Diversity: Can we laugh, please?


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Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work  http://www.yourdiversityatwork.com

If I believe my Twitter feed, I would say that the whole world is against people of my demographic. Diversity has become so serious, scary and divisive that we have forgotten how remarkably funny it can be if we do not think the world is out to offend us.

I want to share with you a few of my experiences because it is time we start seeing some of the humour of diversity misinterpretation and assumptions.

Several years ago, I received a call from a Caribbean man who was asking me if I would be interested in emceeing a black awards night.  I gladly accepted, impressed this was quite an open-minded group to invite me to facilitate the evening.  I wrote down the details, and just before I was about to hang up the phone, I had this strange hunch that came over me. Did I think maybe he did not want me – a white person?  I asked him directly: ” Michael, are you aware that I am not black?”  There was silence for a moment.  Then with an uncomfortable laugh, he responded “No.” I said, “I thought, so.” Does that make a difference now that you know that I am white?  After a momentary pause, he remarked: well, uh, yeah”. He was dumbfounded!  How was he going to tell me that he thought I was black and that is why he called me? Digging his heels, he told me that he thought I had a “black name” and that is why he called me.  I told him that I did not know what he was talking about:  a black name? Did I look black in my picture?  Trying to wheel himself out from the mess, he tried again and said:  “Well, I guess your name is Hispanic sounding!”  I told him: “Listen, I will make this easy for you.  You do not want me to emcee your event because I am white and by the way, I am not Hispanic –but close enough—Portuguese.  I wish you good luck trying to find someone!”

A former co-worker of mine who came out of the closet at work dealt with the homophobic men in the office in a unique way.  When he went into the men’s washroom, he would belt out the lyrics to Dancing Queen!

Acting as a cultural mentor for a Chinese new immigrant, I remarked about Canadian informality, and pleaded with him to not call me Mrs. Silveira. I explained to him all of the instances when it is appropriate to use titles.  Running into him one day, I asked about his weekend. He said it was not so good and that he had to take his daughter to the hospital.  He noted how impressed he was with the care in a Canadian hospital.  With a mesmerized look on his face, he indicated he had put into action what I had taught him about informal salutations while he was in the hospital.  As he was leaving, he took a look at the doctor’s name tag which read:  “Sandy Brown.” In a great gesture of appreciation, exiting he said: “Thank you, Sandy.” To his dismay and surprise, she replied:  “Dr. Brown”!  I apologized to my dear friend for a significant omission – doctors and titles! Ouch!

All of these new genders are confusing me. I am not sure that I like the images that come to my mind like when I hear the word “gender fluid”. When I hear that expression, it makes me think that you have to go to the pharmacy to buy something to take care of it – maybe in the special paper products section in the store.  May I suggest “gender elasticity” or “gender flexibility” instead?

I have many stories about encounters in Asian food markets. Frequently, the employees that I come across don’t speak English, and therefore there is much room for misinterpretation.  Excited about embarking on a Vietnamese culinary adventure, I headed to the store looking for the best sauce to complement the spring rolls I was planning to make.  I saw a Chinese man who was stocking the shelves and asked him if he could recommend a good sauce for my spring rolls. I said I wanted him to show me the sauce he used. Clearly he did not understand what I had said.  Before you knew it, we were standing in front of the Heinz ketchup.  I surmised that he likely thought this was the only kind of sauce white people use!

Whether it was one too many coffees or not enough sleep the night before, I had a twitch in my right eye during a workshop I was facilitating. It was distracting and it seemed like I could not control it. Moreover, for whatever reason, each time I looked in the direction of one of the female participants, my twitch became a wink.  Low and behold, after the training session, I went up to speak to some participants that were in her area. She immediately distanced herself and appeared uncomfortable.  The moral of the story: just because someone has a twitch does not mean he or she are flirting with you!

While running a Latin American seniors’ drop-in many years ago, the participants would cheerfully greet me with: ” Como estas, Evelina?”  (How are you, Evelina)  Reciprocally, I would reply “ Yo estoy buena, gracias.” I did this for months, thinking that I was saying:  “I am good, thank you.” A few of the older women would consistently give me strange grimaces.  One day we had two new participants from Colombia attend who decided to test me again and ask me how I was.  I gave them the same response, only this time they started laughing!   I realized that the “good” wholesome feeling I was trying to express, had, in fact, some other less innocent connotation!

After finishing my presentation about living with ADHD, I had a blind man come up to me and say:  “Wow!  I really feel sorry for you, it must be difficult bouncing off the walls all the time!”  I laughed and corrected him that I don’t bounce off walls too often but appreciated his empathy–even though I felt he was the one with the challenges!

It is time to bring the joy and laughter that diversity can bring! Feel free to share your funny incidents below.

 

O Canada! My Home and Messed Up Land


Written by:  Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work

I am having trouble recognizing my birthplace and the country to which my family decided to immigrate. Canada, a fractured massive mess embroiled in identity politics and devoid of logic and forecast.

We call people bigots for wanting to preserve Canadian values. Why? Canadian values, for the most part, have kept this country lawful and peaceful.  Do people immigrate to Canada for Chinese or Saudi Arabian values?  No!  They come because Canada is a safe homeland for all. Well, even that is debatable.  Especially, if you are an Indigenous youth or woman.

Many immigrants and former refugees I have spoken to feel the same way.  Some are even thinking of moving back to their country of origin because they no longer like what they see. Freeing communist Poland as a refugee, my husband, for instance, feels the growing loss of freedoms is becoming strikingly similar to what he left behind.

Here are ten  Canadian diversity issues which have left me wondering:  What kind of country am I living? (They are not in any particular order)

1.  A terrorist still gets to keep their citizenship because our Prime Minister says that:  ” a Canadian citizen is always a citizen”.

2. The Canadian government is going to spend millions of dollars to celebrate Canada’s 150 years of colonizing Indigenous People.  I honestly would rather them skimp on the celebrations and provide Indigenous People with clean water and mold-free schools and decent housing.  I am surprised no one thought of that.

3. Violent protests are erupting at universities and other locations conservative speakers have been booked. A diversity of opinion is not considered a strength.

4. Christian bashing has become normalized even though this is the faith of over 50% of Canadians. Check out this highly offensive article poking fun at the holiest day of the Christian liturgical calendar.  https://www.thebeaverton.com/2017/04/christ-sees-shadow-predicts-6-weeks-easter/

5. Canadian Black Lives  Matter leader Yusra Khogali declares white people to be “sub-human”  and tweets to Allah to stop her from killing them. Surprisingly,  Khogali, is celebrated and asked to speak at anti-racism conferences? As much as Trudeau, is not my guy, Khogali is way off-base when she calls him a white-supremacist.  The BLM Canada movement will lose its credibility if it takes this hateful approach and tries to hijack the Toronto Pride Parade and cause division between the police and Pride.  Pride is supposed to be a fun time to celebrate the rights and freedoms of the LGBT community no matter your skin colour!

6. The  Ontario NDP government wants to support a Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel policy. Why?  Does anyone know why there is an armed checkpoint to get to the Israeli side?  It is because  Palestinian’s were bringing bombs over and then Israelis became maimed or died.  Since the checkpoints are in place, they have been able to prevent deaths this way.  Even if you are anti-Jewish, answer this question:  Is it a government’s prerogative to ensure the safety and protection of its citizens?  The answer is Yes!  So before you, BDS followers bash Israel, ask yourself if you would want the government to do what it could from stopping your friends and family from getting hurt. This is the same country which takes wounded Syrians into their hospitals regardless of their faith or ethnicity.  Get informed before you make these decisions.  The only reason why the NDP conjures up maniacal ideas like this one is so that they can capitalize on the political correctness of antisemitism thus broadening their voter demographics.  Why doesn’t  the NDP take this stand with Saudi Arabia?

7. The fact that our Ontario Sex Education program had input from a convicted pedophile, Ben Levin, speaks volumes. https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/child-sex-offender-ben-levin-said-himself-that-he-was-in-charge-of-crafting    Concerns raised about how the curriculum groomed young children for sex is now coming to light. If you have ever talked to kids who have gone through this sex education program, they will tell you that it has only made them more confused about their sexuality.  One ten-year-old girl once disclosed to me that she must be “asexual” because she was not interested in having a relationship with a boy or a girl.  A 10-year old girl!

8. New Age Feminism has taken a dangerous tone.  Our Prime Minister does not condemn barbaric practices against women and girls nor the lack of rights of women in Saudi Arabia and others.  Our new  Minister of the Status of Women, Maryam Monsef has indicated that she is interested in sharia law and she does not see aborting female babies as gender-based violence.  Honestly?  Deciding to end a pregnancy because the sex of the baby is the grossest act of violence against girls. Is Monsef an actual advocate of women and girls?

Our so-called feminist Prime Minister, Trudeau also uses women in parliament to avoid responding during Question Period.  Instead, he defers to the House Leader Bardish Chagger to address Progressive Conservative, Michelle Rempel’s   questions. It is a painful, humiliating scene to watch for those of us who are sincerely concerned about women’s rights.  Not only is it a woman who is made to do Trudeau’s dirty work but a woman of colour –which makes it doubly-abusive: a prime example of Trudeau’s disrespect for women and his arrogance.  Check out this video  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/03/22/rempel-bardish-chagger-question-period_n_15547002.html

9. Our media is covering up stories about violent crimes committed by Syrian refugees which puts us in danger—especially women and girls.  Even if you don’t like Rebel Media or Ezra Levant for that matter, get passed your bias and watch the clip below. It’s not as sensational as you may expect, especially when Faith Goldy obtains hard evidence a result of Freedom to Access of Information. Are we going to still deny there is a problem?  It is frightening, and clearly, the government had no plan for these refugees when they came here.  These are not isolated incidents as you will see that Goldy has reported from across school boards in Canada.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiD5cDCT_3g    This is another example of how refugees and immigrants are not given adequate information about expected behaviours – especially in the classroom.

10. Motion- 103 regarding Islamaphobia crafted by a Pakistani immigrant, Liberal  MP,  Iqra Khalid leaves me and my friends from former communist countries wondering – what is happening in Canada?  How does someone who immigrated from a country which has blasphemy laws and led the York University Muslim Student Association (which distributed pamphlets on how to beat your wife); has any right to curtail criticism of Islam like this?

Shockingly, there appears to be a double-standard when it comes to protecting Canadians from religious hatred. Recently, there have been two clear cases of imams calling for the genocide of Jews and spewing hate. Most people haven’t even heard about them. Check these videos out for yourself  Montreal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FRuTP-ao9U , and  Toronto http://en.cijnews.com/?p=208986  no one bats an eye.

And contrary to our neighbours in the south who challenge antisemitism, cowardly Canadian diversity and equity consultants remain mute; confirming it is on the rise when those whose role is to confront hate and bias feel justified in keeping silent.  Being a bystander and a diversity/ equity consultant/practitioner is not only a contradiction but lacks integrity.  If you don’t feel like challenging these kinds of issues — you are in the wrong field.  How can you train others about anti-bias when you are not prepared to confront it yourself? Let’s not forget all of those who remained silent before and during World War II and all the other bystanders throughout history who collectively could have saved generations.

O Canada!  I haven’t given up on you yet but you must act quick so we remain “glorious and free”.

 

 

Offense: The Price Of Diversity?


Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work

This past year has been particularly challenging for people like me: media/political junkies, who feverishly skim the international news trying to find the truth in a web of misinformation, lies and fake news.  My Twitter newsfeed supplies me with a variety of political viewpoints on diversity issues.  I take all of it in, recognizing that each point may have some validity.  I am open to different points of view and I welcome them.  I especially love factually- based debates.

Why do I like it when people argue about diversity?  Because it means we are part of a free society.

My husband and most of my friends have not lived in democratic countries.  They lived under communism where dissent could not be expressed.  If you have ever heard firsthand the stories of people who feared to say the wrong thing or going against the grain – you would certainly have a better appreciation for how we in the West have been afforded so many freedoms like free speech.

Increasingly, I see freedom of speech is only allowed if you express a certain opinion.  If for example, you go against a liberal opinion there can be severe consequences.

Let’s be very clear before I go any further.  I am not for hate speech — that is very different and our laws seem adequate in that regard. Disagreeing and hate are not the same.

American and Canadian universities have been host to violent protests where audiences thirsting for a  different point of view were hurt.  Campuses were set on fire and a lot of other nasty stuff happened.  You would think that university campuses would be the bastions of free speech and critical thinking? But, apparently not.  What impact does that have on education if what we must always be concerned with not offending others?

I remember sitting through my anthropology classes in university and hearing students rhyme off a very different version of history than the one I was taught. Disparaging remarks were made about believers of my faith and their historically oppressive role.  The professor did not stop the discussion, nor was that the expectation. (Probably these days that would be different.)  I sat and listened to what the student said and decided I would not oppose the remarks. Because the student exchange was deeply emotional for me, it left an imprint.  Decades later, I was able to understand my fellow student’s opinion and would agree with her in part and glad the professor did not shut down the conversation because she was concerned it “would offend someone”.

One of the ways I like to set myself apart from other practitioners is that I encourage the free flow of discussion about various diversity issues from a number of sources which is reflected in my Twitter and Facebook presence.  It reminds me of when teachers would explain that you should use a number of sources to substantiate your argument and present both sides.  That’s a really honest approach – and one I support.

Unfortunately, I have found that my need to present a diversity of opinions is not always met very well on social media.  And despite having a private business, some Tweeters feel that I should stick to the same predictable perspectives on issues all of the time.  For me, if I only present one side of an argument I am just another agent of propaganda.  I also feel that I am insulting my followers/ readers believing that they are not entitled to other views and can make their own decisions.  Diversity for me also spells diversity of ideas and opinions.

What I do know is that the lines between expressing a different point of view and hate speech are becoming frightfully blurred.  The best way to shut down a dissenting argument is to say it is “hateful” or “offensive”. Calling someone a racist in Western society is one of the worst accusations and is hurled left, right and centre at people who are often expressing a different view which has nothing to do with hate.

Diversity, free speech, and offense go hand in hand.  If we are going to be a welcoming society to a diversity of people, their values, and beliefs we all need to make peace with the fact that at times we will be challenged and that can be very emotional.  We cannot legislate hurt feelings or thoughts so why are we even trying?  We either grow a tougher skin or live in an Orwellian thought-controlled society:  what would you prefer?

 

 

 

 

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