Archive for December 1, 2011

As a nation and as a people, I believe that we have come far in the areas of multicultural competence and social justice. We still have a long way to go…

Case in point…I was living in Chapel Hill for the past few years. During my first year around the holidays, I went to Target to pick up some candles to celebrate Hanukkah. Target only had a small display at the end of an aisle, but they at least had a couple of the basics. I purchased my candles and celebrated my holiday. The following year, I went back to Target several days before the start of Hanukkah to get another set of candles. As I searched the store, I could not find the display. My search was a failure, so I sought out an employee to get help. I walked up to a male staff member and asked him where I could find the Hanukkah display. His response was that the store did not recognize the holiday. WHAT?!? I had a moment where I needed to process his statement and decide whether to talk this person through an educational moment about sensitivity and awareness or simply move on and recognize that the employee was not responsible…the store was. North Carolina is in the south but I had found the candles at that exact store the year prior. I chose to move on and luckily knew about a reform synagogue about 25 minutes away with a gift shop.


While that is only one of many stories I have regarding insensitivity to cultural diversity, there are even some small gestures that speak volumes about the growth of our society with multicultural competence. I went to Target in Silver Spring, MD to do some holiday shopping this past weekend. I avoided the madness of the Black Friday shopping and did most of my shopping so far online. Still, I wanted to grab a couple of items. On the list were some small LED decorations for my desk at work. I heard they were supposed to be discounted, so I picked up three: a tree, a snowman and a Star of David. I happen to identify as Jewish but I also celebrate the gift-giving and family gathering sides of Christmas. When I got to the register, the tree and snowman were both at the discounted price, but the Star of David was the regular full price. Confused, I addressed the cashier about the price difference. She examined the items and agreed that the only difference she could se was that the Star of David packaging was blue instead green like the other two. I immediately commented that the sales were not for Jewish items, just Christmas. She took a quick moment and then told me not to worry. She cancelled the Star of David scan and doubled up on the snowman, effectively giving me the discounted price for the Star of David. Although the store’s prices discriminated against Jews with the same items costing different amounts, this Target employee accounted for the error and made my day by her small act of kindness and awareness.


These Target stories highlight the highs and lows of just one aspect of our cultural diversity, while focusing on institutional oppression and discrimination specifically. I do what I can during interactions with the students I supervise and advise, particularly through developmental activities like the Fabric of Oppression and Cross the Line. Each new generation pushes our society forward, but new issues keep popping up. Slang words become regular vernacular. YouTube clips further inappropriate jokes. Celebrities get away with making outrageous comments and still maintain popularity. Our job, as people, is to be aware, continue to learn and be willing to speak up when we know something is wrong.