Saturday, February 14, 2009

Diversity training update

First of all I keep thinking of the episode on the Office where they have to go through diversity training because of Michael's blunders. That and Stephen Colbert. Particularly when my coworkers say "I just don't SEE color!" (Skip to minute 5:00 - basically word for word what I hear.)

So the cultural competency educator came back yesterday and had us go through actual scenarios from our school. One of the scenarios we went through was the chili pepper incident. (Second update here.) The Spanish teacher brought out the actual poster in question (with the chili pepper wearing the sombrero and mustache, saying "Ole!"). And, to my great vindication, the trainer confirmed that this is not a poster that we should have hanging up if our mission is to create an environment of respect for all cultures.

By the end of the morning, however, I still don't think that all of my coworkers agreed. Why should they, when half the staff and the students watch and love the incredibly offensive comedy of Jeff Dunham, which includes this exact same stereotype? If it's okay for a comedian to perform it and Comedy Central to air it, why wouldn't it be okay for staff and students to hang similar pictures in their work spaces?

The cultural competency educator was good, but she wasn't going to change people's deeply held beliefs about what "should" and "shouldn't" be offensive. That's frustrating to me because it means some people think it's okay to do things that could be hurtful to kids. And that means we're right back where we started before we spent $1000 on the training.


Amerloc said...

A difference exists, I think (haven't sorted it all out in my own head yet) between reinforcing a stereotype and holding one up to ridicule. Or maybe my difficulty lies in evaluating what Dunham is doing and which side of that line it falls on.

If Dunham made fun of only one group I wouldn't have any difficulty. But he makes fun of most groups, and I wonder if he isn't just saying that all this stereotyping is so stoopid it's funny.

But what do I know? I only found out Sunday there was such a thing as "Smart Bud Light."

julie said...

I think you're right that there's a difference between making fun of ALL stereotypes and choosing one to focus on. However, I still think that reinforcing any stereotype is harmful. Dunham's intention may be to satirize, but the effect - as shown by my kids - is to perpetuate the negative stereotypes.

Amerloc said...

I'm not sure that "any stereotype" is harmful (and I'm deliberately leaving "reinforcing" out of the equation for a moment; on any given day, at any given moment, I might fit - or even identify with - any number of stereotypes: some days I feel like driving my pickup, some days I choose to drive my more eco-friendly small car, and based on those decisions alone, I'm open to stereotyping. Some days I accomplish nothing beneficial to anyone (including myself), and some days I put in hours I lose track of on a Habitat for Humanity house.

I fit - given latitude for different-day-different-stuff - any number of stereotypes, and I think most of us do.

Now. Let me double back to the "reinforcing any stereotype" concept: what if I walk into the classroom and say, "I am SO jealous. You're young and you can still learn more easily than I can."

Could we not take advantage of that stereotype? SHOULD we not take advantage of it?

Maybe I'm complicating this issue in my own mind, Julie. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I did that (not will it be the last). But for the time being, I think the answer lies in balance, and that's gonna be the bitch for anyone in the trenches.

I'm glad I'm out (I get as long as I need for lunch - I can visit the bathroom on a personal-need basis), but I'm more glad that you and so many like you are responding to the bell(s).

Thank you.