I am admittedly a woman of action. I see something broken, and I want to fix it. In the annals of ‘how to lists’ advising employees to get noticed, there’s the advice if you see a problem have at least one suggestion solution to present to the boss before you go in and speak to him/her.
Identifying problems or making a commentary on societal ills is great, but I want the three step approach to solving them.
So what do I do with my answer to yesterdays question, which dawned on me late last night, in pondering the census demographics for Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood-(I’m currently working with the Hyde Park Jazz Festival to coordinate volunteers for this amazing 15 hour event of live music, that will bring 15,000 jazz lovers to Hyde Park on September 26)
Hyde Park’s reputation is for being diverse, integrated. So I suppose I expected to see 50% or thereabouts white, 50% people of color. But the 2000 census identified 82+% Black/African American. Hmm, I thought, well that’s a BLACK neighborhood. But if it was 82% white, 18% people of color, well, that would clearly be a neighborhood with diversity.
I know there’s something significant in my perception of neighborhoods. I’m a diversity advocate and professional in intercultural communications, yet my unconscious bias/perception still favors being in the majority-Diversity is okay, as long as there’s not a fundamental shift in the power balance. Ouch.
Peggy McIntosh laid a foundation of White Privilege with her work White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. But as a woman, albeit White, I didn’t always identify the power of the privileged people she described.
Tim Wise also identified institutional/societal inequities in “This is Your Nation on White Privilege.” Again, fantastic points, but I think Sara Palin did get called out on a lot of the things he awarded her, or that many defended or applauded Obama for his positions, and the alignments were not always race based.
So what’s the action? Diversity Training focuses on changing actions but doesn’t address thoughts/feelings at all (think Solzhenitsyn-One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich-you can control my body but not my mind). But, unconscious bias/life experience informs actions.
I like to think a keen sensitivity to recognizing one’s own bias coupled with empathy for diversity of ideas and perspective, translated into a plan of action, can ultimately lead to a fundamental, positive transformation in how we operate in a multiracial, multiethnic society.
What do you think?