Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP, former assistant provost for international programs and associate professor of history, is a consultant in higher education and organizational diversity. She is also the founder & chairperson of, http://www.diversitydiscover.com . You can find more information on her at: http://diversitydiscover.com/founder.html

 

Anita It’s circa 2014 and we live, I believe, in a post-safe world. Since 9/11 our emotions have been standing on a razor’s edge with terrorism and other forms of violence, at the mass and individual levels, increasingly dominating the global landscape. Domestic and international events such as the Boston marathon bombs; the violent repercussions to the Arab Spring; the Washington DC Navy yard shootings; Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings; Virginia Tech shootings; killing of his girlfriend by Oscar Pistorius; killing of her boyfriend by Jodi Arias; shooting of Trevon Martin by George Zimmerman, and so forth to name just a few, have touched the core of our political, economic, religious and socio/cultural sensitivities. Without doubt, we need to question more so now, our opinions, biases and our prejudices on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, age, religion and secularism, military participation, PTSD, veteran status, gun control, women and child abuse, abortion and a whole gamut of human interaction issues that impact our relationships at the personal and professional spheres. How do we even begin to understand what being diverse implies in this post-safe world? Is anyone safe, in any part of the world? What do we tell our diversity practitioners and various organizations on what kind of diversity training to impart to their employees? How do we approach diversity? What is to be done with diversity? How do we help diversity help us?

In my opinion there are two ways we can respond to the questions above. And right at the onset let me say that my suggestions are not new. They are well known, and also practiced, but perhaps these are the most forgotten in the corridors of human memory, and need a healthy dose of reminding every now and then!

Equality: How many of us truly believe we are all equal or even close to equal? I suspect most would respond in the negative. Even in so called homogenous racial, ethnic or religious groups or even among the specific genders, most of us believe that we are different in some way or the other. That difference gives us our uniqueness, indeed. However, in the diversity world, when interacting with others, it is imperative to consider everyone as equal. No matter what the reason is for their being different from us, we must mold our mindsets to believe that we are all equal as human beings, the one and only human race on Earth. This does not imply that one is not aware of differences or does not acknowledge them, one is, and indeed does, hopefully in an honest and realistic manner. However, that awareness and acknowledgement is to be a guide, a precursor for a genuine desire to learn about others, to get to know them; an intrinsic aspiration, a yearning for diversity understanding, appreciation and congenial co-existence. Equality and parity are critical to our acceptance of others as neither better nor worse than us…thus attempting a utopia of sameness. We innately need to believe that we are one global entity, and the specific or unique differences that make us unalike are simply for running day to day lives, not for creating mis-understandings, fear, terror or infringing upon our basic right to live as human beings. 60 years ago in May 1954 the Brown Vs Board of Education decision created a path-breaking way forward for parity in education. Legislation is vital, just as that one was, however, without a social and cultural mindset change, true change is impossible. In 1896 in the Plessy vs Ferguson case, Justice Henry Billings Brown declared: “The object of the [Fourteenth] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to endorse social, as distinguished from political, equality. . . If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.”[i] This brings us to the mindset change about which I earlier spoke. It is this crucial crux that we humans need to recognize; that social and cultural acceptance of all as equal is essential without which laws can only do that much for true change to occur. And all over the world, humans need to focus upon two things: pass laws to bring about necessary changes so as individuals can live a more equitable life, and second, to address mindset change, be it on race, gender, caste, class, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other marker that distinguishes one human from another. We are one human race as Michael Jackson eloquently alluded to in his song, We’re The World.
“There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one” [ii]

Global Village: The second is to consider the world truly as a global village, taking the phrase and concept from Marshall McLuhan.[iii] Yes, we will still continue to have borders and countries with national flags, sovereignty principals, citizens with rights and duties, governments to govern, institutions to provide education, judicial recourse, religious comfort, leisure activities, and organizations to provide jobs to earn income so we can survive, hospitals to provide medical relief, laws to maintain peaceful co-existence, and various cultural nuances such as language, music, dance, the arts and so forth to nurture our soul; in essence the whole gamut of essentials and luxuries for human existence and joy. We don’t need to wait for extra-terrestrial beings to invade Earth to create a global effort to save our planet as in Independence Day with due respect to its director, Roland Emmerich. McLuhan powerfully pointed out that communications bring individuals closer with more information and more access due to new connectivity modes. Home computers had not even developed when his books came out in the 1960s. And, if we are to believe him that the “electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree,”[iv] then why is it difficult to imagine a new heightened sense of responsibility that we are all just one race and ideologically accept one global village as our home? A global home, wherein common global concerns can guide us, and common rights and responsibilities can bind us, while still living in separate geographic areas?

Therefore, with the world no longer safe for us or for our children, and their children; a new, unfathomable paradigm of threat and fear divides us, something unknown in the 1970’s or even 1980’s, at least at a mass, global level. Thus it’s preemptively wise to devise diversity trainings around the issues of one human race and one global village.

——-
[i] http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/get-involved/federal-court-activities/brown-board-education-re-enactment/history.aspx . Accessed, May 18, 2014.
[ii] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaeljackson/weretheworldusaforafrica.html . Accessed, May 18, 2014.
[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_village_%28term%29 . Accessed, May 18, 2014.
[iv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_village_%28term%29 . Accessed, May 18, 2014.

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