This is a powerful interactive study about White people on the subject of being White in America. This is one of three installments. Excellent for use in discussion groups. View the interview posted on Facebook or www.cbsnews.com. Then go to the site http://whitenessproject.org/checkbox and click on the boxes to hear the different points of view.
Colorism, what is it? The word “diversity” when used in the workplace conjures up many meanings, often determined by where in the world you are. In the United States and especially in the southern states most people immediately think- race. In some parts of the US and within most other countries, people will think- race and gender. Within organizations that have launched diversity and inclusion initiatives the meaning of “diversity” broadens to include LGBTQ, age, abilities and many of the other differences among us that when respected creates a healthy and productive diversity of thought. Rarely, however do people think of colorism as an aspect of diversity and bias.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Although the word ‘color’ is included as one of the many factors protected against discrimination, my work nationally and internationally continually surfaces an unconscious bias related to skin color regardless of ethnicity. In the US, until the 60’s and 70’s, the darker an African American person’s complexion the less likely that person would reach a high status in the workplace; the lighter the complexion and straighter the hair the more likely teachers Black and White would favor that child. Although thankfully this bias is fading as it relates to job advancement, research still indicates that little girls prefer to have fair skin and believe dark skin is bad and/or ugly. In the 80’s and still present today, various media depict lighter skin tones as more attractive, and darker skin tone scary or dangerous.
My global work reveals the same bias. Often I am told, ‘we just need to focus on gender equity because race is not an issue here, our culture is open and accepting.’ I am told, ‘we are all French, or English, or Mexican no race or ethnic bias exists here.’ Yet, when I observe the community at large and the workplaces in particular, bias regarding tone of skin is evident. The lighter the skin the higher the position held. Immigrants and their descendants in countries around the world with darker skin hold the less prestigious jobs. Globally, skin lightening creams are sold and used even when the people, usually women, using them know of the potential health dangers.
The root of this bias runs deep. Perhaps that is why the acts of discrimination are so unconscious. Many communities and organizations celebrate diversity during the month of October. As you do so, I invite you to take a real look at color.
With dialogue can come understanding. Without it comes assumptions, presumptions and misdirected behavior. We all see events through our own life experience lenses. The more we are willing to examine an opposing point of view, the more likely we are to hold judgment until we have more facts. Within the last three weeks, I have had the privilege of delivering diversity and inclusion workshops to two different municipalities where the participants included police officers. This month I will speak at two different federal prisons. Is everyone open to the message of inclusion and respect? Of course not, but more people are open to learning than some might think.
The following article by Salon, is one that generates strong feelings and views. I share it with you here to invite you to join the dialogue and share your perspective. There is no presumption of right or wrong. Please click the link and read through the article and then share your comments on my blog at www.globaldiversitytalk.com Let’s all find our own ways to STOP and TALK for understanding.
Tips, Techniques, & Ideas
(an excerpt from The Diversity Advantage)
Form a small group of colleagues to explore the effects of stereotypical thinking. Have each member share the following information:
· Describe a time in your childhood when you didn’t fit in. What was the situation; how did you feel; how did you react?
· Identify a group of which you are a member (e.g. Millenial; Christian, African American male), share what you never want to see, hear or experience as it relates to your group.
Example: European American/White/Caucasian
I never want to hear…
— …”your problems are my fault.”
— “You just don’t get it.”
— “All Whites are bigots.”
· Share what the results and insights of this exercise are with me at www.globaldiversitytalk.com
Ponder This …
“So listening, carefully, is what I was taught all my life. I’m just saying that when people don’t listen, it’s not that they don’t learn, they just deny themselves tremendous opportunities and glorious choices.”
SOURCE: My BeyondthePlatform webinar partner, Chris Clarke-Epstein, CSP, Thinking for a Change weekly message. To subscribe to her weekly messages click:http://www.change101.com/thinking-for-a-change.html
A World of Inclusion: News of Interest
With the school year now in full operation in most parts of the country, I thought you may wish to read the following articles and pass them on to educators you know. Since HATE is very carefully taught, let’s support teachers who are teaching acceptance and understanding.
Three Years Old, Black and Suspended
What is Mix It Up at Lunch Day?
Looking Closely at Ourselves
This summer has proven to be a very busy one with work, travel, new appointments and business developments. One of results of our busy time is the launching of my new website, http://www.ubuntuglobal.com/. This is something that has been in the works for awhile and I knew that when I made this website change that I wanted the name of my website to reflect what my business focus is all about.
Ubuntu is a South African proverb that sums up my philosophy regarding diversity and inclusion concepts, strategies and actions perfectly. Ubuntu means, “I am because we are. We are because I am.” And of course, “global” emphasizes the scope of my work, as well as meaning that diversity impacts every corner of the world. You can learn more about Ubuntu by watching me on this video: http://vimeo.com/86530367
As I strive to expand www.UbuntuGlobal.com worldwide, I ask that you join me in this movement by simply taking the Ubuntu Pledge. A few months ago, a colleague of mine was so inspired to make himself accountable for his own actions regarding racism, sexism, and all types of bigotry, he wrote a pledge that inspired this Ubuntu Pledge. He granted me permission to adapt it and use, as long as I did not share his name. (You know who you are; thank you so much!)
For now, just print the pledge and make a personal commitment. By joining together in the smallest of actions, we can make an impact in the community around us. In the coming months, look for more information about ways to use the pledge and how to sign up as a supporter of the concept.
Your thoughts and insights are very much appreciated so please take a moment to share them on my blog www.GlobalDiversityTalk.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Most leaders discover they must first travel their own diversity journey before they can develop anything beyond a superficial understanding of people different from themselves. While it’s easy to donate money, that’s just corporate philanthropy. It’s needed, but it doesn’t allow for much engagement with the community on a personal level, and donations can be perceived as an obligation or an attempt to garner good public relations instead of true commitment. Diversity and inclusion at all levels works when those involved develop trust; to do so, direct engagement is mandatory.
Where, then, is the link between corporate diversity and community efforts? Chief Diversity Officers who are Trailblazers see many connections. According to Steve Bucherati, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) at The Coca Cola Company, community involvement is an integral component of strengthening the brand. He explains, “Our brands are for everyone; it doesn’t matter whether you’re the President of the United States or the average Jane or Joe on the street. . . . You can’t buy ‘better’ Coke, no matter how rich. . . or who you are. The brand is truly inclusive. . . so we extrapolate from that and say, well that’s what we ought to be about as an organization. We ought to be as inclusive as our brands. We ought to be a company for everybody no matter who you are, what your background is, and what your experiences are. Then we take that mentality and try to drive that down into our marketplace, workplace, and community strategies.”
Michael Collins , former CDO at American Airlines expressed it this way: “… We talk about diversity as a continuum rather than an ending destination. It is something for which everyone is responsible, especially our leaders. In order to be a good leader, you need to be able to lead diversity and create inclusive environments.”
Some organizations have very specific community goals, while others support community projects as they surface because they generally see it as the “right thing to do.” Chief Diversity Officers who are Trailblazers (CDO) help their organizations develop and clarify community involvement goals, and then they guide their leaders as they support the community agencies and projects that are in alignment with the company’s mission and values. Instead of using the scattered, “here today, gone tomorrow” approach, Trailblazers help their companies focus their efforts and resources—which creates the ability to measure outcomes and make adjustments where needed. The more the organization can concentrate on its community involvement, the better its results will be.
This graphic illustrates the critical components of an effective community involvement process. First, the organization must become clear about their brand and their marketplace. This then allows collaboration of the CDO, business group leaders, and the community relations department in the goal-setting process. Once goals are set, communication, recognition, and rewards for involvement can be disseminated throughout the organization.
For example, Dell contributes in the communities where their employees live and work by developing community programs that promote digital inclusion and close the gap on the digital divide.
“We are committed to the belief that people around the world should have access to technology to learn critical skills and enhance their lives,” says former CDO Gil Casellas. Similarly, having built a global business on improving the effectiveness of written communication, Pitney Bowes has a vital interest in literacy and education. Their leadership believes that, by supporting literacy and education programs, the company can improve countless lives and strengthen the fabric of communities everywhere they are involved. Note that nowhere in these focus statements is there a mention of diversity and inclusion. There is no need, because these are overall business statements where diversity and inclusion is implicit.
When an organization has clear diversity and inclusion goals related to community involvement, its leaders’ and employees’ actions as community volunteers are more likely to elicit tangible results. When people know why they are serving their community—beyond it simply being the “right thing to do”—they’re able to increase their awareness of how they might address community challenges. Several of our Trailblazer companies require senior executives to serve the community, and this accountability is reflected in their salaries and bonuses.
Executives of Trailblazer companies see the payoff that comes with supporting the external community and are clear about the diversity connection.These leaders are willing to be a little vulnerable in order to understand that perspectives different from their own are not wrong—just different. Most leaders are accustomed to having people see things their way. By personally supporting community organizations that serve diverse constituents, executives are able to broaden their perspectives.
Our Trailblazers have found that becoming involved in global communities while supporting company goals is rewarding for employees, leaders, and the communities they impact. More often than not, “community” includes groups of people within certain locales, as well as groups with common characteristics. Deb Dagit CDO (retired) of Merck & Company proudly shared the following example of how community and employee teams are able to innovate:
“We have a CEO diversity and inclusion award that we give on a global basis. It has given us a platform for employees at all levels of the organization not only to be recognized for individual efforts but team efforts as well, while articulating the business outcome.
“One of the teams that received recognition put together the approach to getting a vaccine to prevent certain types of human papillomavirus [HPV]) into the marketplace. They went about gathering voices of the customer, and designing the campaign The approach was very multicultural. . . and respectful of different faiths, generations, and the role that mothers play in health care decisions. It was also respectful of young women themselves. They designed an extraordinarily effective campaign that led to remarkable uptake of the product and, at the same time, demonstrated in very subtle ways how you can do this in a way that is multiculturally sensitive.”
Guiding your company’s involvement in the communities it serves helps the business, engages leaders and employees while deepening their understanding of diversity and inclusion, contributes to the success of organizations served and ultimately provides all with focus and purpose.
Please don’t say I’m ‘wheelchair-bound’ or even worse, ‘confined to a wheelchair.’ — Rolf Hotchkiss
Are you tired of political correctness and wonder why it is suggested that language should become more sensitive? As our society and workplaces continue to expand their diversity, more and more people want to be referred to by terms they have chosen rather than the labels selected by others. Sometimes the power of words is underestimated.
Thus, one ill-chosen word can create friction, loss of jobs, and even millions of dollars- evidence Don Sterling of the Clippers, and Paula Dean.
There are times when ill-chosen words in fact reflect the racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms of the person speaking the words. Many times however, the offender just did not know any better, due to influences of their inner circle and culture.
So why are some people so offended by certain terms? There are many reasons, and most are imbedded in the history of power and disenfranchisement. Many people with Latino heritage, for example, do not like the term Hispanic because it was a term formulated by the United States Census Bureau in 1970. When it was realized that many U.S. households consisted of families who spoke Spanish, there had not previously been a way to record this dynamic. Rather than attempt to identify every country from which these residents’ ancestors might have come, the Census Bureau created the word Hispanic. Hispanic is not really an ethnic group. It is a generalized term used to describe a diverse group of people whose primary language is often Spanish. On the other hand, some people of Latino heritage prefer the term Hispanic because they believe it carries less bias than the words Mexican or Puerto Rican, for example.
Many Blacks prefer African American because the word black is rarely capitalized, even when it is specifically referring to that ethnic group (except within books written by African Americans, magazines targeting the African American culture or publications that focus on diversity), whereas African American does have the honor of capital letters just as other ethnicities and nationalities do. Some people believe the small case “b” is another example of subtle, institutionalized racism, while African American is a term of pride. Unlike European Americans/Caucasians who can choose to recognize their Irish, German, or Italian heritage, African Americans do not easily have the option to recognize their specific heritage. For many African Americans it is impossible to identify their ancestors’ country of origin. On the other hand, some Blacks do not like African American because they see themselves as American and not African since Africa is not a country; it is a continent. Each time I visit South Africa to work with organizations there, I am acutely aware that I am American, even though I am proud of my African heritage.
Another tough category to figure out is gender. Some women like being referred to as “ladies, gals or girls” while others are offended. Although you will never get that one totally right every time, you can show your gender sensitivity in other ways by using terms like police officer, firefighter, and postal carrier when appropriate. Ask your colleagues for other inclusive gender language.
So what can you do about this confusing dilemma? One person can never know all of the right words to use. When a reference must be made, ask people who are members of that group which term they prefer. The answers will vary. People have individual preferences, but your interest by asking questions will demonstrate your effort to show respect. Too often we assume, or are too afraid we will offend by just asking, thus causing misunderstandings and multicultural mishaps™. In other cases, it is easier to tell yourself they should just get over it! No one is being hurt by team names like the Redskins or recreational vehicles called Winnebagos , right?
The use of specific derogatory terms by a group that aren’t acceptable coming from another group has become a big issue. The use of the “N” word, as used by rap and hip hop artists and now youth in general across the country is one such example. When Black kids call each other this, it’s fine (to some); they say they are reclaiming the word to take away the pain of past use of it. But when a White person says it, they are called racist. This is confusing to those not in the group, and it perpetuates inappropriate behavior.
In some cases, a more effective way of referring to different ethnic groups is to place the word American in front of the ethnicity; for example, Americans of European heritage, Americans with Asian heritage, Americans with Latino heritage, and so on.
Although using words and phrases that show respect and sensitivity require effort, it really is not very difficult or time-consuming. Recognize that you will never make 100% of your colleagues happy. Pick a few words/phrases that you are willing to change, thus showing your desire to connect with and respect others who differ from you.
Since “appropriate” words change all the time, try the following suggestions:
- Ask several people within the same cultural group which terms they prefer.
- Omit slang terms when referring to others.
- Speak up when others in your inner circle use derogatory language, and ask them to speak up if you slip too.
- Do not use derogatory terms to describe others even if people within the cultural group do. For example, if a Jewish person tells a joke about Jews that is not permission for others not in the group to do the same.
- Refrain from joking about a person’s bald head, size, or lack of height. Even if they politely laugh, it does not mean they think it is funny.
- Click here for a list of words that offend and alternatives to them, then work on two or three with your team.
Lighten up, and show respect at the same time. Be willing to say, “I’m sorry,” or “I didn’t mean to offend; help me learn the right terms.” Most people will recognize your sincerity and your intent, if it is truly present. And remember, some people are just looking for a reason to be mad. Ignore those folks and focus on the majority who do want to create a space for understanding.
Not that long ago, people were uncomfortable seeing mixed race couples hold hands or kiss, and wanted them to hide.
Change does not happen until enough people get uncomfortable with the status quo. As it relates to LGBT acceptance, many of people straight and gay have become uncomfortable with the expectation that some people should hide who they are. It is time for people to get over themselves and accept that others do not need to cater to the majority’s needs. I applaud Michael Sam for the kiss, because it is a way of saying, ‘You will need to deal with all of who I am. I will not hide any part of who I am. If you are uncomfortable, deal with it.’ It is not his issue. His issue is to play the best football possible. He will be under much pressure to perform.
In all my diversity work, when it has been safe enough for an LGBT person to speak up, each has said essentially this. I am not seeking your acceptance. I am not seeking your permission. I am not seeking your approval. I am merely seeking your respect as one human being to another.
We as humans will continue to judge others. If we want to grow, we will ask ourselves WHY others behavior or appearance bothers us. Perhaps then we can uncover our own biases and become richer for the experience.
Diversity is fact of life, with workplaces being representative communities of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, skill levels age groups and more. With the induction of the newest additions to the work force, the stark contrast in the way members of each generation operate has never been more pronounced, yet one aspect of these differences – silo mentality– has been grossly ignored. This failure continues to negatively impact organizational results.
As more people are working past the age of retirement or entering the workforce early, workplace dynamics have shifted to include four generations of working class people. One of the major repercussions of the generation gap is that it has reinforced the silo mentality to such an extent that it results in a marked decrease in productivity and innovative thinking within the corporate hierarchy. It is this difference between experience and fresh ideas that is one of the most defining factors of diversity collisions that exist in the modern workplace.
Silo Mentality is a term that is gaining increasing popularity in corporate circles, even though silo behavior has existed within organizations for many years.
The Silo Mentality as defined by the Business Dictionary is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.
Often this silo mentality is seen in the dynamic between executives in the upper echelons of the corporate structure and their subordinates. In order of rank, most corporate structures are comprised of Traditionalists (1928-1947), Baby Boomers (1948-1964), Generation Xers (1965-1998) and Generation Yers/ Millenials (1977-1997). Before the digital revolution, there were fewer generations present in the workplace thus this organizational behavior went on without questions or challenges.
Each generation has intrinsic social norms; however there may not necessarily be four generations at play in the workforce as it relates to communication, but rather two definite groups with different viewpoints on workplace etiquette and communication.
Traditionalist and the Boomers thrive on face-to-face communication and active engagement. In a technologically driven society where increasing numbers of the workforce actively participate in networked communication, it is inevitable that there is a breakdown in workplace communication. This disconnect is as great as trying to send a text message to a rotary phone – it just won’t work.
Many organizations that are headed by Traditionalists or Boomers are not sufficiently equipped to address the impact of these generational conflicts that arise from the different mediums of communication. Avoiding the conflict increases the pervasiveness of the silo mentality. The Traditionalists and Boomers generally expect everyone to conform to their status quo. With a younger workforce that thrives on instant gratification and high-tech impersonal communication, the status quo is threatened. The Traditionalists’ and Boomer’s inability or unwillingness to adapt a more inclusive means of communicating in the workplace can result in the silo mentality. Holding on to information seems easier and more powerful than sharing and collaborating. Being the majority stakeholders in the upper echelons of the corporate structure, face-to-face communication is essential. A breakdown in communication is inevitable when the self-reliant and technology-oriented Generation Xers and Generation Yers thrive on networked communication and social media platforms.
On the other side of the coin, while the Generation Xers and Millennials are the groups that tend to accept diversity the most, the difference in values and modus operandi of the Traditionalists and the Boomers is not favorably accepted. Lack of acceptance of the differing communication preferences means that there are few alternatives to effective conflict resolution.
Effective solutions to these communication breakdowns is not as simple as deciding who is right and who is wrong— which is a waste of time anyway. The fact is both communication frameworks can be effective if they account for diversity and aim at fostering inclusion.
The Traditionalists and Boomers have mastered the art of building interpersonal relationships, stating the goals and giving precise directives. While Traditionalists and Boomers are more “I” focused they do understand the value of teamwork and facilitate this with communication processes that are focused and on point.
The Millennials and the Generation Xers have mastered inclusive communication that factors in feedback, opinions and active engagement. They have just managed to do so without the need for physical contact; they have networked communication to facilitate real time interaction. “Occupy Wall Street” and “Twitter Revolutions” are examples of the power of this dynamic.
What is required in a workplace is collaboration between the groups to create communication strategies that account for the diversity within the workplace. Overcoming silo mentality has often been ignored because the work required to remedy the situation takes focus, willingness to value differences and a genuine commitment to change the corporate culture. Progressive organizations are taking the required actions to close the generational gap through maximizing the strengths of each successive generation to build harmony, foster effective communication and mitigate silo mentalities. These organizations do not just measure the problem, they commit to the solutions.
Author’s Note: From time to time, I will introduce you to some of my colleagues and fellow diversity experts by posting their articles within this ezine and on my blog www.LenoraBillingsHarris.com. I hope you will enjoy these different points of view, as I do. This month, Dr. Sondra Thiederman shares her thoughts to help us build Common Ground as well as her tips and techniques. Let me know what you think by adding your comments on the blog.
by Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.
Treading on Common Ground
No one would deny that diversity and inclusion is a journey. It is a journey from inequity to fairness, from inequality to equality, from injustice to justice.
The journey does, I’d argue, travel another route as well. That is, from an “Us and Them” to an “Us” mentality. This amounts to focusing, not only on how we differ, but also on what we have in common.
Of course we still value diversity. Identifying Common Ground in no way negates the need and ability to honor how we differ. I like to say that valuing diversity and cultivating Common Ground are simply two sides of the same inclusion coin.
How Cultivating Common Ground Helps Reduce Bias
I define bias as, “an inflexible belief about the characteristics of a particular category of people.” Biases are a short hand that we use to think about those who are different from ourselves (“All Asians are good at math”; “All gay men are artistic”).
But, what happens if we find a way to think of that other person, not as a member of a group different from our own, but as someone with whom we have something in common? In other words, as an “Us” rather than a “Them.” The result: Biases begin to fade.
This happens because people tend to see members of other groups as all alike. In essence, we indulge in inflexible beliefs (biases) about “Them” just because they are not “Us.” On the other hand, we see members of our own group as individuals who are different from each other in a variety of ways. So, once we focus on what we have in common as an “Us,” we automatically shed some of our biases.
Any kind of club, volunteer program, or social event at which diverse people mix will do the job. Your workplace is inhabited with human beings who are in some ways different and in some ways alike. It is that proximity that shifts each person’s focus from the differences between them – and the biases they hold – to the Common Ground beneath their feet.