Equity, Cultural Humility, and a Better Future for All

January 13th 2021

by Meg Kennedy, Provender Board Secretary – Central Co-op Worker UFCW Member

Hello, all my fellow Provendarians! Happy Winter to you all, and I hope you are finding some (maybe even a lot) of light in all of the darkness of last year.

I am here to let you know what the Equity Committee of the Provender Alliance has been working on lately. We have decided to read our Equity Statement at the beginning of every board meeting, each conference day, and in many other online events and communications to set the tone of what our intentions are as an organization in order to assist ourselves and all of you in balancing the inequities in our industry and beyond. We will be producing a ‘pledge’ for all of our members to join us on this journey. We will share with you pertinent information we discover as we embark on this educational and imperative undertaking. So here we go;

Here is a brief explanation of what is called ‘Cultural Humility” to give us all some tools to use in our quest to create an equitable industry. This concept was developed mostly in the health care workers world, yet is appropriate for anyone trying to be a more compassionate and equitable person in general and with the people you encounter on a day to day basis. 

Cultural Humility is a construct for understanding and developing a process-oriented approach to competency, the ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is ‘open to the other’ in relation to aspects of cultural identity. There are 3 main aspects of this process and are all useful to check and analyze our privileges and where we might fall short of true compassion and respect for others.

The first aspect is a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998). Underlying this piece is the knowledge that we are never finished- we never arrive at a point where we are done learning. Therefore, we must be humble and flexible, bold enough to look at ourselves critically, and desire to learn more. When we do not know something, are we able to say that we do not know? Willingness to act on the acknowledgment that we have not and will not arrive at a finish line is integral to this aspect of cultural humility as well. Understanding is only as powerful as the action that follows.

The second aspect of cultural humility is a desire to fix power imbalances where none ought to exist (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998). Recognizing that each person brings something different to the proverbial table of life helps us see the value of each person. When practitioners interview clients, the client is the expert on his or her own life, symptoms, and strengths. The practitioner holds a body of knowledge that the client does not; however, the client also has an understanding outside the scope of the practitioner. Both people must collaborate and learn from each other for the best outcomes. One holds power in scientific knowledge, the other holds power in personal history and preferences.

Finally, cultural humility includes aspiring to develop partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998). Though individuals can create positive change, communities and groups can also have a profound impact on systems. We cannot individually commit to self-evaluation and fixing power imbalances without advocating within the larger organizations in which we participate. Cultural humility, by definition, is larger than our individual selves –we must advocate for it systemically.

I hope this inspired you to sit back and think, and to dig deeper. We got into this industry to make a better world, so let’s be sure we continue to do that.

Thank you for all you do, and for trusting the Provender Alliance to help you make that better world!

Meg Kennedy Provender Board Secretary
Central Co-op Worker UFCW Member