But what happens when they don't?
The ability to connect is one of the strongest "superpowers" any youth worker has. And just like Superman, there is a "kryptonite" that can undermine that power. Unfortunately, any of us can carry it unwittingly.
Bias, a tendency to believe that some people or cultures are better than others, can result in our treating some people unfairly. Bias can present itself in many forms -- usually when we are in the presence of a person or practice that is unfamiliar to us, or that we were taught to fear. We can find ourselves more judgmental or disconnected from people whenever we assess them, often unconsciously, as somehow "other." Regrettably, if left unchecked, even the smallest bias can deeply impact the relationship with a young person.
In youth work, we must also deal with the biases of the young people we are working with. It's on us to create safe, inclusive environments for our work with youth.
Cultural competence, which Child Trends defines as "the ability to work and respond in a manner that acknowledges and respects individuals' culturally-based beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and customs," is a quality that youth work professionals can continually develop. On this page, we offer resources to help professionals assess their own biases, address bias and inclusion in programming and classrooms, and create inclusive environments.
Assessing BiasAn honest assessment of your own biases is an excellent place to start.
This page links to a range of tools and documents for self -- and organizational -- assessment. National Center for Cultural Competence.
Project Implicit offers implicit-association tests (IAT) that can reveal unconscious bias across a range of dimensions. Tests can be taken anonymously at your computer. Registration is required. Harvard University.
Chapter Two: Self-Assessment
This section of A Youth Leader's Guide to Building Cultural Competence assists youth work professionals in exploring their own beliefs. Advocates for Youth.
Addressing BiasSimply saying "Don't say that!" does not address the root of any biased remark. Instead of explaining to a student or co-worker why their words could be hurtful, it teaches them to not say those words in front of you. Addressing bias is not an easy task -- but it can be done. And just like building any other skill, it has to be practiced.
Helping Youth Resist Bias and Hate (PDF)
This activity guide will help educators provide young adolescents with the tools and strategies needed to understand the value of diversity and to develop positive, fair, and non-violent relationships. Partners Against Hate.
A Youth Leader's Guide to Building Cultural Competence (PDF)
Using a four-step model, this resource helps youth leaders build the attitudes, knowledge, and skills necessary to meet the challenges of providing sexuality education to culturally diverse groups. Advocates for Youth.
Creating Inclusive Environments
Conceptual Frameworks / Models, Guiding Values and Principles
The definition and framework provided here will be especially useful to organizations that serve the public. National Center for Cultural Competence.
Enhancing Cultural Competence in Out-of-School Time Programs (PDF)
This brief addresses the elements of cultural competence and provides suggestions for personal development and program activities. Child Trends.
Inclusion Tool Kit for After School Programs (PDF)
This handbook aids programs seeking to create an inclusive environment for youth with special needs. Special Needs Inclusion Project.
LGBTQ Inclusion in Youth Program Environments (PDF)
In this article, L. Maurer outlines strategies for making program environments more inclusive to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning youth. ACT for Youth.
Activities and Lesson Plans
On this page of the Social and Emotional Learning Toolkit, we connect to resources for teaching empathy and creating inclusive and safe environments. ACT for Youth.
Teaching Tolerance: Classroom Resources
This database of classroom resources, which can be searched by grade level and topic, offers a range of anti-bias activities. Southern Poverty Law Center.
Diversity Activities Resource Guide (PDF)
This handbook contains ice breakers as well as activities to promote self-awareness and understanding of stereotypes.