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Diversity Reflection

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Diversity Reflection
Dominique Stout
Webster University

DIVERSITY REFLECTION
In order understand a person’s way of thinking and/or character traits, we must first seek to understand that individual’s upbringing and the environment(s) he/she has historically been subjected to. According to Hays-Thomas (2015), diversity competency “is a learning process supporting ability to respond effectively in a diverse environment” (p. 148). I grew up in a small town called Cusseta, Georgia. It was a town with one caution light and two gas stations located about fifteen miles south of the Fort Benning Army Installation. Growing up in Cusseta, the town’s population was about half and half between African American and Caucasian residents. Although very limited in exposure, I was always taught to treat people equally no matter who they are or where they come from. Now that I sit back and think if there were any other ethnic groups that I was exposed to growing up, I can only remember one woman: Miss Hope. Miss Hope was a fortune teller who set up shop across the street from one of the local gas stations. Her ethnicity was never discussed, but we all assumed that she was different. In a town where racial tensions still existed between grandparents of my generation, Miss Hope’s shop was bombed and one of her grandchildren killed. In Cusseta, all children attended Chattahoochee County Education Center, from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade. We (black and white) were all that we knew until it was time to go to high school. When schools were segregated while my parents attended, the African American high school was burned down. This caused the town to draft a contract with the nearest school in Columbus, GA, which happened to be on the Fort Benning Army Installation, for all Cusseta students to attend.
When I got to high school, I was in awe. I realized there was more to life then Cusseta, GA. I experienced getting to know a lot of different people due to the school being the place for all Military children to attend. I made a lot of new friends, learned about different ethnicities and religions, and also lost a few friends that remained closed minded about knowing others. While speaking with peers of different ethnicities and/or religions, I’ve always practiced the method of seeking understanding of their ways of thinking and living. After becoming comfortable enough with different people, I carefully approached topics that are viewed as being sensitive and asked questions in a non-judgmental dialogue type of way. This experience helped me to become culturally diversified prior to moving to West Virginia for college. While in West Virginia, I witnessed a lot of interracial relationships in a few cities, and total racial divide in others. No matter what the environment was, I always knew right from wrong because of what my mother taught me as a child.
Fresh out of college, I was sent to serve a tour in the Republic of Korea as my first duty station. Here, I was able to further seek understanding of yet another culture. I tried most of the food at least once and traveled to as many places in the surrounding area as I could. My Military experience has sent me to Texas, Korea, Kentucky and back to Georgia. It has also taught me a valuable lesson. Although racially diversified, I was prejudiced against people who did not speak proper English or had trouble spelling what I felt were simple words. This included becoming aggravated when even my siblings called to ask how to spell a word that I thought they should sound out. That is, until I met and married my husband. He is Hispanic and English is his second language. He did not begin to learn English until his family moved from Panama when he was a fourteen year-old in high school. He asks me how to spell certain words and what a few other words he’s never heard of mean when they arise, and I now have the patience and understanding that everyone’s life experience is different.
Krings, F. Et al (2014) argues that “immigrants play a progressively important role in local labor markets. Concurrently, they are a highly diverse group differing not only in terms of culture but also in terms of education and skill-level” (P. 497). When I encounter a person of a different group that I am not accustomed to, I focus on the job first and foremost. Although being productive members of a team is a must, I also understand that not all people will be interested in fostering friendships in the workplace. Asking personal questions that are not job related must be approached very carefully and with time in order to prevent the new employee from becoming offended or uncomfortable. Because of my Military experience and the zero-tolerance mindset embedded within me, it is very difficult to watch workplace discrimination occur in the civilian world. I worked at Lowe’s for a few months after leaving the Military. Living in a state where businesses needed to provide no explanation, you could be terminated from your job at any moment. This situation, coupled with the fact that my VA Disability had not yet been approved, I felt forced to hold my tongue about rogue practices within the organization because I still needed to provide for my daughter. While there, I did tolerate eye rolls, smart remarks and having the back of my chair kicked by female department managers. My head was about to explode with these two females. HR had outstanding practices, but I refrained from talking to them because I witnessed a very large turn around of the people getting hired and fired from the organization. This included even department managers that obtained their positions and were subsequently terminated when they failed to conform to the demands of the other managers who were friends and doing things that were not right.
If the head of my organization wanted to reserve the next position for someone who is of a specific sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, or had a disability, I would ask my employee a series of questions to determine if the rule of Bona Fide Occupational Qualification was necessary for this position and why it is necessary for other otherwise qualified individuals to be excluded. According to Mathis, R.L. (2014), “The application of the BFOQ is very narrowly determined and an employer seeking to justify hiring on this basis is advised to obtain prior authorization from the EEOC” (P.76). If it is determined, however, that the situation does not qualify under BFOQ and that the employer is making a biased decision, it would become my duty to ensure that this leader is effectively counseled and retrained on all discrimination prevention rules, regulations, and procedures.
In order to expand my diversity understanding and behavior, I plan to remain open minded about all cultures and religions that differ from what I am and what I practice. In a world full of different people who ultimately seek the same goal, happiness in life and spiritual fulfillment, I understand that we all believe in something, not matter how big or small the difference may be. I will always approach a person’s values and beliefs cautiously with the intent to understand.

References
Hays-Thomas, R. (2015). Building diversity competence through historical and demographic knowledge: Helpful information for managers. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 18(3-4), 121-152.doi:10.1037/mgr0000036
Krings, F., Johnston, C., Binggeli, S., & Maggiori, C. (2014). Selective incivility: Immigrant groups experience subtle workplace discrimination at different rates. Cultural Diversity And Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(4), 491-498. doi:10.1037/a0035436
Mathis, R. L., Jackson, J. H., & Valentine, S. (2014). Human Resource Management. (14thEdition) Cengage Learning.…...

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