Diversity Assessment Tools

W.K. Kellogg Foundatons: http://www.racialequityresourceguide.org/about/glossary

Anti-racism resources 

Frequently Used Assessment Tools

The current emphasis on measuring intercultural competence has inspired a large number of new assessment instruments. These instruments address a variety of needs for outcomes measurement, program evaluation, and personnel selection, as well as providing useful tools for coaching and training. This is a list of some of the most frequently used assessments, contact information, and a brief description of the major aspects of each of them. Please follow the link: Frequently Used Assessment Tools



PBS Series Race the Power of an Illusion:

Episode 1: The Difference Between Us  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8MS6zubIaQ   5:14

Episode 2:  The Story We Tell  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UZS8Wb4S5k   6:11

Episode 3:  The House We Live In  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW764dXEI_8   6:04


  • Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner. Hardcover $28.96
  • Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations by Geert Hofsteded. Paperback $79.12

There are several resources from this author which can be found at  https://www.geert-hofstede.com/.


Cultural Detective. https://www.culturaldetective.com/

Diversity Assessment Tools (Personality, Communication, Thinking)

By Kathy Lechman, Leader of Diversity Development, Ohio State University Extension

Defining Diversity

Diversity has become a very talked about issue and for some it may be considered a politically correct “buzzword”, reality is that diversity is among us on a constant basis and a well-prepared leader understands this and uses the diversity of staff as an advantage and as a way to further the goals of the organization. Ohio State University (OSU) Extension uses the following definition of diversity: “Differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practices, and other human differences (OSU Extension Strategic Plan for Diversity)”. As this definition demonstrates, there is more to diversity than racial, ethnic, or cultural characteristics. These aspects of diversity are important but when looking at the workforce there are many other dimensions to consider. We cannot deny that our race, ethnicity, gender, or religion influences our personality but consideration should be given to the possibility that other factors also contribute to our personalities. With the increasing diversity of the workforce, leaders in organizations must work with people who are not only racially, ethnically and culturally different but who also bring with them diversity in communication styles, conflict management styles, and personality types. “Diversity is about leadership’s capacity to influence people to WILLINGLY work toward company objectives…It is valuing differences no matter how big or small they may seem (Burrs, Linda. 2002. Diversity – It’s More than Just a Notion. www.step-up-tosuccess.org)”. Examining aspects of diversity that move away from focusing on the observable and or physical differences provides an opportunity to highlight the subtle and often hidden aspects of diversity that exist among people. A variety of assessment instruments exist, including: Myers/Briggs Type Indicator, Jung’s communication styles Assessment, Spectrum Color personality types, Coachman’s conflict management styles, the Enneagram, and many others.

Benefits of Celebrating Hidden Diversity

All of these assessments provide useful information on how people prefer to operate and relate. These assessments also offer additional dimensions of diversity that should be considered by supervisors, and managers when establishing work groups, task forces, and or committees. A variety of personality styles, communication, and thinking styles enrich any group and can actually increase productivity and creativity. Knowing styles and preferences of co-workers is important but it is also important to know our own preferred style. As leaders, we need to be able to tap into the strengths of our employees as well as our own. “When people are encouraged to work in their areas of strength, they are happier, more productive, and more likely to stay with the company or organization (Burrs, Linda. 2002. Diversity-It’s More than Just a Notion. www.step-up-tosuccess.org)”. Demonstrating appreciation for these dimensions of diversity is also setting the tone for a healthy and accepting work environment where people can excel. As mentioned earlier, culture, race, ethnicity, and religion along with a myriad of other factors are important aspects of diversity and just like we need to be wary of racial and ethnic stereotypes, we need to be cautious not to stereotype or pigeon hole personality types. For example, a person who is an Extrovert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging (ESFJ) on the Myers/Briggs will not always be the leader of a group or be the first to speak at meetings. Just like an Introvert, Intuitor, Feeling, Perceiver (INFP) is perfectly capable of leading and taking charge of a large group and making decisions quickly.

Diversity Summer Programs


AgDiscovery Program, Purdue University https://ag.purdue.edu/omp/Pages/Summer-Programs.aspx

AgDiscovery Program, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/civilrights/agdiscovery/ct_agdiscovery_program

Summer Apprenticeship Program, Tennessee State University http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/apprenticeship.aspx

Summer Program, Pennsylvania School for Excellence in the Agricultural Sciences (PSEAS) https://agsci.psu.edu/school-for-excellence

Summer Research Scholars Program, Cornell University https://scholars.pppmb.cals.cornell.edu/

Summer Internship Program, Kentucky Department of Agriculture https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/internship-program.html 


Quality movement in business and organization

The Language of “Blink:” A Hot New Diversity Tool
By Judith Aftergut, Executive Director, the Honoring Institute, Portland, Oregon

Quality Movement

The Quality movement in business and organization has occurred in three major phases. It began with the idea of the production line in the 1920’s at Ford Motor Company, and with the idea that each item produced is the same as every other item. In the 1970’s, the concept of continuous improvement took the quality movement to a next step. Current ideas about quality have moved to the idea that what is required in a fast changing world is the capacity to respond to change. It is not simply continuous improvement that is required, but rather breakthroughs in how people think and solve problems. That is the link to the usefulness of “snap judgments” or intuition—skills that (when used well) build people’s capacities to make the best choices in the midst of changing circumstances.

Keys to Effective Extension Programs with Latino Audiences

By Beverly Hobbs, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, OSU Extension Service

Oregon 4-H is becoming more diverse as it engages an increasing number of first and second generation Latino youth and families. Since 1997, the program has made the involvement of Latino youth a program priority, and steps taken to increase Latino membership have met with success.

Today, one third of Oregon County 4-H programs have identified outreach efforts underway with over 2500 Latino youth and 169 Latino adult volunteers involved in out-of-school programming. This represents a gain of 400% from the base year of 1995-1996.

The success of outreach efforts reflects the increased capacity of Oregon 4-H to appropriately respond to the Latino culture. 4-H has changed the way it meets and invites Latino families to participate and has added new program content and new program delivery formats to meet the needs and interests of Latino youth. Most importantly it has increased the diversity of Extension staff.

A review of Oregon’s 4-H outreach experience over the last seven years reveals some key elements of effective practice. Among them are the following.

Make a firm commitment. Outreach to new and diverse audiences is demanding work. It challenges a person’s outlook on life and sense of competency. It is a personal as much as a professional journey.

  • Do not undertake outreach unless a long-term commitment can be made. Outreach is not something that is done only as long as the grant funds last.
  • Outreach should be viewed as a broadening of current Extension practice and integral to Extension work.
  • Outreach is the work of all Extension personnel, not just the work of those hired specifically for an outreach position.
  • To succeed, the commitment to outreach must be there on the part of the organization and the individual professional.

Employ bilingual/bicultural outreach staff. The presence of outreach staff who have a deep understanding of the Latino culture and who are fluent in the Spanish language greatly facilitates the process of building relationships and establishing trust with Latino community members.

  • It is not necessary that staff be Latino. Non-Latino bilingual/bicultural staff can successfully fill this role.
  • All outreach staff must be able to relate to and be accepted by the targeted community.
  • If unable to hire their own bilingual/bicultural staff, programs can conduct outreach by partnering with organizations with established ties to the Latino community. This is often a slower process with more limited outcomes.

Emphasize relationships over tasks. Recognize and reflect the importance of personal relationships when working with Latinos.

  • Before programs are designed and implemented, considerable time must be spent getting to know the community and individuals within.
  • Relationships must be built with individuals and families as well as organizations.
  • Take the time to attend to the personal before moving to the task.
  • When it comes time to invite participation, do so personally by phone or face to face.

Create a welcoming Extension office.

  • Hang posters or set out decorative objects reflective of the Latino culture.
  • Have signs and printed materials available in Spanish.
  • Employ someone who speaks Spanish as the office receptionist.

Involve youth and families in the design of programs. Do not try to fit new audiences into existing programs designed for traditional Extension audiences.

  • Ask youth and families what they want for programs, identifying both needs and interests.
  • Be prepared to develop new programs (baile folklorico and soccer clubs, robotics and videography classes) or to modify existing ones (teach computer classes in Spanish).
  • Once programs are ongoing, seek regular feedback and keep parents informed of what is happening.

Create programs that reflect the Latino culture and create a comfortable learning environment.

  • Target programs specifically to Latinos. It is very appropriate for programs to initially attract primarily or exclusively Latino membership.
  • Deliver programs in a language that is most comfortable for families.
  • Seek Latino volunteers.
  • Offer a family approach to programs, for instance, parent/child sewing or computer instruction.

Offer separate volunteer training as needed. Most Latinos do not have an understanding of Extension as an organization or its programs. They also may have limited literacy in English and in Spanish.

  • Explain community-based youth development programs, the particulars of 4-H, and the role of volunteers.
  • Demonstrate programs.
  • Offer plenty of help with paperwork and carefully explain why information is needed, who will see it, and how it will be used.
  • Provide information in the preferred language of volunteers.
  • Use demonstration and group interaction to deliver training rather than relying on written information.

Proceed slowly, thoughtfully, and incrementally. Don’t attempt too much at one time.

  • Outreach programs usually require a good deal of support. Trying to quickly meet everyone’s needs will over tax outreach staff.
  • Staff will need to demonstrate programs, and volunteers often will need a period of mentoring in addition to group training before they are willing to take on leadership responsibilities.

Work with community partners. Partnerships promote the sustainability of programs. Partnerships are also critical to helping Latino youth and families access resources Extension cannot provide.

  • Work to build a local coalition in support of the positive development of Latino youth.
  • Help Latino families access resources by connecting them with other community organizations.
  • Help community organizations become more responsive to the Latino community.

Support outreach staff. A culturally diverse staff requires that attention be paid to developing effective working relationships. Cultural differences impact work styles, preferred styles of communication, and expectations.

  • Teamwork should characterize the work environment with frequent communication between staff.
  • Co-workers should acknowledge the importance of outreach efforts.
  • Time should be dedicated to helping all staff better understand cultural differences and to building trust between co-workers.

Provide state level Extension support and leadership. Working with the Latino audience represents risk-taking for many Extension agents. It puts them in an unfamiliar environment and challenges their feelings of competence.

  • Dedicating state staff time to outreach reinforces the importance of Latino outreach and brings additional resources to the effort.
  • State leadership also promotes connection between county outreach efforts, facilitating the sharing of information and experience and the development of a network of support.

Provide staff training. Building cultural competence takes both training and experience.

  • A planned staff development program focused on working with culturally diverse audiences increases skill levels and builds community among those who work in outreach.
  • Training should pertain to work with Extension audiences as well as to working relationships among Extension colleagues.

Develop supporting resources. Outreach will prompt requests for new resources, especially ones to help current staff understand diverse cultures and to help diverse audiences understand Extension.

  • These tools are important to the success of outreach staff.
  • Products developed in Oregon include a Latino Outreach web site, a publication on Latino volunteerism, a Spanish language video to explain 4-H to Latino youth and adults , and a bilingual 4-H recruitment brochure.

The Oregon Outreach 4-H experience has been extremely positive. The interest and involvement of Latino families, the personal and professional growth of staff, and the positive impact on our traditional audiences and other community organizations reinforce our commitment to reaching and engaging Oregon’s diverse communities.

Prayer in a Public Institution

By Harvey L. Lineberry, II, Assistant Dean for Personnel, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University

Prayer in a public institution and workplace can be a one-way road to dissension and divisiveness, or it can find itself as the “chalice” or “conveyer” of constructive education and meaningful dialogue. The outcome of this issue is most often driven by many factors within an organization and most notably as a function of leadership, both formal and informal, as a means of effective organizational movement. Additionally, for public entities this issue is interlaced with legal
At first glance, the easy road to choose is to ignore this matter all together and just allow each situation to deal with this issue in its own way and to manage the fall-out of that strategy. It takes enormous leadership leaps of integrity to address this in a direct, honest, professional and caring way that serves to build the organizational skill tool-kit that helps not only the immediate organization, but hopefully the community, state and nation. We must ask ourselves the difficult questions: What is it that innately drives us to label negatively those whom we perceive as “less than” in order to make ourselves feel more powerful or more deserving? What role and responsibility do we have in understanding this dynamic and changing it for our children and the multi-faceted society that we know is on its way in the years and decades to come? Based on this knowledge, it is incumbent on our institutions and organizations to help us with this education and to challenge us. Growth is not always painless, but neither is it something that can be delayed to any great extent without consequences.

It is important to note that during these past few months we have reached the full gamut of viewpoints on this issue. There have been individuals within our organization indicating that the “University” would not “allow” prayers to be said, which raised concern by many within and outside of our organization. We have also experienced our employees attending a meeting (not sponsored by the College) where a person was invited to “stand outside” when they expressed their concern over a traditional prayer being spoken at a public meeting. It is clear, there are heightened emotions at both ends of this issue and our goal is to find a place of respect and common ground where we can deal responsibly with each person in our organization, community and clients. Again, the easy road is to complain and talk about all the reasons why the “glass is half-empty,” rather than invest the energy and time to educate ourselves about how that glass could be portrayed as “half-full,” and the reasons why we should look at it so.


Bound by Law

As educators and public servants connected not only with the State of North Carolina, but the federal government as well, we must be aware of the foundation or basis of the concern over prayer in a public environment. We are bound by law, legal precedent and the First Amendment of the Constitution, which mandates separation of church and state in the sense of any and all religion. The information which is available regarding the various specific legal cases serve as the true foundation of “WHY” this is fact, but in no way frames the “HOW” part of the discussion.

Within the context of our responsibility as a public institution we can better explain a different approach to the “why” and to help you with the “how.” Former U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren spoke to these issues in great detail in his memoirs. You might know that as Governor of California he was part of the decision making team which chose to inter Japanese Americans during War World II and was seated as Chief Justice when the landmark civil rights and desegregation decisions were made in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The following is an excerpt from his memoirs:

We (the Supreme Court) also were heavily attacked by many people, particularly legislators, when we declared compulsory prayers in the public schools to be unconstitutional. I vividly remember one bold newspaper headline saying, “Court outlaws God.” Many religious denominations in this same spirit condemned the Court, although most of them have receded from that position. Scores of Constitutional Amendments and legislative bills were proposed in the Congress to circumvent the decision but were later abandoned when the public came to recognize that the ruling was not an irreligious one. Rather it tried to maintain the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment. ….. The majority of us on the Court were religious people, yet we found it unconstitutional that any state agency should impose a religious exercise on persons who were by law free to practice religion or not without state interference. (“The Memoirs of Chief Justice Earl Warren,” page 315.)

Part of this premise is to understand that our society is majority Christian. This majority position can often lead us to make assumptions and/or to proceed without thoughtful planning as to our impact on others. These majority assumptions play out in every facet of our lives and every day of our lives – and in playing out, be it through “omission” or “commission” the reality is that it can be extremely hurtful and reflects a lack of respect for those who are “discounted.” In addressing the issues of “majority,” Chief Justice Warren notes “… it is human nature for the dominant group in a nation to keep pressing for further domination, and unless the Court has the fiber to accord justice to the weakest member of the society, regardless of the pressure brought upon it, we never can achieve our goal of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ for everyone.” (“The Memoirs of Chief Justice Earl Warren,” page 335.)

Our Responsibility

We, within the requirements of the law, have a responsibility to honor and respect all who are present in our programs, meetings, classrooms, and in our offices. We have a responsibility to our colleagues to be aware and informed on these issues and to exercise professional sensitivity in all situations over which we have control or are planning. When asked to give a public “prayer” or remarks as a meeting begins or ends, or at a meal time, it is important that these remarks, delivered in a secular setting, should serve to bind your group together in a common concern that is identifiable to every person and not dependant on any particular faith. Again, either by omission or commission, words directed and built with Christian phraseology can become unintentionally divisive because they exclude persons of other faiths, or those not expressing a position of faith. Individuals who lead the general community in prayer have the responsibility to be clear about the public nature of the occasion and respectful of the composition of the audience. Words spoken on behalf of an entire community, University, or College, should be easily shared by any listener, regardless of their beliefs and is both a privilege and a marked responsibility.

Some make the comment that this approach to the issue does not “honor” their particular belief system. Everyone has a right to his or her own religion and that is in essence the point of this entire issue – EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO THEIR OWN RELIGION and no one should feel infringed upon. Our challenge is to offer words that are reflective of this understanding and respectful of all. If you are uncomfortable in planning and delivering secular and inclusive remarks, then you should feel free to decline any invitation to offer one. It is a matter of inclusiveness, both for you and for the audience and we want to be clear about our intent to be sensitive to that fact. As educators, we can very quietly and effectively step up to the plate and help all our partners across the state to see how we accomplish this inclusive language through example rather than presenting this as “we are not allowed to pray.” Again, it is so important to look at what holds us together in common ground rather than to seek out that which divides us from one another – do our words and actions seek to build rather than tear down or do harm?

Our Challenge

It is logical to see the United States as one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world. Some accounts show that non-Christians number in excess of 20% in the U.S. and that this number is growing each year. Suffice it to say, diversity, or pluralism, is a fact of life and one that any dynamic organization must recognize and address in a proactive and forward thinking manner. However, it is extremely important to understand that religious diversity means only that different religions (including non-religious beliefs) coexist and in no way implies that individuals accept these religions or positions as valid. Therefore, our challenge is to determine how we express respect for each person at the place they find themselves in their religious journey and still be true to an organization founded on the principle of advancing the purpose of education through the “extension” of research to our clients statewide. Most people in the U.S. and the rest of the world probably take an exclusivist, or “dominate” position: they believe that their religion, and only theirs, is completely true. Most believe that their God communicated universal truths by special revelation given to their spiritual ancestors or patriarchs. This knowledge has been passed on to present-day humanity, often in the form of religious texts. Many people hold tenaciously to their particular faith, believing it to be God’s revealed wish for all humanity. Some may even view other faith groups, those without a “faith community” or denominations within their own religion to be false. This type of exclusivity can sometimes develop easily into hatred, or intolerance, of any “other” interpretation of position. Religious exclusivity is often a major cause of much of the world’s civil unrest, civil wars, mass crimes against humanity and genocide. Yet, in balance to many places in the world, the U. S. has enjoyed a high level of religious freedom and a relative absence of religiously motivated conflict — even though exclusivism is probably predominant here.

Over time, the American public has developed a heightened regard for human rights, including religious freedom. Thus, they are willing to tolerate other religious beliefs, even though they consider them to be inconsistent with their own. Too many times this “toleration” is only given as long as it doesn’t impact them in any way, or ask them to modify their own sense of conduct or expression, even in public settings. If this is true, then it would appear that the best way to reduce religiously based friction throughout the world is for governments and religious institutions to promote human rights generally, religious freedom in particular, and respect for all globally.

It is to this end that I ask that we, each in our own way, seek to understand a different point of view on this issue – not in a way that seeks to change any belief systems, but to the extent that they allow us to reach a place of compassion and respect for our colleagues, friends and neighbors who may have different beliefs than we. Regardless, there is room for each of us at the table of respect and understanding for our brothers and sisters in this freedom. I would ask each person within the College, on and off campus, to join me in this effort. Speak to others in your office, or members of the Diversity Catalyst Team about what it means to honor each person within our organization and what steps might we undertake to do just that. Seek out ways to offer ecumenical and inclusive words of thanks and remember that leading in this way is both a privilege and a responsibility.

It is evident that there are many places along a continuum that we might find ourselves on this issue. We recognize this as the reality of our existence in the present nation and world and our need to understand and respect those around us. It is in being a diligent steward of our colleagues and clients that lead us to a higher place of functioning, if not understanding. This place that we find ourselves is one that honors and supports our various points of view and allows for secure footing along the continuum as we conduct our daily work. To this end, I would encourage you to find a place of humility and understanding for all of our colleagues and to look past our own “reality” to a place of inclusion and tolerance – to a place of the future. In closing, I would leave you with only a few examples of inclusive reflections.

Constructing an Inclusive Public “Prayer”

  • Seek the highest common denominator without compromise of conscience.
  • Use forms and vocabulary that allow persons of different faiths to give assent to what is said.
  • Use the language most widely understood by the audience, unless one purpose of the event is to express ethnic/cultural diversity, in which case multiple languages can be effective.
  • Consider other creative alternatives, such as a moment of silence.
  • Remain faithful to the purpose of giving thanks and that it is not used as an opportunity to preach, argue or testify.

Examples of Inclusive Reflections

Appropriate examples for use as a meal is served (these can be easily modified to begin or conclude a meeting):


We meet together in an effort to build community, to advance education and understanding. We seek the patience of one another as we strive to learn and grow and the stamina to make a difference in our state, nation and world. We express our thanks for the gifts of life and for the food that we are about to partake of.



We gather here today as colleagues and friends with attention to a common goal. That goal is the continued service to the citizens of our state through our programs and information. We understand our responsibilities as committed educators as well as learners – personally and professionally. It is obvious that we work and live in challenging times. We seek the patience of each other as we strive to learn and grow, and the stamina to make a difference in our state, nation and the world.
We express our thanks for an opportunity to gather together where we can reinforce our community principles of openness and engagement for all people, for the gifts of life and for the food that has been prepared for us. For all this, we are thankful.


A Prayer for the World
Let the rain come and wash away the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds held and nurtured over generations. Let the rain wash away the memory of the hurt, the neglect. Then let the sun come out and fill the sky with rainbows. Let the warmth of the sun heal us wherever we are broken. Let it burn away the fog so that we can see each other clearly so that we can see beyond labels, beyond accents, gender, or skin color. Let the warmth and brightness of the sun melt our selfishness so that we can share the joys and feel the sorrows of our neighbors. And let the light of the sun be so strong that we will see all people as our neighbors. Let the earth, nourished by rain, bring forth flowers to surround us with beauty. And let the mountains teach our hearts to reach upward.
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner (with slight modification)

Thoughtful Quotes

I would like to share with you some thoughtful quotes that I think reflect the diversity of this issue and in fact, address this point from a variety of perspectives. (I should note for the record, I do not endorse any person or overall positions of those whose statements are included below, they simply serve as points of thought along a continuum.)

“I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here. We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.”
George W. Bush, President. Address to a joint session of Congress, 2001-SEP-20.

“It is very important to understand that pluralism is part of our system. We don’t all think the same thing and part of our strength is that we come from different perspectives. We have to respect one another even when we disagree with each other. There has to be a spirit of tolerance for the views of others, while also being deeply committed to the positions we hold. If we do that, I think we can coexist and learn to love each other better.”
James Dobson, founder and president of “Focus on the Family” interviewed by Tony Snow of Fox News Channel, 2001-SEP-20

“The wiser you are, the more you believe in equality, because the difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to all that is unknown.”
Albert Einstein

“The millions of Christians in this country reflect just about every conceivable political point of view. For one highly conservative group to proclaim itself ‘the Christian Coalition’ strikes me as decidedly un-Christian arrogance…. We reflect countless races, religions and lifestyles, and we often differ on questions of morality and behavior. The only way so diverse a nation can survive is by all of us practicing a high degree of tolerance. But tolerance is not the way of the Christian right. Its leaders want to impose their one-size-fits-all morality on everyone. It won’t work. When any group tries to impose its values on everyone else, the result will inevitably be resentment, hatred and violence.”
Senator Warren Rudman

“When the dust settles and the pages of history are written, it will not be the angry defenders of intolerance who have made the difference. The reward will go to those who dared to step outside the safety of their privacy in order to expose and rout the prevailing prejudices.”
John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
Blaise Paschal: Often attributed to Sam J. Ervin, Jr., in “Protecting the Constitution” (1984).

“It was Christians, you know, not Pagans, who were responsible for the Holocaust. It was Christians, not Pagans, who lynched people here in the South, who burned people at the stake, frequently in the name of this Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, speaking at Ebenezer Baptist Church, to participants in the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches in 2000-JAN. (In the same speech, he reminded his audience that the racist apartheid policy in his native South Africa was also created by Christians, not Pagans.)

Websites to Explore

Websites to Explore

The Long Walk Home

With Ellen Summerfield

Long Walk Home





Take the Empathy Quiz

Read About Empathy, Cross-Cultural Skill #1

Cross-Cultural Skill #1: Empathy

This section on The Long Walk Home is used with permission of Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME, and adapted from Seeing the Big Picture: Exploring American Cultures on Film, by Ellen Summerfield and Sandra Lee, 2001.


Who’s Who in the Film

Odessa Cotter (“Dessie”)

African American boycotter and maid in the Thompson home

Herbert Cotter

Odessa’s husband

Selma Cotter


Theodore Cotter

older son

Franklin Cotter

younger son

Miriam Thompson

white, Southern wife and mother in household employing Odessa

Norman Thompson

Miriam’s husband

Mary Catherine “Boo Boo”

younger daughter and narrator

Sara Thompson

older daughter

Tunker Thompson

Norman’s brother


black maid
The Long Walk Home gives us the chance to focus on one of the most important cross-cultural skills: empathy.

The ability to empathize requires imagination, knowledge, and compassion. To empathize with another person, I must recognize and remember that other people are different from myself, and I need to have some knowledge of what these differences are. My knowledge can help me try to imagine what another person is feeling in a given situation, which is not necessarily what I would be feeling in the same situation.

So an adult who sees a child lost in a grocery store can feel sympathy knowing that anyone who is lost is likely to feel confused and upset, but empathy only if the adult is able to imagine in particular what a lost child might be feeling.

An outgoing social butterfly can empathize with a shy woman sitting by herself at a party if the outgoing person can imagine what it might feel like to be shy.

Thus empathy requires that you try to look through the other’s eyes rather than through your own.

In cross-cultural terms, this means that a Chinese person, for example, can never really know what it feels like to be Mexican, but if the Chinese person studies Spanish, travels to Mexico, and has Mexican friends, she can begin to imagine a situation from the “Mexican” point of view.

As you view or think back on the film The Long Walk Home, think of a scene in which a character demonstrates empathy.


History Flash: Understanding The Long Walk Home

The 1955-56 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which is the subject of The Long Walk Home, was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the greatest [movements] in the history of the nation.” This boycott can be seen as both a beginning and an end. What was coming to an end was almost a century of struggle by African Americans to overthrow rigid legal and extralegal segregation. In a country founded on the principles of democracy and equality, this segregation kept blacks apart and subjugated, denied them the basic opportunities of American society, and persecuted them in the most violent ways.


Multicultural golden rule for empathizing

Treat others as you think they would like to be treated.


When the South lost the Civil War (1861-65) and two centuries of slavery came to an end, an estimated four million blacks dared to believe that a new life was possible for them. Indeed, the situation for African Americans quickly began to improve, and impressive initial strides were made. But the progress during the so-called Reconstruction period was brief. A backlash of momentous proportions on the part of primarily Southern whites, accompanied by massacres, lynchings, mutilations, rapes, and whippings, acted to replace slavery not with long-awaited equality and freedom, but with a new form of oppression—“Jim Crow” segregation.

Who was Jim Crow? Some believe he was a slave, or a soldier, and others say the label came from the saying “black as a crow.” Whatever the case, the name was first heard by the public in 1832 when a white performer danced on the stage in a comic imitation of blacks to a tune about “Jim Crow.” Soon a common character in minstrel shows, Jim Crow evolved into a synonym for the Negro, and his “comic” way of life, and by the turn of the century into a term referring to the near total separation of blacks and whites in the country.

While this system of apartheid was more open and virulent in the South, border and northern states also participated to varying degrees. Hundreds of laws, decrees, and customs kept the races apart by requiring separate restrooms, restaurants, hotels, parks, theaters, drinking fountains, railroad cars, and schools. Blacks were to be born in Negro hospitals and buried in Negro cemeteries. In South Carolina, black and white cotton-mill workers were not allowed to look out the same window; in Oklahoma there were separate telephone booths; and in Birmingham, Alabama, blacks and whites were forbidden to play chess together. In 1896, the Jim Crow doctrine was given the blessing of the Supreme Court in the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The Court decided that the states’ “separate but equal” laws did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, despite the wording of this amendment that

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Throughout the years of Jim Crow, opposition was ongoing, strong, and creative. Distinguished black leaders—W. E. B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, William Monroe Trotter, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marcus Moziah Garvey, Asa Philip Randolph, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Ralph J. Bunche, Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy, Charles H. Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and numerous others—devised strategies to keep the dream of equality alive against fierce opposition and the constant threat of violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white militants. Moreover, countless unknown individuals stood up for their rights and worked for the cause, knowingly risking, and often sacrificing, their lives. Blacks worked through the courts, through the media, through labor unions, through national organizations, and in the military to gain a proper place in American life.

By the time of the boycott in Montgomery, a tradition of protest was well-established in black America. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a little-known twenty-six-year-old pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, led workers, common people, professionals, students, and children in a masterfully orchestrated plan of great daring that inspired a national movement for civil rights.

It began when Rosa Parks, a 42 year-old seamstress and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member, was arrested for refusing to yield her seat on a bus to a white man. At that time, although black patrons accounted for more than three-fourths of all riders in Montgomery, black riders were forced to sit in the back of the buses—the front rows were reserved for whites—and to give up a seat to any white person who would otherwise have to stand. What was first planned as a one-day boycott of the buses in Montgomery in protest of Rosa Parks’ arrest became a massive action that lasted over a year, from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956. As seen in The Long Walk Home, organized carpools were critical to the success of the boycott; the sponsors of the boycott provided up to twenty thousand rides daily. The Long Walk Home focuses primarily on the first stage of the boycott.

Useful Terms

African American

widely accepted term that places emphasis on the origins of most American blacks; replaces the outdated term Afro American.


widely accepted term, often interchangeable with African American, that arose in the civil rights era as an affirmation of one’s skin color (black pride, black power, “black is beautiful” slogan).


term originating with the Spanish and Portuguese colonists, from the word negro, meaning “black”; widely used in the period between the two world wars; replaced the outdated term colored, but is now outdated itself.


term dating from the earliest days of slavery; unacceptable today except in certain historical contexts and titles (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

;People of color’

term that gained popularity in the 1980s to refer to nonwhites, especially African, Native, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, and emphasize their solidarity.

The enslaved

enslaved persons, preferred by some African Americans to “slaves”, which does not convey the reality of oppression but rather suggests a permanent status or condition.


highly derogatory term when used by nonblacks; sometimes used by blacks to refer to themselves; sometimes called the “N-word.”


ideology that places greater emphasis on the role of African cultures as they have affected American and world history than does the prevalent “Eurocentric” approach.

Related Books

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America

Bennett, Lerone, Jr., 6th ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

King, Martin Luther, Jr. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1958.

Quiet Strength

Parks, Rosa. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It

Robinson, Jo Ann Gibson. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-65

Williams, Juan. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Related Films

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1986)

The story of the civil rights struggle between 1954 and 1965 comes alive through news footage, photographs, and personal recollections. Winner of dozens of national awards. Six-part series (PBS Video).

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)

Thirty years after the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, his case is reopened in a search for justice.

Mississippi Burning (1988)

The FBI investigates the disappearance of three white civil rights workers in Mississippi during the summer of 1964.

Separate But Equal (1991)

Traces events leading to landmark Supreme Court victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case. The hero, Thurgood Marshall, is played by Sidney Poitier.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Classic film about a lawyer in a small southern town who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Based on a novel by Harper Lee.

Rent and View The Long Walk Home

Check your local library, commercial video store, or online catalogs to order a copy.

Find Examples of Empathy in the Movie — Think About…


As you view or reflect on The Long Walk Home, think of a scene in which a character demonstrates empathy.

  • Why you think the character is able to empathize in this particular scene?
  • How the character expresses empathy with actions, words, or nonverbal behavior?
  • What else did you observe in this scene?

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