Multicultural Dialoguing

In 1987 and in my early twenties, with a knapsack and $300, I landed at an International Conference Center in Stony Point, New York.   Having been raised in a bilingual and bicultural family in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, and having lived in different parts of the world, I was eager to engage in multicultural dialogs with people from all over the globe.  My one-year assignment proved to be very meaningful and fun at many levels—but there was one recurrent surprise:  there seemed to be this unspoken assumption that “multicultural” meant “all cultures, with the exception of the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Caucasian, United Statesian (pick the language you prefer) cultures.”

In the era of Political Correctness, I picked up on other barely spoken assumptions that fueled this amazing blind spot.  For instance, somehow, Anglo-United Statesians appeared to be “the norm”, or “the neutral” culture.  “Are you kidding!” was my initial youthful response.  “Neutral?!  What type of culture would have even want, should that be humanly possible, to claim that they were neutral in the first place?!!” I would add in a thought-provoking fashion whenever I could.  As I observed and analyzed power dynamics, of course, the matters became more and more complicated as well as utterly interesting.

Since 1987, I have lived and worked at different latitudes of The Americas (the continent), and I have been happily residing in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years.  The conversations about multicultural differences and similarities have consistently captured my fascination.  Since 1997, nationally and internationally, I have been serving as an Organizational Development Consultant and diversity matters (intentionally defined in an inclusive fashion) have always been at the center of my professional practice.

That is why when I attended the Engage Her Conference at UC Berkeley in the spring of 2009, I was thrilled beyond imagination.  The definition of “multicultural women” was “ women of ALL cultures—including White, Caucasian, Anglo, etc.!”  In fact, we went further to indicate that we were clearly welcoming of men in this critical dialogue about ensuring that women of ALL colors become more empowered in our country.  The essential difference, however, is that in the spirit of multicultural acceptance (not just mere tolerance), White or Caucasian women will not be always at the center of the scene, defining reality for the rest of us, in the name of some alleged neutrality.

“Welcome to the Post- Political Correctness Era, Gabriela!” I told myself, and I am telling you all. Our imagination is the limit as to how meaningful and deep we can get—and in the globalized world we are living, these conversations are only becoming more and more crucial to the well being, if not survival, of our societies and planet!    Within that spirit it is my utmost honor and pleasure to accept Engage Her’s invitation to lead a blog about multi-cultural dialoguing.