Category Archives: Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion

What Makes Someone Latinx? – by Susana Rinderle and Addy Chulef

It’s More Than Just DNA

Camila, a successful professional, grew up in Buenos Aires with an Argentinian mom and a Guatemalan dad. Her native language is Spanish, and she dances tango and sips yerba mate.

But when asked about her cultural identity, “Latina” is not her first answer. “Because my grandparents are European Jews who migrated to South America and I grew up celebrating Jewish traditions and learning Hebrew, I feel more connected to Israel than Argentina,” she says. “I am a Latina, but I’m other identities too that mean as much to me.”

In an era when diversity goals categorize people into simple identity boxes, Camila’s story is not unique, and raises questions: What makes someone Latina? Is it DNA? Parents from Latin America? Who has the right to claim a Latinx identity?

Susana, one of Camila’s colleagues, has a similar experience but a different story. A fluent Spanish speaker with dark brown hair, she studied, worked, and lived in Mexico for many years – including dancing and singing backup in a grupo versátil band. Most of her closest friends, romantic partners and godchildren are Mexican.

For decades, many people have assumed Susana is Latina — but she is racially White. While Latinx multiracial heritage includes White Europeans, Susana has no Latin American DNA. Can she declare she is culturally Latina? 

The Impact of Latinx Multi-dimensional Identities

Identity – one’s sense of self – is a core and ancient human need. For millennia, identity has been synonymous with belonging, and belonging synonymous with safety and sustenance. This belonging was granted through the happenstance of one’s birth – random genetics and geography.

What forms our identity today is far more complex, nuanced and dynamic. Navigating a world where name and appearance don’t always indicate affiliation can be disorienting. However, as growing trends in migration, interracial mixing and cross-cultural contact continue, learning to navigate this world is a must-have. Latinxs are the vanguard of a trend in multi-identity that will affect more people over time.

This trend presents three major challenges:

  • Multi-identity people face challenging cognitive and social complexities. As genetic and geographical borders blur, more people have more identities to manage. Managing them through “code switching” can require greater awareness and brain power as well as skill, which can be stressful or confusing. While there is freedom in identity fluidity, there is also limitation in the loss of a singular personal point of reference.
  • Multi-identity people disrupt traditional identity categories. While many argue that the U.S. penchant for racial categorization is divisive and outdated, brain science indicates that we do notice physical traits in others we categorize as racial, then assign qualities based on those traits. Connecting identities to outcomes helps institutions track whether or not their policies and practices are equitable. But when identities become increasingly blurry and fluid, such data lose their usefulness. Eventually institutions will have to redefine what “diversity” means, and re-examine how to track equity and progress.
  • Greater disorientation and disconnect for everyone. Not always knowing “what” another person “is,” nor having clear norms for how to identify someone, presents a new challenge for our species. People may be less likely to engage deeply with one another for fear of making a wrong assumption. Those with multidimensional identities can experience exclusion or bigotry towards their non-visible identities. They also bear the burden of managing others’ confusion and questioning when those identities are revealed.

Creating inclusive environments for multi-identity individuals

The following six practices can create more inclusive environments for multi-identity people:

  1. Don’t be afraid to be unsure, or to guess. Noticing that you’re not sure about someone’s identity, and maintaining curiosity, will keep your brain from solidifying around the initial assumptions we all make when meeting someone new. Have fun inside your mind trying to guess, but be careful about guessing out loud until you know someone better.
  2. Be curious and listen for cues. This isn’t stereotyping, it’s discovery. Learning about another person’s identities and seeing all their selves respects their full humanity and creates connection. Listen to how they talk and what they say. If they trust you, multi-identity individuals will give you clues about who they are.
  3. Consider asking. If rapport and trust have been built, most multi-identity people appreciate the question. It shows that you understand identity is important to them, and that you want to know all of their selves. Steer away from clichéd questions like “Where are you from?” and try “May I ask, how do you identify culturally?” Avoid direct or continued probing if the person’s body language indicates discomfort.
  4. Catch and check your assumptions. Camila recalls her first Mexican restaurant experience in grad school where her friends asked her what she’d recommend from the menu. She answered: “You probably don’t want my advice. Tacos are shoe heels, burritos are donkeys, and fajitas…means ‘girdles!’” Another approach might be, “Camila, I’m not sure of your background, do you have any insight into this menu?” Pay close attention to nonverbal feedback to gauge how your good intentions are received.
  5. Focus on what a person’s identity means to them, not what it means to you. An identity label is an entry point, not the entire story. Once you discover someone is Brazilian, you risk damaging connection if you immediately start talking about your trip to Rio. Balance curiosity with respect – the other person may not be interested in satisfying your curiosity. Avoid treating them as your personal tour guide or cultural interpreter (“Your dad was Mexican? How did he treat your mom, was he ‘macho’?”). Such conversations aren’t taboo, but they will emerge organically as trust is built.
  6. Reflect the person’s identity back to them. Spell and pronounce the person’s name accurately and avoid shortening it or creating a nickname. Not everyone named Pamela likes to be called Pam; some who pronounce their name as “George” spell it “Jorge.” When in doubt, ask. Never contradict or tell someone how they should name or identify themselves.

Multi-identity people like Latinxs play a critical role in bringing the “should” reality of identity closer by disrupting what “is.” Camila, Susana and others like them embody a new approach where identity is defined by both embracing and transcending the simple facts of a DNA test.

Note: Names and some details have been changed to protect anonymity.

Effect Change in One Brief Conversation – by Keith Weedman

Unexpected Introduction

When I provided an introductory session for highly skilled Toastmaster Ant Blair, my goal was to earn the privilege of providing him a program that blends training on how to effect change in one, brief conversation with coaching. Ant was quite engaged during his training. I was feeling optimistic about the outcome. Then at the end of his session, something totally unexpected happened. Ant was the one to effect change in one, brief conversation.

In addition to being a highly skilled Toastmaster, Ant is the CEO of Welcome Corporation, a diversity and inclusion training and consulting company. Through Welcome, he helps the craft beer industry attract and retain a diverse community of drinkers of small independent craft beer. Ant also hosts a YouTube channel and podcast, #MoHeadYall, where he utilizes his expertise as a Cicerone certified master of beer styles and service to benefit all who enjoy craft beer. According to Ant, beer head brings out the flavor of a craft beer.

Learning & Leading

In this article, I will show you how to effect change in one, brief conversation. I will share the conclusion of this relevant story to illustrate how Ant effected change in me.

When leaders think of their role in effecting change, they do not typically envision themselves as capable of effecting change in one, brief conversation. What comes to leaders’ minds instead: “Change is hard.” “People do not like to change.” “People resist change.” Every leader knows people who have failed many times effecting change, starting a new habit such as an exercise program or a diet or stopping a bad habit such as smoking cigarettes or swearing. Most leaders know people who no longer even make New Year’s resolutions because they “know” they would fail. Few leaders know how to effect change in one, brief conversation.

I help leaders learn to examine change from 3 different levels. Level 1 change is behavioral change, developing a new habit or stopping an old habit. Leaders have significant experience attempting to effect behavioral change. They have experienced failures and challenges associated with effecting behavioral change.

Level 2 change involves changing the way someone perceives a person, situation, or repetitive pattern. When someone perceives differently, they change their behavior accordingly. For example, at the age of 68, my father changed the way he perceived his retirement years. Then he got a psychology board game out of the attic that he invented in his 20s. He transformed that game into a program that utilized open ended questions, trained facilitators, and positive peer influence to help juvenile offenders and adult offenders learn to think, reason, and solve problems without violence. Between the ages of 70 and 80, my father with my mother by his side, traveled around the United States training facilitators. He touched thousands of peoples’ lives because he perceived his retirement included the opportunity to pursue his passion and purpose. My parents blended passion and purpose with traditional activities retired people love to do.

Level 3 change is owning perceiving as a creative act. When you own perceiving as a creative act, you can perceive any person, situation, or repetitive pattern at any moment in more than one way that fits reality, including an empowering way. When you own perceiving as a creative act, it is easy to help someone around you perceive differently and in an empowering way.

Now for the rest of my story. When Ant’s introductory session ended, he asked permission to give me constructive feedback. I agreed. He asked me if I knew I used the filler word “so” many times during my training. I had no idea I used that filler word even once. Then I listened to one of my LinkedIn videos. I was shocked to discover I used the same filler word six times in a two-minute video. Ant’s constructive feedback helped me perceive how becoming a Toastmaster would be beneficial to me and those whom I serve. He stimulated my thinking about what else I might learn in Toastmasters. I proceeded to join Ant’s Toastmasters club #2481. On June 24, 2019, I became Vice President of Publicity for my club. This article is my first one that incorporates my new role with my work helping leaders elevate their skill to effect change in one, brief conversation. To quote Paul Harvey, “And now you know the rest of the story”.

If you are a skilled Toastmaster like Ant Blair, you can provide people around you with the additional benefits that result from your elevated public speaking and leadership skills. I am thankful to have Ant Blair as my friend and one of many Toastmaster mentors. If you are a leader or aspiring to become one, then I invite you to visit a Toastmasters club in your community to learn more about Toastmasters.

Conclusion: the Creative Act

In conclusion, you, like me, can own perceiving as a creative act. You can perceive any person or situation in more than one way that fits reality. You can select a way that opens new possibilities for the future. You can then help someone around you change the way they perceive themselves or their situation. Through helping someone perceive differently, you can effect change in one, brief conversation. Ant helped me perceive differently and in a way that enabled me to see Toastmasters could open new possibilities for me and those whom I serve.

Nurturing and Humility in Leadership – by Deborah Levine

I have been puzzled by colleagues congratulating me on my humility. What are these folks talking about? People who knew me years ago would definitely be amused by that. At best, I was described as “Sweet but Stern.” At my boldest, I was told that I could terrorize entire cities. Community leaders had a white-knuckled grasp on their chairs when I tersely announce my intention to speak off-the-record. Not even a voice from the back of the room calling out, “Oh ho, this should be good!” slowed me down.

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The Challenge of Unconscious Bias – by Deborah Levine

Unconscious bias training is an admirable project but may often be ineffective. The fuzzy, vague term of unconscious bias is often applied indiscriminately, but unconscious bias isn’t a one-size-fits-all term amenable to a one afternoon of training. Yes, it can refer to the incident where the police were called to arrest two African-Americans waiting for a meeting at Starbucks. But it can also mean only smiling at customers that look like you, rejecting resumes from diverse applicants, and promoting the employees who resemble the current leadership team. If we want to address unconscious bias effectively, we need to first be aware of how the senses, emotions, and brain interact to create unconscious bias. Second, we must go beyond awareness of our biases to sensitivity to their impact. Lastly, we need to develop a system that internalizes wise decision making with ongoing reinforcement of that competence.

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An African American asks “What would you do?” – by Terry Howard

It was 25 minutes before our restaurant was scheduled to open. and I noticed three casually dressed African American young men enter the patio. One peered through the front window, saw that we weren’t yet open and joined the others on the patio. They remained there talking and laughing loudly until we opened.

No big deal. Nothing unusual.

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The Powerful Connection of Spirituality and Entrepreneurship– by Deborah Levine

Let us be aware that creating your own business requires a connection between spirituality and entrepreneurship.  How does that work? The first element is the business side of the endeavor and its bottom line, otherwise known as ‘show me the money.’  The second motivation is self-fulfillment.  Some refer to this element of entrepreneurship as ‘personal satisfaction.’  But the core of the vague term ‘personal satisfaction’ is what is best described as a spiritual sense of purpose.  This spirituality is sometimes linked to one’s particular faith tradition, but is not necessarily so.  Rather, there is a commonality in this spiritual sense of something greater than ourselves that translates across the boundaries of specific religions.  Most importantly, there is tremendous power where this spirituality and business overlap.

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Muslim Niqab in America – By Claire Sydenham

Last semester I went through an experience I’d never gone through before in my teaching career: I taught a student whose face I couldn’t see. The reason? She was from Saudi Arabia, and she was wearing a niqab, that part of her all-black outfit that covered her face from the bridge of the nose down.

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Culture Shock in Generation Y – by A. K. Ward-Bartlett

CULTURE ABROAD

Five days ago, I was on the other side of the globe. Exhausted from twelve weeks of attempting to keep up with this fast-paced Mecca of the international business world, I was still not ready to extract myself from the extrovert’s haven that is Shanghai. This is the land of business cards and alcohol, where the networking maniacs of the West flock to jump into the Eastern financial “boom”, assuming that the “bust” is nowhere in sight. For one brief summer, I was a part of this cultural mish-mash, ecstatic to surround myself with the expats, entrepreneurs, and “students of life” that are so enthusiastic to be exposed to the challenges of living in such a foreign, yet increasingly Westernized, environment. Being a student of psychology, the best way for me to summarize my experience in China is to describe the mental processes I used to adapt. Looking back on my little adventure, I can easily identify the points at which I hit the various stages of Culture Shock, and it is through this cycle that I feel others can catch a better glimpse of my path of growth.

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Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – by Deborah Levine

Reprinted honor of Madeleine Albright turning 82-years old

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is a petite woman who can fill large university auditorium with her presence. These days, Dr. Albright teaches, lectures and writes. She frequently speaks to university audiences land enjoys telling young people that they can be anything they want to be with hard work. Her audiences listen enthusiastically and a recent crowd at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was no exception. A packed house and 2 overflow rooms with video feeds were arranged for the presentation by our 64th Secretary of State. She was the highest ranking woman in government from 1997-2001 and the first female Secretary of State.

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Diversity and Speech Part 4: Navigating the N-Word – by Carlos E. Cortés

Leelee Jackson and Geoffrey Stone are hardly household names in diversity circles. But in 2019, my interactions with Jackson, a talented young playwright, and Stone, a passionate defender of free speech, helped illuminate the challenging complexities of diversity and expression.

As a fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, I have been examining the myriad tensions created when two laudable principles collide: the defense of robust speech and the effort to create greater inclusivity. This intersection has generated considerable controversy, including among diversity advocates.

Continue reading Diversity and Speech Part 4: Navigating the N-Word – by Carlos E. Cortés