Is this the Beginning of the End for Diversity Training?

By | 2017-01-13T13:42:28+00:00 January 22nd, 2009|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: , |4 Comments

As I watched the historic and emotional Inauguration of President Barack Obama, I pondered the future of diversity as we know it. As someone who was born at the cusp of the Generation X and Millennial generations, I tend to identify with both groups’ attributes, especially when it comes to accepting and celebrating diversity.

Obama’s victory, as our nation’s first African-American president, not only reflected this ability of young voters to embrace diversity, but also highlighted the fact that race was not the reason that they cast their ballots for him. Polls of younger voters consistently indicated that they were motivated  primarily by his message of change, not his race.

It’s not uncommon these days for those of us in Generation X and the Millennial  groups  to attend school, socialize and work with people who are from different backgrounds than our own. As a group, we are more comfortable with diversity, which is why during this election we as younger voters came out to support a candidate that inspired us and who we felt was qualified to move our country forward. Very few of the fellow Generation X or Millennial voters that I talked to even mentioned Obama’s race.

To us it was simply no big deal. Every day we encounter people, whether in real life or in the media, who are different from us in some way, making it easier for us to be comfortable with differences.

That’s why I wonder what will happen to the  post-election discussions on diversity. Young people today realize there are differences, but like this election has shown, they are not as  emotionally invested in them as previous generations were. And now, they have a role model who exemplifies diversity.

How do you think an Obama presidency will transform the discussion on diversity?

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About the Author:

Melanie Sklarz
Melanie Sklarz was the the web content and social media coordinator as well as the lead blog writer for the RespectfulWorkplace.com website. She has a MA in Women’s Studies from the Ohio State University. For more information, visit melaniesklarz.com.

4 Comments

  1. Melanie Sklarz January 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Judy, thanks for your comment. I am sorry if I implied that all older Americans are not comfortable with diversity. As you have proven, there are many individuals out there, of all ages, who embrace diversity.

    What I am suggesting, like you, is that we get past this notion of looking at people based solely on their differences, whether they are skin color, religion, heritage, gender, etc and see them for who they are and what they stand for.

    I believe the large turnout of young people, who voted for Barack Obama, signified a generational and cultural shift in our society. They were able to look beyond his race and hear his political message of change. This, I certainly do not believe, is the end of racism or any other type of discrimination, but I believe it is a major milestone in that discussion.

  2. Judy January 23, 2009 at 8:41 am

    I want to be careful how I say this, because it is not meant to offend you, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts. It is interesting to hear your perspective on a different generation. However, I think you are being a bit prejudice with your view of us older folks. I am 50 years old (the end of the baby boomers) and I am married to an African American man. I work with many people of different races that are the same age and younger and we have developed very deep friendships based on our similar interests and skin color has never been a factor. I have had more young people make comments about how they could never marry outside their race then I have from people my own age. My teanage chilldren (who are bi-racial) have mentioned to me that they are tired of kids refering him to the first “Black” president. They feel that it denys the other part of his heritage. They wish more of their friends knew the issues and what he stands for instead of just seeing a young, good looking, black man. I hope this gives you different perspective. Thanks.

  3. Christine Funt January 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I do think that you’ve made too much of a generalization that, “As a group, we (your generation) are more comfortable with diversity.” There are always going to be some people in a generation more comfortable than others. I’m 58 and Caucasian, but grew up in a poor, very mixed neighborhood. I’ve always been very comfortable with different races and nationalities. But, I see in your generation, people who are very prejudiced. I think what is scary for me is that you can feel your generation may be handling diversity better, even with all the problems that are still going on. What are you not seeing? Please don’t get comfortable and applaud your generation because there is still a long way to go.

  4. Patty Razzante April 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I enjoyed reading the comments on this blog, and for me it is hopeful that as generations spend more time around people who are different they will begin to change. Personally I think employees bring more to the workplace that was learned from parents during their developmental years than they realize. This holds true especially for stereotypic attitudes. I think Obama will help change racial attitudes, but there is a list of other arenas still needing “diversity” training, or at least sensitivity training. Like I said, I am hopeful – my own children seem to be way ahead of where I was at their age.

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