Here is the lecture from the week: The article is in this lecture. Essentially I just need 2 to 3 paragraphs to answer the question above.
Introduction | Step 1 | Step 2 | Step 3 | Step 4 | Step 5 | SummaryIntroductionBack to Top
Forming strategies to deal with diversity issues can be a tricky business. The popular approach today is political correctness, which unfortunately, is often neither political nor correct. This is not to say that it is acceptable to behave or speak in a disrespectful manner to or about other persons, or to tolerate overt discrimination against others. What it does mean is that we should be focusing on the underlying power associated with these terms, attitudes, and behaviors. An example is the current view of the use of the n-word. It is considered so demeaning and insulting that it cannot even be spoken aloud, yet everyone knows exactly what the n-word is. The point is that it isn’t the word, but rather the cultural understandings and reactions that are conjured up by the single letter n. What we have done is to simply replace one word with another without changing the underlying meaning and power of the term. It seems that many think that by making the speaking of the word taboo, the racist meaning behind it no longer exists. Unfortunately, nothing is that simple.
A Class Divided – PBS Frontline Video
Please click on the link to view the PBS Frontline video titled A Class Divided.
Step 1Back to Top
To begin, we must look within our own social and cultural understandings. We all have prejudices and ideological values about ourselves and others, and we talked about these in a previous lecture. One of the problems with the politically correct approach is that it labels people whose understandings do not conform to doctrine as either racist or sexist. This amounts to trying to eliminate derogatory stereotyping by applying derogatory stereotypes and is; therefore, just as likely to arouse resentment and resistance in the dominant group as it is in any minority group.
The first step is to overcome the reluctance to admit that we base our reactions to, or understandings of, minority groups on values and assumptions that may not be accurate or factual. As was pointed out earlier in the course, much of what we know comes from a very limited set of information sources. Most people with whom we interact regularly are more like ourselves than not, and we tend to place value and acceptability on those things that are familiar and comfortable. Our educational system has for many years placed White, middle-class, and mostly male ideals, achievements, and values at the core of our curriculums. Much of what is learned about minorities is negative, in the sense that they are presented as subordinate groups who performed menial tasks and are often portrayed as simple, child-like people who needed care and nurturing. Little mention was made of people such as Dr. Charles Drew, Elijah McCoy, Otis Boykin, Garrett Morgan, Henrietta Bradberry, or George Grant (look these names up).
Start thinking about how you really feel about issues involving minority relations and diversity. How much is based on empirical data that can be verified and how much on assumptions based on your own experiences? When you read or hear about the contributions of minority group members (such as those listed above), how often do you find yourself thinking that these are credits to their race/ethnicity and that their achievements are exceptions to the rule for their group? Conversely, when you read or hear negative things, such as crime rates, drug use, or welfare dependency, you associate them with being typical for the group. In contrast, when you read about positive achievements by dominant group members, do you assume that to be the norm and that crime, drugs, and welfare dependence are normal? Ask yourself why that is so. Is it an accurate reflection of either minority or majority groups?
Step 2Back to Top
The next step is to look around your social world. This includes your home and family, your workplace and career, the school system, the legal system, the economic system, and the political system (for a start). Again, think in terms of empirical data, not assumptions. Are minority groups and women accurately represented in these areas? At this point, don’t try to evaluate why they may or may not be represented, but simply whether they are. Just as an example, according to the U.S. Census, 87 percent of top executives in the U.S. are non-Hispanic White. What does this tell us about the way that corporate America is structured? Are minority groups accurately and equitably represented in proportion to their numbers in society? Again, don’t try to justify or explain at this point; just draw data.
Step 3Back to Top
Now is the time to start thinking about the why of what we are finding. Using your own ideas and values, how do you explain the disproportionate representation of minorities who are welfare dependent? Do you find yourself applying assumed characteristics to minority groups – things such as being unwilling to work, having a poor work ethic, or some other factor associated with being a member of a particular group? Do you find yourself applying some assumed physical or genetic characteristic? Start carefully evaluating your interpretations and explanations. Do they reflect things that can be verified by research, or are they based on something else? Do you ever find yourself drawing conclusions about a complete stranger based solely on physical appearance? Ask yourself why, and then ask yourself the same question about minorities.
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Step 4Back to Top
The next step is to think about how all of this has shaped your own approach and behavior with minority group members. Most of us likely believe that we have always tried to be considerate and respectful of diversity, but upon reflection have we really been successful? Do you find yourself treating someone differently simply because of race/ethnicity, gender, or culture? Think about that for a minute. Is the purpose to truly recognize and respect differences, or is it to play it safe in terms of political correctness? If so, is that not patronizing and just a bit condescending? Chances are, we all do this at one time or another, if for no other reason than we really don’t have any other basis for understanding. Here is where we have to start developing some strategies for understanding. No single course can teach how to understand and appreciate the myriad of differences among people. The only thing we can really do is to point out that we have the ability to re-think and re-shape our attitudes and behaviors toward others in ways that are respectful and considerate. It takes practice and reflection, along with the realization that most people of any group with whom we come into professional contact have the same basic goals and interests and want the same things as we do: to be treated fairly and respectfully.
Step 5Back to Top
The final step is to learn to define the situation. That means that you will need to make yourself consciously aware of the present social setting and then deliberately tailor your approach to fit. Exactly how this will work depends on the situation and setting. Your choices will be different in a social setting than they will be in a business or professional one. They will also differ according to the nature of the interaction and the expected outcome (note that at this point we haven’t even introduced diversity). This isn’t all that difficult. We do it unconsciously all the time. The difference here is that we want to avoid falling back on our internalized attitudes, assumptions, and reactions that can lead to misunderstandings and inadvertent problems. A physician will have a different strategy than will a lawyer, and a banker different from an accountant. Your strategy will depend not only on your role and on your expectations of the interaction, but also on others’ understandings of that role and their expectations of you.
SummaryBack to Top
Much of this may sound like a repeat of the Week 4 lecture, and to some degree it is. Where it differs is that in the previous lecture, we were looking for understanding in ourselves. Here, we are trying to apply that understanding to form a broad plan of approach. It isn’t foolproof, simply because multicultural relationships cannot be defined and outlined in a recipe. There are no fixes or approaches that fit all race/ethnic, cultural, gender, and class situations. For one thing, all of the above intersect at different points in any interaction. Gender crosses all race/ethnic and cultural boundaries. One culture may have different gender expectations, roles, and characteristics than another culture. We can and must become familiar with the minority groups with whom we most commonly interact, but we also must be willing to do some investigation into the norms, values, customs, and behaviors of those with whom we either know, or with whom we expect to interact. Understanding diversity isn’t all that hard, but it does take effort and a willingness to appreciate differences.
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