I just had a chance to review the newly released Cultural Detective: African-American, by Kelli McCloud-Schingen and Patricia Coleman, as well as talk to the authors yesterday in the teleconference on the topic of “Black versus African-American.” Normally, I don’t review items in this series, not just because I’m the co-author of several, but because the formula for their success both in printed versions and now online hardly requires special notice for the individual items which now number well over 50.
However, in this case I think a word is necessary. Necessary, particularly because my suspicion is that most folks reading the title twill probably think largely in terms of diversity and inclusion, rather than in terms of culture. While these issues are at a certain point inseparable, one of the weak points of the diversity movement in the USA has been to imagine itself as intercultural, with little attention, and sometimes fear of dealing with the attitudes and values of targeted groups. There is still a lot of sensitivity here. Consequently when people, particularly outside the US, see publications focused on US minorities, they may think to dismiss them as some of the same-old, same-old diversity stuff.
That is not the case here. This is truly a work of intercultural significance, despite the fact that the participant guide runs to only about 30 pages. First of all, the introduction, slightly longer than the average instrument in this series is absolutely brilliant. It gives the user an overview that is rich, thoughtful, insightful, even for, perhaps particularly for US Americans who tend to see racial issues one at a time, without a sense of heritage and culture in their historical context. But it is certainly what outsiders need and should want to know in order to work well with African-Americans.
“Truly a work of intercultural significance!”
“Rich, thoughtful, insightful.”
“Heritage and culture in historical context.”
For the many expats going from other parts of the world to the USA, there is usually a question of, “What should I know about… How should I behave around… What should I avoid when dealing with African-Americans?” This instrument helps you cut to the chase, not by offering “kiss, bow, and shake hands tips” but providing insight into the values, strengths, and sensitivities peculiar to a part of the US population who are still to a great degree consciously heirs of a trajectory anchored in slavery, passing through personal pain even while also arriving in corporate boardrooms and occupying the Oval Office. This is a solid cultural perspective on the discourse, on the story that leads to the core values of African-Americans today, in all their diversity, and in contexts where bias and discrimination are still possible obstacles to appreciating cultural identity.
So, if you are preparing expats to go to the USA, or if you are one, this is an important tool, and now one of several dealing with internal cultural dimensions of the very diverse USA, now available in the easily accessible online versions of Cultural Detective.