America Needs a Lesson in Cultural Humility and Justice

June 20, 2018

Categories: Justice

Like many Americans, I have been incredibly disturbed by what is happening at our borders–children being separated from their parents and detained. As I reflect on what is happening, two things keep coming up for me that are central to both my work as a psychologist and my faith as a Christian: cultural humility and justice.

Cultural Humility

Cultural humility involves acknowledging the limitations in our own cultural perspective, and honoring the cultural background and worldview of others who are different from us. Cultural humility is difficult. It’s natural to think that my viewpoint is right and correct, and others are misguided. It’s natural to think “America First.” But that’s not the way of cultural humility. Cultural humility forces us to take a hard, honest look at our own limitations and blind spots. Cultural humility invites us to be curious and explore cultural differences with openness and respect.


Cultural humility is related to justice. Justice involves taking concrete steps to ensure that all people are given equal opportunities and treatment in our world. Our world is very far from being just. There are huge inequalities in resources and opportunities. Some people buy extravagant homes, cars, and handbags. Others literally die in the streets because they don’t have enough food and clean water. Some people are born on third base and think they just hit a triple. Others don’t even have the chance to step into the batter’s box. Justice means that everyone would have an equal opportunity to succeed, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or social class.

Failure of Cultural Humility and Justice

What’s happening at our borders is a failure of cultural humility and justice. America clings to an illusion of cultural superiority by trying to keep immigrants out, forgetting that immigrants are what made America great in the first place. We throw justice out the window and treat immigrants like animals, forgetting that the world is a better place when ALL people have an equal shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can and must do better.


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