There is a problem, and it is not confined to the TwinCities, Minnesota, nor just the United States. Talking about it has been done, there are reams of information available across the internet, or in your local library. It is now time that we act; the foundational awareness to do so is accessible. What is preventing us from acting is fear. Liminality is at play.
We know where we have been; and we are re-living another civil rights movement. Here begins the ambiguity. We are able to know where we are, but the competition for objectivity in this perception is toxic. We do not know where we are going; and this is very alarming in a very subtle way. Combined with the rise of big data, numbers, colors, pictures and all, everyone is able to find evidence to support their chosen thesis. Our moral compass' feel constantly under threat.
What becomes apparent is the importance of play and dreams. Space to make mistakes, and imagine what might at first seem to be extra-ordinary solutions. To these ends DreamFreely is a part of a larger network of web-domains positioned to provide an arena for learning, play and progress. MnActivist.org being the flagship entity, though furtherest from completion, provides an initial survey of local conversations. MPDComments is a face towards a VERY difficult discussion, but the history of violence in this country cannot be neglected, or dismissed. CultureClap is where I first learned to play.
"Lookin' for the remedy but you can't see what's hurtin' you. The revolution is here, the revolution is personal." ~ Talib Kweli "Beautiful Struggle"
to be continued...
The Economist published an insightful article regarding the influence of linguistic norms and cultural perceptions. How do these norms come about wherein one doesn't "want to be the whitest-sounding black guy in a room"? Is this reverse-prejudice?
There continues to be an "us/them" dialectic in cultural conversations. Whether it be Bernie vs Hillary, or insight vs Trump; to be a part of "other-side", or even indicated an ability to connect with them, can quickly become viewed as traitorous. How far back into America's history to do we want to dig in search of our adversarial epicenter? We can no longer deny the blood that this country as been built upon.
In another piece I speak to the dangers of unintentionally seeking assimilation through hiring practices. What I did not mention is the obverse of this perspective: Every person of color knows they need to cater to white fragility when interacting with white people. This means processing everything through a custom-filter so as to not make anyone feel threatened. This is a "life or death" mechanism that many people of color, I think, will be able to identify.
This is also one of many sources of consistent low-grade anxiety.
Nancy Lyons of Clockwork Interactive recently announced a Minnesota Technology Diversity Pledge. Rather than skeptical, this writer is hopeful. Ms Lyons has been a thought-leader both in the tech and small-businesses communities locally and nationally for a number of years. None the less, this is only a start to confronting a much larger chasm. I had the opportunity to sit-down with Ms Lyons sometime ago, and we entertained curt conversations regarding diversity and activism in the community.
If there was one thing I took away from our conversation, it was how much content was being lost in interpretation. This is a consequence of lived experiences combined with consistently biased media exposure. Ms Lyons does confront the ambiguity of benefits to be gained by embracing diversity: we can't know what we don't know. While much of what we learn may be more about ourselves, than one's business; though this may very well inform how one runs their business. This having been the case in the aforementioned conversation; it is also here where we confront the initial obstacles of fear & opportunity.
Often times companies get very comfortable in their routines; and as oft they ought. There is a flow to each company, and if this is yielding consistently positive returns, that is to be appreciated. Diversity hires will disturb this. Society has not made room for marginalized people; we have created workflows that neglect, and negate, our existence. Accepting marginalized people into your circles will be a short-term expense, financially and culturally. We have two options, we can either wait for an ideal candidate who is the right "cultural fit", and mitigate the short-term costs. Diversity by assimilation practically voids long-term benefits. The other option is to acknowledge that there will be a learning curve for all parties involved; and that this is part of the long-term benefit.
This opens up the door of accessibility. In communication theory, different genders are considered different cultures with entirely different methods of communication. The intricacy of the communicative filter only increases as you add social labels. While in the remainder of the social sciences we come to learn that language, as a whole, is incredibly important in creating culture, and neural pathways. The first of these norms to be confronted, when inviting heterogeneity into a once homogenous environment, are the more conflictual disparities of communication. You are allowing your self access to a perspective that is, more often than not, told not to talk, and accept not being acknowledged. There are chasms to cross.
By preparing one's self, and your team, for this, a company is able to begin reaping the benefits of a diversity initiative. Felicity and agility of thought will become requisite in the work-place enabling a culture of learning and communication. The world is quickly becoming more diverse. Social norms are being redefined, and cultural fluidity is becoming a precious commodity.
Imagine yourself sitting at a bench over-looking a city and someone arrives to speak to you. They remain standing while speaking to you. Now imagine this scenario again, except that this time the individual sits down next to you, and attempts to speak with you. It is this ability to acknowledge, and be open to, narratives other than our own that will yield exponentiating returns in the future.
Rather than assimilation, adaption requires us to extend ourselves. Much is to be learned and gained in this process. Though, as with any form of growth, there is an expense to be incurred. Adaption of communicative norms is a problem solving methodology of trial and error, one is bound to make mistakes. Though by listening to topics through another's perspective, it is illuminating to one's own conception of the topic, and quite possibly much more. This being only the beginning. When we assimilate, or expect assimilation, we are not wanting to be confronted with perspectives that will challenge our own; rather we are seeking perspectives that will re-affirm our own views. Without this challenge, there can be no growth, or benefit, beyond the platitudinal.
And so while a pledge sounds great, it is the beginning of an arduous, precarious, and rewarding path. Minnesota has an extraordinary equity issue, for more than one cultural reason. Though if ever there were a time or place for Midwestern stubborn to display it's might and mettle, this would be the time and place. Minnesota has disproportionately been a land of plenty for those able to conform to strict cultural norms, and the symptoms are growing in gravity, rapidly towards illness. Technology is both a tool to build both bridges and people.
Report Blames Structural Racism for MN Health Disparities
A Movement Against Racism Should Be a Movement for Mental Health
How Racism Is Bad for Our Bodies
Why it's so hard to talk to white people about racism
Being a person of color in state with dramatic cultural/racial disparities puts one in an odd position in terms of employment. Often one either becomes a silent observer, or recipient of cultural ignorance, and the learning curve that accompanies such a process. Or one chooses to confront the aggression, and face the consequences. The latter of which, while admirable, is a statistically improbable path to success by contemporary measures.
What endures is a sense of strategy and foresight that is almost unparalleled. The learning curve mentioned earlier is the cycle of having to field the learner's consistent mistakes. This teaches both patience and foresight by having to discern what encourages progress; or conversely, what encourages regression. As society fractures, cultures will fracture as well, and the bridges between them become fewer and further. In searching for narratives strong enough to live for, disagreement will proliferate, and alliances strengthen, shift, or whither. The winners will be those who are able to listen.
The client of note (ABC Landscaping) did not listen. Years ago I advised a re-evaluation of compensation practices, warning that a key team-member would be forced to look elsewhere for employment. That time has now passed, and said team-member has taken the first two-steps in transitioning. That this transition is happening without their employer's awareness is what is saddening.
Without a clear vision of the future the incidental changes of the world turning feel like earthquakes. Without a clear vision others are unable to contribute, because they are not able to see what you are describing. What happens when the earth does shake?