Some things are better taught through experience; the importance of diversity is one of these things.
The Glamour magazine fiasco a few months ago is a prime example of this. In case you missed it, here’s the short story. During a presentation to a law firm in New York City, a Glamour magazine employee cited natural black hair as a Glamour “don’t”.
She felt the styles were political statements (for more on this story check out: http://www.diversityinc.com/public/2615.cfm).
The comments outraged many, was the subject of blogs and articles, and eventually the employee resigned.
Instead of outrage I felt the comments further proved how many people just don’t “get it” when it comes to cultures outside of their own. I find it hard to believe that this employee would have made those statements had she been exposed to a variety of African-American women.
I wear my hair natural and it has nothing to do with politics. As a matter of fact, it has very little to do with me identifying with my black heritage (for the record I am EXTREMELY proud of my heritage, but I feel that I always identify with my heritage, no matter my choice of hairstyle, attire, etc.).
My choice to go natural had everything to do with my fashion preferences. I like variety and going natural offers me a large variety of options I would not have otherwise. And I know plenty of other African-American women that went natural for similar reasons.
Looking at it further, the comments made me think about how other ethnic groups are misunderstood and stereotyped. I won’t spend a lot of time on it in this posting (after all this is only part one), but there are plenty of professionals that still don’t understand the cultural differences between Chinese and Korean (yes, there’s a difference!) or Mexican and Puerto Rican.
So, if these differences aren’t understood, how can people understand that even within ethnic groups there are differences? I believe that the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds, to interact with them at work, at school and in our neighborhoods is the only solution.
Otherwise we are relying on mainstream media and distorted perceptions to educate us, and it’s obvious this doesn’t work. These are my thoughts, but I’d love to know what you think.
Towanda Long aka The Café Lady