Getting The Inside Joke: How Celebrating Everything Helps Us Improve Cultural Competence.

doritos.jpg

If you laughed at this meme and you’re not a Muslim or come from a Muslim background, it means something interesting has happened with your worldview and your ability to relate to those different from you. Let me explain. 

Over this Ramadan, I had this Doritos truck drive by my office almost daily, taunting me during my fast. Naturally I had to make this meme. 

Now here is the interesting learning moment for me. When I posted said meme on my personal social media, I had friends from all religious and cultural backgrounds respond hilariously to what would otherwise be an inside joke. And yet they got it. Almost as if they had fasted before and related to an experience that was uniquely cultural to my community and not theirs. 

Having me and other Muslims as friends, allowed them over time to have an understanding of an experience they normally would not. They were able to even relate to it, using their own experiences of hunger. 

What was previously foreign was now familiar and comfortable. Where they may have previously been outsiders, they now laughed like an insider. What would happen in society if we all got the inside joke? 

When we don’t get the inside joke, or remain complacent to developing cross cultural competence, it has real impact on our ability to communicate well with those different than us. It can even have legal consequences that punish those who are cultural or religious minorities. 


Take for example the case of Munther Zeid, a small business owner in Winnipeg, who was fined 10 thousand dollars for opening his grocery store on Good Friday, a Christian based holiday, when he himself is Muslim. Putting aside any irony that cannabis shops were allowed to be open on Good Friday, this demonstrates the legal system was blind to Zeid’s experience and world view, which had very real consequences for him.

I’ve long advocated for the celebration of all cultural and religious holidays as statutory holidays. Doing so, not only ensures religious rights and freedoms are protected in an equitable way, but it also helps those of us who are not from the community celebrating a holiday, understand the nuances of that cultural group better. 

Celebrating everything, becomes an organic and natural way we can all become more cross culturally competent, without a formal power point presentation. And that kind of engagement and understanding reduces the ignorance that often sources stereotypes, hate, discrimination, and unconscious bias. 

What would happen if we all got Eid off? Or RoshHashanah? Or Divali? And having that paired with questions that would naturally come up at the water cooler, or lively discussion when we invite neighbours and colleagues over for celebratory dinners or barbecues (because we are all off that day). Imagine all of us “getting it”; insider cultural information, like we’ve lived it. Imagine us using that knowledge to not only be better members of society, but using that information to do better in business, to better educate children, to better connect with clients and patients. Now that is #inclusion.  

 Rehman Y. Abdulrehman, Ph.D., C.Psych.

@DrRAbdulrehman on twitter

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman is a consulting and clinical psychologist, passionate about diversity & inclusion. He is a speaker, trainer, and coach with expertise in making lasting changes to thought and behavior. 

Rehman Abdulrehman