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Reducing Prejudice and Building Competencies for Addressing Interpersonal and Systemic Challenges

This is an excerpt from Leisure Services Management 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access by Amy R. Hurd,Robert J. Barcelona & Jo An M. Zimmermann.

Through professional development, educational opportunities, and experiences with positive intergroup contact, individuals can build cultural competency and critical consciousness. Both cultural competency and critical consciousness can support a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Cultural Competency

Cultural competency refers to the ability to learn and build understanding between people of varying cultures. According to Alpert (2015, 1), “culture refers to the values, norms, and traditions that affect the way a member of a group typically perceives, thinks, interacts, behaves, and makes judgments.” Cultural competency is about being respectful of and celebrating the differences that exist within and between groups of people. Developing cultural competency will greatly assist managers working with both a diverse workforce and a diverse community.

Critical Consciousness

Critical consciousness, broadly defined as one’s critical awareness of systemic inequalities, is a related and important skill for leisure services professionals to develop. Effectively managing a diverse workforce and providing services to a diverse community requires not only cultural competence but also critical consciousness. Addressing and dismantling problematic systems that disadvantage people of color and other minoritized groups require managers to understand the components of these systems and how they affect people. Critical consciousness encompasses an understanding of how systemic inequalities, such as systemic racism, have an impact on the lives and experiences of marginalized communities.

Positive Intergroup Contact

One important strategy for reducing prejudice and bias, increasing cultural ­competency, and building critical consciousness is positive intergroup contact. As discussed earlier in the chapter, intergroup contact can be both positive and negative. Positive intergroup contact has been shown to reduce prejudice and bias, increase interracial trust, increase critical consciousness, and increase cultural competency. Negative intergroup contact, on the other hand, encompasses negative interactions and behaviors, including overt and covert interpersonal discrimination such as microaggressions and derogatory comments (e.g., comments that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or ableist). Leisure services providers must work to reduce negative intergroup contact because negative contact can result in people feeling unsafe or unwelcome, especially those from marginalized backgrounds who are more likely to experience interpersonal ­discrimination.

Efforts to facilitate positive intergroup contact are beneficial for multiple reasons. Positive contact can help directly and indirectly reduce negative contact. Directly, increasing the frequency of positive contact can reduce the frequency of negative contact. Indirectly, positive contact can reduce prejudice and bias, underlying causes of negative contact including discrimination. Positive contact can also build cultural competency and critical consciousness, factors that can promote more inclusive environments and help encourage people to take action to address systemic inequalities affecting marginalized communities (Dessel and Rodenborg 2016; Powers 2021; Powers and Webster 2021).

Allport’s (1954) intergroup contact theory suggests that a variety of conditions can help stimulate positive intergroup contact. These include equal status of group members, common goals and interests, intergroup cooperation, and support of institutions (Allport 1954). Regarding status, positive intergroup contact is best facilitated among individuals at the same status level—for instance, among a group of interns or among a group of mid-level managers. Working together as a team, especially when working toward common goals and interests, is an ­important facilitator of positive contact. Cooperating on shared projects or activities, or pursuing common interests together, is an impactful way to promote positive contact. Finally, support of institutions is key in terms of having explicit goals for stimulating positive intergroup contact. Organizations should ­intentionally work to stimulate positive intergroup contact by creating conditions in which diverse individuals can work together on common goals. While research has found that not all of Allport’s conditions are necessary for positive contact to occur, they are important facilitating factors. There are also other context-specific conditions that can support positive intergroup contact, and some research suggests that positive contact is more common when there is diverse and balanced representation of different groups (Al Ramiah and ­Hewstone 2013) and when individuals feel a sense of belonging (Powers et al. 2021).

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