When the issue of diversity is raised, most think of race and ethnicity. Although these topics are very important, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The lens through which we see the world is significantly influenced by the whole of our life experiences. Factors such as socioeconomic status, gender, religion, occupation, language, where we live, cultural background and a host of other factors are all critical components of the concept of diversity.
“Anything you can do I can do better” was an unspoken refrain of the interviews I conducted with immigrant women leaders, researching my upcoming book. Their combined brilliance nearly triggered my inferiority complex. How come they did SO MUCH better than me? I’d ask myself (I typically take everything personally).
Providing patient care without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, or religion is a core value of all medical professionals. However, do they extend the same level of tolerance, stand against prejudice, with other members of their profession?
Riding happily on the London Underground’s crowded Piccadilly Line, I was headed for the famous Harrods’s Department Store. My fellow passengers were a diverse group. They included two young Asian women, several people from India or Pakistan, a Sikh man with the signature maroon turban, several black people whose accents indicated Caribbean or African origins, several white Brits with various British accents, a few white American tourists, and next to me were two young men, one black, one white talking about their families in South Africa. I sat, taking it all in, and thinking “This is what I love about London. Such diversity and all living together, mostly peacefully, going about their lives. What an interesting and exciting place! So unlike east Tennessee!”
On Christmas Day 1938 the head of the Bahá’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, wrote a very important letter to the Bahá’i communities residing in the United States and Canada. (The letter was later published as a book under the title The Advent of Divine Justice.) It was the eve of World War II. The Empire of Japan had already invaded China in July 1937. In March of 1938 Nazi Germany had absorbed Austria into the Third Reich. In September 1938 the Germans forced Czechoslovakia to cede part of its territory to Germany. On November 9, 1938 many German Nazis attacked and destroyed Jewish businesses and synagogues in the pogrom later known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Against this background of world events, Shoghi Effendi wrote this letter.
It was my birthday recently and I was presented with the following question – “Do you celebrate your birthday with a cake in your culture & country? Would love to know if this a recent cultural phenomenon or long established? Is this a personal sign of globilisation?”
I recently found myself watching the “Doll test” An experiment where children, black and white are shown two different dolls at the same time and asked questions such as which one is pretty, nice, bad and ugly. Most of the children, black and white alike point to white doll when it comes to the positive attributes and the black doll when it comes to the negative attributes.
The Doll Test
I’ve watched experiments several times before – they’re probably just as old as me! This time though, having recently been interviewed a few times on the subjects of “Skin Tone Memory Bias” and “Unconscious Bias” I found myself reflecting deeper. Is the experiment perhaps flawed in it’s design and by virtue of the questions asked? Do the questions actually lead the child to make unnecessary and indeed unhealthy choices?
As a starting point, I found myself wondering, what was in the hearts and minds of those children when they walked into the room that morning and how would they have responded if they were presented with a different set of questions.
What would the children have said if they had been asked what was nice about each doll instead of being asked which doll was nice and which was bad? Having been asked what was nice about each doll, they could have then been asked the follow up question as to whether there was anything bad about the dolls.
On the other hand asking them which was nice and which was bad sends a message to the child that one was better than the other and they had to choose which one – regardless of their mind-set when they walked into the room.
Alternatively, what if the children were just simply shown a black doll or a white doll and asked what they thought of it. They could then have been shown a doll of the other colour. I suspect that there responses may not have been so stark and they would have probably focused on other features rather than just colour.
I believe that a key problem with the research is that its approach stems from and feeds into our adult prejudices and conditioning. I’m not saying that children are unaware, but I don’t believe it is the starting point with their thinking until we condition them. I wonder what was in the hearts and minds of the children when they entered the room; I wonder what was in their hearts and minds as they left.
If they were not making distinction on the basis of colour when they entered the room, the seed was planted by the time they left. The problem is that in our day to day interactions, we often teach children to think in terms of colour and in line with our other biases, conscious or subconscious.
I’ve been networking for years so by now I should be prepared for the fact that if I go to a networking event or any other type of business gathering sooner or later someone is bound to turn to me and ask the question “were are you from?” On the face of it, it’s a very simple question – in fact I’m told it’s supposed to be a nice icebreaker, which “naturally” follows on from the question – “what’s your name?” or as some tend to say, “who are you?”
Ninety years of living reduced to this: the slow counting of breaths followed by the Himalayan trek from bed to bidet to dimly observe the color of pee, the lethargic, sometimes movement of bowels, the hasty swipe with a baby wipe. And here we go again.
Regardless of whether it is a sudden sickness, fever, or an accident, a disability forces a person to face a new reality. No longer the same, he or she has to tackle the impediments that bind and overcome the barriers that appear on his or her horizon. A person in such a situation is labeled disabled.