What are your thoughts when you hear Diversity? What is Culture? How is Heritage part of the workplace? How do any of these fit in our work and/or our communities? At the end of this email, there are definitions from the great vast knowledge of the internet. My understanding of these three words means something different than the defined web version.
Before joining the Equity Team, I had no idea that I had a lack of understanding when it came to Diversity, or what work culture really is. Heritage I understood but even that has changed since being employed at 211. Honestly, I am still learning what Equity means, and with that comes hope and understanding my own background and upbringing has helped me tremendously.
Like Amelia Laytham who had moved to America at the age of 12 from Indonesia, whose heritage & culture become second to her need to fit in with “American Culture.” I have gone on a journey of losing myself to finding my own identity. (Learn more about Amelia here: TedTalk Video.) During my teenage years, (the years when I thought I knew it all) I fit in most with what I thought was “Chicano” culture or more specifically, I thought I was a South Sider aka a Sureno (a Hispanic-American Gang Culture). They had the same skin tone and attitude that I understood but the language, I never caught onto. Having been unaware of the history of why many Native Americans chose not to identify as Native American because it wasn’t safe to identify as Native due to forced cultural assimilation. I thought it was normal that there weren't many Natives living off the reservations. Years later, I find out tens of thousands actually live within this tri-county area. During this phase of lost identity, I shaved my eyebrows and used eyeliner to fill them back in. I outlined my lips with dark, usually black eyeliner, paired with red lipstick for that deep maroon color. I wore Dickies and Ben Davis shirts. I rocked the old school Cortez’s, usually one of my friend's shoes. I listened to and still love “lowrider oldies.” I went to Hispanic dance clubs and danced the cumbia (not very well I might add, ) mainly I did the “gangsta-dance” (elbows up side-to-side, ha) because I fit in most with my "brown people" the dominant minority in that area at that time.
Over the years, I have come to an understanding that I am not Chicano but that I have a connection with them because we have all called this continent home for thousands of years. I am super proud to be a Native American even more so learning my identity as an Indigenous Woman. I am learning that even within my own tribe's traditions and culture, there are things I absolutely believe in and then some not so much. Being an individual and learning from other cultures I have come to understand my own identity. I understand duality and while working here at 211info I come to terms with the fact I am not a "token native" and found my voice to speak up and say "I don't know everything about every Native American" although, I am more than happy to give my perspective.
When I think about these in the workplace I think about the beautiful fact that 211 differs from many other organizations. We understand no two people are alike. We strive to understand rather than assume. We take pride in knowing we are all learning what it means to have a Diverse Work Culture that each and every person brings forth something from their own understanding. As I continue to grow and learn about my own identity, I hope to learn something about yours as well. If you are comfortable doing so, share some experiences or life lessons of your own?
In our everyday lives, we have the chance to learn something new, whether it is about ourselves or about someone else. So, again, I ask: What are your thoughts when you hear Diversity? What is Culture? How is Heritage part of the workplace? How do any of these fit in our work and/or our communities?
Thank you for taking the time to get to know a little bit more about me. Thank you for sharing this space of understanding with me.
As defined on the web (Webster or Google) :
1: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: VARIETY
especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization
programs intended to promote diversity in schools
1 a: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group
also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time
b: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
a corporate culture focused on the bottom line ....read more definitions here
1: property that descends to an heir
2a: something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor: LEGACY, INHERITANCE
proud of her Chinese heritage....read more here