Resilience Through Resistance

coverAfAmOn this Juneteenth Freedom Day, I am humbled and honored to share with you a significant update in the Cultural Detective African American package. Since these materials were first published four years ago much has changed in the USA and in the African American community. When we initially asked its authors, Kelli McLoud-Schingen and Patricia M. Coleman to update the package, emotions were too raw, wounds too fresh, and the idea itself overwhelming.

“With each face, each name and each court case, members of the African American community see their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their nephews, their lovers, their mothers, their daughters, their nieces, and themselves. The fear in the African American community is palpable, present, and real—and it paralyzes, polarizes, and traumatizes the community.

A year later they sent us a brilliant piece that provides important and often missing or over-looked context to today’s realities of the African American experience. This short essay is especially useful for people who are new to the USA or who just don’t “get” what all the “fuss” is about. I am personally and professionally very grateful to these two talented professionals for their contributions to intercultural understanding.

“There are real values in conflict here. When someone is killed—whether by the police or another citizen, African Americans expect the justice system to work…

When this doesn’t happen, overwhelming grief gives way to unimaginable pain, which, in turn, often gives way to irrepressible rage. When the rage is released, the socially pathological stories of black violence are reinforced, perpetuating the stereotypes that serve to dehumanize an entire group of people.

What we have now is an opportunity to explore why African Americans have had the need, in every generation, to ask the timeless question, “Am I not a full and equal citizen?” It seems the answer should be an unequivocal and resounding “yes,” but the question is most often met with an appalling silence, or worse, a loud “no” backed by legal might.”

Cultural Detective, as you know, is a licensed product, available via subscription (CD Online) or printed PDF at very affordable prices. The topic of race relations in the USA is so crucial, however, that the three of us feel compelled to share the new addition with our entire community. You will find it below. Please put it to good use, whether in combination with your Cultural Detective Online subscription or PDF license.

How Language Can Deceive

PERCEPTION AND DECEPTION COVER FACE 3“We’re all coming to be like each other. While there’s some truth to that, it’s also truth that in coming together so rapidly—with technology, migration across borders—we are unprepared for the contact between people and cultures we know nothing about.”

Joe Lurie recently spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Commonwealth Club of California. In this two-minute excerpt from that presentation, Joe tells the sad story of a woman looking for a job who isn’t hired, at least in part, because of her name.

We’ve published about the importance of names previously on this blog. While Joe and Fadwa’s story is anecdotal, it echoes the experience of thousands of others worldwide. You may recall the widely reported story of José Zamora, who was hired only after he changed the name on his resumé to “Joe.” According to Recruiter magazine:

Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback. This would suggest either employer prejudice or employer perception that race signals lower productivity.

The book, Perception and Deception: A Mind Opening Journey Across Cultures, tells hundreds of stories like this one, in an effort to help the reader develop awareness and understanding, so they can then use Cultural Detective to build their skills and competence. If you haven’t yet read the book, be sure to order it now. Better yet, order a copy for Aunt Margret or your Cousin Vinny, too.

Film Review: Emperor

MV5BMjI4OTcwMTY3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTI1MzcxOQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_Our family watched a movie the other night that we all thoroughly enjoyed, and it as such an excellent cross-cultural film!

Emperor tells the supposedly true story of the USA’s decisions about whether or not to try (and hang) Emperor Hirohito after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. Since I have always referenced the post-war reconstruction of Japan as “best practice” in ending a war, restoring a nation, and building an alliance (a lay person’s opinion, as politics and the military are in no way my specialties), I found this film particularly enlightening. It is a joint US-Japan production.

Emperor was released in the USA in 2012 and in Japan in 2013, but somehow just made it to my attention here in Mexico. Thank goodness it did! It stars Matthew Fox as Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, a Japan expert, and Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers), along with a host of Japanese actors.

The film captures the emotional torment
of a person attempting to bridge two cultures:
how could he be truthful, gain and maintain credibility with
both Japanese and US Americans, remain true to himself,
and yet do the right thing?

Though there are quite a few Hollywood clichés, I absolutely loved the insight into Japanese culture that Fellers demonstrates in the movie—it’s a great example of practical application of culture-specific knowledge. The film captures very well the emotional torment of a person attempting to bridge two cultures, particularly in such a sensitive situation: how could he be truthful, gain and maintain credibility with both Japanese and US Americans, remain true to himself, and yet do the right thing? The movie shows some  of the post-war devastation of Japan, the dignity of its people, and the wisdom that, fortunately, prevailed.

I believe there is much to learn here, and I hope our US military will use this film as required viewing as part of its officer training. I so often talk about the need for expats to “manage up” rather than just “manage down,” and Emperor is a terrific case study of how one general did just that.

The movie also includes a bit of love story, as Fellers tries to rekindle his relationship with Aya, a foreign exchange student he originally met at Earlham College in Indiana. Emperor is based on Shiro Okamoto’s book, His Majesty’s Salvation.

It is interesting that the movie never points out that Fellers was a Quaker, something about his background that I imagine was key to his decision making and his style, or that he was the official liaison with the Imperial Household. It is also encouraging that even with so little knowledge of the culture, he was able to do so much good. That is assuming, of course, that the movie is in any way accurate.

 

SPOILER ALERT
My one complaint about the movie is that the closing credits note that Fellers was “demoted” from being a general. This, to me, is a classic misuse of a true statement. The filmmakers should either have added an explanation or omitted this statement entirely. Sharing it in its brevity misleads and implies negativity.

The fact is that after World War II the military reduced the ranks, cutting the titles of 212 generals, because it was no longer wartime and the military no longer had a need for so many generals. Fellers reverted to colonel, but retired with the brigadier general title.

 

How are You Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month ?

national-hispanic-heritage-month(or do you even know it is happening now?)

September 15th to October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month in the USA.

I’ve always been interested in the application of intercultural communication concepts to domestic diversity issues. Perhaps this has to do with where I was living when I first learned about intercultural theory—a racially mixed neighborhood where people of good intentions occasionally had minor misunderstandings.

Working with the Cultural Detective: Latino/Hispanic package renewed my interest in the link between USA diversity and intercultural, specifically about Hispanic issues and how they impact USA society today. Latinos are a vital and dynamic part of the country, yet many in the USA do not know much about the underlying values that may influence Hispanic world views and behavior.

The Pew Research Center recently published an article in their FactTank, “5 facts about Hispanics for Hispanic Heritage Month.” It inspired me to prepare the following short quiz, to see how much you know about Latinos and Hispanics in the USA. Check your answers in the original article.

QUIZ

1. More than half of the USA’s Hispanics live in three states. Which three?
    • New York
    • Florida
    • New Mexico
    • Arizona
    • California
    • Alabama
    • Texas

Latinos are moving to all parts of the USA, and are no longer only living in the areas where they have more traditionally settled. A comprehensive report by the Pew Research Center, based on analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, shows Hispanics residing in every state: Mapping the Latino Population, By State, County and City.

2. How much did the Latino population grow between 2000 and 2011?
    • 22%
    • 36.4%
    • 57%
    • 47.5%
    • 63.5%

Not only did the number of Hispanics grow tremendously between 2000 and 2011, Pew found that Hispanics account for more than half of the nation’s growth in the past decade. The human resource potential is enormous, and understanding the underlying values of this group will allow organizations and communities to be more inclusive and utilize these resources more effectively. Cultural Detective: Latino/ Hispanic explores the important core values that may guide behavior and influence decision-making among Hispanics.

3. The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” embrace a wide variety of backgrounds. What percentage of Hispanics/Latinos trace their heritage to Mexico?
    • One-half
    • Two-thirds
    • Three-quarters
    • Seven-eights

In the USA, people who trace their heritage to over 20 nations consider themselves to be (or are considered by others as) of Hispanic origin. Statistical information on the largest groups are examined in the Pew report, Diverse Origins: The Nation’s 14 Largest Hispanic-Origin Groups.

4. Over the last decade, college enrollment has increased among Latino high school graduates. Can you match the correct percentage of USA high school graduates who enrolled in college in 2012 with their ethnicity?
    • Hispanics                                                  • 45%
    • African-Americans                                    • 49%
    • White Americans                                       • 47%

What are the current educational trends? Latinos now make up one-quarter of all public school students in the USA, the rate of Hispanics dropping out of high school continues to fall, and more young Latinos than ever are preparing to go to college. In fact, among recent high school grads, Hispanic college enrollment rate surpasses that of whites.

5. According to the USA Census bureau, how many of the nearly 52 million Hispanics (age 5 and older) speak Spanish at home?
    • 47 million
    • 35 million
    • 25 million

Spanish is the most frequently spoken language other than English in USA homes, and it is also spoken among non-Hispanics. Among Latinos, most agree it is important for future generations to learn Spanish as well as English, even though a growing share of Latinos get their news in English.

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s take a fresh look at our organizations and communities. Are structures and policies in place to facilitate the contributions of Hispanics? Do we respect a different point of view, and can we incorporate it to better our communities for all members? How can we get from “here” to “there”?

If you are looking for a resource that can be easily woven into existing training to learn about Latino/Hispanic culture, Cultural Detective: Latino/Hispanic is your answer! By exploring the core cultural values and using the Cultural Detective Method to analyze real-life situations, you can offer practical skills to build bridges within your workplace and community.

I am a creator and destroyer of worlds – and so are you! (#3 in a series)

How We Construct Culture and Reality

In my previous posts (#1 in the series, #2 in the series), I stressed how important it is for us to develop a dynamic rather than a static view of culture. Today we will launch our boat on the river of culture and peer into its sometimes clear and often murky waters to come up with a better sense of what’s down there. We noticed last time how we are ever talking to ourselves. Everything we create is a result of this inner self-talk, this discourse, our listening. So the things that we call “culture,” in the broad sense of the word, arts, music, industry, all of these things are products of this the stories we tell ourselves, this dialogue that goes on within us and around us that helps us shape and break the rules by which we make and do things.

Blog 3.1

Dr. George Simons has long been researching the stories that make us who we are. In this series of blog posts he will be leading us in an examination of critical challenges that can lead us toward a fresh vision of culture. We will explore how we come to terms with our inner and shared identities and learn about how we construct the realities that shape our now and our future world.

I grew up in the USA. My father was a second-generation immigrant, which often meant trying to be “more American than the Americans” because it wasn’t okay to be “too immigrant.” My father would say to me again and again, “You can be anybody you want to. It’s up to you.” “You have to take charge of your life.” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Such maxims and counsel that were repeated over and over again in my family, during my education, among my peers, in the groups I belonged to, became my outlook, my world, the culture that still flows in me.

Some things we don’t ever forget. When it rains, I still hear my mother’s voice, “Take your rubbers with you.” If you saw the film Outsourced about the manager expatriated to India, you no doubt had a good howl at his conversation with his workers about the meaning of “rubbers”. (If you missed it, have a look.) Rubbers, in my case, were neither erasers nor condoms, but rubber overshoes. I don’t have any now and I haven’t had any in years, but I can still hear my mother’s voice…

Cultural discourse takes the form of memories, stories in our heads and hearts that guide us about how to act, what to think. They shape our attitudes, provide our norms. They are the raw material of our culture. Even if, and especially if these pass into the background of our minds and we no longer explicitly hear them, the ideas and feelings contained in these memories still resonate with us and lead us on.

How do we construct a dynamic definition of culture?
My very favorite definition of culture doesn’t come from a textbook. It comes from a children’s book called Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez. His is the most disarming definition of culture I’ve ever laid eyes on:

“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. So, if stories come to you, care for them, and learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That’s why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.”

Lopez furnishes us with a powerful, very powerful statement about how and why we create and pass on culture. Stories are told and retold in such a way as to shape us, giving us a common memory, common values and behavioral, even moral imperatives “for our own good.” Seeing culture this way, as adaptation to our environment, challenges our more static definitions.

Blog 3.2

Once upon a time, an anthropologist pitched tent in Borneo. Using an interpreter, he interviewed local people, looking for insight into the life and culture of the tribes native to the place. One day, questioning a local chieftain through the interpreter, the anthropologist couldn’t help noticing that the chieftain couldn’t take his eyes off a camp chair—you know, those seats with fold-up wooden frames. Nowadays, most have plastic or metal tubing, but a century ago they were simply canvas and wood. Finally, the anthropologist prompted the interpreter to ask about the chieftain’s fixation on the chair. The interpreter asked, “Why do you keep looking at the chair?” The chieftain replied quizzically, “Why do you stack your firewood that way?”

If you don’t have a use for something, you may not have a discourse for it. It may not even exist for you, or not exist in the way it exists for others. One of the critical tasks of living in a multicultural world is learning how to look at what we’ve never seen before, or have never seen in the fashion that is being presented to us. Things we’ve never “seen” before may not be physical artifacts. They may be feelings and perceptions. They may be opinions, judgments. They may even be colors – not every culture sees or names colors in the same way. We miss out on discourses that drive other people that would never drive us or might “drive us crazy!” These are not easy to discover, certainly not as obvious as puzzlement about a camping chair. Still, ask we must. We are embedded within a cultural discourse that we treat as real, but that is created by, as well as limited to what our own stories have to tell us. 

Blog 3.3Who creates?
In our times, realities, different from and deadly to each other, run rampant. Like it or not, we are challenged to understand our culture, other people’s culture, become familiar with the discourse that drives our behavior, our creativity, and perhaps brings us together in new and different ways and allows us to peacefully cohabit the planet.

So we must ask, where do our realities, where does this culture come from? Well, since culture is a conversation, since it’s discourse, it’s coming from you and me! It’s coming from everybody within earshot, from every handheld device connected to ours. Discourse requires people. It’s going on all the time, and, whether we intentionally listen to it or not, it seduces us with its themes and memes.

Sometimes, probably more often than we think, we deliberately attempt to create realities for ourselves and others. We work on shaping a reality that serves our purposes through the stories we tell in social media, traditional media, conversations with others, as we rehearse and repeat these stories in our own heads. We are as much the creators of these discourses of culture as GM and Volkswagen are designers and manufacturers of automobiles. Like the family car, some discourses can be very helpful and humane. Other discourses can be quite ugly. Like a fast set of wheels, you can use your inner discourse to rob a bank or save somebody’s life by rushing them to the emergency ward.

Roger Peterson, a US academic, is quoted saying this—and I like it:

“The collective memory [the discourse that we share] is systematically unfaithful to the past in order to satisfy the needs of the present. In other words, we attempt to address the present by reconstructing the past as if it always existed in the way we now adopt it.”

Through the stories we tell ourselves we produce a discourse. This discourse is the dynamic way we collectively create the cultural constructs that put our diverse realities, our cultures together. These constructs may be the bearers of mythology, fictional imagination, or as we all know too well, political propaganda. People are competing with their stories to create the realities they want for themselves and for others. For the sake of consistency and credibility we try to present our new story as the true and eternal story.

Enter the discourse of new media
How are new media affecting, constructing this flow? It is probably too early to tell, but certainly not too early to pay attention. For sure, they are being used both in traditional and novel ways.  Certainly they have multiplied by a factor of Xx the sheer volume and range of participation within one generation. They can be the conveyors of the traditional discourse which we consider wisdom, discourses that certain of us would like to impart to the rest of us, philosophical and religious, or New Age ideals; at the same time they are also the tools of revolution and the conveyors of revolutionary values, often drawn from the same sources, but re-expressed and broadcast in nanoseconds in a volume that hitherto would have been deemed sorcery.

How do we sort out what is new and fresh from what is newly or freshly restated to fulfill a desire or to meet a contemporary challenge? The wish to “sort out” in some definitive way is perhaps a false aspiration, a question to which there is no answer, a cul-de-sac, whose alternative is ongoing reflection as an essential part of our reality construction process. In new media, as in any other media that we use to create reality by discourse, these fresh tools are appropriated to change and introduce the realities that its authors, consciously or unconsciously, wish to disseminate.

Blog 3.4We all know that the Internet allows us to create reality ex nihilo. Fake user names create “people,” as do avatars of “aliens.” We even build virtual worlds that allow people to accept a second and a third and perhaps an infinite number of lives and realities. If you can imagine it, say it, you can be it. Yea, “Ye are gods.” Like the Jehovah of Genesis, we say, “Let there be…” And behold, there it is! And, if we are the ones who said it, we are also likely to proclaim that it is good. Like Shiva of old, I am the creator and destroyer of worlds – and so are you!

Charlatans, con men, name changers, shapeshifters and princes donning pauper’s clothing are not new to our human story. But the possibility and the temptation to creation on a quasi-divine level, and the consequences for doing so have never been so available and up for grabs. Even so, we like to imagine the world as somehow stable and static, at least in our desire to create something solid and lasting, even or perhaps especially in a virtual environment. Our human minds and hearts, even in intangible media, are inclined to treat our creations, our culture as real, not constructed.

John Lennon, a great interculturalist in my book, said “The more real you get, the more unreal the world gets.” The more you can get perspective on the discourse that flows around you, the better chance you have of seeing these things, not as useless or false, but for what they are, our attempts to construct things for benefit, for surviving and succeeding. We will look at this again as we seek a fresh cultural discourse to reshape our perspective. Meanwhile, how do you react to this fearful relativity of reality, or to the multiplicity of realities that new media have put at our disposal and which often invade our stability? What have you created as real for you? Are there real worlds, or only virtual ones…?

In Cultural Detective: Self Discovery® we offered some exercises to help you listen to your inner conversations and stories. These are only starting points. In this blog you will sometimes see pictures I have extracted from my past. This is not an exercise in nostalgia or ego promotion, but a suggestion that you might also explore the images and sounds of the past to bring the sources of your cultural discourse into focus.

This post originally appeared in the blog of the Center for Intercultural New Media Research and is provided with the assistance of its editor Anastacia Kurylo.

Response to Time’s “Yo Decido” Cover

I am blessed to have a comadre who is one incredibly intelligent, wise, and loving woman. Her name is Carmen DeNeve, and she is Mexican-born, living and teaching for decades now in Los Angeles California.

A day or so ago I posted this Time magazine cover to my personal Facebook wall. Many people shared it, as it’s exciting – that the voice of Latinos can be so strong in the USA!

Well, I heard very quickly from my comadrita. I find Carmen’s response so important and quite thought-provoking. It tells a tale that is true for countries around the world with new immigrant voters, I believe, and I’ve received her permission to share it with you here.

“Comadrita, I wish, but too many issues here. First, I wonder about the numbers who really vote and are well informed, even if the total figure is huge. I’m working on this where I teach because some Latino voters have called me the night before election day to ask me, ‘Who do I vote for?’ Or doubting if they should vote. Their thinking is if they don’t study hard about who they need to vote for, maybe it’s better not to exercise their vote — sounds almost sacrilegious.

I think we need neutral political education for new voters like many Latinos, but it doesn’t happen, unfortunately. I want us to be prepared to vote, not only exercise a right that is precious. That’s why later some people blame the victims! And, maybe rightly so.”

[Additional comment from Carmen the following day:] “Dianne, I started reading the article, but I don’t like that journalists give misleading information and manipulate facts, exaggerating such as YO DECIDO. Out of the 50.5 million Hispanic/Latinos they mention, or 17% of the total US population, not all of these can vote, of course. About 10.2 million according to the Census 2010 are not authorized in the U.S. (undocumented) and of course there are more in actuality. This brings us down to 40.5 million potential voters. BUT, from this number there are those under 18 years of age, which roughly I calculated looking at last Census data to be in the 18-20 million range. The recent Census data show roughly one in four children under the age of 10 in the U.S. are Hispanic.

So we don’t really have 50.5 million voting if we take out 30 million not able to vote! This leaves us with 20 million potential voters. Do all vote? Unfortunately not so. I’m trying to educate those who can vote from among these 20 million in my community. They are adorable, but not interested in politics rather focusing on survival. The education of these potential voters will take a long time.

On the other hand, the manipulation of numbers is unbelievable as we all know. I see it as a big scheme for what? I wish, I wish we could all vote and we could actually be 50.5 million and not for example only 13.7% possible voters in Colorado. So I don’t get how we will pick the next President.

We are as diverse in political issues as in religion and socioeconomics. The Miami Cubans seem to have little in common with the Sacramento Mexicans or the New Mexico Hispanics or the Chicago Latinos. But if they want to present us as a common strong block that’s their prerogative, but misleading after all.