The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Diversity Training - Knowing Where to Start

It was less than a month after becoming part of the retirement community for what is supposed to be final recuperation and then whatever comes next. However, the signs of problems became more obvious and increasingly profound. The facility is in dire need of diversity training. There need to be focused discussion about race relations and equal treatment. The awareness of domestic violence and handling the issues of the abuse -- whether physical, verbal, economic, or psychological -- need to be brought up several levels and surpassing mere elder abuse.

The other matter that provided evidence of the profound need for attention is the fact that several key employees (who are guilty of the offensive, disparate behavior) are not native Americans. Instead, they are immigrants. A few others are so young that the Civil Rights Movement isn't even in their vocabulary, let alone a true appreciation of what the term means. It was merely a section of their Social Studies class that they memorized and then forgot in order to get the grade of "A" or "B" in the class and then move on. Still others who are immigrant employees merely want to avoid making waves and overlook situations that need handling. Their philosophy is "Don't make a big deal" about it.

The most telling situation was at the February 5 Activities Committee meeting. The Director of Activities and her assistant rattled off a list of things that would be done for the month of February. One of them was recognition of President's Day by way of a re-enactment of a speech by Thomas Jefferson. The month's activities was read and explained and then stopped. There was absolutely nothing said about recognizing Black History Month.

The interesting thing about the Activities omission was the fact that on January 27, the Chaplain had asked that I deliver the sermon for the worship service in February in honor of Black History Month. The recognition was not going to be isolated to merely one service. Chaplain had the insight and foresight to realize the significance of the event. She wanted acknowledgement of Black history and achievements throughout the month. My presentation of moments in Black history at each worship service throughout the month of February was the anticipated contribution.

The President of the Residents' Association also perceived the importance of Black History Month recognition as well as use of capable talent. She asked that I deliver an inspirational at both the Sunday midday and evening meals starting in February and continuing from then on. February could focus on Black History but she wanted someone to handle delivering the inspirational or blessing for each meal.

These two requests were encouraging. They represented the fact that there is awareness and sensitivity to many of the issues impacting the community. They also represented the fact that there is an undercurrent seeking increased support and momentum to begin setting the example of acceptance and appreciation not only in word but also in action. The positive foundation was laid.

It was easy to determine where to start in recognizing Black History. Start by talking about how it started and why. Recognize and remind of the fact that the acknowledgement and celebration has not always been a full month of activities. In fact, it has been slightly over 100 years that recognition has even existed. It used to be only one week in the shortest month of the year.

The next important issue was to recognize not just the traditional, well-known names in Black history but to call attention to the other significant people and their contributions to the richness of our American culture. But that also was not sufficient. Names can quickly be forgotten. A brief five minute talk is nothing more than a distraction. Appreciation of the struggles and sacrifices that witnessed and became the reason the inroads and successes were significant were also needed.

Perhaps remembering the 1950s peaceful demonstrations, over and above Rosa Parks' momentous bus ride, are also needed for laying the proper groundwork toward positive change. In just 50 years, it appears we have forgotten the integration of schools, the fire hose and police dog attacks on well-groomed peaceful marchers, the peaceful lunch counter demonstrations that became the catalysts of positive change and acceptance.

Yes, those appear to be the right starting points. The most critical of all of it is the awareness and support of the community management. Fortunately, although there is not awareness of how pitiful the acceptance is and how lacking the practice, there is a desire to be among those counted and exemplary of being a healthy environment. The important first step is recognizing that there is a problem. The next step is identifying the type and degree of the issue. Next is developing the proper strategy to cause appreciative modification and change. And finally comes constant reinforcement.

Diversity training, as with any other type of behavior modification and development, takes teamwork and diligence, in addition to realizing that it must be started and then doing so.



andrew siddle said...

We can gain the highest-quality in the business as well as consulting services tailored for non-business organizations including schools, nonprofit organizations, and even individuals by Diversity training

Yvonne LaRose, CAC said...

Very insightful. And of course, we need to know how to approach the ones in need of training so that they'll be more receptive to the training.

Thanks so much for sharing this. What else would you recommend?