Diversity Corner

SPP Colleagues: 

 This is the first Diversity Corner piece in Progress Notes. This offering is a way to regularly connect about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) topics as they relate to SPP. While I am writing the first version of this piece, I eagerly seek submissions from SPP members, reflecting the topics and issues that matter most to you. The format of this feature is totally flexible, so fresh and new ideas are welcome! For the first issue, I’ll discuss the Diversity Champions Project. 

You may have heard that the SPP board is currently participating in the Diversity Champions (DC) Program created by SPP members, Drs. Emily McTate and Lori Crosby. This project was born out of the inaugural Anti-Racism Grant mechanism in 2020. This program has been offered to 3 cohorts, including the most recent SPP Board cohort. Preliminary data suggest that graduates of the program noted changes in their own attitudes and behaviors, increased comfort discussing DEI topics and speaking up, feeling better able to develop inclusive practices, and increased contribution to their organizations. The DC Program operates under a Train the Trainer model, so that those who complete the course are able to facilitate future iterations at other locations, with other participants, and with students and faculty. It is an experiential learning opportunity that challenges individuals to self-reflect and examine the systems and structures in which they operate.  

A key tenet of this program is cultural humility. Depending on when you trained in psychology, you may have been taught to strive for cultural competence. Cultural humility goes a step beyond knowledge and stresses the need for lifelong learning, self-reflection, self-critique, and willingness to acknowledge and learn from the experiences of others. To do this, individuals must first critically reflect on their own identities and cultures to better examine power, privilege, and oppression in all levels of their ecosystem. With this increased awareness, individuals are more apt to examine and address systemic injustice to promote equity for all. This makes cultural humility a sister to social justice and a necessary tool for systemic change. 

This month, I hope to share a few cultural humility tools that I learned along the way in the DC Program.* I am not an expert and cannot speak for others. This is a first step (and not the last) towards living the values of the program and doing the work to actively promote equity and justice. One of the most amazing parts of the DC Program is that you are charged with performing Community Practice activities between sessions. This takes content learned from conceptual to practical and helps to build the “cultural humility muscle.”  

  1. Practice self-focus: Speak from the “I” perspective and about your own experiences. Avoid making assumptions about others. 
  2. Acknowledge the difference between intent and impact: We will make mistakes and say things that harm others. Whether it was intentional or not matters less than how it impacts others. Own the impact of your actions, and recognize that even with the best of intentions, you may harm others.  
  3. Move up/move back: To encourage full participation by all, notice who is speaking and who isn’t. If you are often speaking, consider moving back to allow space for others to move up. 
  4. Use “oops” and “ouch”: As we make mistakes in the process, we need shared language to call out microaggressions or other harmful experiences (“ouch”) and acknowledge and apologize for our mistakes (“oops”).  
  5. Break up with blaming or shaming self and others: Notice when feelings of shame arise and recognize your own discomfort. The work is hard and self-reflection can be painful at times. Be sure to observe ways that you may be attempting to blame others for your feelings. Also, know that because you are human, you will make mistakes. Once you are aware of them, correct them, and strive to not make the same mistake again. 

In reflecting on this training, I can say that I was uncomfortable often. Did it make me nervous to attend? Yes. Did I feel like I stepped in it sometimes? Yes. Did I learn and grow in ways I did not anticipate? Also, yes! If you are feeling ill-equipped for the challenge of striving for cultural humility, know you aren’t the only one and do not let that dissuade you from taking the first step. Please also accept this as an invitation to be an accountability partner in the process. When the training ends, the work just begins. 

If you have a DEIJ topic or project you would like to highlight in Progress Notes, please reach out to me at cmlow@cmh.edu. I’d love to feature all of the great work being done by SPP members.  


Christina Low Kapalu, PhD - Member at Large for Diversity 


*Please note the cultural humility practices are taken from a handout by Lori Crosby and Emily McTate and adapted from East Bay Meditation Center Group Agreements.