Listen To Their Voices – Stop Bullying Now!

Sometimes I feel like the people who have the most to say are the ones who aren’t given the opportunity to say anything. Yesterday, I saw Bully – the movie/documentary that has been causing a stir because of its rating from the MPAA. It was an incredibly powerful series of stories; and these stories are emblematic of situations that affect each of us and each of our communities.

Throughout the movie I kept think “Did that ever happen to me? Maybe I was a bully to someone else?” You see, so many of us have been bullied. Fortunately, most of us have not been bullied to the extent shown in Bully. Yet, that does not mean that the bullying we have witnessed, committed, and observed is okay: far from it. Any amount of bullying needs to be stopped.

Bullying starts at a young age and that, I believe, is why the documentarians included the story of an 11-year-old boy who killed himself. 11 years old! I didn’t even know that 11-year-olds knew how to do that. But apparently they do. I firmly believe that the environment and the community in which one grows up will have a significant influence on one’s behavior and opportunities, probably the two most significant categories that influence bullying. Obviously there are social, structural, and institutional factors at play that provide substantial barriers to stopping and preventing bullying. But that does not mean that we should not work to stop bullying from occurring.

Excuses are wide spread in Bully, as they are in our communities. The problem becomes less personal when it is dispersed as a problem “nationwide” and dismissed when responses include non-committal statements such as “school buses [are] notorious for bullying.” But what about right here where we live? And what are you and I going to do about it? Bullying is a learned activity. As such, it can be unlearned.

Learning occurs in the places mentioned above – homes, communities, and schools. We come of age through the education system; and while schools cannot control what happens in the students’ homes, those individuals in charge of schools can control what happens in the school buildings, in the schoolyard, and on the school buses. To ignore or dismiss this responsibility is a failure to fulfill one’s duties to protect, raise, and educate children. If one is not willing to address bullying then that individual needs to be removed from that position and replaced with someone who can be effective at developing the next generations of leaders and thinkers.

Bullying occurs in situations besides being a student. It happens in the workplace. It happens in the grocery story. It happens on the highway. It happens when school officials and community leaders refuse to recognize bullying as a problem and neglect to address it. This may be due to a tunnel vision of sorts. Excuses such as “boys will be boys” do not address the root issue – plenty of boys are not bullies. And not all bullies are boys. Importantly, the excuses given for bullying are often the result of one’s personal, political, and religious beliefs as they relate to the cause of the bullying. The beliefs one holds are irrelevant when it comes to addressing the treatment of others and can actually turn those in positions of power into bullies themselves.

Whatever the bullying activity, whoever the target, and wherever the bullying occurs, we must all – each of us – become more aware and more proactive. We must address the causes of bullying, stop the bullies, and support the bullied. We must do this now – because even one lost 11-year-old is too many.

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Not The Same

Look up.
Open your eyes.
To the beauty and variety of nature.
Differences that complement one another.
And create the whole.
A better place.

On MLK Day

On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:

It is frustrating when people ask/complain why we get off of work/school for Martin Luther King Day, but then I realize that that’s the point: when everyone understands why we have the day off, we will no longer need it. On MLK day, I reflect on from where we have come and on how much further we have to go.

Before I started in the Social Justice Living and Learning Community at the University of Denver, I read Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Here is just one (of many) powerful quotes that are still true today:

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

White Paper – “Transparency in Sharing Diversity and Inclusion Practices”

This is an interesting white paper on “Transparency in Sharing Diversity and Inclusion Practices” that I came across through an organization I am involved with, the Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation. It is very interesting and certainly something I encountered last year when working on the Inclusive Excellence Case Competition.

Mid-Week Update

I’m writing this on the plane again.  That seems to be happening a lot lately.  Maybe a new trend?  I should really get better at posting during the week… hopefully I’ll be able to get into a groove/pattern with my travel and make that start happening.

Last weekend was great.  I was able to explore areas of St. Louis that I had really wanted to see.  Friday night I went out with some friends around Laclede’s Landing in downtown St. Louis.  I found some great places and a club and was able to enjoy music and dance – I was really looking for that.  Saturday night I explored the Delmar Loop at night with some friends.  It wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped, but still nice.  Sunday I played disc golf with a friend at a part nearby, which was a lot of fun.  I definitely have room for improvement though.

I spent the week working in Baton Rouge, LA.  I like the office there and have now met the Louisiana Healthcare Connections staff, with the exception of some consultants and contractors.  I definitely have a lot to learn still but things are beginning to make sense and fit together.  My projects are expanding and I am starting to talk to providers on the phone – although if they ask me questions, I still often don’t know the answers.  That will come though.

This healthcare business is extremely complicated.  There are so many moving parts and I am glad to be able to see what that looks like “on the front line” – i.e. in the field.

It seems though that many providers are missing what many today to be standard pieces of a business – most specifically email.  I have also been told by some that they do not have email at home or work.  My worldview is certainly challenged by this and I need to make sure that I understand context and culture to effectively serve the people with whom I am working.

I’m a bit surprised to say this, but so far I actually like Baton Rouge.  People are just incredibly friendly.  Even people at bus stops say hello as you walk by!  I stood at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capital Center.  I was a big fan, mainly because of the people.  It did have free internet and bottled water, which was nice though.  If I am there for a while, I hope to explore the city somewhat, even though I also kind of like spending time in the hotel.

I still need to convince myself to go to bed earlier.  I wish I wasn’t tired so much.  This week was better, but I need to get better about that.  I also need to start going to the gym.

Tonight, I am going to the baseball game.  I won tickets from Centene!  I am little worried that I will miss picking them up though because my flight is late.  Hopefully it works out!

We The People

One of my friends posted this YouTube video on Facebook.  After watching it, I definitely want to share it.  Take a look at this video and think about its message.  Most of us learned about this concept of “we the people” sometime during our education, but how often do we think about what it actually means?  Especially after we have to.

This video does a good job of beginning the conversation of who “we the people” are.  And who the constitution is for.  We need to remember that this country is not just about people like “us” – whoever “us” is.  And as we begin this conversation, we should also start to think about who “we the people” are that wrote those words and who they were written for.

Reflections on the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence

[This should have been posted four weeks ago!  Wow, May has been incredibly busy!]

10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence

Friday, May 6, 2011 was the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence – the largest program I work on in my role at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.

The Summit has grown significantly.  Ten years ago, 25 people participated.  When I got involved 250 people participated in the Summit.  This year, I wanted to grow and expand the Summit both in terms of content and participation.  We have been spending the daylong conference on understanding diversity and inclusion and discussing research in the field.  Our community was ready for putting these ideas into practice and understanding why diversity and inclusion truly matter.

I co-led a committee of 32 students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni in the development of a new program: we built on the educational foundation of the summit while expanding into three tracks: Business & Industry, P-20 Education (pre-school through higher education), and Philanthropy & Community.  There were many more opportunities for focused tracks, but we thought these would be a good testing ground for focusing on how diversity and inclusion are of value in each of these arenas and why our constituents need to learn about and apply diversity and inclusion in order to be successful now and in the future.

We had approximately 650 participants and evaluations have been extremely positive.  University leadership connected with our keynote message more than ever before, we connected with the broader community in news ways, and gained national exposure for our program.  Our speakers actually began to make their own connections and our Summit resulted in multiple new partnerships with long-term value and donations to the University.  Participants left with real, tangible action items and a better understanding of our focus areas.  In addition, our committee was able to embed the program as a University-wide program through a focus on cross-functional collaboration.

The feedback I received has been both positive and personally meaningful.  A friend who is a first-year student commented the following to me on Facebook:

I’m sorry I did not get the chance to attend the Diversity Summit today, I was REALLY looking forward to it, but I got very ill and ended up having to see a doctor to prescribe some medicine. Hopefully I can attend next year! You’ve been a great role model to many of us freshmen and i wish you luck on your endeavors after you graduate!

I was in the library the day after the event and someone else came up to me and said “I saw you at the Diversity Summit on Friday and wanted to let you know that you did a really good job – it was a great event.”

I share this feedback because I believe that the collective efforts of multiple people made the Summit a success.  If my role in that and in the other things in which I have been involved have positively influence people, then I am leaving the legacy at the University of Denver that I hope to.  All of us need to think about how we can improve our communities and how we can develop meaningful interactions, relationships, and friendships.

So many people helped make the event a success.  Thank you to our amazing committee and the great speakers and presenters who contributed to an amazing event!

Click here for a copy of our e-program with details on the 10h Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence.

Click here for some pictures from the Summit.

Gay Parents Are Parents Too

The guy hits it right on the head.  The only thing I disagree with Zach on is his last point: Zach says “The sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character.”  The opposite is in fact true: Zach understands things than many other people miss and I am sure that he treats people with more respect and more equitably because of his parents.

Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation

Since it seems I never posted anything about this: In January I became a Board Member of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation (GDIF), a 501(c)3 non-profit.  It is an organization that is doing some great work in the diversity and inclusion arena.  I am privileged to be associated with such an organization and the leaders who comprise its board.  Here is some information of the organization and I suggest reading more on their website:

The Global Diversity & Inclusion Foundation (GDIF) is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit.  We are much more than simply a list of best practices, Global Diversity & Inclusion Foundation leads the pack with standing out above the rest.  The way we do this is to understand and address diversity & inclusion by focusing on Business Cultural Intelligence in everything we do.  That means we help develop a mind-set that can be applied to any number of countries, cultures, and business situations. It is a systematic way to approach the tremendous variety of interactions and challenges that business people must face around the world – much easier and more realistic than documenting every trait of every culture and preparing to cater to each. We apply all our divisions’ activities in a three-stage process for becoming culturally intelligent. These steps involve learning the fundamental principles of cross-cultural interactions, such as what cultures are, how they might vary, and how they affect behavior; practicing mindfulness and paying attention in a reflective and creative way to cues; and developing a collection of behavioral skills that can be adapted to different situations.  This value helps us to understand diversity while working towards inclusion, especially how it affects the bottom-line of all organizations.

Mission Statement: The Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation enables businesses to achieve optimum revenue and market share growth while providing employees with equal opportunity to attain the highest returns on their personal talent.

As GDIF grows in the years to come, you can expect great things to come.  In addition to the standard board responsibilities involving organizational development and oversight, I am managing GDIF’s presence and growth on social media, online networking, and blogging.

Reflections on “Repugnant” UCLA Student Video – Developing an Inclusive Society

It has happened again.  A college student has made insensitive and racist statements.  Not surprising.  Too often, people seem not to think of the consequences of their actions. Yet, college students are supposed to be “educated.”  One might assume that such education would involve cultural understanding and sensitivity.  Too often, that is not the case.  On Friday, a UCLA student posted a video rant against Asian students.  I cannot find the original video, but one of many copies is viewable below:

Today, UCLA’s newspaper posted an article about the video in which a university administrator calls the video “repugnant.”  That’s a good thing.  Yet, more needs to be done.  This is an issue that is larger than UCLA (although I certainly hope that UCLA addresses this appropriately).  There is a general lack of acceptance and inclusion by too many people in our society.  Even those (yes, including myself) who claim to be “pro-diversity” or who say they are not racist do, in fact, discriminate and say or do hurtful things.

We need to educate our young people about acceptance and inclusion, beginning in pre-school and elementary school before learned notions of hate and racism and discrimination are developed.  Yes, we learn to hate and we learn what is “right” or “wrong” about the ways in which we interact with others.  A cultural change is needed beginning with young children and continuing through colleges and universities and into the workplace.

This change will likely need political support and is surely going to take longer than necessary.  Let us all commit ourselves to doing our part to make sure that our future is educated on how we should interact with others.  Treating people “the way we’ve always done it” is not okay anymore.

Ironically, UCLA’s The Civil Rights Project put out a policy paper supporting some of what I am proposing in this post.  Perhaps the university needs to start with it’s students…