Making Gumbo

Tue, 17 Apr 2018

Starbucks’ and America’s Neo-diversity Anxiety


How many times have I sat in a Starbucks waiting for a friend before I ordered anything. I guess I was lucky no one called the police since I am a big, giant, dark-skinned, black man.

Most Americans have now seen the outrage inducing video of the police taking away two black men who had been sitting quietly in a Philadelphia Starbucks waiting for a friend. The why is that a Starbucks employee called the police because those two black men were sitting in the store and had not ordered anything.

Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks published a letter of apology. In it he says a number of things, but this line of thinking stuck out to me:

“We have immediately begun a thorough investigation of our practices…  Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome—the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong.  Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did… We also will further train our partners to better know when police assistance is warranted.”

Mr. Johnson, the CEO, has also now said that employees will be put through unconscious bias training.

That whole line of thinking misses the problem.

The problem today is not unconscious bias. The manager who called the police was very aware of what they were doing and why; they felt anxious and uncertain with the presence of two big, black men.

If Starbucks is going to put people through training, it should be training people to acknowledge and manage their neo-diversity anxiety. That is an anxiety about who belongs in what spaces; that is the anxiety of “who are among the ‘we’ and who are among the ‘they.’

To be effective, the training must start at the top of the organization.

For any organization to work through today’s neo-diversity issues, the organizational leadership must have a deep understanding of the root of that neo-diversity anxiety.  And the most important step in that direction is not training workers but training the top-level executives.

First line of change is getting the Executive board to understand that neo-diversity anxiety is rampant in their ranks and in our country. That is the only way the Executives and the organization will learn to operate in our multicultural 21st century with respect.

I coined the concept of neo-diversity. Like I do at colleges and universities, I can do the kind of neo-diversity training the Starbucks executive board needs.

Tell somebody:

posted by Rupert  |   12:55 PM  |   0 comments
Sun, 11 Mar 2018

Wakanda Presents an Anti-Bigotry Proposal to the Triangle Model-UN

Wakanda Forever!

March 3, 2018, on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, I was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Triangle Model United Nations. As it is stated on the Triangle Model UN website, “Our mission is to create a Model United Nation’s conference for middle school students in North Carolina and beyond that is professional, high quality, and allows for and embraces the diversity of delegates from different backgrounds, preparation levels and experiences.”

As keynote speaker, I knew it was my job to set a tone and deliver an opening message that would connect to the meeting theme of examining ways to fight “…the rise of nationalism and extremism… and move toward unified development.” How could I, this old professor, do that in a way that would excite and engage the thinking of these middle-school kids?

Well, given the way the movie has captured the imagination of our nation, especially young people, I presented myself as a delegate sent by King T’Challa, the Black Panther. Declaring myself the proxy delegate from the Kingdom of Wakanda, I presented the Wakandan anti-bigotry proposal to the gathering of the Triangle Model UN.

To quote my speech, I said:

“To the Secretary General and to the distinguished representatives, delegates and ambassadors of the nations represented here today, I bring you greetings from the Kingdom of Wakanda and King T’Challa, the Black Panther.

Wakanda Forever!”

[There was an audible reaction from my audience; gasps and giggles.]

“What King T’Challa and all of Wakanda is saying through me today, is that we must deal with each other as if we are all of the same tribe; no worry about who are the ‘we’ and who are among the “they.’ We must treat each other with respect for the humanity that we are all members of; no, us versus them.

Humanity Forever!

How do we create that world where we all respect each other no matter our tribes, no matter our background group memberships? We must train people to stand against bigotry by using this interpersonal strategy: “I’m sorry I find that kind of language offensive, it hurts me.”

I thank you the UN for listening to the Wakandan proposal to you for action, to create training programs to develop interpersonal leaders who will speak up against bigotry in all its forms.  We need, humanity needs, interpersonal leaders who will speak up against bigotry against women, bigotry against the disabled, bigotry against religion, bigotry against homosexuals, transgender or the gender fluid. We need, humanity needs, interpersonal leaders who will stand up against bigotry in all its forms.

That is what the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was telling the world when he said,

“The greatest tragedy of this age will not be the vitriolic words and deeds of the children of darkness. But the appalling silence of the children of light.”

You Delegates of the United Nations are the representatives of the ‘Children of Light.’

To slow and stop the rise of global nationalism and extremism, the UN needs to train interpersonal leaders to speak up against bigotry in the small interpersonal moments where extremism starts. That is our, the Kingdom of Wakanka’s proposal to you.

Humanity Forever!”

A couple of days after, I got an email from one of the organizers of the event, Sumana.

Sumana wrote to say:

“We received many positive comments regarding your talk from both teachers and students. Several of the teachers told us they thought your talk was a perfect fit for the theme of the conference and said they thoroughly enjoyed it. I also overheard many students discussing your Black Panther reference, which I think they really appreciated.”


posted by Rupert  |   2:02 PM  |   0 comments
Fri, 16 Feb 2018

“Getting Along on a Neo-Diverse Campus”: University of Georgia Ramsey Lecture April 2018

Just announced Thursday, February 15, 2018:

In April I will be at the University of Georgia giving the College of Public Health Ramsey Lecture: “Getting Along on a Neo-Diverse Campus.”


posted by Rupert  |   1:41 PM  |   0 comments
Thu, 08 Feb 2018

“What Are You?!: An Anxiety Legacy of Laws of Segregation

America has a long history of teaching people to try to use skin color to “put people in their place.” That, of course, has never been a foolproof approach, but it is definitely not working today with the increase in interracial (and other intergroup) dating, marriage and childbearing.

So now when people can’t rely on “…the look of a person” too many people experience an intense psychological discomfort. Then to settle themselves in the social interaction, without thinking, people rudely blurt out the question, “…what are you?” Over the years, a number of my mixed-race college students have written about having this experience.

Here is my essay about the “what are you” neo-diversity anxiety moment which includes one of my @NCState student’s stories about having that experience:

posted by Rupert  |   12:13 PM  |   0 comments
Fri, 02 Feb 2018

College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NCSU Quotes Dr. Nacoste

It is an interesting experience to find yourself quoted in a tweet sent out to all who follow the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) at the university (NCSU) where you teach. The quote came from my Convocation speech and was sent out today (February 1, 2018) with the tweet that read:

Sage advice from @DrNacoste. #ThursdayThoughts


posted by Rupert  |   11:19 AM  |   0 comments
Wed, 24 Jan 2018

Women’s Marches 2018: Whose Really Woke?

I am disheartened when I see “us versus them” rise up among those who say they care about social Justice.

Not “us versus them” between people who seek a just society for all versus those who are fighting to keep themselves in power. No not that…

“Us versus them” among people who say they want a just society, but just can’t put up with people who don’t think about the issues exactly the way they do.

“Women’s marches without intersectionality is just white supremacy.”

“Marched last year, but not marching today because I realized these people are marching against 45 (Trump), not against systematic racism, etc.”

If we keep objecting to the motives of people of goodwill who are trying to march for, work for Justice in some way, our fight for Justice will always be futile.

If we keep rejecting the idea of working with people who are learning to try to work for Justice, our fight for Justice will flounder.

If we reject the idea of working with people because they are not woke in the way you would like, there is no hope of achieving real social Justice.

If for you to march for Justice, everybody has to see everything from your perspective, you are not woke.

To work for Justice always means working with people you do not always agree with on focus, strategy, priorities or vision. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. had to be brought into a full understanding that the issues of oppression were more than racial. And that happened through his interactions and civil conversations with others who were working on racial/social Justice, but with different strategies and focus.

Even if they are trying, no one can see past their limited perspective without direct contact and (civil) confrontation with a different perspective. When you think someone is making a mistake of vision, talk to the person, not at the person. Educate, don’t berate.

Disagree, use your voice to raise issues, but do not withdraw your participation. In the 1960’s my father, a janitor and a bus driver, was also a grass-roots politician in the Jim-Crow South. He worked with all kinds of people, who had a mix of motivations, some with limited and mostly self-interested vision; but he worked with those people push the Justice agenda.

Yes, he was frustrated by those people sometimes; I heard him tell my mother so. But he went on using the small doorway into their frame of reference to get things done. My father, Mr. O-geese, showed solidarity and shared effort with those folks, using his calm but strong voice, making his case and teaching that sometimes helped people see that their vision was too narrow; sometimes not.

But the point was to keep people moving and working in the direction of true racial/social Justice, even if at the time those people were making mistakes of vision while still agitating for some kind of Justice. That’s what it takes. Yes, it can be irritating, frustrating and slow-going.

But that, of course, is why the late Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. always reminded us that social Justice work is hard by using this quote from an abolitionist:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward Justice.”



posted by Rupert  |   9:59 PM  |   0 comments
Sat, 20 Jan 2018

Why Should You Care About Bigotry Toward a Group You Are Not a Member Of?

America has a mission statement that any of us can use to stand up to bigotry in our social interactions

As a professor of social psychology, I do not teach abstract psychological principles. I teach social psychological concepts of social life that anybody can use to improve their social interactions.

One of the major things I teach in my “Interdependence and Race” course is what to do when someone you are interacting with engages in intolerant verbal behavior; bigotry.

All of us can stand up to bigotry in our social interactions by simply saying to the other person, “I am very uncomfortable with that kind of language. I find it offensive. It hurts me.” Speaking in the “I” is critical to avoid shaming the person.  But speaking “…it hurts me” hits the person’s interpersonal identity; suddenly they have to wonder, who was I to think this person would accept that way of talking.

Confronted in this quiet but firm way, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2006, research by Czopp, A. M., Monteith, M.J. & Mark, A. Y.shows that the confronted person experiences a hot mix of anger at themselves, annoyance with themselves, regret, disgust with themselves.

With all that heating up in the person, yes that person will also feel anger at being confronted and be annoyed with you. No surprise that that mix of hot emotions motivates the person to lash out at the person who has quietly challenged their bigotry. Of late, and yes, this Fall-2017 semester too, with genuine concern a student will ask, “…but what if the other person ask you why do you even care?”

That question is, of course, the other person lashing out by pointing to your demographic group membership to say, “…look you’re not even one of them… you’re not transgender, you’re not Jewish, you’re not white…” Lashing out, that person is implying that all you can ever care about, all you can ever be is a representative of your own demographic group.

How does one answer that insulting attempt to trap you in a stereotype?  How?  With America’s mission statement, that’s how.

When, this past Fall 2017 semester, I was asked about people trying to use that strategy to push one of my students to be quiet, to push my student to tolerate intolerance, I said this: Tell that person, “I care because I am a true American who believes in America’s mission statement that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’”

My full essay about this is:

posted by Rupert  |   1:14 PM  |   0 comments