Cultural Competence Week: Dominica McBride on The Importance of Cultural Competence

Hi, my name is Dominica McBride and I’m a member of the AEA Public Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group, along with CEO of Become, Inc., a nonprofit using culturally responsive program evaluation as a tool in realizing social justice. I also teach Diversity at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Lesson Learned: Unfortunately, too often, I see people pay “lip service” to cultural competence but don’t exert the effort needed to make the psychological changes necessary to make real structural change. Many people don’t see the profound importance of cultural competence. The purpose of this construct is not only so we (whoever the “we” is – evaluators, teachers, medical doctors) can communicate effectively and accomplish a given collective goal with people of any cultural background. It is also to achieve social equality so we can realize the US’s foundational philosophy; as the Declaration of Independence asserts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I want to take this time to reiterate the importance of cultural competence or responsiveness through showing its relevance today with a focus on macro level issues. Structural discrimination is still alive and well. Structural discrimination is the unintended discrimination that is embedded in institutions, perpetuating oppression. This type of discrimination continues to show up in institutions like the criminal justice system, education, housing and healthcare. For examples:

  • Michelle Alexandar writes, “More African American men were disenfranchised due to felony convictions in 2004 than in 1870.” The great majority of these convictions are due to drug-related felonies, despite the fact that African Americans and Caucasians use and deal at equal rates.
  • The tax structure lays the groundwork for unequal resource distribution to schools, with schools in more disadvantaged areas receiving less resources, thus perpetuating the cycle of disproportionate unemployment in more impoverished communities.

Our role as culturally competent or culturally responsive evaluators is not only to be aware of how we influence a situation and how culture can influence participants and a program but also to contribute to structural, societal changes for the greater, collective good. This means observing both the overt and the latent in programs and their contexts, saying the hard truths, and taking risks. This means being an advocate and catalyst.

Rad Resources: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander provides a rich description and statistics showing the morphing of Jim Crow into present day structural discrimination in the criminal justice system.

Check out a video, The Unequal Opportunity Race, demonstrating some contextual barriers that have and continue to create obstacles to equality.

This week, we’re diving into issues of Cultural Competence in Evaluation with AEA’s Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation Dissemination Working Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Cultural Competence Week: Dominica McBride on The Importance of Cultural Competence”

  1. I’ve become convinced that that from which we wish to escape eventually manifests itself in other ways that we can only come to know in retrospect. Where does this need to escape originate? I think it stems from a sense of otherness: either you want to be like somebody else or you don’t. Either way, it reflects a dissatisfaction with who you are as is.

    What’s the solution? Here’s one: Appreciate yourself and others as is (human beings) rather than as something to be fixed (human doings): .


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