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 he or she is wrong or even because he or she is right, but because he or she is 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.

Unfortunately, one’s environment, education, past experiences, and socialization often dictate an officer’s prejudices and insensitivities. 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 the field of security and loss prevention will bring officers 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.

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 he or she is 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 multiculturalization 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 properly learned techniques and common sense.