Key to diversity outreach: get out of your cultural comfort zone

by

Across the country and right here in Washington, demographics have and are changing rapidly. The 2010 Census  has illuminated the increase in diversity in the United States. It has been projected that by the year 2050 in the United States, Caucasians will be in the minority. It is important to remember that diversity is not just about race, but includes gender, socio-economic status, age, physical and mental abilities, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

Diversity is also inclusive of everyone. I have personally heard Caucasian people say, “I am not diverse… I don’t have a culture”. This is far from the truth. We all bring an individual uniqueness to the world. We all have a range of experiences and background story to share. No two people are exactly the same and that is what true diversity is all about.

Non profits and businesses and cultural outreach

Many businesses and organizations are faced with the challenging task of doing outreach, whether it is recruiting diversity to boards, councils, and group membership or to the workplace. In addition, non profits, community organizations and even churches often feel the need to increase attendance at events and in programs, especially if the surrounding community have increased its diversity. Handing out flyers and translating marketing materials into different languages is a good start, but is far from enough. Relationship-building plants the seeds of understanding and provides the spark to encourage collaboration. Find the key members of communities who can give insight into the issues and needs of that community. Don’t rely on googling a race or culture to learn how to approach and interact with them. Some of this information is helpful and can provide general and historical information, but too often we fall back on stereotypes like “most Asians are quiet or studious” and “most Latinos are Catholic.”

Face to face, eye to eye contact is required to really create a meaningful connection. I recall once hearing from a Caucasian woman who said she was forming a discussion group and the first topic was to be immigration. I asked her, “Did you invite any immigrants to your group to participate in the discussion?” To my astonishment, she said “No.” I wondered, “How can you have a meaningful discussion about immigration with no immigrants present?”

Effective outreach is an ongoing mission, which means visiting churches, grocery stores, schools and even setting up booths at community events where diverse populations are. Go to them. Do not expect them to come to you. Get out of your own cultural comfort zone. Break your normal routine. Instead of shopping at Safeway, do your grocery shopping at a Pakistani grocery store. This kind of effort also shows that you are sincere about making new connections and forming new partnerships.

Exploring the “ethnic” media

Another way for businesses and organizations to make connections is by connecting with the diverse media, which includes traditional and social media. Not everyone watches KIRO News and reads the Seattle Times. In the Puget Sound area, there are over 50 culturally-diverse newspapers, websites, television and radio stations, some of which that print and broadcast news in various languages. http://seabeez.com/ . Check out some of these sources and if you are having an event, send your press releases to this branch of the media.

Remember, appreciating and understanding diversity is an enlightening, lifelong journey, full of surprises, revelations and new relationships.

4 Responses to “Key to diversity outreach: get out of your cultural comfort zone”

  1. Fancy Frenchwood Fancy Frenchwood Says:

    Great article! I especially appreciate Kevin’s reminder that “we all bring an individual uniqueness to the world.” I also agree that there is a common misconception that diversity relates only to ethnicity. Diversity extends far beyond what is obvious from the outside. There are a number of fun ways to explore diversity in our communities. I have a friend who owns a research firm and she hosts monthly spa events for women. Well, I convinced a male friend to attend and he had a blast! He even won a drawing for eyelash extensions!! Needless to say, I ran over and confiscated that prize immediately…hey, I am the one who invited him. :) Be creative in how you choose embrace diversity!

    Reply

  2. Thach Nguyen Thach Nguyen Says:

    I’m proud that I live in one of the most diverse places in Washington state not only by race. Its awesome that we live in a free world that we can share our diversity with each other.

    Reply

  3. Estrella Chan Estrella Chan Says:

    I like Kevin’s insight on interacting with someone rather than just reading about a culture. The personal connection offers much more depth of understanding and richness.

    Reply

  4. Jen Drake Jen Drake Says:

    I liked your suggestion of visiting a diverse and different ethnic store! Chris and I have recently been exploring South Tacoma, and while that is the place I saw my first hydrolic gang cars jumping up and down in the road, it is also the first time I went to a Korean mega-store (Shin Shin on S. Tacoma Way) that was aboslutely incredible; the first time I went to a Russian store that sold produce at half the cost of Safeway; the first time I went to a Vietnamese store and found local eggs for only .99 cents; the first time I went to a Korean BBQ, and the first time that I discovered a culturally diverse and fascinating part of Tacoma that blew my mind.

    It’s nice getting out of my comfortable North Tacoma neighborhood and down into the Gritty Tacoma that is both famous and infamous, and feeling more a part of the community I call home.

    Thanks for the great article, Kevin!

    Reply

Click Here to Leave a Comment

Please leave these two fields as-is: