What is your Cultural Inventory?

October 6, 2016 | Diversity & Inclusion, Overcoming Bias

This year’s Banned Books Week was dedicated to the theme of Diversity, inspiring me to pay tribute to all of the artists, musicians, and writers who stand on the frontline of a great many social causes. By so eloquently communicating the incredible spectrum of human experiences, they show us how much we really have in common.

The Banned Book Week Coalition — the champions of free expression behind this annual celebration — raises our awareness of all written works that face the threat of censorship. For reasons ranging from sexual content to religious viewpoints, banning efforts threaten to deprive readers of some of the world’s most precious volumes. But books written by and about individuals from marginalized groups, the Coalition points out, face this threat in disproportionately high numbers.

Among the most cherished titles that the Coalition identifies as frequently challenged are Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Khalid Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Girl.

Can you imagine how many people’s understanding of the lives of others has been broadened by these books?

In our soon-to-be-published title, Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Difference, Matthew Freeman and I offer a Cultural Inventory that can help you take an honest look at your own consumption of media. It’s a fun and easy exercise that gives you a glimpse into how much – or how little – exposure you get to people who are unlike you.

Think about your favorite TV shows and musicians, the last few movies you saw and the books you read recently. How are the artists who crafted them and the characters they describe similar or different from you? Do they share your race, sexual orientation, physical abilities, or religious views? Your answers may surprise you.

The Cultural Inventory is among several creative and engaging assignments we’ve designed to help you recognize and subvert your unconscious biases. Keep in mind, we encourage you to approach these activities with the knowledge that we all harbor biases in some form or another. Be motivated and comforted by the realization that some very simple exercises, if practiced with a genuine desire to challenge the bias within you, can empower you to take control over the automatic reactions that limit your own experience.

Banned Books Week invites us to ponder how arts and literature can contribute to our most important dialogues and create positive change, both in ourselves and in the world. Let’s embrace this opportunity.

Our friends and fellow members of the B Corp community, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, will make Overcoming Bias available to readers in November. We hope, through our work with them, we will make a contribution to the vast library of books that can unite, uplift, and celebrate difference.