That’s all good but when does it stop? When do you stop noticing colors and nationalities, etc? I am thrilled that my niece and nephews who have a mother who is of Asian descent and a European descent father just think of themselves as Americans and not Asian-Americans. I am thrilled that Lia Neal doesn’t promote herself as anything but a swimmer. What does it all matter? There was never a sinister ‘keep it all white’ plan for swimming. It is open to anyone. I swam in Detroit in the 1970’s in a very diverse community. We all got along great. We were not very good. Is it only ok when different hyphen-Americans reach the top of the sport? Or is it really ok when we have a swim community like i had? I think you are missing all the ‘diversity’ that is already out there in swimming…and is not just you noticing at national level meets.
When does it stop?
The above comment was made on an article about Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, Janet Hu and the female c.... There are a number of things wrong with this but to remain constructive, I’ll focus on the main point that stood out. The attitude expressed in the comment is not unusual and not one that I’ve never heard before. Often times people ask me, “Why is it not ok to see beyond race – isn’t that the point?”
Simply put, no. Let me leave that “no” out there for a while and let that permeate in your mind. Roll that “no” around on your tongue and savor it. Now, swallow and enjoy it like a smooth Scotch.
No. Embrace it…embrace it, I say!
What this comment really stems from is a lack of understanding what cultural competency really means, and make no mistake, no matter what else we do in diversity and inclusion, cultural competency is the point.
I often have to remind people as we talk about diversity and inclusion efforts that numbers, also, can never be the point. We’re all familiar with quotas but the desired outcome for increased numbers of minorities can never be the end all be all of this work. The biggest reason for this is because there is no impact that comes simply from having more. The impact, the change, the shift, and the value come from what you get out of that more. Additionally, we have to understand that at the end of the perfect day, perfect campaign, or perfect program – sometimes, some people just don’t like to do certain things. And that’s okay.
I place a premium on inclusion more than diversity because inclusion is what creates impact. We can invite as many minorities into aquatics as we want but if they don’t want to stay on swim teams, scuba clubs, water polo teams etcetera because they don’t feel included, we’re hamster-wheeling. The best we can hope for is to be as inclusive as possible and cultural competency is the only way that can be achieved.
Seeing beyond race and nationality does not imply cultural competency and in fact, it denotes ignoring someone’s identity completely. Now, I get it, to some, seeing beyond race means not treating people differently because of their skin color – which is what we take racism and discrimination to be. The problem with that however is that discrimination is not the same as racism – and realistically – we don’t and should not be treating everyone exactly the same.
We discriminate in all aspects of life. From car color to the traits that we look for in significant others. We also treat similar things differently – we don’t change oil in our trucks at the same rate we change it in our sports cars because the inner workings are different. People are exactly the same. Someone’s identity is directly linked to their behaviors and thoughts. This can be racial, cultural or what have you.
You will need to know, acknowledge and understand how to deal with all of aspects of me that I identify with to get the most value from me. I will also have to know the same about you. To put it in everyday terms – woe to the person who invites me, a die-hard Niners fan to their Seahawks party. Conflict is imminent.
This is cultural competency in a nutshell.
Again, I get it – some think being treated the same implies equality but in this case I think we’re confusing equality (or more appropriately, equity) with uniformity. Saying “everybody gets a size 32 swim suit” is not the same as saying “everybody gets a swim suit” and making sure everyone gets the right size. Unless we’re talking about kindness, patience, trust etc., treating everyone the same is one size fits all and is not the point of diversity.
When do you stop noticing race and nationalities etc.?
You can stop noticing race and nationalities when you stop noticing age, gender, religion, ability, wellness, health, and financial status. You can stop noticing race when everyone you meet unequivocally thinks and acts the same way no matter what the circumstance. You can stop noticing race when we’re all robots.