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“I firmly believe that whether you’re building a company or leading a country, a diverse mix of voices and backgrounds and experiences leads to better discussions, better decisions, and better outcomes for everyone.”

In the week following Republican candidate Donald Trump’s loathsome proposal to stop all travel in and out of the US based on religion, until “we figure out what’s going on” with “terrorism,” there have been a number of voices raised in protest. Finally. Trump’s brand of nationalistic fascism is nothing new,  and we’re seeing a resurgence of it around the world as crisis and change make people afraid. But Trump has hit a new low for Americans, at least since Japanese-Americans were interred and stripped of all possessions and dignity in the panic following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December , 1941.

One of the most eloquent voices is Google’s CEO Sundar Pinchal, who speaks with the voice of experience and authority. It’s worth the read for anyone who is concerned about allowing everyone from different cultures the possibility to be respected and to perform their best.

Let’s Not Let Fear Defeat Our Values.

Herd Behavior, Useless Meetings, and Solomon Asch.

An interesting blog entry from a Blanchard consultant. On the “uselessness” of meetings, his conclusion states, “When describing the attributes of an outstanding team member, we frequently include the word loyalty. Some well meaning leaders see candor and honesty as potential indicators of disloyalty—but actually, it’s the other way around. Pioneers should be honored, but frequently they are punished. Leaders should be informed, but frequently they are shielded. High performing teams are willing to tell it the way it is. This may be uncomfortable initially, but the long term payoffs are priceless.”

My response follows:

The reasons for meetings are highly contextual: on intended purpose, style of meeting management, level of personnel involved and situational urgency, as well as on company and national culture. Meetings in some countries are simply public confirmations of decisions already taken beforehand, whereas in others they may be truly necessary to gain consensus, and in still others a generator of new ideas through brainstorming. Or all three. In Dr. Asch’s research example, were the others around the table of equal social stature, higher or lower? Were they subject matter specialists and you are the only generalist?

“Truth” and “right answers” are almost never as clear-cut as Dr. Asch’s example. Nor are “high-performing teams who are willing to tell it the way it is” always the way to achieve results, long-, medium- or short-term. One person’s “candor and honesty” is another’s social faux pas or lack of respect, causing more damage than good. Don’t forget that any one person’s opinion is highly influenced by their own individual perspective, one that you may not necessarily share.

The best leaders, in my opinion, are those who leave open the possibility that they may be wrong, and are willing to “sacrifice face” in order to get to the more essential, more elemental shared truths. In Dr. Asch’s experiment, the true leader wouldn’t have given an answer at all, but instead would have asked “Why?” Why have you given an answer that I see as different? Why have you all answered the same? Am I missing something? It takes courage to ask these questions, and true leaders are those who display this sort of courage, instead of contrariness through “candor.”

There are many who are getting their panties in a twist about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict announced today. I’ve got two things to say:

1) There are only 6 people who are qualified to make a judgment about what should be the consequences of what happened the night that Zimmerman shot Martin: the 6 women on the jury. They are the only ones who have heard both sides of the story and are empowered to deliver a relatively objective decision. Everyone else, everyone, has a vested interest. And nobody else, nobody, is in a position to make a judgement. The judge is there to make sure everyone plays by the rules. And, considering there’s been no mistrial asked for or granted, it appears that everyone has.

2) This is how the justice system works in the State of Florida in the United States of America. If you don’t like the verdict, then change the system for the next time.

How? you ask. How can I change what I see as an unjust legal/judicial system in Florida? I’m not a politician, legislator or voter there. You’re right: you can’t change the system there. Not directly. But you can change the system where you are.

And as far as “unjust” is concerned, instead of screaming for blood revenge for a situation you frankly know nothing about, why not channel your vicious energy towards the unjust that you’re surrounded by every single day. Instead of shouting at talking heads on TV or beating up on internet trolls, fight to end poverty, hunger, disease and homelessness exactly where you are.

What will I do? Appropriately enough, today’s reading in church is Luke 7:25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. But until I come across a beaten and dying traveler on the side of the road, this checklist of change is one way, every day, I can change the system starting in my own backyard.

Go and do likewise.

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The following is an introduction speech for Rev. Jesse L. Jackson on the occasion of his visit to Europe during Diversity Tour 2010, organized and executed by GrapeVine Promotions International. The speech kicked off a press conference held at the Steinberger Kurhaus Hotel, the Hague (the Netherlands) on 4 February 2010. I’m reprinting it in honor of César Chávez Day, 31 March, 2012

I was born and raised in California, on the west coast of the US, in 1957. When I was coming of age in the 1960’s, the most prominent civil rights leader for us was César Chávez. As head and co-­‐founder of the United Farm Workers, señor Chávez was the embodiment of the migrant workers’ struggle for basic human rights in California and the Southwest. He was, for us, the most visible figure in the struggle for human rights in general.

During his “Fast for Life” on August 21, 1988, Chávez was visited by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson. Of course, by 1988, I had heard of Rev. Jackson and knew who he was. But Rev. Jackson was “East Coast” (according to Californians, pretty much everything east of Las Vegas is “East Coast”). He was for the blacks; he was distant. Chávez was our man, la familia, the one fighting for la raza. Until that day in August, 1988.

There is an iconic photograph from that day that for many represents putting in perspective the local and regional struggle for migrant workers’ rights in the larger global struggle for human rights everywhere. It shows Chávez, weak and thin from 36 days into his hunger strike, sitting in a simple wooden chair in the dusty sunlight. Kneeling next to him in the dirt is Rev. Jackson. Chávez is passing a simple crucifix that represents his “Fast for Life” to Rev. Jackson. The two appear to be praying together. At this moment, not only is Rev. Jackson accepting the Imagesymbolism of shouldering Chávez’ struggle, he is also accepting the practice of the fast. From this moment, he himself begins a 3-­‐day fast, going from this time forward with only water to sustain him, before passing the cause on to others. This symbolic struggle was then assumed by leaders across the country, which gave enormous attention to the workers’ struggle that Chávez advocated. After this, the plight of migrant workers in California became a national issue, thanks to the intervention of Rev. Jackson. But even more, for we “nativos” it symbolized a joining of forces. Jackson literally and figuratively offering his hand to Chávez, and to us, with a simple, “Hermano, sí se puede.

And of course that gesture has now echoed across generations and across continents, to where, finally, a man also from a disadvantaged background and of color, ascended the steps to the White House using the same words, “Sí se puede,” – “Yes we can.”

And to me, and to millions of Latinos over the world, the circle was made complete when as one of his first significant and lasting decisions as Chief Executive, President Barack Obama nominated the first Hispanic to the US Supreme Court: Her Honor Sonia Sotomayor. The hand that Rev. Jackson reached out to César Chávez was then offered to Barack Obama, and then through him to maestra Sotomayor. The circle is complete, and we are all stronger for it.

It is with great honor and humility that I introduce to you the pre-­‐eminent civil rights leader of our time, the champion of the voiceless and disenfranchised everywhere: Reverend Dr. Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr.

Leo Salazar
4 February 2010
The Hague, the Netherlands

A relevant and well-timed email from Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union, in honor of Martin Luther King, jr., the original “99%’er”:

Dear friend,
“There is something wrong with the policies, the priorities, and the purposes of our nation now. And we’ve got to say it in no uncertain terms.”

 

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said these words to a crowd of 1199 NY (now 1199 SEIU) healthcare workers in New York.

At the time, Dr. King spoke, depicting the existence of two Americas, one “flowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality” and the other defined by inferior schools and people working full time jobs for part-time wages. “Most of the poor people in our country are working every day.”

Today, the gap between the rich and poor is the worst it’s ever been. The fight still goes on, and it falls to us to realize Dr. King’s vision.

What is the single most important thing all of us can do this year to further Dr. King’s vision?


Today, just like in 1968, the fights for racial equality and economic justice are inextricably linked.  Compared to 10 years ago, the average family in the U.S. makes 7% less. This trend is even worse within some of the ethnic-subgroups. In fact, the average Black household is making 14.6% less, and the average Hispanic household is making 10.1% less.

In a time when the excesses of Wall Street executives have been brought into stark relief, it behooves us to pause and reflect not just on the reasons for our outrage, but on the ways we can bring the vision of Dr. King into the world of the 99%.

I say to you that the work is not done. It will take all of us thinking, and all of us working hard to bring about Dr. King’s dream of racial and economic equality.

Tell us what you think we, as a people, can do to most effectively make that dream a reality.

For decades, working people in this country have quietly embodied King’s legacy by taking collective action in the name of justice and equality. But today, corporate greed and extreme politicians have aligned to launch an unbridled assault on this legacy, attempting to withhold opportunity from those who work hard.

The vigilance of the 99 percent movement is a contemporary tribute to King’s brilliance, and among the best ways to ensure that our leaders stop ignoring the “other” America. But it cannot end there.

Realizing King’s vision for America is about recognizing the value of the collective good, reinvigorating the belief that opportunity is a defining factor of this country and not simply a privilege for the elite. Through collective action, economic justice and racial equality are both achievable.

Thank you for all the hard work you do, and the work we will do together to make Dr. King’s vision a reality.

Mary Kay Henry
President, SEIU

 

On the face of it, the Netherlands has a lot going for it. While it’s not particularly known for its spectacular natural scenery, it has a history of wealth, stability and well-reasoned politics. Well, recently anyway.

Despite this stable and reasoned background, the Dutch government is debating, today, whether to ban the wearing of the burka. Following closely on the footsteps of France (as they also did with the rejection of the EU constitution — ‘nuf said), legislators in the Netherlands are debating whether the burka can be allowed as an expression of religious freedom or be banned as a security threat and symbol of oppression of women and further (!) converting of Europe to Islam. Given the insecure economic times and perception among the majority populace that many of society’s problems are being caused by outsiders, guess which way they’ll go?

Enter Jitske Kramer and this reasoned and balanced look at the issues (cut/paste to your http://www.translate.google.com browser if you’re having trouble with the Dutch). A part of my comment:

“I see the burka-ban in the Netherlands along the same lines as the Sharia law ban in the State of Oklahoma in the US: a thinly veiled (pardon the pun) attempt to attack Islam by rabidly exaggerating a non-existent threat under the guise of ‘security’ or ‘cultural assimilation’.”

Elmer Dixon, one of the former leaders of the Black Panther Party in the US, will be visiting the  Netherlands. He is currently the President of one of
the foremost executive training institutes in the  US, Executive Diversity Services.  Mr. Dixon will be a featured speaker at the “Freedom Festivals” on May 5th.

In addition he will engage students and managers from companies in discussions around the value of diversity. This tour  provides many opportunities to engage Mr. Dixon to gain the benefit of his many decades of working within society for change.

You can read more about Mr. Dixon’s life and visit to the Netherlands here.

I had a meeting with the Imam yesterday in our city. Another  major step in getting local support for my Interfaith Dialogue initiative. Even though he is clearly a busy man in an important position, he was very generous with his time. For more than an hour we sat, drank tea and had a conversation about my idea for establishing an interfaith dialogue in Almelo. He was enthusiastic about the idea because it enhances his own mission. He said that even though his primary duty is to his followers, reaching out to the non-Muslim community is also an essential part of his responsibilities. Coincidentally (or not ;-)), I arrived at the same time he was giving a presentation about Islam and the mosque to a group of about 30 bureaucrats from City Hall. He regularly does the same with schools, civic organizations, other churches and the like. He said, “Even though we don’t proselytize, we do find it important to instruct others in our faith. After all, Mohammed (PBUH) was also surrounded by non-Muslims: Jews and Christians. It was also His responsibility to tell others about His faith.”

What I found most remarkable about our conversation was how learned the Imam was about Christian beliefs. And clearly how much respect he has for other faiths. In his presentation to the city employees, I found him somewhat defensive, without prompting explaining how the Islam is a peace-loving religion and the acts of violence committed in the name of Islam were perverting the teachings. Even though it’s understandable that he would do this, considering the amount of demonizing around the faith, I found it unfortunate. During our one-on-one, however, he was nothing but gracious, generous and supportive. I’ve clearly got the Imam in my corner.

It was interesting, even though the meeting went as expected, there were some interesting surprises. The first is how young the Imam is. A young guy, maybe in his early 30’s. When he was saying prayers and later in front of the group of city hall employees he was dressed in his ceremonial robe and headwear he projected an air of religious authority. But when he met with me he was wearing a simple business suit with tie, giving him the air of a junior associate with an accounting firm. I guess the thin, scraggly mustache didn’t help (no beard, as is the custom of most Turkish men). The second surprise, though it shouldn’t have been surprising, was that he spoke little Dutch. He is relatively new in his position, having been sent by Istanbul to Almelo for this assignment relatively recently. We had an interpreter, a young guy in his early 20’s. We got by, even though we weren’t able to converse on the level I was hoping to. Whenever the sentences or ideas became complex, the kid was a bit lost. He performed admirably, nonetheless. It was interesting to hear that every time he would translate for the Imam, he would, without fail, preface his text with “The Imam says . . . “.

A most amazing blog post on Saturday, 11 September by a certain Pam Geller praising the speech Geert Wilders gave at the site of the WTC in NYC. The caption to this photo was “The Dutch Parliamentarian and freedom fighter Geert Wilders gave a magnificent speech.” My response to this caption: “Wilders is anything but a ‘freedom fighter,’ unless you mean that term to be someone who is fighting to take away the ideals that freedom, liberty and the ‘Dutch tolerance’ stand for.” I was promptly viciously, and personally, attacked by the rabid right-wingers who populate the site.

My further comments regarding this speech:

As an American who lost a dear friend at the Pentagon on 9/11, I can’t think of many things more irrelevant, inappropriate or offensive than Geert Wilders, of all people, giving a speech at Ground Zero and continuously using the inclusive pronoun ‘we.’ As in ‘We are gathered here to draw a line [against Islam].’

It reminds me of that joke:
The Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion Tonto are riding on horseback through a narrow canyon, when suddenly they see hundreds of enemy Apaches lined up on the ridges above them.
“It looks like we have a problem, Tonto!,” exclaims the Lone Ranger.
Tonto replies, “What do you mean ‘we’, white man?”

The point being: don’t include me in your ‘we’, Wilders. You have no right to subjugate for your own nefarious purposes my right to freedom.

This Reader’s Comment, by Ismail Muhammad from Los Angeles, to a particularly narrow-minded editorial in the NY Times by Ross Douthat (in which Mr. Douthat, in short, portrayed historical

Next stop: Japanese internment camp, California, USA 1941-46

intolerance and the threat of discrimination in the US as “wisdom”), can be applied to many multicultural environments, including here in the Netherlands:

“I take issue with the idea that discrimination produces assimilation, and is excusable because it leads to unity. I’m curious to know your historical analysis of anti-black discrimination [in the US]. Discrimination does not result in assimilation. Assimilation is the result of being fully integrated into the native culture through the work place, social and government institutions, media, and popular culture. The more people are forced to recognize that they are different, the more likely they are to wield those differences as cultural weapons. In short, discrimination results in narrow-minded thinking on the part of the victim, who comes to see himself as irrevocably different and only finds acceptance in his own culture. This may even lead to dangerous interpretations of that culture, i.e. militant black nationalism, Islamic extremism, etc.”

It was a relief to read such a reasoned and rational view after suffering Mr. Douthat’s surprisingly provincial and black/white view of the world. There were many worthy comments, but the one by Mr. Muhammad I found particularly cogent.

This is, in my view, what is largely missing in the Dutch and broader European landscape: an accurate representation of  modern societies in “work place, social and government institutions, media, and popular culture.” Until this truly begins to happen, those who are new to the culture will continue to feel themselves underrepresented, ostracized, disenfranchised and “different.” It is not only up to them to make the changes: it is up to both the host society as well as the newcomers to reach out to each other.

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Leo Salazar

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