Colorblind: “the social faux pas”

black

In today’s society the idea of diversity and inclusion is often followed with rhetoric of “colorblindness” or cultural sensitivity. The idea that we are all the same and used race to separate us.  And while the social construction of race has been used as a divisive tool for grouping and categorizing our neighbor, the idea of being colorblind, to me, is almost as offensive as calling me a derogatory word. How boring would it be to look out into nature and see all the flowers the same color because they are flowers?  You would miss raging red roses, dancing daffodils, and ostentatious orchids.  This same concept goes for the human race. I don’t need to be sensitive to my beautifully-sun-kissed skin.  I don’t need  your approval of my culture or my heritage.  Don’t be sensitive or tolerant of my blackness, respect it.

Becoming a Senior Diversity Specialist has come with the unique task of creating a Cultural Competency Training Module.  It’s required research abound and rewrites a plenty.  The many documents, journals, studies, and presentations on the subject has made one salient idea clear; no one knows it all.  There are many theories on how to teach people to simply “interact”.  Popular ones are “Cultural Sensitivity Training”, “Cultural Competency Training”, “Diversity Training”, “Multicultural Training”, etc.  Below are examples of a few:

Cultural Sensitivity is being aware that cultural differences and similarities between people exist without assigning them a value- positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong” (Dabbah http://redshoemovement.com/what-is-cultural-sensitivity/)

This theory sounds like tolerance.  If in a world of beautifully diverse people we can only deem ourselves “tolerant” will we each reach inclusivity. “Don’t be sensitive to my Black, respect it”.  Sensitivity training conveys the message that you need to coddle those different than you.  It allows for an undertone of hierarchy because it gives each individual the ability to play “Cultural God”.  In essesnce to be conscious of others but “don’t play favorites”.  It is inaccurate and would inevitably cause cognitive dissonance.  Autonomy and value systems afford us the right to decide if we do or do not like something.  Discrimination, to treat differently, is the ultimate “faux paus”.  Prejudice, preconceived opinion, even worse than the former because you’ve assigned judgment or guilt without knowledge or upon biased opinion.

So then what’s next?

Cultural competence involves understanding and appropriately responding to the unique combination of cultural variables—including ability, age, beliefs, ethnicity, experience, gender, gender identity, linguistic background, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status—that the professional and client/patient bring to interactions.” (http://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Cultural-Competence/)

There is not concrete-all-encompassing definition for the word “Cultural Competency”.  Many trainings take place across America, and even the world, and there is no centralized definition for the word.  Each institution gets to ascribe their own précising definition to the term.  Also, since there is not standard on which the training must be built, and they are all different, how then could anyone be certified as being “culturally competent”?  If you take a training at a Alabama State University and leave to work for Arkansas State University your “Cultural Competency Training” does not follow you.  No one person can deem anyone fully competent.  It is not transferable like a degree or scholastic certification.  So, how can effectiveness be measured?

The word competence is defined as “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently”. In a world as vast as ours, how would anyone ever train or teach someone to respond “appropriately responding to the unique combination of cultural variables”.  It would be a never ending task and learning process.  One would need to spend so much time learning everything about everyone the practice of the learning would never take place.

Over the course of my research the concept of which I’ve fallen most enamored is Cultural Humility.

Cultural humility is the “ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the [person].[1]” Cultural humility is different from other culturally-based training ideals because it focuses on self-humility rather than achieving a state of knowledge or awareness. “ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_humility)

The concept of this theory or training is simply. “I bow to you.  I acknowledge I do not know everything about you or your culture and I am will to learn”. It is an openness to understanding “the other”.

Cultural humility was formed in the physical healthcare field and adapted for therapists and social workers to increase the quality of their interactions with clients and community members.”  This idea not only allows for objectivity but enlightenment.  There is no certificate to be received upon completion or adoption of this principle, only the reassurance that you are headed in the correct direction and respect of your fellow man.

The charge here is simple.  In a culture shaped by divisive rhetoric and distain for “the other”, take time to acknowledge change first starts within.  Make efforts to push past your own biases.

  1. Utilize tools to help with this such as the Harvard Implict Bias test. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
  2. Take Action. Seek people who run counter to stereotypic views, increase contact with people outside your own demographics, and try to think of things from the perspective of others.
  3. Be Accountable. When confronted with bias, take the time to examine your actions or beliefs. Think of how you would explicitly justify them to other people.

 

(http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/implicit-bias-2016.pdf)

 

Remember that silence is collusion. If you hear something you know to be wrong and you do not address it, you are complicit in the act. Elie Weisel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Do not be colorblind.  Do not see us all the same.  Examine the beauty and the depth of each individual person and culture.  Look past the primary dimensions of diversity and be willing to be culturally humbled at the creatively crafted cornucopia that is the human race.

D.R. Daughters

THE COLLECTIVE

praying2

It is easy to say “God is ever-present”, “God is in control”, “He is my rock”, “Ye thou I walk”, and every other scripture, song, or saying that has been repeated and engrained in you for years. It is a far harder thing to continue looking your child in the face who looks like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown and not be overwhelmed with fear and hurt. I truly feel saddened and confused. I wasn’t even listening to the news or radio this morning when it hit me. I began to cry uncontrollably. My heart ached. I felt the pain of a people in my core. I knew it was not just mine, it was too heavy. I was hit with a collective burst of confusion, hurt, sadness and anger of a state, a nation, the world. It floored me. When I could finally breathe and had just a moment of clarity the only thing that came out of my mouth was “My God!!!”. This wasn’t a question, a statement, a praise. It was a cry for help. I knew in the two words “My God” He heard me say “help me Lord”, “restore, oh God”, “touch Father”, “move Lord”. Then I remembered why I say, “God is ever-present”, God is in control”, “He is my rock” and every other scripture, song or saying…. I do firmly, boldly, and with an unbridled faith declare; “I believe if OUR community came together more, and with as much enthusiasm, passion and the longing for changing, as we do to protest, to just PRAY, I know there would be an amazing, and astonishing change in the atmosphere. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst.”(Matt 18:20) Right now we come together Sundays, when angry, ect. Our collective “Prayer Network Coverage Map” looks like Sprint service. It’s real pink on the east coast, spots of pink in the Midwest, a little coverage down south. and then large gaps of nothing. Last night there were protest and vigils held as far as England, Australia and more for something and someone that happened in Ferguson, MO. This proves we are connected. ALL OF US, as a whole, one collective body!! Cry that your brother, shot your brother…Own them both (Michael and the policeman) or you are no different that him. Mourn your brother, yell in confusion of racism, feel empathy, and sympathy… but above all PRAY, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING and with expectation!! #MichaelBrown #pray #learn #lean #trustGodpraying

The Awakening

I died so spiritually and was awakened so sinfully
I was covered in lust and bound by transgressions
I yearned unceasingly
I wanted unyieldingly
My thoughts roamed incessantly
This feeling lingered relentlessly

I was awake and alive and so consciously dead
Unhealthy and unhelpful but the ending I do dread

Like a sweet, numbing poison I drink to my death with a smile
Justifying my actions with my feminine wiles

It’s electric, magnetic,  intelligent and rude
It’s passionate,  sexy,  and erotically crude
Damn You!

Hurt….

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I HURT….I LOVED

If I plucked a rose what would it say
Would it tell me you  love me
Or a harsh truth Ive tried to delay
Am I “Waiting for Godot”
Is my patience in vain?
While I wait and it hurts
Did you notice my pain
Did my love not hold…
Was my heart not enough?
My tears feel so heavy
My heart feels so rough
I feel burdened and broken,
Raw and exposed
My essence uncovered
My soul is unclothed,
I loved wholly and fully
With an unmitigated audacity…
My hurt fuels my anger like a never-ending stream
So loud, so hot, like flaming coals that scream
Unabashed is my hatred
Unbridled is my anger
Hurt completely….I loved!!!!!
-D.R.. Daughters

I AM NOT MY WOMB!!!!!!!

motherchildmallettI AM TIRED of being defined by my Womb…

Yes, I am a mother. Yes, I am unmarried. Yes, it is a tough road traveled based on choices I made. However, the roads of indignant stares, sideways comments, backhanded compliments, and counterfeit smiles are much bumpier. “Isn’t that so-and-so’s daughter that’s pregnant”…”she is the best single mom I’ve ever seen”…”she so smart, how did she get pregnant”. Sound familiar? After the child is here the choice has been made. Yes, she made a choice that affects the village but the village USE to be one collective impermeable unit. My son is not my burden; he is my blessing. He is my inheritance. (For the inheritance of Lord Jehovah is children, the reward of the fruit of the womb) My womb has not been sullied by promiscuity, tainted by insubordination, or defiled by rebellion. It has been used for the exact purpose it was created. It bore life. The sheer concept of conception, life, labor, and birth are too intricate to even begin to explain or question. The meaning doesn’t get simpler if she is unmarried, a teen, a mistress, a prostitute, a lesbian, a cow, a sheep, or a dog. LIFE is LIFE!!! The circumstances do not taint the blessing. It proves that even in our most fleshly, disobedient, selfish, and cowardly selves God is present. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. We are all but balls of energy, and since we cannot create or destroy energy it stands to reason that THE CREATOR is responsible for all births and deaths. It is simply God willed or God allowed. His logic is not your logic. If it were the bible would not have to instruct us to ask for wisdom. (James 1:5)
My confusion is based on the fact that only 30% of children are raised in a two parent home. If I, we, me, my kind, are the majority why is this still so shocking? Let us take off our robes of false piety and righteous indignation. I would ask that we remember OUR heritage but that implies it’s been taught. I say then, LEARN our heritage. Bring back the village! Stop trying to put all the responsibility on the church.
So it’s happen to most of us: You know you only have $50 left to your name. You are in Kroger’s negotiating with yourself whether you need cereal, you don’t have milk. You’ve decided on what meal will last tonight and tomorrow’s lunch. You have thought of new way to prepare SOMETHING based on sauces and seasonings you already have at home. You added tax and have pep in your step on the way to the counter because you still have $7.00 for gas. You sigh with relief and get in line only to be behind a basket with steak, shrimp, salmon, perch, Hawaiian rolls, and every wham-wham and zoo-zoo known to man and her child is pulling gum off the shelf while she isn’t looking. By now you have added up the $247.23 in her cart BEFORE the cashier has finished, you look up with the “stomach-virus face” when she pulls out the blue card that says ‘Arkansas EBT’. (Pause) Remember, take off the aforementioned robe. Are you angry with her because she is getting assistance? Are you angry that you couldn’t get milk? Are you mad that she doesn’t have to figure out a recipe for cocktail sauce or teriyaki glaze based on condiments already in the fridge? Before you get angry remember that someone, maybe not you because you only have $7.00, has never asked “I live downstairs and noticed you have a small boy, I’m headed to the store, does he eat ________?” Remember maybe her mother taught this behavior. Ignorance is not stupidity and should not be judged the same!! You do not know to look for what you do not know. Reclaim the village. There is a skill that only you have; your fingerprint for the community. Try using that skill to teach the woman next door to read. Have you ever taken the time to look at literacy rates in Arkansas? Hear me when I say I am not equating being a single mother to ignorance or illiteracy! I am asking you to curb your judgment. Acknowledge that her struggle is your struggle. What if her fingerprint for the community is never discovered? She never had a sitter, so on the day that she would have run into the person that would flip on the light bulb never happens. It now takes longer for a cure for cancer because someone told her “you need to leave college to support that baby”. Her struggle is your struggle. My fight is your fight.
I am blessed. I am an unwed mother and I have the most amazing support system. The word support seems to be used nowadays to be synonymous with “responsible for”. It is not. An example of support is a building already standing then comes into contact with pressure and begins to lean and a beam or *insert sturdy apparatus here* is then used to lift and stabilize. Let’s lift and stabilize each other.
I am not now, nor will I ever be ONLY defined by my womb. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a mate, a church member, a writer, a student, a budding philosopher, an artist, a worshiper, a reader and so much more. I am not ONLY my womb.

 

D.R. Daughters