Making Gumbo

Sun, 04 Jun 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
Thu, 01 Jun 2017

What is the price of getting away from it all?





    “Time amid the silence of nature, in other words, makes you smarter.” (Michael Finkle)

     At some point in life, many say they just want to get away from it all; people and all that. But what would that really take?  What would that really mean?  What would that really benefit the person?  “The Stranger in the Woods: The extraordinary story of the last true hermit,” by Michael Finkel takes on those question.

     At one point in telling the story of Charles Knight, Finkel writes:

     “Language and hearing are seated in the cerebral cortex… When one experiences silence, absent even reading, the cerebral cortex typically rests. Meanwhile, deeper and more ancient brain structures seem to be activated—the subcortical zones. People who live busy, noisy lives are rarely granted access to these areas. Silence, it appears, is not the opposite of sound. It is another world altogether, literally offering a deeper level of thought, a journey to the bedrock of the self.”

     “The Stranger in the Woods,” the story, is a compelling, intelligent, moving, intellectual, report on the questions of solitude based on the experiences of a man who lived in the woods of Maine, away from it all, unseen, unheard, untouched, by another human being for twenty-five years.

    Finkel observes:

     “At the end of a serene weekend [on a Maine pond] you can’t help but envision quitting your job and remaining there for life. Everyone dreams of dropping out of the world once in a while. Then you get in your car and drive back home.

    Charles Knight stayed… He followed a very strange calling and held true to himself more fully than most of us ever dare to. He clearly had no desire to be a part of our world.”

      I highly recommend this quick, profound meditation on the strength it takes to be truly alone and the benefits and costs that come with achieving that goal.

posted by Rupert  |   12:49 PM  |   0 comments
Fri, 05 May 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
Fri, 28 Apr 2017

My Spring-2017 “Interdependence and Race” (Psy 411) course at North Carolina State University





    People wonder, who signs up for my “Interdependence and Race” course? That course is really a course on intergroup dynamics in America caused by our growing neo-diversity. Race is only the starting point for understanding all of the (sexual orientation, gender-identity, ethnic, mental-health-condition, religious, political, bodily-condition) intergroup, intersectional tensions exploding in our nation. Who signs up for a course about that?

     Spring-2017 semester is at its end. On the last day, I give my final words to the class. After all that we have explored about the ways that America is struggling with its own neo-diversity, about the work that must be done to save the soul of America, I say:

    “From the kind of work that I have been doing for 40 years, you are now part of a new generation. And so I give your charge. As did John F. Kennedy, I declare to you on this day that the future of the change in America (and the world) is now part of your responsibilities; and part of your abilities. Using Kennedy’s words, I say,

      ‘Let the word go forth that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.’

     Hold the torch high, because the blood done sign your name too.  Earn that… earn it…”

     Who has been in that course where we discuss and learn to analyze neo-diversity intergroup tensions? Well, it turns out that at NC State, a neo-diverse mix of the Wolfpack signs up. That is why I know, “…a change is gonna come.”

     For the first time ever, on the last day of the Spring-2017, after I gave my final words to the class, we took a class picture together to close out the course. Who signs up? Well like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words..

posted by Rupert  |   7:39 PM  |   0 comments
Tue, 18 Apr 2017

There is no innocent hate



      In my “Interdependence and Race” course (Psy 411), I emphasize that in order “to save the soul of America” we all have to check our stereotypes and tendencies toward bigotry.

     “There are no innocent” is always a major theme.  Last week I did a lecture in which I applied that to the panicked reactions to the election of President Donald Trump. One of the points I made is that only objecting to stereotypes and bigotry aimed at groups of people you like is not moving us toward our goal of a more perfect union. Bigotry is just bigotry, I said.

     The evening following that lecture, I got an email with the subject, “Thank you for today’s lesson”:

     “Dr. Nacoste, I’m currently writing this e-mail aboard a [North Carolina State University] Wolfline bus just minutes after your Psy 411 class today. While I was waiting at the bus stop, I noticed a student walk by wearing a t-shirt that said this: “Infidel for Trump” on the front and “Make America Great, One Round at a Time” on the back with a picture of a rifle. My mind immediately jumped to this thought: I HATE those kinds of people.

     Then I remembered what you said just minutes earlier, that that kind of thinking is part of the problem. There are no innocent and I still have some growing to do. Thank you for enlightening me.”

     Real teaching matters.


posted by Rupert  |   9:55 PM  |   0 comments
Sat, 08 Apr 2017

Tilting At The Windmills of White-Privilege

    For years, I have been pointing out the problems with relying on the flimsy idea of “…white privilege” to try to change someone’s way of thinking about neo-diversity issues; to try to change a person’s behavior; to try to engage in productive dialogue that allows different points of view to be expressed.

     Thinking about our collective difficult-days-ahead, one day in March-2017, my tweets @DrNacoste carried my message again.

     #diversity/Talk about white-privilege has not weakened the allure of President Trump’s anti-group rhetoric   

    #diversity/Shouting white-privilege is ineffective– the notion itself allows people to dodge responsibility for bigotry.

    #diversity/White-privilege is a Freudian claim that does not address here-and-now bigotry.

    #diversity/ Pointing to white privilege to try to stop here-and-now bigotry will never work because privilege is not about the here-and-now.

    #diversity/White privilege is crying wolf to not look at the bigotry in the crier’s own life.         

   #diversity/Wolf-crying white-privilege fails the there-are-no-innocent standard for having productive dialogue 

    Understand that I was doing more than tweeting. I was doing more than just pointing out the futile tilting at the windmill of white privilege. Attached to each tweet was my newest and most relevant essay, “Sometime Bigotry is Just Bigotry.”  Part of what I say in that essay is

“Tell me, has all the talk about white privilege been effective in weakening the attractiveness of President Donald Trump’s anti-group rhetoric toward some of our fellow Americans? Not at all, and you know it.

     Why not? It’s simply because the claim of white privilege lets people off the hook. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all know that there are a lot of ways to be privileged in America. For that reason, shouting about white privilege falls on deaf ears. Surely you see that the claim of privilege fits with too many versions of the American dream (that people think are positive). America is a place where you can “…get ahead of, earn more privileges than, other people.” Sure, that ambition is no longer supposed to be racial, but… well…”

 “Sometimes bigotry is just bigotry”:



posted by Rupert  |   12:16 PM  |   0 comments
Sun, 05 Mar 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