Monday, May 9, 2011


I was taking a diversity class last week - supposed to be an overview while at the same time going deep, all within 4 hours.

We introduced ourselves and told a memorable experience related to diversity. We talked about things like some people are ok standing close to people while other people are not; some people are "touchy-feely" while others are not.

We were told about the different stages of being "culturally competent." In the middle is this stage called minimization. That's when you take someone of one type of diversity and make comparisons, so supposedly you are minimizing their diversity. I find that interesting - it's as if we want to leave people in their categories. On the other hand I suppose if someone told me they know what it's like to be in a wheelchair because they spent a week in one then yes, that's minimizing it.

We did an exercise where we watched a well known video from the late 60s where the teacher split the class into blue eyed kids and brown eyed kids. Then one group was treated badly for a day and the next day they switched. Then you are supposed to see how behavior changes and how people can act.

Then we got to the section on white privilege. There was a paper with 30 questions like whether you had to worry when pulled over because of a person's race. On that questionnaire, some questions didn't specify race, so maybe I felt different due to disability. Then we started discussing and I pointed out that while someone of a certain race might feel uncomfortable in a given situation, so might I, because of disability, which is isolating. I was told that we couldn't discuss this because we were talking about white privilege. I suppose I was minimizing things. But the problem as I see it is, we never talked about disability and how that changes things. And a big difference is, after I go to a place and feel different, I go home and though I love my family, they don't have disabilities. Is that a double whammy?

We ended with a brief exercise where we did get to talk about how people with disabilities have things they might not have elsewhere. What?!! Ummmm.. But we were in small groups by then (other small groups talked about other diverse groups), and no one in the group talking about disability had a disability. So they came up with accessible parking spots being present and one other thing I forget. Both of these are required by law - definitely not extras. I think that's minimization.

But go back to comparisons. I don't know what it's like to be a different race. But I do know that disability crosses race and other things. When we did the MS Walk on Saturday this was quite clear. Beautiful day. Wonderful family and friends. Community - all fighting the same thing.

But back to a harsh reality. Disability is most often very unique. I'm the only one in my house who has MS. No matter how much I am loved, no matter how much support I have, it's still MS. At the end of the day, when I go to bed, I'm alone with it. And there is where God can be found.


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