Making Gumbo

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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
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Board of Governors Teaching Award Phone Call

Just after the Spring-2013 semester got started, I walked into my office on the morning of January 11, 2013.  My desk phone message light was blinking which always irritates me.  So early in the semester, this could only be one of two irritating things; a student confused about something with an obvious, on the syllabus answer, or a student wanting into one of my classes which at that point is impossible. Either way… irritating.

Rather than let it blink for hours, as I have in the past, I decided to just hear the irritating message.  I hit the button.  A voice said, “Good afternoon Dr. Nacoste.  This is Chancellor Woodson. It is my pleasure to inform you that I am forwarding your teaching portfolio to the Board of Governors as our campus winner of the Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award…”

I sat at my desk holding my head.

Chancellor Randy Woodson went on to inform me that for reasons of protocol I could not yet tell anyone that I won.  He apologized for leaving a phone message, but I knew that was unavoidable given how hard it would have been to coordinate our schedules given the demands on his time and my own schedule.  He had called during one of my classes.

Chancellor Woodson also let me know that now that he had left this message, the formal letter would be brought to me. That letter would give me the details of all that had been set in motion because I had won the highest teaching award given by the university.

A lot of stuff was about to start happening.  I was to attend and be the speaker for the luncheon at the Office of Faculty Development Teaching and Learning Symposium.  I was invited to attend the Chancellor’s Celebration of Faculty Excellence Dinner.  In front of 20,000 people I would be formally presented the award at the Spring Commencement where I would join the Chancellor on the platform along with “other” dignitaries.  And then there was the thing that caught me off guard. The letter said:

The awarding of the BOG Award for Excellence in Teaching is also celebrated by the lighting of the Belltower.

What? Really?

You have to understand.  On the North Carolina State University campus the belltower is an icon.  It is lit red only under very special circumstances; winning a basketball game, a football game, winning a national championship.  When it is lit red, students, alumni, fans of the university drive by and blow their car horns, over and over.

Now I learned it would be lit red for me as the campus winner of the BOG Award for Excellence in Teaching.  I found that to be the thing that made me giddy.  What?  Wow!


posted by Rupert  |   8:54 PM  |   0 comments