Raisins in Potato Salad and Other Cultural Traditions

Cross-cultural fluency is not about your need to be like someone else. It is an awareness, exploration, valuing, honoring, and managing the differences between you.

Engaging with the Black community and learning to appreciate, affirm, and value Black culture does not require you to turn in your "white card."
You can still put raisins in your potato salad or brussel sprouts and carrots in your macaroni and cheese casserole. Just don't take it to a Black lady's house for the pitch-in. You can still love pumpkin pie with whipped cream, just don't be surprised when it's not served at Black Thanksgiving.

It is absolutely acceptable for you to attend a Black church, sit still, or tap your foot without yelling out, "preach preacher." Don't feel the need to catch the holy ghost and dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, dance like the practiced saints who dress on Sunday for the occasional praise break. You get to love a quiet 45-minute service at the white church of your choice and call it "good."

Nobody is expecting you to show up at the barbershop or beauty salon able to tell jokes and banter when people start playing the dozens. Sharlice and 'nem are not expecting you to be up on the latest stories from the Black neighborhood grio. Fluency is sitting, watching, learning, understanding, and valuing the different ways people communicate.

No self-flagellation is needed because you can't double-dutch, cha-cha slide, or stroll like the sorority sisters of the D-9. If you grew up with Bandstand or Dick Clark's rocking Eve, no one expects you to be a master of dance in the Soul Train line. Admire it, celebrate it, and value different personal and group expressions.
Cultural fluency allows you to be as White as you want to be. It honors your right to have chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper rather than a liberal sprinkling of Lowry's, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne.

Cultural fluency does not require you to like what Black people like to be woke or down. It asks you to be curious and open without judging the difference as bad or good. Your fluency is not how much of White American culture you reject but how much of other cultures you respect and embrace. It's not a reflexive need to declare "not all white people" or to claim surface-level sameness. "We do that too. That's not just a Black thing."

Cultural fluency is understanding and managing differences. It is broadening your ideas of "normal." It's knowing where you are and what is required of you in different spaces. It's the mental shifts you make rather than the expectations you hold of others.

I know how to go to an Ethiopian restaurant and use my hands to eat injera. I know how to go to an Asian restaurant and eat with chopsticks. I enjoy those opportunities and consider them usual ways of eating. At home, I eat with forks and spoons without feeling guilty or inadequate.
What's different is not inferior.

Do you know how to manage the dynamics of difference you experience interacting with Black culture? Your child needs those authentic experiences so that they experience normal as expected. They should not feel inadequate or inferior interacting in Black spaces. 

Valarie Chavis
is a cultural fluency educator who helps individuals and organizations develop the skills and knowledge to understand and navigate cultural differences. With years of experience in the field, Valarie is passionate about creating inclusive and equitable communities and believes that everyone has a role to play in creating a more just and equitable society. Her work focuses on building cultural competency, creating safe spaces for dialogue, and fostering understanding and respect across cultures.

Work With Us

Valarie is founder of Culturally Fluent Families -- a learning strategist passionate about bridging barriers of race and culture. She's a writer, presenter, and consultant on a mission. 
If you are for a presentation or speaker for your meeting or event; we offer full-day presentations, training workshops, and keynote addresses. Let us customize a presentation for you.
Created with