I teach Speech Communication. One of the subjects we dwell on is “ethnocentrism.” It is a fancy, academic word, that basically means “I think that my group is better than your group, so I will focus on my group and, in some way or another, think less of your group.” There are a lot of variations of this “my group is better than your group” thinking, including gender bias, age bias, and, of course, racial bias.
And bias is the springboard for prejudice, and then discrimination – and then, sadly, verbal mistreatment, and even physical violence.
And, yes, sadly, racism is still a major problem in our society.
There are big society-wide initiatives that we need to take, and re-emphasize over and over again to combat this evil. But the diversity battles might just be won one incident at a time, in your workplace — in every workplace. And they have to be won by people who stand up and say “no!”
I thought of this as I heard the terrific interview on Fresh Air with Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder on Justified. (It’s starting back up – one of my favorite shows). Boyd Crowder is a backwoods, blunt, rough character. Here’s what Walton Goggins said about how he was willing, and not willing, to play the character.
You know, I’ve made four Southern movies. I’ve been in quite a few Southern films. And initially, when this was sent to me, I wasn’t interested in playing another Southern guy labeled as a racist.
You know, I think racism is a problem throughout our country, and it’s not confined to those states below the Mason-Dixon line. And for me, I did not want to perpetuate a stereotype. So I had them take out references to our president, Barack Obama, and I wouldn’t say the N-word, and I said I would do this if Raylan was able to point out that Boyd doesn’t necessarily believe that which he is saying, and that was very important to me.
“So I had them take it out.” I wouldn’t do it! This is the front-line in tackling discrimination and divisive stereotypes. Good for Walton Goggins.
And, for all of us, what can we do to stand up for diversity, for acceptance? The workplace will be a better place for us all if we take this challenge seriously.
You can listen to the interview with Walton Goggins, and read the transcript, here.
Sara offers: There were many heroes during the horrific shooting at Fort Hood, but one who grabbed our attention is Sgt. Kimberly Munley. She responded to a radio call and was instrumental in taking out the shooter. But I have to tell you…I am so tired of hearing about this “petite blonde.” One report described her as “tiny but tenacious.” Did you know she weighs 120 pounds? I noticed that as I read on that no one described her partner (Sgt. Mark Todd) as a “strapping brunette” or a “stocky, slightly balding but tough” cop. Actually, I have no idea what Sgt Todd looks like – by the way, he hasn’t gotten any photo coverage. But what’s the difference here? No really, what’s the difference? She is described in physical terms, he is not. This is about subtle prejudice; what do those little feminine descriptors really mean? It may just be a cute way to get our attention. Why does it need to be “cute?” Stop asking us to look at Sgt. Munley as though she is little girl. If you read What Men Don’t Tell Women about Business, Christopher V. Flett invests a whole book describing how people take advantage of others through subtle prejudice and manipulation. My message is: We must recognize prejudice in our own language and stop it.
Cheryl offers: A huge THANK YOU to Sara for raising the awareness in me and likely many others!