Category Archives: Cultural Humility

History Meets the Present: The Continued Resilience of East Palo Alto

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History has a way of centering us in our truth. It opens windows and doors into a deeper part of us and others. We begin to understand how things came to be, why your now citizen father grits his teeth every time he crosses a border, why there was a golf course in your neighborhood gated by a 20 foot fence that you never questioned, and even why you are determined to remain grateful no matter what life hands you.

It is one thing to visit a community, shop at their local grocery store, question what others have told you of this place and admire the warmth this community radiates. However, it is an entirely different experience to spend weeks gathering historical information about a community and then make eye contact. The closest comparison I can think of is accidentally opening East Palo Alto’s (EPA) diary, where they stored hopes, where they drew their future, and all the tear stained pages where they wrote about their trauma. There I sat flipping pages that looked like news articles, academic papers, and magazine spotlights that detailed the most intimate and violent experiences that this community had endured.

Through my research I learned about the redlining of EPA, and how this practice which backs mortgage lending to certain White neighborhoods and excludes others that house minorities, shaped what EPA would become. What this practice meant for residents was that they could not secure access to mortgages or capital so their property values were capped, and their access to gaining generational wealth was stifled. It also hardened racial divides, and left African American folk with limited options for where they could live.

The research revealed many personal stories of the first African Americans moving to the county and their neighbors protesting their arrival outside their homes and creating an environment of hostility so toxic that there was no choice but to move.

Additionally, there were also stories of folks moving to EPA and finding community, raising their children among family and developing strong social and community bonds.

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Are Implicit Bias Trainings Enough to Actually Stop Incidents Like Philadelphia Starbucks?

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On 4/12, two black men were sitting at a table at Starbucks without making a purchase and were arrested when declining a store manager’s demand to leave.

Since then, Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson has announced changes to its policy including mandatory implicit bias tests, shutting down all US Starbucks stores on May 29th. This opens larger conversations about what is implicit bias, how it can be harmful, and whether Starbucks’ implicit bias test can actually make a difference.

Implicit bias refers to the automatic associations people have in their minds about a group of people, including stereotypes. They are formed subconsciously and unintentionally, but result in the prejudiced behaviors, attitudes, and actions for or against a person or group of people.

According to CNN, studies have shown that implicit bias contributes to “shooter bias”, the tendency for the police to shoot unarmed black suspects more often than white ones

Starbucks’ Implicit Bias training intends to combat the issue of implicit bias. However according to Cornell professor, Michelle Duguid’s research, sometimes implicit bias trainings have a negative effect on its audience; by explaining to people that stereotyping is common, people are sometimes actually more likely to express those biases.

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Arab American Heritage Month

April marks National Arab American Heritage Month. Included in the California Senate Resolution are the acknowledgements that Arab Americans have been making valuable contributions to every aspect of American Society, set fine examples of model citizens, bring resilient family values, strong work ethic, dedication to education, and more. Read about the resolution here.

Here at the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), we are working to also recognize and support the Arab and Arab American communities.

In collaboration with ODE, BHRS, and the Arab Workgroup, students in the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) at Jefferson High School shared their stories. The students shared their stories in response to the framing question, “What does mental wellness look like in you community?”.

The students shared that they feel “othered”, that they are challenged with balancing expectations from two cultures, and that they are hopeful with their faith in Allah.

Sharing these stories is important for many reasons, including building visibility and recognizing the lived experiences of a community who’s stories are marginalized. As you read these stories, think about how you show up for our Arab and Arab American colleagues and consumers.

Similarly related, the U.S. government classified people of Middle Eastern descent as “white” since 1970. This has made it challenging to get an accurate count of Arab Americans in the U.S. and to determine how members of this population are succeeding financially, academically, etc. ODE is challenging this in our own health system by working with the Arab Work Group to add an option to the race/ethnicity demographic form that distinguishing Arab and Arab Americans from Middle Easterns. With this, we will be able to keep better track of the services we provide to ensure that we provide equitable care to all communities!

In the News: African American Community Initiative

One of our very own, Briana Evans, Senior Community Health Planner with the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), was recently featured on Pen Voice. Check out the video below for Briana’s take on the innovative work of the African American Community Initiative and the importance of all of our Health Equity Initiatives.

The Office of Diversity and Equity Offers New Community Resources!

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) created a We Welcome All poster and Cultural Humility Group Agreements poster for the community to practice cultural humility, advance equity, and build inclusion in their home space, business space, work space, community space, etc. 

We Welcome All Poster

The We Welcome All Poster was designed to show the Office of Diversity and Equity’s solidarity with San Mateo County’s diverse community. Regardless of race, ethnicity, citizen status, sexual orientation and gender identity, ODE celebrates and values diversity. We invite everyone to celebrate and value diversity with us. 

The varying languages on the bottom half of the poster represent San Mateo County’s 5 threshold languages: English, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Tagalog, as well as the county’s 5 emerging languages: Arabic, Burmese, Portuguese, Samoan, and Tongan. 

People with the We Welcome All poster are encouraged to post them near the front entrance of their buildings where visitors and passer-bys are able to see them.

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Maligayang bagong Taon (Happy New Years in Tagalog) from the Filipino Mental Health Initiative!

Written by: Nancy Chen, member of FMHI

For many of us, preparing for a New Year is a time of reflection on the past year’s events, accomplishments and challenges.  It is also a time of introspection about the hopes for the upcoming year.  The Filipino Mental Health Initiative (FMHI) would like to express much gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to reach the Filipino community as well as surrounding communities.

FMHI is one of 9 mental health initiatives funded from the Mental Health Services Act in 2010 through  Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Office of Diversity and Equity. FMHI seeks to improve the well-being of Filipinos in San Mateo County by reducing stigma associated with mental health issues, increasing access to services, empowering the community to advocate for their mental health, and supporting wellness and recovery.  FMHI collaborates with county staff, community partners, consumers/family members, and community stakeholders to ensure that culturally appropriate services are available to Filipino residents.

The Filipino Mental Health Initiative (FMHI) has received support from various collaborations in 2017, wrapping the year up with three successful community events: 1) Philz Coffee Suicide Prevention Outreach event, 2) Philz Coffee Mental Health Poetry Slam, and 3)Immigrant Rights and Health Forum.  These events were made possible due to the support and collaboration with Supervisor David Canepa’s office, Philz Coffee, and St. Andrew Catholic Church’s Social Justice Ministry. 

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Become a Cultural Humility Trainer Through 2-day Training!

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Become a Cultural Humility trainer with creators of the multicultural-affirming tool, Melanie Tervalon, MD, MPH and Jann Murray- Garcia, MD, MPH. As a trainer, you will be able to teach Cultural Humility trainings to other organizations in order to further educate the importance of critical self- reflection and life-long learning; changing power dynamics for client focused care; advocating for and maintaining institutional consistency; and community- based care and advocacy. 

Please note: You may only apply if you have already taken Melanie Tervalon’s Cultural Humility training as a participant. 

Deadline to apply is January 31st. Application can be found here

For more information, contact Erica Britton at ebritton@smcgov.org or (650) 372- 6153.