Let’s Get Outside Our Comfort Zones

What I have to share is going to be uncomfortable before it gets comfortable. However, it’s an important topic to discuss if we want to instill change. So here it goes…

Naïve-Me

As an Asian American, I’m part of the minority. I know that everyone (minority and non-minority) has faced or will face prejudicial and stereotypical views from people of different races, genders, ethnicities, or a myriad other labels we ascribe.

And, prior to attending the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH) Annual Convention in April, I embarrassingly thought that because I’m of a minority race, I could empathize equally with other minority races … I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I Look Asian—and Will Always Look Asian

No one can try and play off the fact that I look Asian. And, honestly, I’d be offended if someone did. But, if you were to cover my face and throw me in a room of Caucasian individuals, my pale skin would allow me to blend right in. That’s my daily experience—blending in with Caucasian individuals based on my skin color and how I talk.

I hate to state the obvious, but that’s not the case for many Black individuals [I recently learned that some individuals consider “African American” derogatory because not every Black individual was born in the United States or identifies as being African.].

After connecting with other students at the Convention and learning more about their experiences, I now understand the power of having people who look like you portrayed positively in the media, at school, in the workplace—everywhere! What better motivator than seeing someone who looks like you succeed?

Re-evaluating My Own Cultural Competence

Charlotte with Darius Thomas, NBASLH Student Representative, at the 2018 NBASLH Convention. She shared, "The positive energy and friendships I gained from my time there are memories I’ll never forget."
Charlotte with Darius Thomas, NBASLH Student Representative, at the 2018 NBASLH Convention. She shared, “The positive energy and friendships I gained from my time there are memories I’ll never forget.”

We can say we don’t see others’ skin color. But (maybe it’s my lack of worldly experience or immaturity) when I first meet someone, I notice their physical appearance—including skin tone—and I think that’s okay. It’s when we make assumptions based on those physical characteristics that’s not okay!

Going to the NBASLH Convention was a great learning experience. Not just to learn more about the professions, but also as an incredible opportunity for me to step back and re-evaluate my cultural competence.

I’m NOT embarrassed to admit my lack of insight before attending this convention, because I went out there and got uncomfortable. I addressed my lack of awareness. I asked questions. And I’ve grown from the experience.

Ultimately, I was a minority at the NBASLH Convention, but I wasn’t treated differently. I was accepted and welcomed with open arms. The positive energy and friendships I gained from my time there are memories I’ll never forget. This new family taught me that asking questions does not make you less of a person, it doesn’t make you appear racist, and it doesn’t make you ignorant… it makes you smarter and shows that you truly want to embrace everyone’s differences. This openness will carry over into implementation of professional service delivery—allowing you to approach all clients and their families with greater awareness and without judgement.

Finally, I want to thank my NBASLH family for making me feel comfortable when joining you in your home. It was truly a judgement-free experience and I look forward to going back next year!

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