"Diversity Questions & Answers" is a column that I have written for
Managing Diversity, a monthly publication, since it started in 1991.
The first four years of the column are reprinted in my handbook,
How Diversity Works.
Leo Patterson, Editor
P.O. Box 819
Jamestown NY 14702
I write each column a month before the issue date. It is now
three weeks after September 11, when hijackers crashed planes into the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I donít know what will happen in
the next few weeks before you read this. There has been much talk about
how the events of September 11 changed everything. I donít think they
changed the central urgency and relevance of what we do, what Iíve been
writing about here.
I think weíre all being pressured by history. How many people
have lost their jobs or are re-evaluating their work and lives? Those
of us who work on issues of diversity, coexistence, reconciliation,
conflict prevention, understanding and tolerance, peace and justice,
will find our work gives us a firm ground to stand on. This is where
the action is for the foreseeable and unforeseeable future. Clash of
civilizations? War of the worlds? Global discord, intergroup
ignorance, suspicion and fear. We were studying and addressing those
questions before September 11.
Now the efficacy of tens of thousands of diversity awareness
training sessions is put to the test. This is our performance review.
What beneficial effect have we had in all these years? We have seen so
many people rise to the challenge of the occasion. We have seen the
cumulative effect of humanity shining through fire and smoke, we have
heard so many people speaking about the importance of peace and
Two hours on that Tuesday morning are having enormous ripple
effects. What if we called this the next level of diversity awareness
training? How are we debriefing it? We need to continue. It is a case
study for sensitivity training, for strategic planning, for risk
assessment, knowledge management, religious understanding. I canít
think of an activity that is not affected. Groups may need us to
convene and moderate the discussion, to provide guidelines for
interaction, to be facilitators. We have numerous opportunities. We can
speak about the interconnectedness of people and cultures. We can help
to define patriotism in a new way. We can offer ourselves as resources
in forums, classes, religious services, panels, talkshows, to provide
alternative ways of thinking and acting. We can assist people to learn
and teach about different cultures, religions, nationalities. What have
you been doing?
I have written about this as a diversity emergency and a
teachable moment. In one fell swoop the importance of our work has been
put into stark relief against the horizon. I hear about people who have
just realized the truth of being a citizen of the world. We have been
practicing this craft for many years. I think groups and institutions
I think we need to help a new generation of people do this
work. They are the September 11 generation, whose hearts and minds were
opened or turned around in the wake of the airplane crashes. We should
take on new volunteers, interns, trainees, and partners. We should
reach out to colleagues across occupations, sectors, industries. We
need more roundtable discussions, more sharing. I donít think there are
trade secrets in the area of human community.
How can we call on each other? Weíre not organized to be
cooperative or networked or linked in general, we donít have an alumni
association, weíre not exactly a movement with a phone tree of people to
mobilize for action or support in a crisis. Maybe we should be.
The people who were killed, injured, and displaced September 11
were from more than 80 countries. They have many millions of family and
friends. The shock waves will be felt for a long time.
There is plenty for us to do. People are newly mindful of the
fragility of life. The suddenness of events. The value of
relationships. The interdependencies of the world.
In the meantime, questions multiply too fast for my usual Q&A
format. We need dreams and visions, ideas and music. Not every
question has an answer, but itís important to keep asking questions
anyway. They are the raw ingredients of our imagination.
We rely on each other, on our energy and courage and
determination. Thank you for all you have been doing, are doing, will
be doing. Keep in touch.