Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Diversity Training: A debate

A few days ago I was watching one of the news channels and I came across something that struck me as a bit odd. Eugene, Oregon, home of the 2008 Olympic Trials, will be conducting diversity training for volunteers, hotels, restaurants, and shops to help them better prepare to deal with the influx of athletes, namely African-Americans that will be in town. Because the city is so homogenous, (there are a bunch of white people living there), they feel that they need to train themselves in order to be able to relate and deal with all the black folks. They want to make sure we feel equally at home. On the one hand, I commend them for wanting to be good hosts and to ensure that the experience is a positive one for everyone that attends. I certainly don’t believe they have harmful intentions, but it certainly made me do a double take.

It almost seems like a joke, except it’s not. In fact, I was going to post about this yesterday but being as it was April Fools Day, I held off. The idea that the organizing committee feels as if they have to be trained properly to deal with my friends and I is almost insulting. We aren’t aliens that require special handling. The athletes, friends, and family that will compromise the 65-75% of “other” folks that will descend upon the city for a couple of weeks, merely hope that the city does a good job of treating us all with dignity and respect. I’ve been to Eugene countless times before and I haven’t experienced anything negative. We aren’t visiting from a different country, we are visiting from neighboring states and I have never been aware that Eugene was a place where something like this would be addressed. This isn’t Jena, Louisiana.

So what kind of things will the “Blacks on Track Team”, or BOTT for short, be addressing? According to a few articles I’ve read, they will be better prepared to point them towards things they are more accustomed to. "We'll let them know where they can get their services be it good soul food, a hair cut, or religious services. And that they feel welcome." I’m sorry Eugenians; I highly doubt a city with 2% black population is the hot spot for soul food. Nor will any of my fellow athletes be looking to get their cornrows freshened up while they’re out there. We will be quite content eating at that great pizza place across the street from campus or visiting Olive Garden, etc. And as unfair as assumptions based on a persons skin color might be, a workshop or two is not really going to stop store clerks from following black people around in stores, another concern that is being addressed in training. But who knows, maybe there can be something gained from this. Supposedly residents from Eugene will also be taught that certain greetings appropriate between two black people may not be so appropriate between a black person and a white person. How annoying is it when white people try to give you a pound??? Ughh. And I would seriously be so offended if while I was out there someone had the audacity to say “wassup sista”. Could you imagine that happening?

So what I am wondering, dear blog readers, is if you think something like this is necessary. I think it’s quite obvious what my thoughts are but I am open and willing to try and understand why there is a need to teach people how to treat other PEOPLE right. Should I not feel insulted that the people in Oregon might not be able to figure out on their own how to interact with me if I am a guest at their hotel or a patron of their restaurant? On the one hand I acknowledge and appreciate their desire to be proactive and prepare themselves as best as possible to host a terrific event. Cultural diversity is something that should definitely be celebrated, but is behaving as if our differences require special training act more to separate us than bring us closer together?



Nigel "6five" Bigbee said...

HAHA I agree with this training. When white people come up to me and shake my hand with all that gansta, switching hands grips and bringing it in to a hug, it irritates me to no end. lol So they need to know that black people are just people. Say hello and keep it moving.

Must remember to take my next girlfriend out at least twice a week said...

how bout this one made my mama laugh? by the way, u like my name? guess who!

Anonymous said...

i think that everyone should be able to interact with people of all races... not that its a bad concept, i think it is a little much to host a class for the townspeople on how to interact with "african americans". its needed, but not in this fashion.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Ms. Glenn. I do not think the diversity training Is necessary but for different reasons. It should not take a major event like the Olympic Trials for the residents of Eugene to feel like hey need help " interacting" with African-Americans. Even though the African American population is low they should be learning from their early childhood that everyone is the same: we are all human. Yes we might come from different backgrounds, but that does not mean you have to study us just to be around us.
Also if they feel like diversity is an issue The University of Oregon needs to work on bringing more people of color to he univeristy, NOT just as student-athletes. The people of Eugene know plenty about blacks, but only if their on the football field or track. The university needs to change that

Nikkie T said...

I'm with you Bri. This whole thing is bizarre.
Part of me is a bit insulted. I'm a person, you shouldn't have to study me or take a class to teach you how to behave with me. Just act like you've got some sense, treat me like you would the new neighbor, and all should be fine.
I guess I can give them credit for WANTING to do what they consider "the right thing" but, considering that this is Eugene, OR- Home of the Prefontaine Classic- should this even be an issue? It's not like the city has never seen an influx of African Americans. You think it's because we'll (meaning Blacks, not athletes ;) ) be there for a few weeks, not just a few days???

bigmoneygrip said...

I guess Eugene must think it is populated by several hundred thousand Bill O'Reillys.

ktizzle said...

This is definitely weird. I, like a few other of us, has been to Eugene several times for Track&Field events. In my experience, I have never had an issue with people there not knowing how to interact with me. It's not the million man march coming to town.
I could understand if this was a class that was offered year round for people that were interested but to bring it about as some short of cultural training for this event is slightly insulting. I think what would be more useful would be members of the BOT providing information to the USATF and organizers of the Trials that might be relevant to the Black athletes. This info can be provided to those that want it. If a "brotha" wanted some fried chicken that wasn't from KFC or had a craving for a bean pie(which I doubt you'd find anyway) they could have received info as to where in town they might find this stuff.
I can see it now, next the news is going to be reporting an increase in the import of Chicken in Watermelon.
This whole thing reminds me of a Dave Chappelle stand up were he's talking about being shocked and insulted when going into a restaurant down south and he's about to order and the waiter answers for him telling him that he wants "The Chicken!".
I'm with Bri though, show me where the Olive Garden is.

On a serious note though they might wanna stock up grape drink.

Anonymous said...

I do absolutely agree with the concept that according dignity, honor, respect and basic human kindness to everyone really ought to suffice (and always has, all circumstance, anywhere, in my life) and just leave it at that.

Further, I did also find the area’s considered for “diversity” kinda offensive, slightly ridiculous and completely unnecessary.

But, what might prove somewhat helpful is to explain to them why some will use the term “nigga” with each other, but how inappropriate it would be for them to say that… but maybe that’s just a ‘stick of dy-no-mite and a match’ type subject…


Brianna said...

well good to know i'm not the only one that found it a bit strange. i thought maybe my thinking was a bit utopian because i feel that in 2008, if you are a nice and decent person, that should be enough. and yes, i think that if eugene feels that maybe the city is a bit out of touch, this could be a year round program offered to anyone who feels they could brush up on their skills--not just a crash course to make them presentable for two weeks. we should all be in a constant state of growing.

lol @ stocking up on the grape drink. :)

Anonymous said...

k, i'm not gonna lie. this made me wanna throw up a li'l bit.

and what's with that blacks on track lady in the news clip? she looks like she's on her way to a funeral... in the 1950s.... soul food? reeeeeeally...?????

will there be welcome baskets w/ watermelon and fried chicken? if ya wanna welcome a black person to eugene, u could try... um... saying, "welcome to eugene." ?!?

can't we all just get along?

t.v. said...

It's rather ironic that BOTT is going out of their way to create an opportunity for "possitve decrimination" at a time like this. The "white" people of Eugene will actually have an excuse to tell African Americans that they might be better off going to a "Soul Food" restaurant down the road than eating at a regular one, or going to a "black" church or a "black" barber shop, because they will feel more at home there.

Educating people on diversity should be a continuous process in a much more suttle and respectful way. There are simpler and more effective ways to do this than to call attention to one's ethnic identity.

Track Evangelist said...

On the real--I'm not sure what to think of this..situation. After watching the clip I laughed so hard that my side hurt. this is pure comedy.

Hey Bri--on another more serious topic..big nkotb news!!! People magazine is reporting that New Kids On The Block are coming back. For real, for real.,,20174022,00.html

Anonymous said...

It's pretty crazy to me that they are doing this.

I saw them parody the situation on Break. Here's the link if anybody's interested: