To celebrate my birthday, I addressed a group of Global Scholars at Chattanooga State Community College on the societal trends in this 2016 politics through the lens of cultural anthropology. Chattanooga is experiencing major cultural shifts as globalization transforms the South’s demographics. We are very much in need of a new generation with global leadership skills, multicultural expertise, and political involvement.
Empathy can go a long way towards understanding how sensitive language diversity can be. For me it was years ago when I spoke to an audience of 190 German executives in Dusseldorf – in English, of course, but had nothing to say during dinner when everyone spoke German except me – or when I sat around the table in Amsterdam with 25 folks who adroitly moved from one language to another. Woefully deficient – not excluded – the proverbial “bump on the log,” is how I felt in those uncomfortable situations.
Hold my experience (and think through yours) as we turn now to today’s column.
Some call the political trend towards “Me & Us First” as the new nationalism. I prefer to apply the label ‘tribalism’. Regional preferences, current events and heavy political advertising, are not shaping public opinion as much as the identity of a specific community and the resonance of a leader to that community. Communities are built on religious and ethnic values, family preferences, housing patterns, and health habits. Their political choices will be shaped by those cultural traits along with the education and economics of the community. Teams and political parties become a complex mix of leadership styles and subtle signals from body language, word choice, and facial expressions to backgrounds and biographies. Policy positions and biographical details will be filtered through the diverse communities with predictably diverse results.
The debate over Black History Month is not new, but it intensified when this year’s Oscar nominees were all Caucasian. For the second year in a row, the Oscars earned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The Los Angeles Times noted that, “It’s another embarrassing Hollywood sequel … the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of acting nominees…The news again provoked an outcry and raised fresh questions over a familiar issue: whether an industry that prides itself on its progressiveness remains stubbornly stuck in the past.”
Have you ever entered a conversation with the best of intentions, only to end up in an argument? I suspect we have all had this experience and I’d like to suggest that one reason this happens so often is because of mind distance. When we try to communicate with people whose experiences and world views are very different from our own, we often run into invisible walls. It’s like trying to describe colors to a friend who has been blind from birth. No matter how much we try to explain what the world looks, sounds, and feels like to us, if the other person’s experiences have been significantly different, they will have trouble listening and understanding. In my work as an interculturalist, I encounter such mind distance on a regular basis.
Diversity in the business world ranges from local to global and everything in-between. There are the traditional categories of race, ethnicity, gender, and age. There is also a growing global component that brings issues of language, national origin, and religion. The opportunity for culture clash and conflict increases yearly. Diversity debates usually heat up during presidential campaigns and this one should be one for the history books. It’s inevitable that emotions ooze into the workplace.
I’m often asked to suggest some conferences to attend, good books to read and other ways to learn about diversity. Here’s a glimpse of some of it.
“Who are the contemporary thought leaders on diversity, Terry?” queried one. “Someone suggested “Dr. So-and- So’s” book; would you recommend it?” surfaced in a recent e-mail.
Observations and Tips from recent training in the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) trenches (especially hostile or militant audiences)
CURRENT EVENTS – Current events are just “upping the volume, the passion, the conversation in the workshop.” Do not shy away from current events. I do not answer “what do you think about…” questions at first, I deflect to rest of room to get them talking. Do your homework, stay up to date on current events – be ready! Address vacuum, hearsay and gossip with facts. You might have to revisit ground rules more than once. Between Trump, Confederate Flag, Terrorism (domestic and international), Law Enforcement News, shootings, etc., – who can keep up? Well, you have to. I read multiple newspapers and watch multiple news hours every night (I watch all sides, all perspectives). You have to be a historian to do this work correctly.
“We don’t have diversity problems here. It’s our neighbors south of the border who have those kinds of problems. Don’t forget, this is Canada, and remember, Toronto is the most diverse city in the world!” So said a group of Canadian professionals who were about to participate in a multi-day diversity workshop. These people may have been in denial, or perhaps they were just rationalizing. They were taking diversity to automatically mean a problem in the U.S., primarily with African Americans. After all, who hadn’t heard about the civil rights movement? So after a series of questions that allowed us to peel away the layers of reasoning proffered, these participants were able to acknowledge the issues, ultimately saying, “Yes, we do have diversity problems. It’s just that we are usually much too polite to talk about them, especially in mixed company.”
Study Shows Steep Increase in Corporate Efforts to Target Hispanics
The top 500 U.S. marketers are allocating about 8.4 percent of their overall ad spend to Hispanic dedicated efforts, this is up from 5.5 percent in 2010, according to a new report from AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing. Over the past five years, the top 500 advertisers boosted their spending in Hispanic targeted media by 63 percent or $2.7 billion from $4.3 billion in 2010 to $7.1 billion. The top 500 advertisers boosted their average spending from $9 million in Hispanic targeted media in 2010 to $14 million now.