The STRENGTH that lies in our Cultural Identity
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that effectively put civil rights on the top of the agenda and preceded the passage of the Civil Rights act of 1964. It is on this day that we take a moment as an entire nation to reflect upon the work of Dr. King, and so many others who worked tirelessly to ensure values of equality and tolerance. This is a holiday that celebrates Dr. King’s DREAM of a world that can triumph over race, religion, status, and gender.
As another presidential term comes to a close, we take stock of the past 8 years and look for the optimism and hope that lies in the past progress of our nation as we face an uncertain future. Our outgoing President, Barack Obama, recently delivered his farewell address in Chicago, IL, and supported that focus with his emphasis on our country’s continued progress toward the goal of “embracing all, not some.” If you missed the speech, simply search for 2017 Farewell Address or go here. That progress included amendment of the Hate Crimes Protections Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to include incidences of violence motivated by race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim in the definition of a hate crime. (S.909) These terms – race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation – also describe the very elements that help define one’s cultural identity and add to an individual’s cultural capital.
Items in each domain of the TCOM Tools are used to identify actionable ways to best support the child/adult/family in need. When an item in the Strengths domain is identified as a well-developed or a centerpiece strength, we see that as an actionable way to build other strengths and support other needs. As you can see from the updated CANS Core set (2016), the item of Cultural Identity is a part of the Strengths Domain. A STRENGTH is a characteristic of a person in the environment that describes a situation that promotes meaning and well-being in that person’s life. Cultural identity refers to the person’s view of self as belonging to a specific cultural group. This cultural group may be defined by a number of factors including race, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression (SOGIE). All of these factors have the potential to help develop other STRENGTHS, such as Interpersonal Skills, Talents/Interests, Community Connection, Spiritual/Religious, and support other NEEDS, such as Social Functioning, Depression, Cultural Stress, and more.
Martin Luther King Day offers us all a chance to reflect on the importance of culture in our lives and in the lives of those we seek to help. A defined cultural identity, and a connection to others who support that identity and/or are part of that identified culture, is an important part of individual well-being for many reasons. Culture and connection to it can build a sense of trust and belonging, provide social capital through networks and connections within one’s identified culture, and encourage individuals to develop and operationalize values and aspirations. Cultural identity is part of the “content of ..character” that Dr. King envisioned as the potential future framing of understanding among people in this country.