“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are
equal in value no matter what their color.”
These words by Maya Angelou describe a comprehensive sense of cultural competence and the importance of diversity. Cultural competence is the understanding, and respect for, the numerous diverse cultures, beliefs, values, and norms that exist within our society. Each one of us brings a unique perspective to life. Recognizing and respecting this is an invaluable part of the drive for social equality. Because social workers are often placed amidst cultures different from their own, it is vital for workers to maintain a level of cultural competence that ensures the most successful outcomes for their clients. From a macro perspective, understanding and embracing diversity enables social workers to advocate for policies and practices that advance social equality – particularly for diverse populations that are often oppressed and marginalized.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) recognizes the importance of cultural competency and includes it as a component of its Competence core value in the NASW Code of Ethics. There is no greater time than now for the profession to be mindful of, and actively engaged in, enhancing cultural competence. Turn on the nightly news and stories of institutional racism, wage inequality, and access (or lack thereof) to healthcare underscore the importance of understanding, embracing, and advocating for diverse populations. Not to mention racial and age diversity that continues to grow at substantial rates. A CNN report indicates that by 2050, racial minorities will become the majority and residents older than 65 will more than double in the United States of America.
The NASW has amended its Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice, an action long overdue as the document had not been updated since 2001. Updating these standards sends a clear message that the social work profession is committed to embracing the beauty of the multicolored tapestry of our combined humanity. By furthering its knowledge and understanding of diverse populations and systems, the profession will be able to continue to fulfill the mission of enhancing human well-being and helping to meet the basic needs of ALL people.
The NASW is encouraging social workers to review and provide comments on the amendments. Comments will be accepted until June 22, 2015.