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


By Thomas Kochman - 01.29.2010

One process that we use in the last day of our week long diversity training asks people from different groups two questions. The first is, “What do you want people from other groups to know about you or your group that you think they don’t know, or don’t know well enough?” The second question asks, “Why is it important to you or your group that others know this about you.”

The goal of this exercise is to promote candor and empathy –two things in very short supply especially in the workplace—and to enable different kinds of conversations to happen between members of different groups than could have happened before.

When people hear things they haven’t heard before –difficulties other groups face at work, for example– they often minimize them, saying things like, “The same thing happened to me!” or, “I can’t believe you’re saying that,” or, “How many years have you been with the company?” This last statement was made by a white male reacting to a black woman talking about being overlooked for promotion because of race.

So what is minimization and why do we, as referees and monitors of the process call “foul”, when that occurs? Read more »

Imminent Disaster

By Thomas Kochman - 01.08.2010

Some friends of mine asked me about the significance of a scene near the end of the latest Coen brother’s movie, “A Serious Man” in which a decrepit old geezer—most all of the Jewish characters in this movie fit the stereotypical portrait of “how Jews are supposed to look”– is fumbling with a set of keys to open a door to the basement of the building that offers safety against a rapidly approaching tornado that threatens to destroy everything in its path, including, and maybe especially –Jews aren’t “The Chosen People” for nothing– the infuriatingly anxious Yeshiva students waiting outside for the door to open.

I told them, that for me, that scene perfectly captured the survival mindset of many, if not most, Jewish people –the notion that disaster is imminent— and, no matter what you do, there’s very little that can be done to stop it.

Of course, Jews are not the only group who think that.

But what’s different for Jews, and is perhaps decidedly Jewish, is the collective difficulty –some would say inability – to put the notion of imminent disaster aside in getting on with life.

It’s definitely not Carpe Diem or “Eat, Drink and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We Die.” Read more »