— Transforming Organizations, Revitalizing Communities and Developing Human Potential
Today is the fourth of July and the USA celebrates its Independence Day. I was privileged to see my fiancée become one of 51 new US citizens this morning. I was again reminded of the beautiful diversity that makes for this U.S. of A.
It brought to live one of the chapters of the forthcoming Collaborative Change Global Library and I want to share a section of the writing of Jeff Boudro and Marsha Wesley Coleman, who in their chapter When Cultures Meet describe the following:
In order to examine the dynamic created when two or more cultures meet it is important to understand the concepts of ‘Dominants’ and ‘Others.’ The definitions of what Dominants and Others are helps individuals notice these spaces in their own lives and enables them to make choices that will hopefully lead to well-functioning, robust systems. […] In these roles, participants play out the story of ‘Dominants’ (those who have more access to resources) and ‘Others’ (those who have less access to resources).
The terms Dominant and Other describe actual conditions or worlds that we can go in and out of depending on our circumstances and not labels we carry from situation to situation. The context is fluid and depends on whether or not you have more or less access to advantages and resources than another group. However, we can take inventory of the conditions on a societal level so that we can notice when we or others find ourselves in a certain category in most situations. Dimensions of dominance or other include things such as: gender, physical ability / disability, organization function, social class, citizen immigrant or expatriate, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation.
As Others enter the Dominant culture, Dominants experience the culture of the Others – which is different from their own – as being ‘off’ ‘wrong’ or ‘inappropriate.’ And often there is FEAR that because the culture of the Others is different, there could be a loss of what the Dominant culture has established. This might lead the Dominants to preserve their culture by reacting with the following behaviors: stereotype, typecast, education the Others to fit into their culture, trivialize the Other culture, exclude Others, marginalize, ignore or suppress them.
Within the Dominants there is tension between the Preserver/Protectors of the dominant culture and the Allower/Adapters of the other culture. The Allower/Adapters are a force for allowing the Others in. Preserver/Protectors and Allower/Adapters are in conflict with one another over the appropriate way to deal with the Others.
A similar tension exists within the Others. Within the Others, the Allower/Adapters are a force for entering and adapting to the culture of the Dominants. The Preserver/Protectors are a force for resisting the Dominant culture and maintaining the purity of their own culture. Allower/Adapters and Preserver/Protectors are in conflict with one another over how to relate to the Dominant culture.
Meanwhile the Others may experience feeling the following in the Dominant Culture: constrained, confused shaky, second-class, oppressed, loss of confidence, don’t know the rules, angry or resentful, tolerated. In the extreme they may feel and act incompetently. These feelings could lead to the following behavior in the Others: adapt, resist, rebel, complain, be depressed, have apathetic and/or shaky incompetent performance. Here’s what Others are not being in the Dominant culture: their full selves with their unique skills, emotions, beliefs, experiences, values and contributions. Without intervention this becomes a reinforcing cycle.
What would happen if instead of one culture (The Dominants) taking over, a new culture is created that is more robust than both of the original cultures? A Robust system – whether a family, a work team, an organization, a society, or a nation – is a high-energy system where members are using themselves fully, and the whole system is using itself fully. It would be more robust than the sum of its parts. Because of the way the culture develops, it would have an increased ability to survive and develop in its environment with an outstanding ability to cope with dangers and prospect among opportunities. Really, — What would happen?
Happy 4th of July!