I continue to read from education’s ‘experts’ or other professionals, so many different articles on ‘diversity’ as they endeavor to facilitate mindfulness and facilitate an appreciation for diversity. Some ask us to question our perspectives on difference, and others provide talking points and give pointers on the most effective methods to becoming culturally-proficient. Basically, in a lone article or two or three one-hour workshop sessions, cultural sensitivity and awareness has not been achieved.
I’m not quite certain whether it can be called ‘ironic’ or just plain old ‘standard’, but those who promote multi-cultural awareness, and deliver the tips, strategies and talking points…pointers, are not representative of the ‘diversity’ of which they speak. Though I respect and appreciate their own mindful awareness, these insights are not very insightful in a meaningful or sustainable manner. First, cultural proficiency is not a ‘one and done’ proposal at all. It is a journey to no set endpoint.
Essentially, to understand culture, cultural differences, and appreciate not tolerate different-cultures, races, religions, one must reflect and gain an understanding of his or her own culture. We must understand our worldviews and how that impacts our relationships and interactions with others. But, it goes deeper still. We must LEARN to let go of implicit biases, or make conscious decisions to refrain from judging or placing our own lens out and on to those who are different from ourselves.
We must understand the greater implications of culture, deliberately and honestly step outside of ourselves and look at ‘societal’ influences on cultural perspectives, policies, practices and procedures. Understand societal norms, and gain an understanding of the ways culture becomes shaped and shapes our views-everyone. Looking at culture and diversity involves dissecting society’s structural formation and then we must identify the culture[s] considered dominant in that society. This or these cultures designed and dictated, and yet controlled the ways we see and believe and treat or regard ‘different’. Different is anything, anyone or any philosophy unlike those dominant decision-making cultures.
In order to teach someone to respect diversity reaches far deeper than the capacity of an ‘outsider’ to understand themselves. The quote,” Never judge a person until you have walked a mils in their shoes” means much more than the words themselves. To completely understand diversity, we must first cease euphemizing and skirting the core meaning. Diversity in its totality refers to race and racial differences…between black and whites[in America].
One cannot teach or train others to build their own capacity to respect others, when the ‘others’ are you. It is impossible, because it is a reflection of the outside looking in. The window is translucent not transparent. Therefore one must be within in order to gain better understandings. This is why it is a journey not a destination. When full sincerity and self-awareness reaches our consciousness, it becomes apparent as to the most effective path to teaching others to respect one another. All that impacts both, must be re-examined for ensuring we are on the right path to respecting diversity all around us.
For example, if we wish to prevent bullying and events such as that which occurred in Charlottesville, Va., or witness law enforcement’s sharp reductions in targeting or committing violent injustices to innocent black people in this country, it involves taking an honest look at the way we are socialized and educated from the earliest ages. By the time, children become adults, there are subconscious biases already in place. Is it due to the education they receive or the lack of education they receive? I am listening for your responses!
It is far easier to teach and build a structure with a solid foundation than it is to tear that structure down in order to repair or rebuild. Besides, it costs more to rebuild. Look at all we see in our news. Repair is expensive.Without regards to what children learn in the home, it is at school that the consciously delivered instruction that is more sustainable at the conscious level. That which we learn at home tends to end up in our subconscious mind and memories and that too, impacts lives of adults and children also. But, school is where we learn and prepare for engaging with the greater society.
We cannot expect to have children grow to understand that everyone of us is more alike than different if we don’t teach as though we believe it ourselves. We say that we are all people-good and bad- but that is it. Nothing more. Children need evidence. Proof! Otherwise, we are simply throwing incomprehensible concepts at them, and they will ruled more by the subconscious or unconscious, and that which is acquired at home. If we are referring to African-American people, we must first be cognizant of the very fundamental beginnings of this country. A vital component of the foundation is the relationship to and with this group as a whole.
If education was framed, as were laws, to cater to whites only, then all that we teach in school reinforces that regard. Even in 2017, a core curriculum still reflects that original framework. So, if we are to teach others to respect diversity, logically speaking, in that framework, remains ineffective. Plainly stated, a member of the dominant culture can not teach others on diversity, when the nationally adopted standard leaves this group out of the instructional materials. Practice what you preach! Respecting blacks in this country or anywhere else does not magically get instilled by reserving one month out of nine for this group. It doesn’t teach in immaculate perceptions, either. It means that it is embedded and fully integrated into the instruction, in every subject area, in every area of life, wherever they live or have lived. No one is or should be invisible to society, or the mass instruction of children who will enter into the greater society.
Children must see themselves and others on a daily basis in order to feel affirmed and that they matter in this world. If any educator or professional sincerely believes that he or she respects and appreciates diversity, then he or she would not rely upon standard issue texts and materials to illustrate that respect. Teach beyond and outside of the texts! In fact, the sincerity and voracity in which instruction is delivered, if genuinely felt, educators would all initiate a total strike against traditional textbooks in public education. If not, then the genuineness that is to be perceived is lost in the rhetoric.
Imagine if white children across the country went to publically funded schools and they were taught about other whites during one month, and the same ‘chosen few’! How would you feel, as a parent, and how would your child feel about him/herself? It would be safe to say that there would be a complete uprising in protest, because your children were being raised in a core curriculum that promotes and perpetuates their marginalization in society. When will it end? When we practice what we preach, walk the talk, then we are better poised to proudly wear the tag as educators and adults who wish to not only talk about that change, but literally, we would become and teach that change we say we wish to see. Otherwise, who are you to teach about respect for diversity? A reflection of the past, but hoping to prepare future global citizens. This ain’t your momma’s world anymore.
Bravery goes a long way, and if that is true, why are we all such cowards, still afraid to color our world? About this DIVERSITY’ matter….one doesn’t have to be an architect to build bridges-just think like one.