Monthly Archives: December 2010

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Thoughts on Multiculturalism

A Kitsap Sun letter to the editor last month about multiculturalism caught my attention and challenged some of my thoughts on the topic.  Multiculturalism is also a term that I am hearing used more frequently.  So I decided to do a little research.  First I looked for a definition and found many; each different, but with some similarities.  One particularly resonates with what I think of when I hear the term:
(from www.answers.com/topic/multiculturalism)
“A philosophy that recognizes ethnic diversity within a society and that encourages others to be enlightened by worthwhile contributions to society by those of diverse ethnic backgrounds.”

The letter that started me thinking referenced an example of multiculturalism failing in Germany, however I did not find that there is agreement on why there are problems.  Is it really multiculturalism, or is it the way it was implemented?  Germany does not have the extensive history of multiculturalism that the United States does, so the situation there is different than what we have here. Our Country has many pockets of culture from all over the World and those of us that take the time to learn from each other are all the richer for it.  Our breadth of ethnic food restaurants is only a portion of what world cultures share with us on a daily basis.

On a corporate level, companies are finding that multiculturalism benefits their workplace, and this is demonstrated by positive affects on their corporate bottom line.  What I mean by multiculturalism here are the employee resource groups, also sometimes called affinity groups, that help companies  improve strategic marketing and increase their diversity of recruiting and retention of employees.    These groups also help increase employee happiness as well as their sense of being able to contribute in meaningful ways, which in turn increases their productivity.

One definition of an employee resource group, from Diversity Inc (www.diversityinc.com), is “company-sponsored employee groups from traditionally underrepresented groups or those that support these groups.”

The role that these groups play in a workplace has matured over the years from groups that mostly focused on networking and celebrations of cultural events, to groups that play significant roles in a company’s marketing, employee recruiting, and employee development.

While not everyone understands that these groups, and the diversity councils that usually connect them together, benefit a workplace, the evidence is there.  More and more companies and Government agencies are figuring that out and supporting the formation of these groups.  Local examples that I could find are many of the companies that do government contract work in Kitsap County, such as Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman.

I did not see anything during my research that demonstrated to me that our multiculturalism is the cause of any of the problems that we are facing as a nation.  There is work that we can all do to improve communication between groups, but the idea that we can all be assimilated into one cultural melting pot is unrealistic – we are more like a chunky stew.

The US Senate will Vote on Repeal of DADT

A key step towards ending the harmful Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy is the Senate vote on Saturday (12/18) on the Bill to end DADT. It looks like there are enough Senators in favor for the Bill to pass.  The house has already passed their version of the Bill.

This is a national issue, but it affects people here in Kitsap County. I could not even guess how many Service Members here are directly affected; in some ways the law affects all of them.

It may take months to actually implement the repeal of DADT.  The Senate vote on Saturday is the last big hurdle before the planning for implementation can begin.

Some of the rhetoric that I read and hear against the repeal of DADT sounds as if some folks think that having gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces will be a new thing.  The majority of people, though, realize that gay and lesbian service members are already honorably serving, and are required to do so with the fear of being found out.  How much of their energy is spent hiding that could instead be spent doing their job even more effectively?

The majority of Americans agree with repealing DADT, and much has been in the news recently, so I will not spend time here trying to convince any of you about why DADT is a bad policy.  Repealing the law will not enable Service Members to become legally married (on a Federal level) to a same-sex partner – that is another battle yet to be won.  However, it is still heartwarming to me to know that very likely, sometime soon, gay and lesbian Service Members will be able to serve our Country with the knowledge that their significant others and the families they build together can at least be acknowledged.

The Kitsap County Human Rights Conference

The 20th Kitsap County Human Rights Conference is Friday December 10th. This event is put on by the Kitsap County Council for Human Rights, and is held each year on a Friday close to International Human Rights Day. This year the dates coincide.

International Human Rights Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, December 10th, 1948, and was formally established in 1950.

According to their web site, the Kitsap County Council for Human Rights was formed in 1989 and has a vision that “Kitsap County shall be a caring, supportive, and safe community which values each individual, celebrates individual differences, and recognizes the importance of each person’s contribution to the community.”
www.kitsapgov.com/hr/wsolympic/humanrights/hrcboard.htm

Over the 20 years of the conference the topics presented have varied widely and included such timely discussions as last year’s poverty and homelessness. The topics intended for this year’s conference include: Immigration Reform, Immigration issues in Kitsap County, the Seattle Police Department’s successes and difficulties in establishing a working relationship with the LGBTQ community, Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask About Transgenderism, How Do We Relate to People (Not) Like Me, and What’s Going on Across the State. Also planned is a performance by the North Kitsap High School Dramatic Arts of Then They Came For Me: Remembering Anne Frank (by James Still) and LaCausa – a Living Voices dramatic presentation.

The conference is always a full day of learning – both about current human rights issues affecting people in Kitsap County, and about the wonderful work local folks are doing around these issues.