You are currently browsing the Talking Cultural Diversity blog archives for July, 2010.

Who Counts First — Culturally Speaking?

By Thomas Kochman - 07.28.2010

An interesting U.S. Mainstream/Hispanic cultural difference occurred recently that I thought would be worth a blog.

My wife and partner Jean Mavrelis and I are compadres to a Mayan family in Chicago who fled Guatemala when they were in effect, being shot off their land, ended up in a refugee camp and ultimately, as part of the sanctuary movement, in Chicago where they now reside.

Part of the role and responsibility of being compadres, or god-parents, is to provide help when needed and when you can, much like family.

What’s culturally revealing and noteworthy is this.

We were already very satisfied with a Latino owned and run lawn service that we had been using for several years.

An issue came up for us however, when the Mayan family told us that a member of their family was starting up a lawn service business and would we start using him, instead of who we were using.

We made the switch but not without some reluctance and trepidation. Read more »

Telling the Truth

By Thomas Kochman - 07.21.2010

The political brouhaha between the NAACP and Tea Party activists that caught Shirley Sherrod in the cross-fire at the cost of her job highlights a key African American/U.S. Mainstream cultural difference.

The U.S. Mainstream view, as manifested by “zero-tolerance” discrimination policies in U.S.  agencies and organizations promotes a standard that sees fault in any blemish of moral character, and admission of that fault as a punishable offense.

The African American cultural position also centers around moral character but is less focused on blame and punishment than correction and moral redemption especially if the effort people are making is sincere.

The first sign in that effort is admission of moral imperfection, lessons learned along the way, and commitment to “getting it right.”

As the NAACP showed in its statement of apology to Ms. Sherrod, “She was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms. Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about ‘haves and have nots.’

‘It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people,’ says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”

Ms. Sherrod should be heralded as someone who has moved further along this difficult path than those who would impugn her moral character for not having been perfect all along.

Others could learn much from her example.

See The NY Times, July 22, 2010 for later developments on this story.

Manipulating Veterans is Dirty Politics

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.13.2010

There’s a distorted e-mail going around that is manipulating veterans.  In particular, it is manipulating poor white veterans, who may be predisposed to be anti-Obama, because of Obama’s race and ethnicity.

If you read Jim Webb’s book about the Scots Irish, Born Fighting, you’ll begin to better understand the culture war raging in the U.S. today that pits FOX news against MSNBC.

Webb explains that the Scotts Irish were poor whites who settled the frontier and the south.  Many came as Presbyterians, but became Baptist during the days of tent meetings.

They have always been fiercely independent and suspicious of any kind of government, since they came to this country as a result of persecution by the wealthy English establishment in Northern Ireland.

They had to fight all their lives, and continue to value guns and the military. Read more »

When Only Help, Helps

By Thomas Kochman - 07.05.2010

The current Republican stance that places concern over the deficit that “threaten to shake market confidence and saddle future generations with record public debts” as the reason for not extending unemployment is, as usual, bad timing and misguided.

Besides showing an appalling lack of compassion for those out of work –many of those jobs will be permanently lost regardless of how well the economy bounces back— it reflects once again the skewed Republican concern with ideology and political posturing over direct help, like attempting to stem the flow of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS by counseling abstinence, or the demand for drugs by telling people to “Just say, No!”

Apart from questioning the economic wisdom of scaling back spending –many economists and the present administration are arguing that more money needs to be spent by consumers to keep the economy going, not less— it shows once again Republican indifference to the lives of ordinary people. Read more »