The Ten Lenses: Building Personal Cultural Competence

Article excerpt

The magazine "Psychology Today" tells us in its August 1998 issue that stereotypes are an ingrained part of the thinking of most Americans. We make assumptions and take actions regarding others who are different than us based on ideas and impressions acquired during childhood.

In this "politically correct" era most Americans are cautious about verbalizing their views on race and culture, yet they continue to behave from a belief system that has perhaps not been examined in the context of their present day lives in a multicultural society.

Author, psychologist and diversity expert Mark Williams, in collaboration with the Gallup Organization and The Diversity Channel, has written a book entitled "THE 10 LENSES: Your Guide to Living and Working in a Multicultural World" (2001).

Mr. Williams has identified ten lenses or perceptual filters through which people view race and culture.

As individuals learn to better understand their own lenses and the lenses of others, they increase the possibility of building bridges, managing conflict, and finding common ground in cross-cultural situations.

These lenses influence all areas of American life. Once a person is able to identify his/her lenses they can then begin to minimize the weaknesses and maximize the strengths inherent in each lens, and can move towards inclusiveness, a perspective embraced in the eleventh lens that Mr. Williams has developed.

Key to obtaining this inclusive perspective is to understand all of the ten lenses people use to view those who are different.

* Assimilationists who want individuals to submerge their individual and cultural identities in favor of nationalistic and patriotic ideals.

* Colorblinds who see people as individuals and ignore race, color, ethnicity and other external cultural factors.

* Culturalcentrists who seek to improve the welfare of their cultural group by accentuating their history and identity.

* Elitists who believe in the superiority of the upper class and embrace the importance of family roots, wealth, and social status. …