completely correct; the recent election highlights the substitution of profits for journalistic integrity. The price to be paid for this will be enormous and disfigure the body politic for years.

    • Sadly, we are a republic, not a democracy. Hence, with over two million more votes, Hillary lost the election because the votes of people in places like Wyoming are worth two or three times more in the electoral college than the votes of people in places like New York and California. Had we been a democracy, Hillary would have won..

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  27. “For a long time now, we’ve lived in a country where white supremacy and neo-Nazi propaganda was beyond the pale, and now, not only is it main stream news,TV news people are tying themselves up in knots trying to discuss these people and their beliefs ‘objectively” and “without prejudice.'”
    Thank you very much for saying that. The world has gone mad. At least the media in America has.

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  28. Social workers are special people. My cousin Lois is a SS who works with juvvies. Her stupid brother voted for Trump. Think about what she has to contend with. Yet she is feeling positive “it’s not over til it’s over.”

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  29. I am frightened for the future of this country. My husband and I can run away back to Canada as we are dual citizens but I worked hard to become and American and I want to be proud to stay. Not sure I can, though. I am a bleeding heart liberal tree-hugger who sees first-hand what climate change is doing to our environment and I cried on election night out of pure grief and sadness. I choose to avoid the TV now unless figure skating or golf is on.

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  30. A powerful statement with a charming ending (starring Cricket)! That, in a nutshell, is why I enjoy your blog so much!!

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  31. The truth remains true regardless of how many lies are spread. There is a lot of noise right now, but reality is still there. Racism never went away, nor did antisemitism or misogyny. It was just hiding under a rock. Now the rock has been turned over revealing the ugly mess under it. But I have faith that things in the light have a chance to change. That’s how I live my life, and have for the last 69 years. We move forward in this country in fits and starts, but we generally move forward. As we said many years ago, “Keep the faith.”

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  32. I am deeply grateful for your post, Rachel, and for all the thoughtful comments here. Thanks especially to @Elizabeth (betsylou ?), who said, “things in the light have a chance to change.” This is a perspective I need, as I have been in mourning since the election and barely able to hold my head above the grief long enough each day to do what must be done.

    Ever since a beautiful young man named Oscar Grant was shot to death in an Oakland (California) BART station a few years back, while face down, handcuffed and with one officer’s knee on his neck, I have become increasingly aware that police shootings are the lynchings of our time. I had hoped that, with the advent of cell phone videos showing these cold-blooded killings for what they are, we would see fewer of them and the killers would see justice. That has not been the case. Today we see this so-called “white-lash” overtaking our country, and I fear for the people of the world as I have never feared before.

    I will hold in my heart Elizabeth’s faith that things in the light have a chance to change. I urge everyone reading this to do what you must to heal, but not to hide. We must bear witness to all that is happening now. And we must act, in whatever ways we can, to prevent the spread of the fascism and demagoguery that threaten all we hold dear. Good luck to each and every one of you, and may love and reason prevail!

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  33. I can understand how devastating it all is. Keep Posting!

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  34. She’s got my support!

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  35. No matter how crazy things become, there always those moments that the grins of my fur family washes the craziness away! Go Cricket!

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  36. Hi Rachel. I share your concerns about where this country is going amidst the political chaos we may be heading into. I hope and pray that we as Americans remember those who need our help the most. I love reading your posts and am nominating you for the Leibster Award. No pressure, but I hope you will participate. Thanks again for letting me into your world. More information is here: https://explorationsinplace.com/2016/12/07/my-first-blogging-award-the-liebster/

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  37. “no one’s quite sure how to cover the President-elect and still be “objective.” Fantastic piece of insight. I’ve been struggling to find the words for it. Great post.

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  38. Thanks for speaking out Rachel and Cricket. We really do need to stand up and be counted. I rarely watch the news at the moment. Mostly, it’s because I’m driving the kids around. I don’t have any idea what’s going on in the world, or even beyond my own backyard at the moment. We’ve had a pretty busy time with performances so after this weekend, I’ll be rising back up to the surface and getting back on deck.
    Hope you have a great weekend.
    xx Rowena

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  39. Pretty and I are riding a bus to the Million Women’s March from South Carolina. we are riding 9 hours up to DC marching for four hours and then riding 9 hours back on the bus. I believe we have 6 buses coming from South Carolina so far – would love to see you and Cricket and Butterfly at the March!! We leave at midnight on the 21 and get back at midnight on the 22nd. There are lots of reasons to march, not the least of which is the new Secretary of Education-elect.Betsy DeVos and her husband spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for conversion therapy directed at lesbians who clearly have always had a choice about their sexual orientation. Of course, we would choose to be persecuted just like the Jews under Nazi regimes.
    Sweet bunch.

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  40. Very well said! And if Cricket decides to take the trek to D.C., let me know…I will cheer her on all the way. 🙂

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  41. Pingback: Stories I skimmed today | by joe miller

  42. Good for Cricket! I live in the deep south and I don’t like white bed sheets, either. And neither does anyone else I know, either. We renounce the 3 K’s deeply and passionately and find them enormously creepy.

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  43. Honest Abe Lincoln

    I enjoy your posts. Speaking of “white” things, I asked my wife of 61 years, just yesterday, if she had any underwear with colored dots on them? I couldn’t remember ever seeing her in any multi-colored anything worn under regular clothes. She said, “no,” that she only wears white. When I was a kid we wore whatever we had and it wasn’t always white. Mom washed once a week and it was too bad if you got your underwear dirty. You had to wear them anyway. My, how times have changed.

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