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Understanding Cultural Diversity

The United States is probably the most culturally diverse country in the world. This country was built on the backs of immigrants from all over the globe. The Statue of Liberty is the best-known symbol of freedom from persecution.


Cultural Diversity




The primary rule for cultural awareness is to treat every person with a basic level of human dignity. Regardless of a person's race, nationality, religion, gender, age or disability, each person is a human being and therefore worthy of the respect that classification entails. This is the crux of tolerance. "Tolerance implies a respect for another person not because they are wrong or even because they are right, but because they are human."


This is a difficult task. When the people security officers may be dealing with are disruptive, uncooperative or condescending the hardest thing to do may be to treat them with a high level of cultural awareness or respect. Cultural awareness recognizes that no matter what the circumstances, an officer must be sensitive to the fact that the people they are dealing with must be treated as equals and with the understanding that they may have different values, expectations and languages than the officer. All officers must recognize those differences, appreciate the value of those differences, and rise above them to ensure standard service and effective communication.


"Cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community - and this nation." - Cesar Chavez, American Labor Organizer (1927-1993)


Unfortunately, one's environment, education, past experiences, and socialization often dictate an officer's prejudices and insensitivity. For instance, few people ever learn in school how to deal with individuals of other races, religions or nationalities. There is a low level of exposure to diversity in many communities and therefore not a high level of understanding and empathy on the part of members of these communities. But one can guarantee that security officers will come face to face with all different kinds of people.


Prejudice is any belief or idea that one group of people is inferior to another based on the group's race, heritage, nationality, gender, age, disability, or other classification. Bigotry is an extreme form of prejudice that manifests itself in perpetuating the prejudice and in a refusal to make one's self open to education and awareness. Racism or any "ism" has two definitions. Institutional "ism" are the factors that have become ingrained in society that give foundation and solidity to prejudices. The second "ism" is a prejudice that is combined with action. Therefore, a racist act would be an action, covert or overt, direct or indirect, that portrays or results from a prejudice based on race. Discrimination is the name given to illegal actions or behaviors caused from prejudices, bigotries, and cultural ignorance.


Often, a warning to the offensive party that their conduct or actions are not appreciated and must stop will correct the problem for a time. Sometimes the offensive behavior is never repeated. Other times, further discipline is warranted in an effort to cease the conduct.


"Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day."

The purpose of cultural awareness is two-fold. The first is to strip away the prejudices that officers have from their own past and the second is education to help them deal with what has become a true melting pot, the communities that make up this country.


These ideas, however, are difficult and confusing. Twenty different people may define racism or prejudice twenty different ways. For security professionals however, it is easy to understand why it would be wrong to allow jurors with prejudice in a case to render a verdict. For the same reason, a prejudiced officer cannot possibly deal fairly or equitably with a member of the group or class they are prejudiced against.


Fifty years ago, the majority of people a security officer would have dealt with were white males. That has changed dramatically and continues unabated. Now the white male is a minority in America. This is not a negative occurrence.


Regardless of what values one might place on the multi-culturalization of America, the fact is that security officers must now deal with their jobs from the understanding that our population is full of people of different races, genders, religions, and nationalities. Treating all people with the knowledge and sensitivity of different cultures enhances the service provided by security officers and improves the chances that their actions will not be based on prejudice but on proper learned techniques and common sense.




"Disability is a form of cultural diversity. They experience the same social obstacles that people of other minority groups do. Our goal is to let go of the stereotypes. Look at the person, not the disability." - Pamela Rohland

A security officer must respect cultural diversity as part of their job. At first glance this might not seem to have much impact on a guard's job, but it is a large job component due to the population diversity that abounds in America.


Respect of cultural diversity must also include respecting differences in faith, age, abilities and education levels.


A security guard should adhere to the following guidelines for respecting cultural diversity:


Treat each and every person fairly and with dignity.

Recognize if they have cultural bias or prejudice due to their upbringing, misunderstandings or viewpoints of people in their community and, if so, not to let these impact their treatment of individuals.

DO NOT use words, phrases, gestures or body language that any cultural group would find offensive. Remember that words that might have been acceptable in the past are not acceptable today.

Recognize that members of different cultures experience different issues.


A guard who does not respect cultural diversity not only hinders their ability to do their job professionally, but could subject them or their employer to lawsuits. Many laws exist that make it illegal to discriminate against or harass individuals or groups based on race, color, nationality, citizenship, ethnic origin, national origin, faith, sex or disabilities.


An officer should be familiar with faith-based practices that may explain an individual's actions as faith-based instead of possibly criminal or uncooperative.

Use of Offensive Language


Using language that offends other people while working is considered unprofessional unless you are a professional comedian. A security professional should NEVER use language that could be culturally offensive to anyone - even to those who are not present when they speak.

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