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Encouraging Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes to Combat Prejudice:

Somehow, I don't think this is the best way to encourage tolerance and understanding:

To start the role-play, participants were handed coded index cards that indicated their race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Participants were then told to visit different "life stations" and create their "perfect life."

The stations included booths for housing, banking, church, jail, transportation and employment.

At each stop, Visconti said he was given scripted responses based on his gay Hispanic identity. He was told he could be a landscaper and live in a ghetto apartment or be unemployed and homeless. Meanwhile, students assigned white identities were encouraged to be business executives.

Which raises the obvious questions: do the "diversity trainers" at ASU really believe that Hispanics in the U.S. are relegated, at best, to working as landscapers and living in a ghetto? [And would it be actionable discrimination if a Hispanic student had been tapped to play the Hispanic character, and was told repeatedly during the exercise that this was considered by society to be his natural station in life?]

Done properly, "diversity training" at universities could help contribute to a a vast improvement over the days when "out groups" were relegated to the margins of university life. Done foolishly, it reinforces stereotypes, relies on caricatures of reality, and encourages both a victim mentality among some, and resentment for being tagged as "the enemy" based solely on immutable status among others. Unfortunately, it seems to be done foolishly quite often.

John (mail):
You know, here is all the diversity training you need: treat everyone equally; do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That has worked pretty well as a recipe for harmony for most of the time we have been at all civilized.

You don't need a class to know that being stereotyped can hurt your feelings, or that hurting some one's feelings is rarely a good thing.
1.29.2007 10:30pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Didn't Michael Scott do something very similar on the Office? It didn't work out very well, as I recall.
1.29.2007 10:30pm
JohnAnnArbor:
They hit all the stereotypes, don't they? All for the "greater good," of course.

U. of Michigan used a role-playing exercise to choose Resident Advisors, at least for the first sorting. It was pretty clear afterwards that the purpose of the sort was to increase the "diversity" of the remaining pool; this was made more clear when a Mexican eliminated in that round was instantly reinstated when he complained. Other, less-"diverse" individuals were told to pound sand.

The kind of thinking that lets these things happen is not pretty. Once I heard an RA say "Next year, our dorm student computer advisor will be a Native American!" Nothing about being a good guy, or being technically skilled, or anything. Just a label. There's M diversity for you. How sad.
1.29.2007 11:33pm
Gamaliel:
I thought this type of diversity "exercise" was discredited long ago as a not-so-subtle form of sadism.

About 14 years ago, I was a member of a new school diversity committee comprising community members. In discussing how to promote diversity and fight bias, someone proposed a program in which blond and blue-eyed children could lord it over others in the classroom one week, while they would be the inferiors to brown-eyed brunettes the next. This, the proponents contended, would foster empathy and promote egalitarianism.

I was horrified that anybody could even contemplate deliberately mistreating a vulnerable child in such an attempt at social engineering. I've known many a blond and blue-eyed kid who had less self-esteem than an earthworm and more than a few minorities whose confidence would overflow after filling the Grand Canyon.

People are individuals, and if you cannot treat them as such, you have no business managing them.

This is how diversity works:

My brother-in-law's grandfather was a migrant worker from Mexico who worked in Michigan.

My brother-in-law's dad was an autoworker.

My brother-in-law is a successful chiropractor. (Hold on -- it gets worse in my family tree. My older brother is -- gasp! choke! -- a lawyer, and I'm a newspaperman, part of the dried-up husk of the MSM twisting in winter's brutal winds.)

My nephew majored in astrophysics at the University of Michigan and is making $50K+ in his second year after graduation. (That he's doing so in Michigan is remarkable!)

Looks like the American Dream came true for a few somebodies, eh?
1.29.2007 11:43pm
Erick:
Didn't Michael Scott do something very similar on the Office? It didn't work out very well, as I recall.

5th post and I'm still beat to the office reference.
1.29.2007 11:53pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
I'm confused here. Isn't this exactly the same thing as the anti-affirmative action bake sales that College Republican groups like to put on??

Am I wrong or is everything the left would say about anti-affirmative action bake sales not equally applicable (actually more applicable since this bit of role playing promotes objectively a lie or lies while the bake sales promote objectively the the truth of the effects of affirmative action) to this role playing exercise?

Maybe college republicans should cite this role playing and rename their anti-affirmative action bake sales to "role playing" and all will be OK??

How about role classifications in this game for rich black kids, blacks and hispanics the children of college graduates and professionals? White children who are from the south and speak with a southern accent and whose parents didn't graduate from high school? How about classifications for illegal alien hispanics getting free government services and in-state tuition denied to legal citizens? Then let's not forget the black kids who are children of professional victimizers like Jesse Jackson's kids who have been given franchises and other valuable assets all as tribute payoffs/bribes/extortion payments because of Jesse's RICO activities through the guise of Operation Push?

Jesse kids and Clarence Thomas kids qualify for jobs and opportunities for which they are not otherwise qualified whereas the poor white kid from uneducated parents is kicked to the curb because 1) He talks funny; 2)His teeth might be crooked; 3)He has no parental connections; and 4) his "whiteness".

Says the "Dog"
1.30.2007 12:05am
Amanda (mail) (www):
Actually, the program suggested--having blue-eyed kids supreme one week, and brown-eyed kids supreme the next week--is a teaching exercise done by Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher. She divided her class in that manner on the day after Rev. King was killed in order to teach them about discrimination. (She taught at an all-white school in rural Iowa).

Elliott's exercise was controversial, both in her town at the time and in education still. This Smithsonian Magazine article is a fairly good description of it, and includes interviews with her former students.

article
1.30.2007 12:10am
Constantin:
How would diversity training be "properly" done? I'd contend anything past what's contemplated by the first comment is unnecessary.

That is, if your goal truly is to foster tolerance. If it's really to cultivate the exact opposite as directed to the cruelly dominant white Christian heterosexual patriarchy, then yeah, keep on keeping on.
1.30.2007 12:14am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
What bothers me about this is not so much the discrimination aspect but the brainwashing aspect. These sort of little exercisces are pretty much specifically designed to be emotionally impactful and get people to internalize a certain view of the world without actually seeing evidence for it.

Also while I never had to do anything this stupid I remember doing similar things in school (being forced to color in the endangered species or something) and it really made me mad. Being given little dumbed-down projects rather than being told about it insulted me and being forced to participate in what was obviously someone else's political agenda (even if I might have agreed with it on consideration) was really irritating.
1.30.2007 2:21am
Splunge (mail):
Done properly, "diversity training" at universities could help contribute to a a vast improvement over the days...

Oh aye, and "done properly" the re-education camps in Cambodia and China would have produced rows of smiling, infinitely-cooperative, identically-thinking comrades, instead of those exasperatingly unphotogenic rows of ant-cleaned skulls.

Blech.

I think a good start on a more civilized society would be to round up everybody who thinks adults ought to have their thoughts forcibly adjusted to suit the fashionable norms of the day and deport them to Antarctica, or maybe Mars.
1.30.2007 3:03am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Engaging in a little civil disobedience is the best way to deal with this nonsense. Refuse to participate. When enough people do this, the nonsense will stop. These "diversity types" are basically cowardly bullies. They always back off. One time we put up signs in the hallway that said: "the longer you're here da verse it gets."
1.30.2007 3:45am
Is it just me?:
What bothers me about the exercise is that they made him a gay Hispanic. As if being Hispanic wasn't enough! Wondering what it is like to be from a different culture is complex enough a task, but to top it off with, "Oh yeah, and that foreign culture we want you to envision yourself a part of? It rejects you as a sex deviant. Discuss." That is an utterly preposterous undertaking. It might be better to simply introduce the guy to a gay Hispanic and let them have a conversation about a topic on which they agree, like who is going to win in the World Series this year.
1.30.2007 7:59am
ReVonna LaSchatze:
Why not work for equal rights for gays then, so that the heterosexuals don't get special treatment under the law ?

Otherwise, acknowledge -- quietly if you must -- that the opportunities in society afforded some are not equal because of discrimination between who a person loves.

The legal right of marriage/civil unions is an opportunity, with benefits, that is denied others for no legitimate reason except categorical discrimination. Just as women, blacks and ethnics were legally discriminated against.

Some groups were benefitting from this unequal opportunity provided under the law, and the advantages bestowed upon them still live on today. Acknowledging that some groups got a good head start because of discrimination condoned under the law does not mean those not entitled to such opportunites are victims. But it doesn't mean the historically more privileged groups earned theirs "fair and square" -- not then, and not always today either. No matter how much some would have us close our eyes and pretend it.

Work for no special rights between categories today -- ie, homo- and heterosexuals, if you really really want to compete on an equal playing field. If there was enough emphasis on this type of action -- not denial of inequity -- you might see less of these stupid diversity games for their own sakes. Also, it might benefit the USA overall too, as we seem to be falling in overall performance quite a bit as a country. We're only as strong as our weakest link, right? And we are all committed to this country long term, right?
1.30.2007 8:25am
jallgor (mail):
My 3rd grade teacher did the blue eyed / brown eyed thing. I still remember it distinctly and I think it was a valuable lesson. I don't think it was at all sadistic. When it's your turn to be the favored class you feel great, maybe you even tease the other kids about the fact that you get to go out for recess when they can't. Then the next week the tables are turned (and you were not told this was coming) and you feel pretty dumb for being such a shit the week before. The lesson lets you be both the beneficiary and victim of arbitary preference and bingo, you instantly understood why racial discrimination is wrong. It has much more impact than just telling kids that it's wrong. They can actually feel it. She was a phenomenal teacher in general. One of those teachers that you remember the rest of your life.
1.30.2007 9:29am
Gary McGath (www):
"Diversity training" is the modern, politically correct equivalent of hazing.
1.30.2007 9:34am
WHOI Jacket:
At colleges, do they still do the bit at freshmen orientation:

"Womyn, look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. Both of those men will rape you."
1.30.2007 9:50am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
LogicNazi, you've written a post with which I agree!! (pretty much).

The guy who had to pretend to be a gay hispanic should have fought the game by jumping up and demanding, screaming, etc. that the person telling him he couldn't join their church must be expelled from the University for Hate Speech and Hate Thoughts; that this person should have their right to free speech suspended and be jailed just to help make the point; then if those in charge failed to take action against this person, force them to write a letter of apology to the entire school on pain of expulsion, force them to take sensitivity training and attend re-education camp (such camp is code named PINKO) again on pain of expulsion then the guy forced to pretend he was a gay hispanic should (in his best Ricky Ricardo voice) tell those in charge that they have a lot of "splaining to do" because the exercise in no way reflects the real world where the PC University censors would have descended on the church lady student like Archie Bunker's seven ravenous jew lawyers.

Says the "Dog"
1.30.2007 10:25am
professays (mail):
Diversity training is the most stupid way to popularize tolerance.
1.30.2007 10:26am
A.C.:
I once went through one of these silly things, and I was asked to talk about the things I valued in my family's traditional culture. I decided to throw a monkey-wrench into the works and said that I didn't value that culture at all because it was nasty to women. Then the Arab woman in the group agreed with me, and the session moved off in a whole new direction.

The thing is, I don't hate EVERYTHING about my background. I do hate that one thing, and there are a few other things I would like to tweak a bit. But I took a strong position to mess with the facilitator, who was far too sentimental about multiculturalism. It seemed to be news to her that some traditional cultures are really annoying, even for their own members.

I encourage everybody, particularly gay Hispanics and others with complex identities that doesn't fit in boxes, to approach these things with the goal of stirring up controversy. It can be a lot of fun, and it messes with liberals who haven't thought their positions through.

I'll add that I did once attend a good diversity training session. It was run by the Red Cross for new volunteers, and the best things about it were (1) the group itself was genuinely diverse, in age and class as well as ethnicity, and (2) the facilitators did not generate any of the stereotypes under discussion, but rather asked class members to do so anonymously. People weren't asked to reveal their own prejudices, but rather to submit some they had heard of, and that created a pretty fair list of the ideas that were actually out there in the community. Also, our "targets" included a variety of groups (the rich, the poor, young people, old people, people with disabilities) that were not defined by ethnic background. This drove home the point that volunteers are meant to serve everyone, without making a fetish of ethnic and racial difference.
1.30.2007 10:45am
Houston Lawyer:
The whole point of the "diversity" exercise is to show that white people, and especially white males are bad and are constantly oppressing the others. They should be banned as a form of hate speech.
1.30.2007 10:54am
RJO (www):
I was subjected to a few sessions like this as a faculty member when I worked with a campus residence life department in North Carolina. Along with the student employees, I was given training materials that taught me, for example, that black people don't tell time like white people. When a black person says "3pm" that doesn't mean "3pm" like it does for a white person; it means "sort of in the afternoon."

I sure never would have known that without the training. "You have to be carefully taught," you know.
1.30.2007 10:59am
Bill_C:

At each stop, Visconti said he was given scripted responses based on his gay Hispanic identity. He was told he could be a landscaper and live in a ghetto apartment or be unemployed and homeless. Meanwhile, students assigned white identities were encouraged to be business executives.


I wonder if they had a scripted response for a student with a gay Hispanic civil engineering student identify. Would that cause the diversity table tenders' pendants to blink uncontrollably? Or did they simply never think view students as being defined by their own ambitions, rather than what they (the diversity crew) could leverage off of their ethnicity having never met or spoken with them?
1.30.2007 12:22pm
r78:
Until I read some comments in this blog a couple of days ago - I, too, would have thought this "training" was a stupid waste of time.

But after seeing some people assertthat "rich white kids" (e.g. the Duke Lacrosse team) are routinely victimized by the american criminal justice system, I think that there are some people who are so oblivious to reality that even some ham-handed exercise like this might produce some benefits.
1.30.2007 1:04pm
LAS (mail):
A discussion question asked in a diversity exercise: If you were required to save the human race, and only the persons below remained in the world, that is, there are no other cultures/ethnic groups to choose from, which nine people would you choose?

A 70-year-old White male Computer Salesperson,
A 40-year-old White female Medical Doctor,
A 24-year-old Hispanic male bricklayer,
A 30-year-old African-American male athlete,
A 29-year-old White female Civil Engineer,
A 25-year-old White female Carpenter,
A 19-year-old White female College Student,
A 22-year-old White male Athlete
A 30-year-old Native-American male Attorney
A 35-year-old Asian-American Software Engineer
A 40-year-old White male Civil Engineer
1.30.2007 1:04pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):

A discussion question asked in a diversity exercise: If you were required to save the human race, and only the persons below remained in the world, that is, there are no other cultures/ethnic groups to choose from, which nine people would you choose?

That kind of stupid hypothetical set-up is the kind of thing I would never participate in. It's a stupid premise to begin with, and, on top of that, it's designed so that, no matter how you answer it, you will get yelled at as a racist/sexist/agist/classist or whatever.
1.30.2007 1:21pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):

are routinely victimized by the american criminal justice system,

No one ever said that; they said these guys were being railroaded by the Durham prosecutor, with the help of the faculty of Duke and the police of Durham.

But feel free to rewrite history if it makes you feel better.
1.30.2007 1:23pm
r78:

No one ever said that . . .But feel free to rewrite history if it makes you feel better.

Go back through the past 3 or 4 posts re the Duke case and you will see that at least two different people did, in fact, say that.

I quoted one such person in a responsive post. I would look it up myself but I don't feel the need to do favors to people who are sarcastic. Now shoo.
1.30.2007 1:36pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
So a few random comment and you'd send everyone off to re-education camps.

Pol Pot would be proud, r78. You've learned well.
1.30.2007 1:56pm
r78:
John - so you make a false statement and then when proven wrong you just make another sarcastic remark. Being so adept at moving the goalposts, you should try your hand at our Iraqi strategy.
1.30.2007 2:10pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
Just going by what you said; I didn't bother to look. It is typical leftism, though--find one or two examples, then demand re-education for all. That's far scarier to me than those commenters.
1.30.2007 3:00pm
r78:
John,

1) I didn't call for re-education of all. I just noted that since there are, apparently, some people who actually believe that the American criminal justice system victimizes rich white guys (their phrase, by the way), there are some people who would probably benefit from "diversity training" - even if it is as ham-handed as that described in the original post. This is sort of like suggesting that if someone believes that 2 plus 2 is 5, then somebody should try to teach them to add.

2) I am not sure how much you know about Pol Pot and the genocide in Cambodia, but I think it involved things other than "diversity" seminars.

3) Who you calling leftist, boy? I bet I was voting for Goldwater when you were in diapers.
1.30.2007 3:36pm
William Dalasio (mail):
LAS,

If I don't seem weird asking, what exactly was the exercise intended to provoke? I mean the first thing I thought of is, "Well, it's kind of a waste if I can only save one. Why not just say 'screw' the lot and save myself.". By and large, the only thing that much drew my attention was occupation. Does that mean I'm free of eeeevil white-guy bias? Or just that I'm a greedy philistine?
1.30.2007 5:21pm
jallgor (mail):
That's funny,
I ignored their professions and just looked at their sex and age. We're trying to save the human race here, My first thought was whose gonna crank out the most babies.
1.30.2007 5:42pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Jallgor's right, such a question is all about procreation so for me it would be save me and as many baby making hotties as I can service. I can see it now. "Dog" the father of the new mankind!!!!!!!! If I was forced to pick at least one other guy, I'd pick the asian guy. Smart, useful, but no competition for the hotties (vbg).

Snickers the "Dog"
1.30.2007 7:38pm
NickM (mail) (www):
The correct answer is:
Get rid of the 70-year old (not much help in repopulating the earth) and
Get rid of the attorney (general principle).
:-D

Nick
1.31.2007 1:07pm
Automatic Caution Door:
I bet I was voting for Goldwater when you were in diapers.

You're not certain if you voted for Goldwater or not?
2.1.2007 9:16am