Cross Cultural Differences Exist. Period


Climate, language, history geography, spiritual beliefs, politics, kinship groups,  and ways of knowing  will be different cross-culturally. Why then is it so difficult for some people to acknowledge that cultural differences do exist?  The research on cross-cultural differences abounds, albeit some of it has been racist, ethnocentric and conducted with poor methods and funded by eugenics organizations to advance their agenda of creating the perfect race.  Unfortunately for some, their negative exposure to the former type of research is what remains embedded in their psyche, unable to explore the possibilities that good research on cultural differences can offer appreciation for one another and  maintain positive  international relations.

After working for over 20 years with various ethno-cultural groups, and having learned to navigate through my parent’s culture of origin and the Canadian one, I know for a fact that cultural differences do exist.  This doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better than the other, it just means that differences occur because of the myriad of reasons that were noted in the introduction.  Cultures are formed by differences and similarities.  The similarities in their experiences makes them a culture; this is what distinguishes them from people whose experiences are different.  The formation of cultural groups helps them to keep the characteristics that make them unique.

Indeed, when we speak about cultural differences there is the possibility of us making assumptions and creating stereotypes.  From our early years we are taught to separate and categorize for instance blocks of different colours  to help us order things in our mind and to make sense of them, and to understand their unique properties.  Yes there will always be “blocks” or “people who don’t fit so nicely into these categories but it is natural for us to want to try to make sense of large amounts of important information especially when it comes to understanding the human race..

I know that my contentions will probably deviate from those of my diversity consultant colleagues; but I believe that there is some merit to making generalizations about cultures when there is solid research backing  them up, while keeping in mind that there will always be those people that do not “fit into the box”. Ethnographies have come a long way since the days of Malinowski’s,  ‘The Sexual Life of Savages”, and cultural anthropologists are constantly improving their research methods.

Exploring cultural differences can give us not only great insight about others, but a better understanding of ourselves as well.

Just because we are afraid of creating cultural stereotypes or making assumptions is no reason for us to contend that all cultures are the same and not talk about them.  Instead, through dialogue and exploring the potential differences and the pitfalls with making some assumptions will we truly learn from one another.

Evelina Silveira, President Diversity At Work in London

Political Correctness is Killing Our Workplaces

Political Correctness was invented to ensure that we respectfully use the correct words to describe different kinds of people.  This in itself is not a bad thing and shows that we have become more progressive and socially aware.  Frankly, as a diversity consultant who spends a lot of time in different workplaces, I can see  what was once considered  a mark of advancement and social achievement; has  taken an ugly turn in our workplaces  — political correctness.

Repeatedly, I hear people expressing that they are afraid to say anything at work or debate someone who is considered “diverse” because of being perceived as “sexist”, “racist”, or a”homophobe” etc.  To me this is very disturbing, as it creates inequalities in the workplace where issues that should be addressed are not because of fear.  It means that some people will be treated better than others because they are afraid of challenging someone who is different. These feelings fester and can take the form of both covert and overt forms of anger toward the “diverse” employees.  The whole idea behind political correctness, I believe was to create inclusion and respect for one another, but I see the reverse happening.  How could this go so seriously wrong?

Political correctness also brought with it a whole bunch of terms that we can call one another or “label”.

Labelling fellow employees is a great way for “labellers” to shut down dialogue. After all, once you are called a “racist”, or “homophobe”, Islamophobe”, anti-Semite, or “sexist” usually you are so upset you don’t want to have a rational conversation.  All of those feelings of hurt and misunderstanding just want to take over. Or you blow up.  So what goes from bad only goes to worse!  The “labeller” may have had a point, but no new understanding transpires between the two people who disagree because the dialogue never takes place.

Academia regularly churns out new political correctness words to add to the lexicon.  What if we can’t keep up with all of the PC words that are being hurled at us?  Does this mean that we are insensitive?  Are we out of the loop?  We are made to feel that way some how.  Knowing the latest PC terminology doesn’t necessarily make someone enlightened about diversity.

Human rights complaints loom over every employer’s head, with the fear of accusations. Instead of human rights being used as a guide, they are evoked sometimes for the most mundane of issues, that could easily be resolved through good dialogue and conflict resolution, with a far more positive prognosis than a legal battle.   Fear has become normalized in our workplaces because of political correctness.

Only open workplace dialogues will increase inclusion thus reducing our preponderance to focus on differences.

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