Cultural Responsiveness requires critical analysis of oppression and privilege… and a dose of dissonance!

This is a guest post from Mercedes Tune of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.


I envision a world where everyone is respected, accepted, and celebrated... the bridge between my aspiration and the reality seems very dark today.

And today, I want to offer a glimpse into my personal journey and the opportunities I’ve had to examine my own privilege and oppression. This has come as a result of serendipity, which for me has been the point where my personal and organizational values have coalesced.

I have been living in the U.S. for the past eighteen years, but I grew up with a different rhythm and flavor in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. My development was influenced by the Mayan culture, the tropics, and the social movements happening at the time in my region.

For years I worked supporting refugees that came to Mexico fleeing from the civil war in Guatemala, believing I was working towards healing the community. However, I was like the proverbial “fish in water;” I did not examine my own privilege. When I first moved to the U.S. nearly two decades ago, I was suddenly placed on the opposite side of an imaginary spectrum with effects that were very real and tangible.

I became anonymous, and I was seen through the lens of a larger group of people, which came with not particularly flattering labels attached. Just like that, my individuality was gone. My identity felt buried under those labels.

Slowly, I have reinvented myself over the years and I have discovered and examined my identities and my own bias, which has spanned the spectrum of oppression and privilege. Oppressed, on account of attributes that are not considered the “norm,” and privileged on account of others.

This journey has led me to what I do best these days: to impact the world around me, which is systemically informed and supported by a culture based on white supremacy. 

It is exhausting to live in a world that functions to sustain systemic oppression and keep privilege in its place. No one is immune to the ideas and beliefs that permeate our culture.

This all led me to find my “home” in the Cultural Responsiveness Project at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. My aspiration for equity and beloved community found a fertile soil to plant seeds that I envision blooming and transforming, healing and strengthening community. As a participant once said: “It is an ongoing journey of looking inward and exploring outward.”

The Cultural Responsiveness Organizational Self-assessment is a unique online program designed and validated for the social services field that takes organizations through a journey of self-reflection, interpersonal exploration, and systemic analysis with a framework that takes into account that cultural/culture is not neutral and that different cultural groups are ascribed differential status and power. 

We are grateful for Jara Dean-Coffey and Jill Casey of Luminare Group for their vision and expertise in the development of the tool as well as for the support of Blue Shield of California Foundation and many other individuals and organizations that participated along the way. 

Many organizations have used the CROS tool and they have shared their stories of transformation. A constant encouragement from them is for everyone to consider the importance of exploring implicit bias within themselves and continue learning to serve the underserved. It is an ongoing collective journey that at times seems darker than ever as we unlearn and dismantle the old world. 

Darkness predicts dawn as we build up new knowledge with a brave spirit and daring mind. Onward.

You can learn more about the tool and the inspiring journey of organizations that have used it here.

Bright IdeasMercedes Tune