You are currently browsing the Talking Cultural Diversity blog archives for July, 2009.

“Don’t you Sass me….!”

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.29.2009

There’s an old saying, “In the South, Whites don’t care how close Blacks get as long as they don’t get too “big”.  In the North, Whites don’t care how “big” Blacks get as long as they don’t get too close.  We have done training at manufacturing plants in both the North and the South where there exists a “plantation” system – where most of the bosses are White, and most of the workers are Black. 

How do White folks feel about Black folks being smarter, richer, and more successful than they are? Read more »

“My Best Friends are Black”

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.27.2009

When I read the link posted on my blog about Sergeant James Crowley, the arresting officer in the Gates affair, being a diversity trainer, it reminded me of how I used to respond years ago when Black parents would come up to meet me at Douglas Middle School on the west side of Chicago and ask me point blank if I were a racist.  I would immediately begin to go on and on about how I was on the peace and justice committee at my church, and how my best friend was Black, and the more I talked the more the parent would look at me skeptically with an expression that seemed to say, “Yeah, she’s like that!” 

Here’s the issue- Tom Kochman wrote a great chapter in Black and White styles in Conflict called \”Signs of Guilt and Innocence\”. He explained that when Whites feel wrongfully accused they protest and defend their innocence.  Blacks, on the other hand, avoid reacting strongly when wrongly accused – an African American will more likely say simply “I know you’re not talking to me”.  OMG! Think of the implications when white jurors are determining if an African American is guilty or innocence.  If an African American doesn’t protest sufficiently for Anglo cultural expectations, they will likely read the lack of protestation as a sign of guilt rather than innocence. Read more »

The Perfect Game

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.25.2009

I was sitting in the dialysis center waiting for my 89 year old mother to finish her treatment. The TV in the corner broadcast the end of Mark Buerhle\’s perfect game. My mind wandered to thoughts of the White Sox when I was a kid. It all started for me with \”Dunc\” Rigney.

John \”Dunc\” Rigney, White Sox pitcher in the 40\’s, married Dorothy Comiskey, whose father, Charlie Comiskey, owned the White Sox. Dunc used to come into my Dad\’s tavern for a Goldyburger and a Schlitz; and he\’d stop at my uncle\’s gas station next door to get gas long before self serve.Uncle Harry used to say to other folks who came into the station, \”Shake the hand that shook the hand of John Duncan Rigney. When Mr Rigney wasn\’t using his box seats along the third base line he sometimes gave them to my Dad. It was late summer, 1959, the year the Sox won the pennant, and my Dad took me to a game to sit in the box seats. I remember a big hitter named Ted Kluszewski whose arms were so big he had to cut off his shirt sleeves, and little Luis Aparicio, the shortstop who could always steal a base. Man, that was exciting. At that moment of nostalgia –that was 50 years ago – Mom would have been 39!–I returned to the dialysis center waiting room where they were wheeling my mom into the reception area. Read more »

Hai Gui– Another Interpretation

By Adrian Chan - 07.25.2009

The Chinese notion of hai\"hai\" gui\"gui\" means \”sea turtle\” for those who were born in China and left, only to return at some later stage in their lives. This applies to Jieliang Hao who was one of our past KMA consultants in 2004 who translated our Asian Pacific Islander/Anglo Cultural Patterns of Difference (1990 videos) to contain Chinese subtitles, now used in our KMA training. Born in China but immigrated early with her parents to the USA, Jieliang reflects the immigrant\’s story of hard work, struggle and achievement, as well as USA\’s ability to attract and hone cross culturally sensitive and talented people from the different cultures throughout the world.

Currently, in her second year as an undergraduate at Harvard University (Economics major, 3.62 GPA), she is working as a research associate with Professor (of Management Practice) Willy Shih and doctoral candidate Ethan Bernstein in executing field experiments and collecting ethnographic data as an ordinary line worker at a large mobile phone manufacturing company in southern China. Her experiences provided foundational data for the Harvard Business School Case Study, \”Jieliang Phone Home!\” by Willy C. Shih, Ethan S. Bernstein & Nina Yaz Bilimoria (February 2009). Read more »

Obama, Gates and Crowley as Diversity Role Models

By Jean Mavrelis - 07.25.2009

The President said the police arrest of Gates after he showed an ID that he was the owner of the house was \”stupid.\” Blacks are sensitive to profiling and Whites are sensitive to feeling their moral character has been maligned. All things being equal in the sensitivity category, Whites have not been accidentally detained, tortured, or killed for feeling maligned, while Blacks have experienced all those things by virtue of being profiled. Maybe you\’re familiar with the rap lyric: \”Murder was the case that they gave me\”. We all know about DNA proving innocence of men on death row who were wrongfully charged. All the same, I understand how both parties felt they were disrespected.

I have yet to meet a Black man who wasn\’t the victim of a wrongful stop — one in which no violation had been committed. I heard a white talk show caller say he too is often stopped because he had long hair. I thought, \”You chose long hair, people don\’t choose their race or ethnicity. And some day you\’ll probably cut your hair, or get a hat\”. On the other hand, race is always with you even if you\’re a famous Harvard professor.

When my son Bill was 13 he and a few white friends went to the movie one evening. I told them I would pick them up at the gas station across from the theatre. They were standing outside, laughing, talking loudly as 13 year old boys do, when a squad car pulled into the gas station. I pulled in behind the police car, and the kids jumped in the car, saying they were glad to see me because they thought maybe the store owner called the police because maybe he thought they were \”loitering\”. I asked the boys, \”How do you think you would have felt if you were Black and the squad car pulled into the station?\” They all stopped and thought about it. it was a special moment when they could imagine how being Black would have made it so much scarier. Read more »

The Benefit of Affirmative Action

By Thomas Kochman - 07.21.2009

Ross Douthat in his NY Times Op Ed column “Race in 2028” agrees with Sandra Day O’Connor’s concern that court ordered affirmative action not continue indefinitely, a point she made speaking for the court in GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER, a case involving The University of Michigan Law School that took race and ethnicity into account in its university admissions policy. As Douthat put it “Allowing reverse discrimination in the wake of segregation is one thing. Discriminating in the name of diversity indefinitely is quite another.”  

Yet Grutter v. Bollinger expressly says that race may only be taken into account if there is a “compelling interest” and then only if “each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant\’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application.” Read more »

Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Thomas Kochman - 07.14.2009

The present vetting of Sotomayor as a prospective Supreme Court Justice brings to the foreground once again a matter we addressed in the blog Sotomayor and Hispanic Cultural Values , a comment Sotomayor made in a 2001 speech to a group of Hispanics that a “wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn\’t lived that life.\”

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said some of Sotomayor’s statements suggest she could deliver prejudicial opinions. “Call it empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it’s not law,” he said. “In truth, it’s more akin to politics, and politics has no place in the courtroom.” 

The proposition that one kind of life experience offers a “better” vantage point or perspective than another is open to debate. Much less disputable is that the perspectives judges  have, the decisions they make and the conclusions they come to, grow directly out of their life experiences, not simply as individuals, but as members of distinctive social or cultural groups. 

The interview that Emily Bazelon had with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called The Place of Women on the Court in the NY Times July 7, 2009 speaks directly to this point. What is relevant and revealing were Justice Ginsburg’s insights on the different perspectives and sensibilities that men and women brought to the court that were specific to their gender as men and women. Read more »

What’s Happening With HAPAs?

By Adrian Chan - 07.09.2009

Michael Jackson Memorial: Who Was That Singer?  

If you followed the Michael Jackson Memorial, the unknown lead singer for the ending, “We Are the World” and “Heal the World”, is Judith Hill, a Los Angeles-raised musician, who was an alternate backup singer set to perform in Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” concert tour. She is also a HAPA, daughter of a Japanese immigrant mother and African American funk band father. As she put it, “I was a skinny mixed kid with a lot of hair that I didn’t know what to do with.”

So who is a HAPA?  This is a Hawaiian term used for biracial, multiracial Asian Americans, and drew impetus through the 2000 USA Census which allowed for citizens to identify their bi/multiracial backgrounds. Read more »

Freedom as a Cultural Universal

By Thomas Kochman - 07.09.2009

In both his Cairo and Russia speeches and in his news conference reacting to the government suppression of freedom of assembly in Iran, President Obama proposed the view that rights to free assembly and free speech are “universal”, not simply “American” values.

As a political strategy this approach is brilliant insofar as it allows the President to establish and promote \”America\’s interest in democratic governments that protect the rights of their people,\” without appearing to interfere in the sovereign right of all nations to govern as they see fit.

But thinking about freedom and human rights as “universal” does make us wonder how these values would express themselves in countries whose social and political history and culture are so markedly different from ours. Read more »

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 »