Wednesday, October 23, 2013

There Go the Brown People Stirring Things Up Again!

Act #296: Adjust your view towards diversity training.

Out of 16 staff members at my place of employment, three of us are people of color.  Of the three, two of us are attending a "Dialogue on Diversity" conference this Friday.  To be fair, during my year-long tenure, three white staff members at various points have shared information on cultural competency, or have intentionally spoken with me about being a more inclusive work environment.  But the individuals who have repeatedly and consistently set aside time to wrap their brains around the issue of workplace diversity......have all been brown.  So at the surface, we're falling right into that expected clichĂ© - there go the brown people stirring things up again.  Why they gotta be so angry all the time? 

Why DO we care so much?  Can't everyone just do their jobs and get along?  Yes.....if you happen to be in the cultural majority, that is.  You see, the workplace is made up of subtle and not-so-subtle norms that usually accommodate the majority culture.  Norms in communication standards, leadership capacities, work styles, and in my line of work - norms in the way we treat survivors of sexual trauma.   I can't speak for every brown person in the world, but as an Asian-American woman who has been in a leadership role for the past decade, I know I have been challenged with certain expectations.  I should share my personal feelings more (although I grew up in a culture that values personal reflection and limited expression of personal feelings).  I don't "pull the trigger" enough (because collectivist cultures value collaboration and consensus over individual decision-making).  But when I do "pull the trigger" and take on individualist cultural traits like directness and assertiveness, it's usually jolting to people who are subconsciously expecting a sweeter, more soft-spoken, traditionally Asian girl. 

And this is precisely why so often, it is the brown people who seek out opportunities to educate ourselves, and the work environments to which we belong, about how our backgrounds shape our work personalities.  How our work styles sometimes, but not always, reflect those backgrounds.  And how all of these factors influence the way we communicate with the people we serve.  Our goal is not to force everyone to walk around on egg shells, but rather to help us understand the impact of our complex cultural backgrounds........and the power of our own perceptions.

So this Friday two of the three brown people are yet again, shelling out $75 and giving up a whole day of work to join others across the state to "engage in thoughtful and instructive conversations about the relevance and role of diversity" in our lives and in our work.  Because the alternative to "stirring things up" is settling.  And that's one thing this brown girl just doesn't do well.

No comments:

Post a Comment