Mocking Sarah Palin

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.09.2009

Mocking Sarah Palin isn’t a new sport. Tina Fey made a comedic art of it during the campaign.

This week Maureen Dowd mocked Palin in her column “Sarah’s Secret Diary”. I’ve noted that the act of mocking raises a cultural issue for some white women. I’ll explain what I mean. As I poured through the responses to Dowd’s article one caught my eye, because it speaks directly to the cultural concern I’m talking about.

It read, “Please move on or you will start having people feeling sorry for her. Too many already are.”

Based on my experience I would guess the respondent is a white woman. I say that because I have seen this attitude all too many times in my seminars.  If you want to get a type of white women I call “people pleasers” to side with you, you need to be a victim.  And if you want them to hate you, you just have to pick on someone, or “be mean.” 

For example, in one of my seminars years ago a white woman raised her hand and complained about a Black woman who hurt her feelings.  I explained the cultural differences that tend to play out between white women and black women and the way they handle conflict. Black women, like white women, do gossip, but when they do they start with, “And I’ll say this to her face.”  For African American women, backstabbing is a sign of weakness.  White women, on the other hand, are almost forced into backstabbing.  If you tell another white woman  that you are upset with her, she’ll thank you for coming to her, and then tell everyone else (behind your back) that you attacked her. I discuss these differences in depth in our book Corporate Tribalism. Read more »

Race Awareness

By Thomas Kochman - 06.20.2009

A report by Target Market News last week noted that News Corp is forming a diversity council following protests over a cartoon of President Obama that appeared in a February issue of the New York Post. Protesters picket New York Post over chimp cartoon February 19, 2009. Over the years we have noted many protests occurring as a result of blatant racism (as in the present case), as well as thinly disguised racism, or  simple racial insensitivity, as in the case of Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilgheman who was suspended for the \’lynch\’ remark about Tiger Woods.

Sometimes, the charge is more one of bad timing or bad taste, as directed toward The New Yorker for example. The New Yorker ‘s cover of Barack and Michele Obama in which they were depicted as terrorists, was presented and seen by many as satire –mocking the mockers, so to speak.  But it was also received as having “all the scare tactics and misinformation that has so far been used to derail Barack Obama\’s campaign — all in one handy illustration.Read more »

Tribal Stereotypes

By Thomas Kochman - 06.18.2009

The column by Brent Staples titled Even Now, There’s Risk in ‘Driving While Black’ , The New York Times June 14, 2009 is a good reminder that profiling and stereotypes of African Americans, especially black men, endure, notwithstanding the election of an African American president.  In fact, it has been long held by black men — especially those that have reached celebrity status—that the white public views their success as exceptional: as reflecting upon individual achievement but not upon an African American, or member of group, achievement.

This persistence of these attitudes toward a group notwithstanding, the success of individuals from that group raises the question of what it would take for stereotypes of the group to change?  And if many individual successes as members of a group are ultimately what it takes, how long before that happens?
Tribal stereotypes prevail in the corporate workplace too, as we document in our book Corporate Tribalism.  In our diversity training, we often talk about the challenges individuals from various groups face because of views of them as members of a group, and not just as individuals. We pose the question, “If you just became manager of a new work group what do you think you might specially have to prove above and beyond what everyone might have to prove?” The different responses that we get from different groups speak directly to stereotypes that exist about that group. Read more »