It’s been my experience that when teaching is your business, you take it very seriously. Assembled before you is an array of human beings that you might never have met if it weren’t for your teaching assignment. Get ready, because, they are there to teach you.
I fall for my students too easily. I am infatuated with their life experiences. Some come from around the way, while others trek from across the globe. But the kicker is they are the same in their “differentness.”
Each one is unique, but each one is a combination of people I have once known, so it is easy to know them. I learned –since watching my first Bruce Lee movie– that Bubba, Junebug and Champ are repeated in Asia, Africa, and South America too.
Take your eyes off Bruce Lee for a minute and picture the other guys on screen. I’ll bet you will see someone you know in those Asian faces.
Each year, I attend the Thai Prenatal Reunion at Griffith Park. Hosted by T.H.E. Clinic, it’s a tribute to their Thai patients. Their children look like our children.Their grandparents look like ours. Watch the kids play video games. They pick avatars to represent them. Once they pick one many times they stick with that one. It’s a preference.
So, when you see an all white place, is it always because of discrimination? Or could it be that they were just hiring their friends, who happened to be white? My Business Communications textbook had an article about a popular sneaker company that started out by hiring all of their friends. Now that they are a multinational company, and all employees are white, they noticed that they had no diversity. The good news is they worked on doing something about it.
A child of the ’60’s, I have been educated to know my history, what was taken from my people and what we have given to the world. But you can’t study my history without realizing that while people from all over the world benefited from our enslavement, there were also people from all over the world who gave an assist in our war to be free.
My Mom used to say “we are all flowers in the garden.” I rejected that notoin soundly during the 70’s because I knew different flowers need different soil, light and watering conditions. A garden is truly beautiful when it is diverse, but fields of the color purple are stunning as well.
I want to connect with my students, but I want to connect them to each other as well. Many great ideas are born out of college relationships. Once they retreat into their homogeneous communities, they may never have the chance again to think outside their blocks.
I have learned so much about Africa that I beam with pride. Those who do not know their history, the people and the cultures, are ashamed because they only absorbed HIS Story, while I have seen evidence of OUR story. On the other hand, every one of my students has a proud history…and I want them to appreciate others, but first appreciate the fullness of who they are.
Still, I am every woman. It’s all in me. Starting with my hair–it’s kinky…a direct link to my African features. My father’s family was never enslaved– we were descendants of Moors who once ruled Europe and lefts their African influence in the architecture and landscape. My matrilineage a is Native American (Cherokee), and European. I remember Sunday visits to their North Carolina homes for a long time as a child. That makes me a pecan tan. My hips are decidedly southern, and they come from the rich soul food diet that fueled me.
All around me were a variety of people: My stepfather is Hawaiian. My mother’s best friend was Japanese, my dad had African friends, my sister’s boyfriend was Puerto Rican. My other sister’s husband was White…and a card carrying member of the Klan at one point. The city I grew up in was Italian and Jewish with Polish people coming in droves. I remember riots in my school, having eggs thrown at me, and being teased. I also remember white kids in awe of my Afro, jealous of the fact that I did not need makeup and everybody of all races partying together at the end of the same year.
You can love people if you love yourself. You can appreciate all people if you appreciate yourself. But you have to KNOW, and not just guess at knowing, so you stand firm in who you are while enjoying the simple pleasure of the company of someone different than you.
So, that’s part of what I teach in Business Communications, because your consumers and your employees may be from other cultures and you need to embrace that.