April 13, 2012
Multiculturalism in the WorkplaceBy John Kenneth Press
Recently, I participated in a "diversity and inclusion" program at my place of work. Fear of retaliation for going against the philosophy of diversity keeps me from specifying where I work. Participating in the "white male affinity" group was not as obviously odious as I had feared; I had feared Soviet-style sessions where minorities harangued us to force a confession of our sins. The reality was softer, yet much more frightening.
While waiting I asked the facilitators some questions about the diversity inquiry group's set-up. Ours was the "White Male Individuals" group. Participants and facilitators alike fit this description. Facilitator Chris told me that ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, employment level and generational groups met in isolation. But the bulk of the groups were always divided by ethnicity.
Chris told me the goal of increasing openness led them to have everyone come from the same background. But by the end of the group, I felt it necessary to mention that none of our group's conclusions concerned ethnicity. Mostly we complained about nasty management and low pay. The facilitator replied, "We wouldn't expect you to have issues, after all, you're the white male group."
This tidbit of information stunned me. I didn't exactly know what it meant. Obviously, I thought, facilitators' expectation that some groups will not have issues and others will, can influence levels of complaint. But, I wanted to get as much information as possible, I made a note of the comment and moved on to other questions.
When asked about the selection process Chris relayed, "As people here at [workplace deleted] are busy, an excess of participants were randomly selected and invited to participate. Then we depend on volunteers to fill the seats." This practice could also foster bias; it would select for people who felt ethnicity issues were important enough to take time off of work.
In fact, the entire premise of meeting with separate "affinity groups" reified divisions. It implies that white males and Latina women do not have affinity. Thus it Balkanizes and undermines the idea of being an American citizen.
Chris told me that the sexual identification groups were self-identified. Philosophically I thought, "Does this whole process make groups' existence a social fact? Isn't race a construct?" Well, according to our set-up, that graduate school question was a moot point.
The formal presentation began. Facilitator Mike did not speak, but only typed our answers onto the projected screen. Chris asked us what we liked about our place of work. What might we tell a friend to get them to work there? Already feeling chatty, I replied that, "in academia and education, you can be fired for unpopular political thoughts. Here at xxxxx no one cares what you believe. Here we have freedom of thought."
In my two years of employment at this mystery organization, none of us had discussed any political ideas. As we did not make policy, there was no need to stray from light jovial banter.
I looked around the room at the eight white male participants. I had worked with one of these fellows before. Another worked with a department that worked with my department, though from another floor. I hoped word did not leak back to my department that my comment hinted at possible politically incorrect thoughts.
As a frustrated academic, one who feels my on-line political views have ruined my chances of ever getting hired in an academic environment, I have long been aware of the dangers of political correctness. If only devout multiculturalists who profess respect for all diversity can teach our young people, our citizens will not ever hear about the opposite of multiculturalism - culturism. And since being culturist has always and everywhere been a staple of group survival, this endangers us.
For the first time, I feared my ideas getting exposed at this place of employment. Chillingly, at the very moment that I confessed my joy over my freedom of thought, my publically celebrating it choked it out.
My mind trailed back to an earlier conversation. Facilitator Chris had told me his company "FutureWork Institute" worked "all over the world." As we discussed details, he proudly conveyed that minority-hiring quotas were just now being allowed in French employment law. This meant that the FutureWork Institute's services were more necessary than ever. I pondered the irony of this statement. It implied that the diversity he promoted caused disquietude.
When pressed, I got facilitator Chris to confirm my culturist suspicion that "all over the world" meant mostly Europe and America. For all the characterizations of the multicultural West as racist, I knew as a culturist, that the diversity business would focus on the West because only we allow cultural diversity. All other nations are culturist and so protect, promote and defend the majority culture.
Because I am a good listener, Chris let me in on an interesting little tidbit. In South America, FutureWork's training mostly concerned sexism. And in Asia they focused on generational diversity issues.
The Middle East was chillingly missing from Chris' list. Logically, since diversity is illegal in Islamic states, the FutureWork Institute cannot exist there in any capacity. Rather than have sexual orientation affinity groups, Iran and Saudi Arabia publically execute homosexuals. Theocracy brooks no liberal social engineering. The FutureWork Institute's website's "Global Diversity" page announces that we are "living in a boundaryless [sic] world." Their not being in Saudi Arabia belies this assertion.
At some level this fact made me appreciate the FutureWork Initiative. My work environment presents a perfect example of diversity. The gender balance is about even. We have three blacks, two whites, a Latina and a Hindu. And, as per our organization's non-political mission and commitment to diversity, discussions of diversity and tensions around it never arise. Our immediate milieu has perfect demographics and peaceful silence.
When I told a black friend that ethnicity issues did not arise in my White Male Affinity Group, her immediate reply parroted facilitator Chris', "that's because you're white males." Far be it for me, apparently, to speak to her experiences and perceptions. And, I am willing to consider that she may have had negative experiences tied to her minority status and a need to speak of them. And, I can even see the logic of creating homogeneous groups to facilitate such communication.
However, it seems that these discussions include the expected bias. Discussions that run counter to the narrative of minority victimhood would be met with hostility. A few of us discussed mixed feelings around working in a female-dominated environment. That was safe.
Multiculturalists' shallow understanding of cultures only includes positive superficial characteristics. Everyone knows that noting that cultures can also have negative aspects gets one branded racist. The words "culturism" and "culturist" have been launched to make us consciously aware that culture and race are not synonymous and rescue culture as a legitimate point of policy discussion.
Right now, mentioning "jihad" or "borders," let alone the impact of culture on achievement, can get you in serious trouble. And in a world that includes terrorism, this silencing has dangerous geo-political implications for the West. If people in France cannot say anything ill about mass Muslim immigration, for example, national security will suffer.
The FutureWork Institute's website slogan reads "Translating Future Trends. Transforming Organizations." Were they simply facilitating discussion, their existence could help us have difficult conversations. But the talks I attended enforced a liberal trajectory with assumptions about a peaceful global multicultural future. In this conflict-free future, some cultures do not need endless economic bailouts and hostilities have ceased. I do not buy this culturally neutral future. And so I become a fly in the ointment of their "FutureWork."
Culturism notes that different groups achieve differently due to cultural attributes. Multiculturalism sees the same differences as evidence of white racism. Multiculturalists like the FutureWork Institute implicitly believe that if whites in power would see their oppressive natures, we would have perfect equality. And so their work to confront diversity issues really becomes a hunt to find discrimination and white male culpability for differences.
And the multiculturalist vision of the future is also premised on all peoples being good and virtuous and nothing getting in the way of harmony, but our lack of understanding others. Unfortunately, "affinity groups" in the real world can have unharmonious values. Some wish to impose theocracy violently. The FutureWork Institute's desire to divide us and then outlaw our looking at the impact of culture will not make us in the West united and strong. And ultimately, blindness to evil in the world endangers our western harbingers of liberalism and qualified diversity.
Nothing terribly odious was said at my "diversity and inclusion" training. In fact, I do not think our members had the horrible thoughts the other affinity groups are expected to confront. So the accusations against us happened in silence, elsewhere. And as our White Male group discussed pay and management issues, the FutureWorks Institute flexed the institutional authority to put their world narrative into play without dissention.
John Kenneth Press, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in the history of education from New York University. His books include Culturism: A Word, A Value, Our Future. The website www.culturism.us has more information.
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