2003-03-11 Holland Sentinel Taking employees on a guilt trip

Taking employees on a guilt trip
BY MIKE LOZON
Holland Sentinel

The latest politically correct fad goes by a number of names – racial sensitivity training, diversity awareness, diversity development.

But I can think of a title that is far more fitting – a waste of time and money for any business, school district, health-care organization, or non-profit group that buys into this effort at mind control.

That’s the nicest thing I can say about an endeavor in which self-styled experts charge thousands of dollars per client to tell their employees how to behave when interacting with someone from a minority group.

The stated goal of this re-education effort is to abolish the stereotypes that people might harbor about each other. In reality, the sessions – in their zeal to focus on the so-called plight of minority groups – only reinforce new stereotypes that serve to obliterate our uniqueness as individuals.

A glance at one program in our region shows the following opportunities to address the issues of racism and cultural diversity: a two-day Institutes for Healing of Racism; a one-day Unraveling Institutional Racism Workshop; a four-hour Unintentional Intolerance Workshop; a four-hour Diversity Theatre Workshop; and a nine-month Diversity Leadership Series.

While the titles are noble-sounding, the same can not be said for what really transpires at these sessions. Typically, they boil down to these two premises: As a privileged group, white people are consciously or unconsciously racist, and people of color are terribly victimized by that racism.

I was given a taste of what these sensitivity session are all about during the recent Ottawa Area Summit on Racism at Hope College.

Tammy Bruce, author of “The New Thought Police,” has experienced the real thing and she’s not any more impressed than I am.

“The drumbeat in a training session is that the participants are racist, and this fact needs to be exposed to them in the group. Participants are alternately cajoled, bullied, and pressured to accept that thinking certain ways to saying certain things is insensitive, bigoted, or otherwise wrong,” Bruce said. “The only purpose sensitivity training services is to indoctrinate people into a way of thinking that they currently do not hold.”

Despite the critics that has been directed at the sensitivity moment, there is no shortage of participants registering for these sessions.

That’s because no organization wants to appear insensitive in a nation where “victims are easily cowed by the slightest gesture, facial expression, or word that they might find uncongenial,” according to author Charles Sykes in “A Nation of Victims.”

However, there are small signs of resistance from some employees to these “therapeutic workshops” and “conscious-raising sessions.”

One nearby example involved a protest from Grand Rapids police officers who are requested to take racial-sensitivity training as part of a mediation agreement brokered by the US Department of Justice. The mediation process began after several minority groups complained that police officers targeted black males in their neighborhood.

Ed Hillyer, president of the police union, said many officers would attend grudgingly because they don’t see the need for such training. Hillyer said command officers who took the course told him they were insulted by the instructors.

In forcing officers, to attend, Hillyer said, “You have basically made a blanket statement saying, ‘You are racist and we have to heal you,’ If you are called a racist when you go in there, it doesn’t set well with people.”

So if racial-sensitivity training is not a panacea for human harmony, then how is an employer supposed to achieve that goal in the workplace?

How about the occasional – and free – reminder to practice the Golden Rule, which exemplifies human kindness and cooperation.

The Rule, an exhortation to treat others the way you want to be treated, is preached by every major religion and non of their references mention ace or culture.

“The Golden Rule is so simple, so universal, and unfortunately so underused,” said author Charles Panati in “Sacred Origins of Profound Things,” “To apply it in everyday life, round the world, would solve most problems.”

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