On NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday, a Los Angeles resident shared an account of some unshared salsa (and overt prejudice) at a South Central deli, something he says speaks to the tensions that African-Americans and Latinos are facing in his community. It was interesting to listen to, interesting to consider closer to home. As Hispanics become a majority in many communities, will they afford others the access and fairness they once (still) clamored for? What happens when the tables turn, when a minority becomes the majority, when Democrats take over in Congress? How noble and wise are they, are any of us?
This stuff was all still fresh in my head this morning when I had a chance to sit in a diversity workshop led by Kinneil Coltman (with HR’s training and recognition group). I value diversity, appreciate its importance to any enterprise (especially a university), like to learn about and get to know people who are unlike me. I still struggle with one concept: What am I? Who are you? Why and how do we work so hard to define ourselves in ways that identify “us” and exclude others? How many little labels and tags do you want to follow your name? Which of those labels and tags are the ones that are “important,” the ones that make the difference between getting a little extra salsa or eating your burrito (or brisket or bratwurst or bok choy) dry? Who gets to decide?
One thing’s for sure: If you’re ever in my kitchen, everyone gets extra sauce.