Salad anyone?

The United States of America has been described as a melting pot or as a salad bowl. Clearly, the USA’s obsession with food is real, but that is another topic altogether!

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I grew up hearing the USA described as a “melting pot”, but others grew up hearing the term “salad bowl.” While both terms can be offensive and perhaps are not the best way to describe the genetic/racial/cultural/ethnic/etc make-up of people who live here, originally, I thought that melting pot was more inclusive. Nobody can pick pieces that they don’t like out of a melting pot – as everything gets melted together.

I viewed the salad bowl concept as an easy way to say “Well, I don’t like tomatoes. Get rid of them. I don’t like carrots. Get rid of them too.” Obviously, tomatoes and carrots are metaphors for different groups of people. Additionally, different salad ingredients are not “equal” – think Iceberg lettuce vs. organic spinach (in my opinion at least). The melting pot metaphor also suggests that “we are one” (cue in Lion King II song) and that we are equal. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to another side of the story.

Perhaps the salad bowl concept is more inclusive (if either term is inclusive at all) because it calls for us to celebrate our diversity. It suggests that people do not have to lose their unique identities by “melting” into other. The melting pot analogy can suggest that people must abandon their cultures in order to successfully integrate into the “American” culture. In salads, different ingredients do not lose their individual characteristics, whereas if you threw salad ingredients in a pot and melted them, you would lose the semblance of the individual.

What do other people think? Which metaphor is better? What other metaphors could be used instead?

But you don’t look Jewish …

My first name is Irish. My last name is German. My eyes are blue. My hair is blonde. My nose is small. I am Jewish, and this confuses people.

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In my opinion, most people don’t say “but you don’t look Jewish” with the intention of being rude. But, it is rude. And if I said “and what does a Jewish person look like,” I would probably be perceived as a bit rude as well. As we discussed last week in class, microaggression unfortunately is a very common problem in all areas of our lives. Our co-workers, our friends, even our families can exhibit microaggressions. Before this class, I always called these types of comments as “backwards compliments,” as often they are intended in a “nice” way. “Wow, you look great! Did you lose weight?” is a very common example of these backwards compliments, as the statement implies that you didn’t look great before you lost weight.

“But you don’t look Jewish” is a more subtly aggressive statement, as it doesn’t apply I look better or worse than whatever the stereotypical Jewish person looks like. However, what is insulting about it is that being Jewish is part of my identity. My parents are Jewish, and they raised me to be Jewish. I went to Sunday school, Hebrew school, confirmation school. I attended countless Friday night, Saturday morning, and holiday services growing up. I became a bat mitzvah, and I was confirmed in my synagogue. I spent countless hours memorizing the prayers, learning to read and write in Hebrew, and when people say I don’t “look” Jewish, it in a way diminishes all of the work and time I put into the Jewish traditions. It also challenges my word as on honest person (i.e., it implies that I am lying when I say I am Jewish). Most importantly, it challenges my identity as a Jew.

I may be more sensitive to these types of comments than others. I was adopted and thus have self-identity perceptions that many do not. Because of this, when any part of my identity is challenged, it hurts because how I was raised is my identity. My blood is not. My blood may not be “Jewish” which may be why I do not look Jewish. But, my heart is Jewish. My family is Jewish. I am Jewish. So, next time someone tells you something that surprises you about themselves, stop and think for a second. Ask yourself “could this potentially be offensive.” Words, even well-intended ones, can and do hurt.

Diversity in commercials/higher education… inclusion or smart business?

To somewhat indirectly address “How have perspectives on equity, diversity, and inclusion emerged, progressed, or regressed in U.S. higher education institutions?”, I ask more general questions.

Has anyone else noticed how many companies are making noticeable efforts to include more diversity in their commercials (see my blog on 08.30.2017 for one example)? And does the term “company” or “business” coincide with “higher education?” Are universities and colleges “businesses? And do they follow money making policies in similar ways? Just some food for thought.

To relate back to companies and commercials, having more inclusion is great, especially in a time when people and children “learn” so much from watching TV. What we perceive as normal today relates a lot, in my opinion, not only to what we experience at home, in school (K-12 and higher education), etc but also what we see and hear on the TV and radio. I don’t have to know someone of a specific minority group to be exposed (at least minimally/indirectly) to them anymore. And exposure, I believe, helps with the issues of acceptance and tolerance.

As another example of a company demonstrating more diversity and inclusion in their ads, Marriot put out this ad recently and states “Being human is so much more than simply going about our day; it is about serving others and treating them with kindness. At Marriott, we live by the golden rule and treat our guests the way we want to be treated with respect, care and compassion. Four of our brands are coming together to share what makes the golden rule so important to us and why treating guests with respect has always been our guiding principle” (taken from YouTube description under this video).

While I am really happy to see companies like Marriot and institutions of higher education (either in mission statements or even in the commercials colleges and universities play during sport commercial breaks) embrace diversity more now than even a few years ago, I have to ask whether this is a solely altruistic trend or is money the major player? In other words, is it peoples’ open-mindness or greed or both that drives greater inclusion within mass media commercials, within colleges/universities?

We live in a world where money talks – if people want diversity, give them diversity. A lot of companies are realizing that they can broaden their client-base (or become more appealing for students with various backgrounds) by being more inclusive (though they must weigh the risks of losing clients/students as well who are anti-anything diverse). And, it works – I remember the companies that show diversity and inclusion over ones that don’t (but that could just be that I try to be tuned-in to diversity topics in general). Personally, and I welcome everyone’s opinions, I believe it may be a little bit of both. In my opinion, it would be naïve to say that companies/colleges/universities are incorporating inclusion and diversity more than they used to for solely good-hearted reasons because we live in a world where money is important. Businesses (which I believe include many institutions of higher education) need to make money, so they “sell” themselves in the way they think (based on who knows how many polls, surveys etc) will make them the most. That all being said, however, it’s okay if a major player in the increase in diversity is money-related. Because that means that more people are accepting and tolerant. So, I see it is a win (or at least a movement in the right direction).

Beer bringing people together …

After our first class meeting last evening, I felt energized. It was invigorating to take a class that promotes and encourages discussion about topics as important as diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, we live in a world where tolerance of others whom are different is not universal. And I say tolerance because it is easier to tolerate something or someone than it is to accept and embrace them. The ultimate goal for a global society goes beyond tolerance into the realm of acceptance. But, more universal tolerance is a start.

As we were talking in class, I thought of a Heineken commercial I saw a bit ago. The video shows two people with very different (polarized even) backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives working together to build some “unknown” structure. They do not know that their opinions vary drastically initially – they simply get to know each other through working towards a common goal. The goal ends up being the creation of a bar. Once they figure out what it is they co-made, a video comes on that shows each of them talking about the same topic but with very different opinions. Then, each person has the option of staying to discuss the differences over a beer or to leave. I won’t tell you what happens (and perhaps I already told too much!), so, please watch!

While I am not saying that people need to drink to get along (thought I admit, it can help sometimes), I like this commercial a lot, as it shows that even very strong-willed people with very intense opinions can be reasonable. People can listen. People can change their perspectives. People can surprise you.

That being said, some people won’t change. I say “won’t” and not “can’t” because I do believe that everyone can change. Is it easy? No. Does it take time? Yes. Does it take a certain amount of open-mindness? Of course. We can become more tolerant and ultimately more accepting of others. We (globally) can do it. We need to do it.