A multicultural organization is one that embraces the diversity of our community. The term was coined by James Wesley Rawles, a professor of religion at Harvard University. Rawles was also one of the first to use the term multicultural in the academic world. His insight was that one of the most important components of creating a multicultural organization is to be clear about the differences between a predominantly white, mostly Asian, or a mixture of both.
It’s nice to see a company that is willing to embrace the diversity of our community. One might imagine that with such diversity around, there wouldn’t be any need for multicultural organizations, but that is not the case at all.
I work for a multicultural organization. Not because I identify with the culture, race, or ethnicity of the people my boss hires. Far from it. But for the sake of argument, let’s say I am ethnically black. I am also white. Because I am a Caucasian. And I can’t argue with that.
Diversity means that I can do something about the issues that I am aware of. It also means that my ideas are valuable and have value to other people. I don’t know if I am the first person to say this, but I am the first one to write this.
I believe it. Many people of color have complained about discrimination in the work force, but this is the first time I have seen it in action. When I started working at a large company, I was the only person of color in the team. I was the only non-white person in the office. That was my job. I was the only person that was really allowed to be creative and do the work I was best at.
I know we’re going to sound like a broken record, but I am not talking about the work force, I am talking about the work force as a whole. In my professional life I have worked for companies of all types and sizes. As far as I could tell, there was no racial discrimination in my career. I believe it was because I was “one of the gang.” I was one of the “cool kids.” I was the only kid that could get away with being creative.
I have a friend who is still in the industry and he said, “I’ve been working in HR, and it’s like, ‘oh, what do you mean you can’t get away with being creative?’” And that was when I realized I had to do something about my own discrimination. When I was able to be creative and get away with it, I decided I’m not going to let it continue.
I think that was a pretty cool thing to realize, especially because it made you realize that you really do have the power to change things, even if it’s a rather small change.
Sure, sure, sure. You can see it in the job ads, and the way diversity is discussed in the workplace. But the reality is that for too many in the industry, it is simply not an issue. Diversity is not a priority. A few years ago, it was barely included in the hiring process. But in that time, I have seen it come to a head in the workplace, with people making racist jokes and even calling out people who are different from them in conversations.
The thing is, that’s not how people talk in offices. In our experience, it’s the rare person who doesn’t think people of all backgrounds are “sad.” But they really are, when you stop to think about it. This is one of the biggest things that can get in the way of recruiting, retention, and even job satisfaction when it comes to diversity.