I want to begin by thanking Americans for the Arts for inviting me to contribute to the diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation on ARTSblog. We have built an amazing relationship as our work together seeks to inspire greater collaboration between the business and arts communities. As I thought about what I’d share for this first blog, I decided to present excerpts from the introduction of the newly released 3rd edition of my book Diversity Conversations. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I remain perplexed by the adversarial and, at times, hostile conversations about the differences we have struggled to resolve in our country since I began working in the diversity arena in the early 1990s. I first published the book Diversity Conversations in 2013, and admittedly, I have been rewriting and reediting as I observe technology accelerating the way diversity issues can divide us as people. What is evident even more in 2018 is the toxic political environment that has generated enough angst that we are bombarded with its poison in every possible encounter: in our daily interactions at home, work, church, in our cars, in traditional and social media, and practically everywhere people are gathered. We are experiencing a significantly high level of anger, misunderstanding, and name-calling from every walk of life, from every political and religious spectrum, and from every social and economic class regardless of gender, race, or ethnic background.
Tribalism is a deeply rooted instinct within people to focus on the needs and interests of their group, especially when they feel under attack. Every group today believes that they are the biggest victim. Therefore, the chasm of indifference remains in regard to diversity conversations about ideological, social, political, and cultural differences. The need for these important conversations will remain a high priority as long as people are born into a world of finite resources. So, my response is to provide the resources I have tested as a consultant, to arm people with practical information, so they can defend themselves by applying effective diversity conversation skills and principles. Specifically, this book seeks to help people recognize and reduce the conflict they experience when discussing diversity related subjects. This toolbox will assist readers in communicating more effectively with people who hold different points of view.
Diversity Conversations is filled with examples culled from discussions with thousands of American professionals, executives, union workers, educators, politicians, law enforcement officials, and others I have trained since the 1990s. Each chapter offers practical tips to increase effectiveness in conducting productive and critical diversity conversations with your friends, family, co-workers, as well as people who do not view the world like you. This third edition includes specific exercises at the end of each chapter to help readers take steps to improve awareness of their personal biases and implement recommended practices that will lead to more productive diversity conversations. One of my goals is to provide a meaningful perspective on how to think critically about diversity so that there can be more productive discussions when individual differences are involved. This book is offered as one resource to help us break the dysfunctional patterns that keep us bogged down in unhealthy conflict. We must liberate ourselves from mindless rhetoric, often disseminated through the individuals and institutions that influence, educate, train, and at times seek to control us.
This third edition of Diversity Conversations is released during a time in our world where there is a growing need for more civility, unity, and human understanding. Each person must face our own demons of bias, tribalism, and cultural blind spots. If we continue to drink from the bitter cup of blame and cross-cultural degradation, we will never engage in the work necessary to bring about sustainable change. When I began this journey, I was certain that my life’s purpose was to “reduce the bias that existed in others, and in the world around me.” Ordinary people have taught me that my greatest growth opportunity is to become a better listener to the pain and hurt of others. I have seen the transformative power of humbly owning my biases and allowing grace and forgiveness, to cover the shortcomings I see in others. When we demonstrate empathy and compassion towards people, we give them the space necessary to do their own work and make the changes necessary for productive “Diversity Conversations.”
Diversity Conversations is available for sale in the Americans for the Arts online store.