Some have called our “Me & Us First” politics as nationalism but I prefer to apply the label ‘tribalism’. In this COVID-19 environment, racial lines, 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 have always been shaped by those cultural traits. With the economic fallout and the growing disparities in jobs and education, politics will become a complex mix of leadership styles that symbolize communities along with the body language, word choice, and facial expressions that resonate specific communities. Policy positions and biographical details will be less relevant as they are filtered through the lens of each group.
Neuro Communication with James Brown
My musical neurocommunication 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.
Neurocommunication with Ravi Shankar
My cousin Sam and I escaped our Harvard dorms and were about to experience neurocommunication 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”.
Why I created the ADR and
Why we need your support
When asked why I created the American Diversity Report (ADR), I’m tempted to answer that diversity is in my DNA. I was brought up as the only Jewish little girl on the 24 square miles of British Bermuda in a family that immigrated from Russian territories. When we moved to New York, I was bullied for my colonial British accent and found comfort in the music, dance, and folktales of diverse cultures. I played the violin, performed ballet, and wrote stories and poems to express my sense of exclusion. When illness prevented all other expression, reading became my world and writing became my voice.
Two decades ago, I had to resign my job as an executive director of a Jewish Federation because I’d almost died on a mission to Uzbekistan, diversity again surfaced as my passion. But this time, I wanted to leave a legacy that would change the world. I created the Women’s Council on Diversity along with a community Global Leadership Course and a Youth Multicultural video contest. But of all my creations, the American Diversity Report is closest to my heart.
For the past two years I have been writing a series of columns about the complicated intersection of inclusive diversity and robust speech. Although my last column appeared just two months ago, in some respects it seems like ancient history. Maybe it is.
Because on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis Police Officer named Derek Chauvin jammed his knee against the neck of George Floyd, an African American man, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, until Floyd was dead. Those 526 excruciating seconds, recorded and widely disseminated, may have changed the course of U.S. history. That incident has certainly changed the way that we are currently talking about race in particular and about diversity in general.
Finding New Ways to Serve
Employees, Customers and Communities
Over the past few weeks, we have been exploring the effects of the coronavirus on organizations and ways to mitigate the cultural and economic damage they face. To assess the current landscape, we conducted an informal survey of roughly 80 organizations from across metro Atlanta in partnership with HR Executive Roundtable and the HR Leadership Forum. The sample includes organizations from a variety of industry groups. While it is not representative of the U.S., Georgia, or metro Atlanta economy as a whole, it does capture the intense distress being experienced by mid-size, tech, and retail-oriented companies — a snapshot of the crisis, collected recently. We wanted to understand how organizations were dealing with the disruption and what they planned to do once their companies decided to re-open. We were particularly interested in their human resource and leadership resilience and the challenges of bringing employees back to work.
Diversity in the Sports World
Sport plays a significant role in creating communities as common bond is formed when individuals and teams compete celebrating their successes and failures with others. The Olympics is as much a peace movement as a sporting event with the Olympic flame a symbol of harmony, cultural plurality and togetherness. Athletes have been practitioners of Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) for decades meeting and connecting with people from other countries and backgrounds setting aside differences and developing a sense of fair play for all. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali is one of the most celebrated sporting figures of the 20th Century and he brought the whole world together when an estimated global audience of 1 billion viewers watched his famous “The Rumble in the Jungle” fight with George Foreman. In the 21st Century, major sporting apparel companies understand the ubiquitous commercial benefits of I&D as evidenced in the World Economic Forum article titled: The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming which stated:
“It is important for corporations to step up and advocate for diversity and tolerance on a public platform. A great example of this is Nike’s support of American football quarterback and rights campaigner Colin ` Kaerpenick. More than a marketing exercise, it showed the world that one of America’s best-known corporations was willing to stand aside one man in his battel against racial injustice and intolerance.”
I was excited to return to Cincinnati where my father had been the CFO of the American Jewish Archives. I was on the road, speaking on Religious Diversity in our Schools and at Work at the invitation of a Women of Faith event sponsored by American Jewish Committee, Xavier University & the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Now that so much of our work is done online and out teams communicate through cyberspace, it’s vital that cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence in the area of religious diversity be part of the leadership tool box. Lessons learned from in-person presentations like this one should be reviewed and updated for a new world of long-distance work.
Meet the Class of 2020:
Kevin Womack Works to Increase Diversity in Data Science
As an undergraduate student at Morehouse College, Kevin Womack double majored in mathematics and computer science. To study two such demanding fields was doubly difficult, he says. But, crediting his mother (an engineer) and his father (a computer scientist), Womack says that quantitative reasoning came naturally to him and he was undaunted by the workload. Now a student in the master’s degree program at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University, Womack excels in his coursework and is an advocate for increased diversity in data science. Here, he discusses his background, his career goals, and his commitment to diversity.
Tell us about your time as a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
This is the second of three columns in which I make fifty-year projections concerning the following question: as a nation, where will we stand in 2070 when it comes to the contested interplay of diversity and speech? These three columns are based on a public presentation on diversity and speech that I gave at the December, 2019, Speculative Futures in Education Conference at the University of California, Riverside.
In my previous column I argued that the internet has dramatically altered the diversity-speech discussion, particularly when it comes to hate speech. As an easily-accessible mechanism for spreading hate, including through troll storms and doxing, the internet has developed into a true weapon of terror.