How to Be Respectfully Culturally Curious
Andrea Pippins is the author of We Inspire Me, a one-of-a-kind handbook for doers and makers looking to expand and nourish their creative community. After all, the best thing a creative person can have is a crew of friends, allies, and mentors to support them.
Here is an excerpt from her book on how to be (respectfully) culturally curious. Read on!
I grew up in a small suburban town just outside of Washington, D.C., and it was everything that comes to mind when one thinks of a stereotypical suburban community. It was quiet, isolated, there was a huge strip-mall scene, and it was not very diverse. I was one of two black kids in my neighborhood.
Fortunately, my mom was someone who loved to be out and about, and being a city girl who had grown up in Rio de Janeiro, she loved to hang out in D.C. And I was there tagging along. We were a part of a vibrant immigrant community, a group of friends and surrogate family members spread across the D.C. area, all looking to belong somewhere far from home. On weekends, we were at each other’s houses for dinners, barbecues, and birthday parties. Most of the people were from Brazil, but my mom moved through different groups of folks from many different countries—Kenya, South Africa, Bolivia, and France. Hearing varying accents, eating different kinds of food, and celebrating non-American holidays was a normal Saturday night for me.
But it wasn’t just about culture on a macro level. There were friends from privileged and less privileged backgrounds—folks who lived in the city, others from more rural areas. We went to museums and art show openings and farmers’ markets in the middle of nowhere. When my parents divorced, my dad moved back to his hometown in Indiana, just outside of Chicago. Spending my summers there as a preteen, I saw different style trends and listened to sounds of hip-hop that were different from what was being celebrated back at home.
My world was always shifting. Navigating these different groups, cultures, and experiences allowed me to see other perspectives while also refining my own. I learned early on that exposure to another’s religion, food, or customs never took away from who I was but simply enriched and informed my own experiences. This affected my life and work in that I always believed I belonged and felt OK in new situations with people who were different from me. The exposure to people and cultures unlike my own gave me the tools to navigate unfamiliar environments, leaving me flexible and able to take risks and explore new opportunities.
In We Inspire Me book, we talk a lot about cultivating a community of people who support us through our creative lives. During these times, when the world feels so divided, I hope that while we acknowledge the importance of keeping like-minded people in our corner, that we also remember to look beyond our immediate circles to make personal, professional, and creative connections.
Talk to people. Don’t make assumptions. And engage with others as fellow human beings.
6 Ways to Be (Respectfully) Culturally Curious
1. Be Open
Try new things, meet people outside of your circle, and do something different.
2. Be Genuine
Look at why you’re drawn to this culture. Examine your reasons and intentions.
3. Embrace Differences
Connect on the similarities but be respectful of others’ differing ideas, beliefs, and values.
4. Dig Deeper
Curious about a culture? Go beyond surface level. Learn as much as you can through reading and exploration.
5. Ask Questions
As you’re learning, don’t be afraid to ask about what you don’t know or understand.
6. Don’t Assume
When connecting with new-to-you people and cultures, always be prepared to learn. Even if you’ve read every piece of literature, don’t walk into situations thinking you know better.
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You can find We Inspire Me here.
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