This is the sixth in a series of columns based on my research as a former fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In earlier columns I argued that our nation’s system of expression is far too complex to be encompassed by the simple, misleading couplet, “free speech.” In fact, over more than two centuries, our nation has developed a complex constitutionally-based system that combines robust legally-protected speech with selective legal limitations on speech.
Therefore, diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech.They don’t need to, because it does not actually exist. Instead they should defend the basic societal value ofrobust speech, while also reframing the discussion by clarifying the tensions that inevitably arise when the valuable imperatives of diversity and speech intersect. Simultaneously they should function within the American historical tradition by proposing carefully focused additions to the current list of legal limitations.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The observance, which dates back to 1945, is sponsored annually by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy.
Did you know? The employment population ratio for people without disabilities (65.7%) was more than triple that of people with disabilities (18.7%) in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Marine Corps’ purpose as stated on its webpage is to, “Defend the people of the United States at home and abroad. To do that, we make Marines who win our Nation’s battles and return as quality citizens.”To the casual reader, the first half of the purpose, which is to defend the United States, is stated in simple terms and easily understood.However, it is the latter half of the purpose that bears some investigating and begs the question, “What does make a better citizen mean?”To answer this question, I want to take you on a journey through the process of becoming a Marine, the transformation that occurs and the life-changing impact of being immersed into a sea of diversity creates.
Citizens from every walk of life you can imagine arrive by bus to one of three locations.Young men and women who have signed an enlistment contract arrive at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina or Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.Officer candidates receive their initial training at the Officer Candidate School located in Quantico, Virginia.For the purposes of this journey, we will focus on the experience of the recruits who matriculate through one of the training Depots.
Bullying can be based on various things. A person, most likely, a school student, might find themselves bullied by others because of their race, gender, sexuality, appearance, academic or athletic performance, personality, and other aspects of their identity.
A solution to the problem as complex as this one must be equally comprehensive. Today, however, I would like to tackle but one element of this problem: religion-based bullying.
Roots of faith-based bullying
Religion-based bullying is a horrible trend that is still going strong in our schools. It happens both in the physical world and online and shows no signs of stopping. It would be preposterous for us to blame it exclusively on children, equally as preposterous as to turn a blind eye to it.
Children, indeed, seldom have a strong understanding of religion: spirituality usually requires some life experience. Children are even less likely to be interested in the small differences between various faiths and creeds.
They can, however, and often are conscripted by grown-ups into the hate of the different. It is our instinct, after all, to fear and distrust“them” who are opposed to “us”. An instinct that goes counter to the ideals of diversity, sure, but still remains an instinct. And as it is with instincts, it can be easily exploited when there is little understanding or willpower.
It is us, the adults, who fuel this instinct in kids. What we say to them or around them doesn’t need to be downright offensive. A little biased comment here. A slightly derisive one there.
And it all builds up into a structure of oppression.
The diversity movement has raised myriad issues regarding language and the exercise of speech.Indeed, some critics of diversity efforts have accused its advocates of undermining the U.S. tradition of free speech.Yet that argument is ill-founded, for two reasons.First, because totally “free” speech does not exist in the United States.Second, because establishing selective legal limits on speech is as historically American as apple pie.
This is the fifth in a series of columns based on my research as a past fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In earlier columns I argued that diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech, because it does not really exist.Rather they should clarify and reframe the issue.
This fundamental concept is one of the core principles of my work and integral to DTG’s approach to dealing with diversity issues in the workplace and marketplace.Diversity issues or employee relation issues (among people who are different) typically involve two people.The perpetrator or the initiator of the behavior is one party and the target or the receiver of the behavior is the second party.
The diversity issue or incident (sometimes it is one “moment of truth”) is defined as a behavior, an action, or a series of behaviors (a pathology or trend) that one party (the target) feels or concludes based on the behavior(s) was wrong, inappropriate, disrespectful, discriminatory or illegal.
First – We Don’t Know the Intentions of Others
We all mean well.I never question the intent of any person’s actions.We actually don’t know the intentions of the other person but we assume their intentions based on the behavior we see, how we react (our feelings) or the kind of relationship we have with the perpetrator.This is the first mistake. We should look at the behavior(s) in question and only the behavior(s).Looking just at the face value of the behavior is a good start.
I tend to focus on the actual behavior and how that behavior might affect or influence other people.In other words, I focus on the impact said behavior(s) has on other people.The consequences of any action, how the behavior might be received or perceived or experienced is what I tend to scrutinize.
Second – “I didn’t Mean It”
I find too many people will get defensive when the target confronts the perpetrator about the behavior(s).The perpetrator typically responds with, “I didn’t mean it the way you took it.”Often, in my travels, people don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.Unfortunately, this does not take the “sting” out of the behavior(s).What matters is what you said, not what you meant.
What Is Appropriate
Don’t take it personally – apologize for your comment.Don’t try to avoid your responsibility – step up to the plate.Don’t focus on your intentions – no one knows your intentions.Try to put yourself in the target’s shoes and understand their feelings.Put your feelings aside.This is not about you – the perpetrator – this is about the target.Try to empathize with the target.Apologize and ask the target to always come and share with this person their feelings whenever they feel wronged.You want to be perceived as humble, approachable and “bigger” than any one incident.What you don’t want to do is seem defensive, stubborn, or stubborn.Reach out!This is a wake up call that you need to improve this relationship.Misunderstandings are more likely to arise among strangers or people who have strained or weak relationships.
Most Common Mistakes
“You people!What do your people think?You are so articulate for a (blank); I don’t see you as a (blank).Men/women, you can’t….” These are some of the most common mistakes people make. Stay away from these behaviors.Never see people as members of a group but rather focus on the person, the individual.If you do go here, apologize immediately and reach out and ask for help and coaching from the other person.
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.
The musical neuro communication with Ravi Shankar ended with his deep bow. The burst of applause was startling after the stillness, as was the quick dash of movement to the bathrooms. I turned to Cousin Sam, thanked him, and started to put on my coat. Sam didn’t move, ”We should stay for the next act.” I whined at that, “I’m tired and it’s a long schlep back to campus on the bus.” “Trust me. We should stay,” he said softly, but firmly. And so, mildly kvetching (complaining in Yiddish), I was still seated when the curtain re-opened.
My cousin Sam and I escaped our Harvard dorms and were about to experience neuro communication as we headed out to a Ravi Shankar concert in a small neighborhood theater in Boston. I was just seventeen, you know what I mean, and it was frostbite territory standing at the bus stop in Cambridge, Mass. Freezing almost took my mind off of being homesick for my family back in New York. Overcome with loneliness, I needed an attitude adjustment and Sam insisted on some music therapy. He thought that classical sitar music from India would distract and soothe – reboot my brain. I wondered why we were the only Harvard students who ‘d come to hear this relatively unknown musician from India. But it was the sixties and Shankar hadn’t yet been labeled by The Beatles’ George Harrison as “the godfather of world music”.
Dr. Nwoye is an educator and inclusion specialist. As the president of Diversity Frontier, he focuses on unconscious bias and diversity policies & practices that work. Dr. Nwoye has contributed more than 50 articles with focus on tackling social issues such as achievement gaps, race, and gender among others. He served as the Director of Multicultural Education at Illinois State University and as chief investigator on discriminatory issues. Dr.Nwoye is the author of three books. His most recent one which is the focus of this podcast. (Click for Amazon)Cultivating a Belief System for Peace, Equity and Social Justice For All.
CLICK below to hear Dr. Nwoye’s podcast about his new book…