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.
Neuro Communication with James Brown
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.
Neuro Communication with Ravi Shankar
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…
Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
“As we gather together at this exploration & celebration of our cultural diversity, let us ask for the blessing of our Creator who has placed us all on this precious planet. Let us give thanks for our shared hope for a future where we can harmonize, not homogenize, the intersection of race, ethnicity, religion, generation, and genders represented in this room.” That’s how I began my invocation prayer for Chattanooga’s Chamber of Commerce Diversify Summit. The luncheon at the Convention Center was packed with every generation, from grey-haired sages to newborn infants with their moms. Attendees represented corporations, small businesses, universities and colleges, nonprofits, networking groups, media, and municipal agencies.
JOURNEY OF TEARS
That whole morning and night before were one long prayer for assistance. I woke at four, and sat in the living room of my friends’ river-side house, speaking aloud to the darkness, undamming the river, flooding inside.
Then I got ready, and drove to Red Clay State Park.
For years, my feet have taken me to Red Clay State Park, near Cleveland, Tennessee. This land was once the last seat of Cherokee government, and also the place where, in 1838, the Cherokee people learned that the Treaty had again been broken, their remaining land would be taken, and they would be forcibly “removed” to Oklahoma and parts unknown. Thousands and thousands of people died.
Five decades ago, the only consumer that brands cared about was the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs). The reason being that they represented the majority of the consumer market. Some years down the line, a few companies/brands realized that directing marketing material towards the African-American ethnic population has the potential to boom up their business. So, they devised multicultural marketing strategies.
But today, a few more years down the line, shows a different consumer picture. Now, the population of America has become progressively diverse. The mixed-race population and Asian people are the two fastest growing groups in the US. On the other hand, there is a lag of growth in the Non-Hispanic white segment of the US population. From July 2015 to July 2016, Asian and mixed-race population grew by 3% while Non-Hispanic whites grew by just 5,000. Research suggests that by 2040, the minority groups today would combine to attain a majority in the US population. So, the marketing strategies that used to work a few decades back would no longer work in the future. This has led to professionals diversifying their marketing procedures.
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.
Diversity advocates cannot avoid dealing with the intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech. Tensions between those two imperatives are inevitable. These tensions complicate our efforts to address such speech-related issues as privilege, power, marginalization, hostile work environments, and the expression of intergroup hate.
This is the third in a series of columns based on my research as a current fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In the first two columns I argued that diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech. We don’t need to, because totally “free” speech does not exist in the United States.