The Great Divide

The CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation conducted an examination entitled “Survey of Americans on Race” between August 25 and October 3, 2015. They sampled 1,951 adults consisting of 950 whites, 501 blacks and 500 Hispanic respondents.

Their conclusions are a wake-up call that the diversity realities that have grounded this country for centuries are beginning to shift. Here are just some of the inclusion challenges to a nation grounded in privilege and Judeo-Christian values.

• Elected a black president for two consecutive terms.
• 5 states have populations where people of color outnumber white people in Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas and the District of Columbia.
• 50 states, 15 tribes and 18 countries now recognize same-sex marriage.
• The USA is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
• Deaths of white people outnumber the births of white babies.
• Women in the military can serve in combat roles.
• Latinos are the largest group of color.
• Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group.

The trend clearly suggests that our country is becoming more diverse. The question remains as to whether or not the country is better off as a result of these differences. The CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll submits that while our country has changed, we have not taken advantage of this transformation. We are diverse but not inclusive. Here are their major findings:

• 49% of respondents feel racism is a major problem.
• 66% claim that racial tensions have increased over the last decade.
• 57% of Blacks claim they have experienced racism in their lifetime around being denied a job and having their life threatened.
• 53% of Blacks, 36% of Hispanics and 15% of Whites assert they have encountered mistreatment in the last month at a public place.
• 60% of Whites said they work in settings that are all or mostly White.
• 68% of Whites declared their social circle is predominately White.
• 69% of Whites affirmed that their neighborhoods are principally White.

How can we start developing a common language where we can talk about race and differences in a way that challenges its complexity yet creates empathy in order to stay in the conversation?

Robin DiAngelo, professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University, has some suggestions:

Integrate our Lives
As long as we are never exposed to differences we never understand their consequences.

Fight Universalism
If you are think your view of the world is the same as the next person you will view people as the same rather than different.

Avoid Individualism
Seeing yourself as an individual allows you to disavow any association with your group membership. By distancing yourself from your own, you can renounce any group liabilities.

Inclusion is a difficult conversation. You must build resiliency to deal with the discomfort that follows the recognition and embracing of differences.

You must avoid the notion that your experience is the experience of others who are different from you. It surfaces in statements like, “I can make it so why can’t you.”

Dominant/Subordinate Groups
It is critical to own and explore the privilege of your dominant group. It is critical to explore and heal from the conflict of your subordinate group.

Inclusion Fitness
Dominant group members tend to view themselves as non-racial beings. They view differences as something important only to subordinate groups. Since they seldom interact with subordinate groups, they are freed from carrying any burden of those differences. Their mantra is those differences are things that happen to subordinate groups and not me. Their inclusion muscles are weak because they rarely use them.

False Validation
Since the dominant group resides in an ascendant setting, they are constantly reminded of their dominance. They live in good neighborhoods. Their kids attend great schools. Little crime occurs in their suburban enclaves. They see positive role models of themselves in media and literature. Over the time, they tend to internalize this supremacy.

At the end of the day, it is not about getting past our differences. It’s about getting past the notion that we can get past our differences without putting in the hard work the acceptance of those differences requires.

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