Making Gumbo

Archive for the 'The Roux' Category

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Millennials, Me and David Brooks

I am sick and tired of hearing people through around stereotypes of today’s young adults; so called “millennials.” 

 Today’s young adults are not of poorer character, not weaker, than other generations have been. Those who say so are ignoring the fact that the social forces in today’s young adults’ lives are not the same as has been for other generations.

 In fact, I keep saying we are setting young people up. We are under preparing young people for the challenges of our nation’s neo-diversity, which includes the impact of new technologies. We are undermining young people’s ability to develop an adaptable skill set. 

 I have been saying all that for some time. Well, here is another voice saying some of the same things.  In a recent column, David Brooks wrote:

 “…one of the oddest phenomena of modern life [is] childhood is more structured than it has ever been, but then the great engine of the meritocracy spits people out into a young adulthood that is less structured than it has ever been.”

 Mr. Brooks goes on to say: “When I graduated from college, there was a finite number of career ladders in front of me… Now college graduates enter a world with 4 million footstools. There are many more places to perch…but few of the footstools pay a sustaining wage, seem connected with the others or lead to a clear ladder of rungs to climb upward.”

 Then Mr. Brooks makes his major point: “And how do we as a society prepare young people for this uncertain phase?  We pump them full of vapid but haunting praise about how talented they are and how their future is limitless.”

 And there you have it.  Limitless, you see, is a far greater truth that it used to be, and that is not all positive.  I have been pointing out, and Mr. Brooks seems to agree with me when he writes:

“Before there were social structures that could guide young adults as they gradually figured out the big questions of life. Now, those structures are gone.”

 Social structures?  I mean do people even remember “Blockbuster Videos,” “Borders Bookstores”?  And now Sears is fading away; whole malls are closing down all over America.

 That is the challenge young adults face today that no other generation has ever faced. No, Millennials are not whiny, weak, cry-babies. Today’s young adults are living in a new and newly unstructured work-life situation.  And Mr. Brooks is right about the psychology of that new work-life situation when he writes:

“Young people are confronted by the existential questions right away. They’re going to feel lost if they have no sense of what they’re pointing toward…”

 I say, it’s no wonder that all of a sudden a new word has been introduced to the American vocabulary and its, “adulting.”  And the given word is, “adulting is hard.”

 Look, to manage the new work-life situation, a more flexible and nimble skill-set will be required from here on. Psychologically, the first part of that skill set must be awareness of this new situation.  And that awareness must include understanding that much of what your well-meaning elders tell you is the answer doesn’t fit the shaky, wobbly, earth-quaking-with-change 21st century situation of the world of work.

 And to be of any help to young people, those of my generation, the elders, must accept, admit and tell that truth.

 Reference: David Brooks (2017, June 25), “How today’s youth navigate their 20s.” News & Observer (p. 17A).

 New York Times (post):



posted by Rupert  |   11:13 PM  |   0 comments
Thursday, June 22, 2017

Teaching about neo-diversity matters





2006 is the year I coined the concept of neo-diversity. And that year was the first year I began teaching my course the is grounded by and centered on the idea of neo-diversity; this time, circumstance where in America we all have to encounter and interact with people not like us on some dimension.  Attached to the concept is the idea that neo-diversity can cause interpersonal anxiety that can become volatile.

 What difference does my course make in the lives of my students?  June 2017, a student wrote to me to tell me.  She wrote:

 For me, your course truly opened my eyes. I was aware of hate acts occurring across the nation- I would witness them myself, experience the hate, or see it on the news. But I viewed this all with such a tunnel vision. I saw these hate acts as isolated events and foolishly taught that only racists or extremists committed these acts. And as a result, though these events would upset me, I did not take them as seriously and view them as being detrimental to our society. Your class changed me to having more of a funnel view.  Becoming aware of why bigotry still exists really altered my perspective. Besides helping me in my own life, understanding hibernating bigotry in a neo-diverse America has reinforced why [incidents of bigotry like the lynching of a black teddy bear outside of a high school] should be taken very seriously.”

 Turns out, teaching about neo-diversity does matter. Here is a link to my full Psychology-Today essay on that point:

posted by Rupert  |   8:47 PM  |   0 comments
Monday, June 19, 2017

Juneteenth 2017


Juneteenth; in Texas, in 1865, the newly freed from enslavement began to celebrate their Emancipation on June 19th.

June 19, 2017, I gave the Juneteenth Celebration Lecture for the NCSU African American Faculty and Staff Organization.

I told the story of my parents who were born into Jim-Crow, legal racial segregation and sharecropping; my father, Mr. O-geese Nacoste in 1918 and my mother Mrs. Ella (Malveaur) Nacoste in 1922. I told their story of living, surviving, thriving and raising and educating their children in the midst of hard, lawful but immoral, racism.

 Yet, they thrived; I and my siblings are the evidence. That is what Juneteenth is to celebrate; the legacy of a strong, determined people.

 But Juneteenth was always more than a celebration of Emancipation. Henry Louis Gates points out that Juneteenth was a celebration yes, but also a moment to be used “…for measuring progress against freedom and inculcating rising generations with the values of self-improvement and racial uplift.”

 Look, I know, we all can see that right now we are in the midst of difficult days. But that is not new.

 In 1968, Dr. King told us to get ready for these days; he said… “We’ve got some difficult days ahead.”  Dr. King said that in 1968 to warn us against complacency.  He also said: “We are in a battle… for the soul of America.

 No matter whether you are black, white, mixed, GLBT, Latino-Hispanic, woman or man, Muslim or Christian, gamer or cosplayer, for all who believe in human rights, in equal justice, we all have a role to play in the struggle.

Juneteenth is a reminder that the work continues and that we shall overcome because of the example of the legacy of strong and determined peoples.

Find your role. Seize the time.

posted by Rupert  |   11:47 PM  |   0 comments
Sunday, June 04, 2017

#RespectDiversity/Bill Maher is no George Carlin

Bill Maher is supposed to be a comedian, but he’s no George Carlin.

 I have never liked Bill Maher as a comedian, nor as a wanna-be political thinker. I have always felt that his so-called political comedy is mean-spirited. Now, Mr. Maher has shown himself to be just another American who has been seduced into participating in the epidemic of casual use of anti-group slurs. As a joke, he called himself a “house-nigger.” In no way was that funny, satirical or innocent.

There are no innocent racial slurs.

There are no innocent gender-identity slurs.

There are no innocent religious slurs.

There are no innocent mental-health-condition slurs.

 But in today’s 21st century, it’s all good, people say. Yet, no, it’s not all good.

 I will not listen to any comedian whose “comedy” relies of anti-group language and stereotypes. I will not let that disrespect into my psychology. Too many of us do, not realizing that when we do, we let slip the dogs of war into the psychology of our everyday lives.

 Language-bigotry is a havoc ripping apart the fabric of America. We cannot respect each other with all the everyday (private and public) use of anti-group slurs.

 About Bill Maher’s language behavior, some have asked, “…what’s the big deal?  There are black people who call each other “nigger” why can’t a white man use the word?” 

 Turns out, no matter whose mouth it comes out of, no matter the color of that person’s skin, the use of the slur “nigger” or “nigga” is the language of hate and discrimination.  Over and over again, in my books, in my essay writing for Psychology-Today, I have made that point.  Until I can no longer use my voice, I will make and defend that truth.

 “It’s still the language of hate and put down”:

 “To Chet (son of Tom) Hanks: No innocent racial slurs”:


posted by Rupert  |   8:44 PM  |   0 comments
Friday, May 05, 2017

Yavapai College Students Review “Taking on Diversity”

I wrote “Taking on Diversity” because I believed I had something important to say to help American’s have productive intergroup conversations in these difficult times.

 Combining my life of work on diversity issues, with my expertise as a social psychologist and my use of that expertise to observe and analyze college students’ responses to social changes in America, I believed I had something important to say. I believed that what I had to say could help young people through our new difficult days of intergroup tension.

 After publishing “Taking on Diversity,” I have been waiting to learn if I was right. Here and there, I have gotten hints (through letters, emails and reviews) that my book helps. But yesterday, I got more than a hint.

 I received an email from Dr. Mark Shelley who teachings at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. At that community college, the students are mostly white, with a good representation of Hispanic people and some representation of American Indians.

 Being at the end of his semester, Dr. Shelley wrote to let me know that he had used my book in his “Race and Ethnic Relations” course. He wanted me to know that my book had been important as a tool in helping his students develop new thinking about intergroup issues in America. Mark showed me the truth of that by sending along some of his students written reactions to reading my book.

 From their final reflections about reading “Taking on Diversity,” here are a few examples of what his student’s wrote.

 –White male, mid-20s: “Taking on Diversity has definitely been a book that made me think, and this is thanks in large part to Nacoste’s unusual perspective as a social psychologist… Many of my pre-existing ideas have been challenged, and some of them discarded for a newer model, and this is the sort of book that I will be thinking about and processing for a long time to come.”

 -White female, late teens: I enjoyed this book. I found it easier to read than a regular textbook and was able to learn a lot of new ideas and concepts. I think it did change my outlook and made me realize how lightly racial slurs are thrown around. I find myself more aware of this in songs and in conversations I hear around me. Having more education now I will try to be more aware of stereotypes I have and try to not “go along” with others when they make racial jokes.

 -White male, early 20s: “This book has changed the way in which I view people. I used to make side remarks about people. But I have learned ways to communicate to others as anyone else, to not act differently if there is a person of a different race, and how I can control my social anxiety to allow myself to communicate with all people. Reading through the book, I found myself looking at certain things in my life, and made me to reexamine what I am doing with my life. I realized that I use to follow people, and still do today. This book has changed me in the way I think about certain situations, creating better outcomes. Nacoste helps his students in the classroom, as his book helps others look at themselves. “

 -60 year old male veteran: “I found Mr. Nacoste’s observations on White privilege refreshingly enlightening and will help me in developing interpersonal strategies for this area…. I had an appreciation of Mr. Nacoste’s coverage of “White privilege” because, like “racism,” I believe it is a hugely overused, misused and weaponized word and I’m worried that many younger people don’t understand this.”

 -White female, late teens: “The last nine chapters of Taking on Diversity were very intriguing and inspiring. I am sad this book has come to a close, however I know I will take the lessons I learned from it with me throughout my life. It has provided me with real life situations and scenarios that might occur in my personal life, and has shown me tools to use to improve those experiences…. As Nacoste says over and over, there are no innocent. Therefore, it is time to acknowledge our faults and come together in a unified neo-diverse world.”

 I responded to Dr. Shelley’s  email with this:

 “I am almost breathless. Your students really got my message. Wow… your students’ tone of sincerity in receiving the challenges of my book as an influence on their thinking…I am so gratified by that. And I am very thankful to you for giving my book a try in your class. You have my sincere thanks for using my book and for sending along your students comments. Oh my…”

 Having received that strong confirmation of my hope, I am even more hopeful about the impact my book can and will have.

posted by Rupert  |   8:06 PM  |   0 comments
Sunday, March 05, 2017

Humans of NC State University

Humans of NC State

“I’ve been at this university almost thirty years. When I first got here, twenty-three percent of this campus was female. What is it now? It’s 50/50. So somebody who was here twenty years ago would be looking at this going ‘what the …’ Exactly. So you do the sex of a person, gender identity – we have a GLBT center. We do religion, we do ethnicity… This campus twenty years ago didn’t have any of that, but now we do. And people who are sending you here have no clue. So they say, ‘Go have a good time,’ and you come here and you go, ‘Oh my god!’ That’s the challenge of today: to help young people understand where we live now and the context in which we live.”
-Dr. Rupert Nacoste

posted by Rupert  |   2:02 PM  |   0 comments
Friday, November 22, 2013

A Who Dat From “The Technician”

    About a month after receiving the Chancellor’s call and letter, I received official notice from the UNC-System Board of Governors.  Now I could tell my colleagues, students, the whole campus.  Starting in the just past Fall semester, I had been working very closely with the editors of the Technician. In fact, already this Spring-semester, those editors had published one of my guest columns, “A wake up call to neo-diversity gumbo.”

 The Technician

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013 12:11 am

Rupert W. Nacoste, Ph.D., Guest Columnist |

     I am a Louisiana black-Creole from the bayous.  Just think swamps, alligators, crawfish and gumbo and you get the right picture, and if your imagination is really good, the right smells.

     Delta Upsilon Fraternity had a gumbo gathering on Jan. 16. One of their member’s families is from Slidell, La. and he made gumbo. With his gumbo, he represented my “…who dat” nation very well.

     So no, I didn’t cook. I was there to lead a discussion of neo-diversity. You see, we no longer live in a society where our racial contacts are controlled and restricted by law. Not only that, but nowadays, every day, on the N.C. State campus each of us has some occasion to interact with a person from another racial, gender, ethnic, religious or sexually oriented group. That’s true all over the United States.

     Using some words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I introduced the idea of neo-diversity and got the fifty-five or so students talking. To help our fellow Wolfpackers understand how much and how fast things have changed I let them know that I, a dark-skinned black man, grew up in the Jim Crow South – that time of legal segregation and legally supported bigotry. We have gone from that to neo-diversity where our racial contact and interactions are not controlled by law or anything else. We have gone from that to the second inauguration of a black, racially-mixed man: President Barack Hussein Obama.

     This neo-diversity has come to America quickly. That is causing some people to panic and try to avoid everyday social interactions on our campus. So, I challenged the students to learn to interact across the superficial group lines. Learn now because when you leave this campus, employers are looking for people who can do that. But learn it now, I said, because everybody here at NCSU is Wolfpack.

     WOLF! PACK!

     Though it’s fun, that cheer is empty if you don’t mean everybody on our campus. Wherever we are in America, we have to learn to interact with each other as individuals, not as representatives of a group. If you try to interact with someone as a representative of a group, that interaction will go bad because your strategy will require that you rely on stereotypes. And no person is going to respond kindly when they feel you aim a stereotype at them. In this age of neo-diversity we all have to learn to interact with the person standing in front of us and not with our ideas about the group.

     That night at Delta Upsilon I felt good because everybody seemed to be willing to engage in dialogue and take on new thoughts. For an hour we had a good time, but I had to bring things to a close because my old knees were telling me to go home. 

     Many students came up to me to thank me for coming, talking and making it fun. One young white woman was struggling to find the words to thank me. “Thanks,” she said, “that was…that was…” Someone else standing there said, “…compelling.” The young woman who was struggling shook her head and said, “…no…yes it was that…but it was…a wake-up call.” 

     That’s why I give talks and presentations about neo-diversity. I do what I can to get every audience to wake up and see our neo-diverse America. I want everyone to wake up to the fact that America just ain’t what it used to be. I want all of us to wake-up, acknowledge and appreciate our wonderful, American neo-diverse gumbo.


     Given my strong relationship with the editors, with a copy of the Board of Governor’s official letter I sent word to the editors of our school newspaper The Technician. I was blown away by the editorial they wrote that week.  Part of what they said was:

     In addition to his academic achievements, Nacoste is a strong supporter of civil rights and social justice. His research on interpersonal relationships and modern racial tensions has led him to publish multiple essays on what he calls “neo-diversity.” His classes, often called tough or intense, include his thoughts on the false claim that we live in a post-racist United States, and he challenges his students to confront prejudice on campus and within their personal lives. He seeks to genuinely educate students about these tough topics.

     “Wherever we are in America, we have to learn to interact with each other as individuals, not as representatives of a group,” Nacoste recently wrote in a guest column in Technician.

     “If you try to interact with someone as a representative of a group, that interaction will go bad because your strategy will require that you rely on stereotypes.”

     We greatly respect Nacoste and completely support the Board of Governors in their decision to recognize him with this award. He is a model of both academic excellence — through the respect he garners from students — and civil rights activism — through his willingness to promote diversity and thoughtfully discuss hard topics.

    So Nacoste, this goes out to you. Who Dat?


posted by Rupert  |   8:54 PM  |   0 comments