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Civil Rights and Legal Issues
The Change Agents States Overview
Organizational Development and Change
Professional Development
Reaching New Audiences
Workforce Diversity
Diversity Summer Programs
Websites to Explore
Diversity Related Conference Information
Diversity Award
List of Resources Needed for Diversity CoP Website.



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The Change Agents States

The Change Agent States
The Change Agent States project, initiated by the Cooperative Extension Service, is a catalytic step in beginning the transformation of the Land Grant system. It is a consortium of land grant institutions in fourteen states bringing the needed technical skills and training to each of the member states. Through this multistate approach, the consortium is developing successful models and systemic change strategies to support greater diversity and welcoming climates throughout the system.

The goals

  1. to build the capacity of the Land Grant system to function inclusively and effectively in a multicultural world; and
  2. to set standards and implement a vision for supporting healthy, thriving, culturally diverse communities through Extension, research and academic programs.

Change Agents States Overview

Workforce Diversity

Workforce Diversity

The Workforce Diversity page includes strategies, techniques and resources for attracting, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. Information will focus on methods of attracting diverse candidates, developing a viable search process and creating and maintaining a positive workplace climate.

Featured Items

Workplace Diversity_ A Social-Ecological Framework and Policy Implications.pdf Abstract: The diversification of the global workforce brings both challenges and opportunities. We focus on diversity defined by membership in traditionally underrepresented groups. To harness the power of diversity, organizations must: increase representation of diverse individuals throughout the organizational hierarchy, attend to the social processes that emerge once diversity is present, and foster an organizational climate that supports the full inclusion of diverse individuals. We review dynamics at multiple levels of analysis that affect organizations in these three realms. Policy recommendations are grounded in the following ecological principles: (1) organizational issues are nested within multiple levels of context, (2) any organizational event can have reverberating effects throughout the system, (3) people’s experiences of events shape their reactions and the impact of practices on varied groups shapes organizational consequences, and (4) people are continually adapting to one another and to organizational resources and requirements.

An interesting look at gender, racial, and class diversity within environmental organizations: The Disturbing Lack of D…pdf   The full study can be found here: diversity in environmental organizations.pdf

Why do we see a an attrition of women in biological sciences but not in the medical field? This article re-examines some of the reasons hypothesized as to why less women are seen in scientific research fields:  Attrition of Women in the Biological Sciences.pdf

The following study is two-fold. The first part gives insights into organizational approaches to diversity and managing  a culturally diverse workplace. The second part introduces a “Diversity Perspective Questionnaire” that measures an organization’s approach to diversity. Managing a culturally diverse workforce.pdf

Learn how even in workplaces that seek to be inclusive, LGBT employees are affected by a “culture of silence”. sound of silence in inclusive organizations.pdf

There have been studies done on what has been termed the “bamboo ceiling” which describes the hinderance of Asian Americans’ advancement in the workplace.  Many are also familiar with the “glass ceiling” effect describing the same phenomenon in women.  However, there has not been many studies that have looked into the intersection between the two. Read the article hereHitting the Ceiling.pdf to learn more about barriers specific to Asian American Women

“Do Millennials Really Want Their Bosses to Call Their Parents?” An interesting article on an often overlooked aspect of workforce diversity, generation. http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/04/do-millennials-really-want-their-bosses-to-call-their-parents/

Workforce Bullying http://stopworkplacebullies.wordpress.com/

In order to ensure that work workplaces are inclusive, faculty may want to consider reflections in lieu of prayers when they are asked to pray at a meeting.    This way each person, regardless of  religion will feel comfortable in the workplace.  http://extension.missouri.edu/staff/diversity-prayer.aspx

Non Tenure Track Women Faculty: Opening the Door Non Tenure Track Women Faculty.pdf

Federal Agencies to Develop a Strategic Plan to Insure a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce:   http://1.usa.gov/qzJL5o   mmmmm

Share your comments on our CoP Blog http://extensiondeicop.blogspot.com/

Resources for Recruiting Women and Minority Faculty Candidates:http://bit.ly/o5oygJ

Avoid the Craziness When It’s Time to Hire

Where to Advertise to Attract Underrepresented Professionals

Sample Diversity-Related Qualification Statements:http://bit.ly/psiWmm

Equity and Social Justice Diversity Links


Related Links

Challenges and strategies








Diversity Articles



Achieving Workforce Diversity




Current Job Postings




Search Committees

Workforce Diversity Section Editor: open


Skills for Success

Skills For Success
As Extension strives to meet the needs of an ever-increasingly diverse society, it must do so by recruiting, hiring and retaining staff that possess the attitude, competencies and qualities that enable them to effectively work across differences. They must have the needed skills for success. As a result, well-thought out recruitment, hiring and retention strategies that attract, support and sustain individuals with a mature diversity lens are a critical component of creating an environment that supports and promotes pluralism and diversity1.

Today, most job postings and descriptions clearly identify the ability to show respect for differences in backgrounds, lifestyles, viewpoints, and needs in reference to areas such as ethnicity, race, gender, creed, and sexual orientation as being essential to the position and the organization. While articulating these as desirable qualities and behaviors is an important first step in recruitment, the challenge often arises in assessing the level of skill and competency during the screening and interview process.

The accompanying materials, Skills for Success©, developed by the Office of Human Resources at Cornell University, can serve a template for developing recruitment materials and interviewing questions that result in attracting and hiring individuals that bring a diverse perspective and are supportive of diversity. Skills for Success©, consist of the following materials:

Staff Skills for Success (pdf) – A broad overview of the skills essential for individual and organizational success and examples of demonstrated behaviors in these areas

Interviewing Candidates for Skills for Success (Short Version – pdf) – A short version of interview questions that address the skill areas

Interviewing Candidates for Skills for Success (Long Version – pdf) – A longer version of targeted interview questions that probe the breadth and depth of candidate’s skill level.

Characteristics of Performance Levels – pdf – A matrix that outlines a continuum of the characteristics of individual performance levels in the skill areas identified.

Staff Performance Dialogue Form (pdf) – A standard form to be used as a tool for conducting employee review, staff development and performance improvement discussions.

Each skill area identified in Skills for Success©, can lend itself to diversity and pluralism. The skills, behaviors and interview questions under the heading of inclusiveness specifically and intentionally address and provide a language for articulating desired diversity competencies in recruitment and a process for assessing them in hiring.

In addition to addressing the areas of recruitment and hiring, Skills for Success©, also provides resources for the ongoing support, development and retention of staff. As with other competencies, there is a need for ongoing assessment and development on inclusiveness. The Staff Performance Dialogue Form and the Characteristics of Performance Levels can serve as tools for creating organizational expectations around diversity and pluralism, as well as a means for supporting staff in assessing their skill level and identifying ongoing professional development needs in this area.

For additional information and case studies on Cornell Cooperative Extension’s efforts on staffing for diversity check out: http://www.joe.org/joe/1998february/a1.html

By Eduardo González, Jr., Diversity Specialist, Cornell Migrant Program

1The concepts of “diversity” and “pluralism” as defined in Pathway to Diversity: Strategic Plan for the Cooperative Extension System’s Emphasis on Diversity (1991) are: Diversity is differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and other human attributes. Pluralism is an organizational culture that incorporates mutual respect, acceptance, teamwork, and productivity among people who are diverse in the dimensions of human differences listed above as diversity.

The Language of Diversity

The Language of Diversity
The language of diversity is an evolving one that requires awareness, understanding and skill much in the same way as other areas of diversity competencies. Language provides a means for communication among and between individuals and groups. Language serves as a vehicle for expressing thoughts and feelings. And when it comes to diversity, language can be a bridge for building relationships, or a tool for creating and maintaining divisions across differences. Having a common language for talking about and across difference is essential for breaking down divisions and working towards achieving understanding and partnership. In developing a common language around diversity it is important that language be affirming and not about creating blame, guilt or pity.

Historically our challenge with language as it relates to diversity is that it has often been used as a tool of oppression for the express purpose of establishing and perpetuating systems of dominance and hierarchies between and among groups. As a result, language has in many instances throughout our society’s history, served to advance the status of certain groups while relegating other groups to a status of inferiority. Early examples of the use of language for this purpose includes the designation of Native Americans as “savages” and “primitive” in contrast to European settlers as “civilized”; the use of the term “African slaves” to passively describe an inhumane system of forced bondage that “enslaved” the free people of Africa; diminishing the status of adult women through the active use of the term “girl”; the use of the term “America” to specifically refer to the United States as opposed to the whole Western Hemisphere that makes up America. When used in this manner, language has systematically helped to minimize and vilify certain groups and justify subsequent patterns of exclusion, mistreatment and exploitation.

While our intentions in the use of language when interacting with or referencing groups may not be as ill-spirited and biased as the examples given above, when we are not conscious of the power of words and labels, our impact can be just as detrimental. For example, when we hear individuals struggle with finding the right terminology for referencing particular groups of people (i.e. African Americans, gay and lesbian, differently abled, etc), they routinely express their frustration by stating that the people from these groups… “can’t make up their minds about what they want to be called” or that they need to “figure out a name once and for all”. Unfortunately, more often than not, the individuals demanding that these groups “make up their mind” are not members of these groups and are usually in a position of relevant dominant status. While the desire of these individuals to achieve clarity in these instances is well intentioned, their behaviors reflect an assumed position of superiority. This false sense of superiority becomes even more pronounced when these individuals take it upon themselves to define the group without input from that group. As a result, members of these groups lose their right to define and name themselves on their own terms.

Being aware of the power of our language is not about being politically correct. It is about treating people with respect and dignity and increasing awareness. In an article entitled, “Words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad”, Kathy Lechman, Leader, Diversity Development, Ohio State University Extension, shares examples of some common statements that many of us have repeatedly heard throughout our lives. While many of these are seemingly innocuous, others are blatantly derogatory and offensive. Whatever the case these statements convey beliefs and attitudes that ultimately take away from the dignity and respect that should be afforded all individuals.

 I went to the car dealership and really “Jewed them down”.  This is America, everyone can achieve if they really wanted to, and people on welfare are just lazy and out for a free ride.  Why do those people keep causing problems and asking for special treatment?  The only people who live in trailer parks are poor white trash.  People from small towns are stupid rednecks.  I am not prejudiced; some of my best friends are .  I do not have a problem with gay or lesbian people, as long as they don’t try to convert me.  I don’t see color, we are all the same.  Young people are nothing but trouble.  Fat people are lazy and lack discipline.  Look at that poor crippled person.  You are such an Indian giver.  Get your cotton-picking hands off of that!  Generation Xer’s have no work ethic and do not know the meaning of the word loyalty.  Old people should have their driver’s licenses taken away because they cannot drive.  You are so retarded.

In her fact sheet, The Evolving Language of Diversity, retired Senior Extension Associate (Cornell Cooperative Extension), Kathy Castania, provides us with some wonderful insights as to the power that words have to shape our thoughts, convey beliefs and perpetuate attitudes about groups. The fact sheet provides for understanding the challenges that come with creating a common language around diversity that is both affirming and empowering. The article provides an excellent historical overview that can help us to contextualize the evolution of language around diversity. Beyond providing a historical framework, Kathy also identifies some common pitfalls and misused terms across multiple dimensions of diversity including gender, abilities, class, sexual orientation, etc. Alternative strategies that can be quickly incorporated into our day-to-day interactions with colleagues and program audiences are presented throughout the article, along with resources for additional exploration and ongoing development making this fact sheet an indispensable tool for advancing the work of Extension in increasingly diverse environments.

Websites of Interest:

http://www.joanwink.com/pub-those.html Excellent web site developed by a professor and her students documenting their experience addressing issues of multi-culturalism and how each person in that class had learned to fear or hate “those people”.

http://omega.cohums.ohio-state.edu/hyper-lists/classics-l/01-05-01/0030.html Interesting discussion of the term “red neck” and what it means today

http://metamoomoo.metafilter.com/comments.mefi/23095 Provides a detailed history of the term “redneck” and a definition.

http://www.angelfire.com/rebellion/personpaper/ Interesting use of satire to demonstrate a point about language.

http://www.asante.net/articles/racist-language.html -Article by Molefi Kete Asante discussing the importance of language and the power of words.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0%2C3604%2C628596%2C00.html The author provides an example of the use of the “N” word and his reaction to it. This was written in the wake of Nigger the Book by Randall Kennedy.

http://www.rebeccamorgan.com/articles/mgmt/mgmt2.html Article on the power of words with examples of how we can harm others without meaning to. This is an excellent resource and reminder of our power.
Author: Eduardo González, Jr.
State Diversity Specialist
Cornell University Cooperative Extension
[1]Eduardo Gonzalez


[ http://www.aacu.org/ocww/:

Professional Development

Professional Development

The Professional Development page is dedicated to creating a language around diversity in its broadest sense and recognizing, celebrating and appreciating difference while supporting all functions related to the creation of a diverse workforce and programs to reach diverse audiences.

Programming for Clientele with Developmental DisabilitiesFeatured Items

How to Register for “Communicating across Cultures” Course  ENROLLMENT FLYER Course.docx

Upcoming Webinars

Previous Webinars:

The Contribution of 4-H to Social Capital and Social Justic

California 4-H Embracing Diversity & Fostering Inclusion – Not an easy taskLet’s Talk about Race

Programming for Clientele with Developmental Disabilities

Three Tools for Engaging Latino Youth Populations and Place

Engaging Seasonal/ Migrant Farm Workers

4H Futures Program

Understanding Social Identity Development

Immigrants and Cooperative Extension: Opportunity and Challenge

Improving Extension Accessibility

Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Webinar

Strategies for Effectively Communicating through an Interpreter

Moving Beyond Translation: Integrating Language Access into Program Planning

Volunteering in under-resourced communities: Challenges for urban Master Gardeners

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Working with LGBTQ Clients

How to Facilitate Difficult Conversations

Land Grant Impacts Database Informational Webinar

Structural Racism and Food Inequity

Digital Commerce: Electronic Buying and Selling of Goods

CoP General Meetings (Recordings):

January 29, 2018

November 27, 2017

October 23, 2017

September 25, 2017

April 24, 2017

March 20, 2017

January 30, 2017

October 24, 2016

September 26, 2016 

March 28, 2016

February 29, 2016

November 23, 2015

October 26, 2015

The Language of Diversity

Exploring Tribal Leadership: Understanding and Working With Tribal People (pdf)

Diversity Paragraphs (pdf)


Organizational Development and Change

Organizational Development and Change

The Organizational Development and Change page contains models, resources, and best practices for organizational change. As we develop our capacity to serve a diverse society, we must also evolve our Extension system to one which will nurture and sustain our efforts to be effective in honoring the differences among us.

Featured Item

Preventing violence against women and girls.pdf  Abstract: Men’s violence against women and girls is a blunt expression of the pervasive gender inequalities that characterize countries across the globe. Men’s violence against women both expresses and maintains men’s power over women. Indeed, rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence have been seen as paradigmatic expressions of the operation of male power over women (Miller and Biele 1993, p. 53). Whether in workplaces or elsewhere, efforts to build gender equality must reckon with men’s violence against women.

A meta-analytic evaluation of diversity training outcomes.pdf  This meta-analysis used theory and research on diversity, attitudes, and training to
examine potential differential effects on affective-based, cognitive-based, and skill-based outcomes.

Organizational Performance Consequences of Age Diversity.pdf Take a look at the effects of Diversity-Friendly HR policies and top managers’ negative age stereotypes.

Organizational Climate and Culture Review.pdf  Here is a review outlining organizational climate and culture theory

The Path from Exclusive Club to Inclusive Organization: A Developmental Process  Learn how you can move your organization from being monocultural, to one that is inclusive of all people: The Path from Exclusive Club.pdf

Navigating Difference: Development and Implementation of a Successful Cultural Competency Training for Extension and Outreach Professionals  Learn how the Washington State University Extension addresses quality standards for successful implementation of diversity training models here: Navigating Difference.pdf

We all know that working in teams is beneficial to achieving performance goals. However, diverse teams can also bring its own unique challenges. For more information on how to develop efficient and effective teams, please see the attached article:

Developing diverse teams to improve performance in the organizational setting.pdf

Diversity Not Just a Human Resources Function Anymore


Making Excellence Inclusive is designed to help colleges and universities fully integrate their diversity and educational quality efforts and embed them into the core of academic mission and institutional functioning. Through this initiative, the Association of American Colleges and Universities re-envisions diversity and inclusion as a multi-layered process through which we achieve excellence in learning; research and teaching; student development; institutional functioning; local and global community engagement; workforce development; and more. http://www.aacu.org/inclusive_excellence/index.cfm

Organizational Climate: Conducting a Climate Assessment (pdf)

Source: Susan Rankin, Principal & Senior Research Associate, Rankin & Associates, Consulting. Conducting a climate assessment is one of the first steps toward creating an effective multicultural organization.
Assessing Organizational Climate – Part I (pdf)
Assessing Organizational Climate – Part II (pdf)
PowerPoint Presentation given by Susan Rankin at CASD/CASE 2005 National Diversity Conference
Authenticity in a Community Setting — A Tool for Self-Reflection and Change
Equity and Social Justice Diversity LinksOrganizational Development and Change by Claude Faucheux, Gilles Amado and Andre Laurent, 1982.        http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.ps.33.020182.002015

The Management of Innovation by Tom E. Burns and G. M. Salker, 1961


Exploring…research, paradigms and best practices, challenges and opportunities connections between organizational change and reaching diverse audiences

Organizational Change Section Editor:
Teresa Curtis
University of Wisconsin-Madison
(608) 262-3427

The Winning 4-H Plan

Educators from Ohio have developed an awareness program for 4-H educators, volunteers, parents, and youth in which the participants experience everyday situations that individuals with special needs face daily. Called the Winning 4-H Plan, the program aims to create a positive environment for diverse special-needs youth to help them reach their fullest potential as capable, competent, caring, and contributing citizens.

Youth with disabilities have the right to enjoy extracurricular activities such as 4-H. Efforts through 4-H programming and volunteer training need to ensure that children with disabilities have broad access to educational opportunities available through the hands-on learning experiences that 4-H provides. “All youth, regardless of their physical and mental conditions, need and deserve the opportunity to be involved in activities unique to their own special talents and interest. They also need to be integrated, to the greatest extent possible, with other children with and without disabilities in preparation for adulthood in a world with great diversity. For this reason, adults working with organizations such as 4-H should be well informed about disabilities and their implication for involvement of youth” (Tormoehlen and Field 1994). Volunteers need to understand that in addition to simply including youth with special needs, they will need to make adaptations and promote empathy among members and adults. “Inclusion means that people with disabilities have the same opportunities for involvement in meaningful and satisfying experiences as afforded other segments of the population” (Stumpf et al. 2002).

Use of the 4-H PetPALS curriculum, which challenges participants to experience what it is like not to be able see clearly, hear normally, or have all tactile sensations, has helped create an awareness of special-needs conditions that talking and lecture do not. Participants in the Winning 4-H Plan undergo similar experiences through a series of hands-on work stations that emphasize the challenges that special-needs individuals face every day. This training helps both adults and youth be better prepared to adapt project materials and experiences and provide support to accommodate special-needs youth in traditional 4-H club programs and activities. Through this sensitivity training, 4-H youth and adult volunteers gain a better understanding of the challenges special-needs youth face.

The goal of the Winning 4-H Plan is to better accommodate special-needs 4-H participants across the country while providing resources for professionals, volunteers, and parents in the Cooperative Extension System so that they can create the best possible experiences for special-needs youth. “When asked specifically about people who have special challenges, the majority of Extension professional agreed or strongly agreed that learning to relate effectively with physically challenged people (68.4%) and mentally challenged people (56.3%) should be an important part of 4-H” (Ingram 1999).

The Winning 4-H Plan helps create a culture in the 4-H movement within the Cooperative Extension System that embraces all youth and helps ensure that youth are involved in activities and programs that have a step-by-step progression of challenges so that successes can be celebrated along the way. 4-H embraces everyone and continues to strive for widespread involvement and inclusion neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, and county by county.


Coleman, B.M. and Booth, N. “4-H and the Handicapped: Volunteers’ Perception,” Journal of Extension, January 1984 volume 22, Number 1.

Ingram, P.D. (1999) “Attitudes of Extension Professionals toward Diversity Education in 4-H Programs,” Journal of Extension. Available at http://www.joe.org/joe/1999february/a3.html.

Small Animal Interaction Programs, 4-H Youth Development, Ohio State University Extension, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio and H. M. Suthers-McCabe, D.V.M., Associate Professor, Extension Specialist Human-Companion Animal Interaction, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, Virginia, copyright 2002, The Ohio State University Extension, pages 83 to 107 and appendices pages 183 to 211.

Stumpf, M., Henderson, K., Luken, K., Bianleschki, D., and Casey II, M. (2002) “4-H Programs with a Focus on Including Youth with Disabilities,” Journal of Extension. Available at http://www.joe.org/joe/2002april/a4.html.

Tormoehlen, Rand and Field,W.E. (1994) “A Perfect Fit: Involving Youth with Disabilities in 4-H,” Journal of Extension. Available at http://www.joe.org/joe/1994june/a4.html.

Migrant Farm Workers: Our Nation's Invisible Population

migrant farm workers photo

By Eduardo González, Jr., State Diversity Specialist, Cornell University Cooperative Extension Farm workers in United States

Between 1 and 3 million migrant farm workers leave their homes every year to plant, cultivate, harvest, and pack fruits, vegetables and nuts in the U.S. Although invisible to most people, the presence of migrant farm workers in many rural communities throughout the nation is undeniable, since hand labor is still necessary for the production of the blemish-free fruits and vegetables that consumers demand

Who are Migrant Farm workers?

Migrant farm workers are predominantly Mexican-born sons, husbands, and fathers who leave what is familiar and comfortable with the hopes and dreams of making enough money to support their families back home; feed themselves; purchase land and a home; and – like many immigrants who came before them – ultimately return to their homeland. While others come from countries such as Jamaica, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other states in the United States their aspirations remain the same. They are young, averaging about 31 years of age. Some arrive as single men, while others leave their families behind while they seek work and others travel and work with their families. For those who travel without their families, once they realize that they will need to maintain their U.S. earning capacity, they would much rather have their families settle with them in the U.S. More than half of all farm workers – 52 of every 100 – are unauthorized workers with no legal status in the United States.

Many farm workers arrive with solid agricultural skills firmly grounded in practical experience and working knowledge of agriculture. This expertise is complemented by a strong work ethic, deeply rooted in their commitment to provide for their families or make it on their own. This is reflected in their willingness to make considerable sacrifices in order to guarantee a more prosperous future for their extended families, their children and/or their siblings. These sacrifices range from separation from their countries of origins, families, and what is familiar to learning to navigate a foreign land where little is known about them and whose customs, language, foods, and ways of life are different from what they know. In many instances this new place brings about feelings of alienation and isolation. No longer is La Plaza – a central gathering place in town for community interaction and fellowship in their countries of origin – available to them. Instead loneliness creeps in for many as they are limited to the boundaries of the farm due in part to limited access to transportation and also to their lack of legal status which reduce their access to neighborhood businesses, services and community activities in general. Fear of being picked up by Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) due to their undocumented status causes many farm workers to go into hiding in the communities that they work and live in and further contributes to the isolation that farm workers routinely experience. So in many ways, Migrant farm workers work in settings that do not mirror those of the majority of the nation’s working populace.

In spite of these challenges, for many the hopes and dreams of making more money in the U.S than in their countries of origin is enough to drive them to make this enormous sacrifice. Many experience great pride in the contribution that they make to society through their labor for they realize their work feeds the world. For these farm workers there is also a sense of accomplishment in their ability to support their families in purchasing homes or going to school in their home country. For others, their hopes and dreams do not always materialize to the degree envisioned and promised with 61 percent of U.S. farm workers’ income falling below the poverty level. A median income of less than $7500 a year leave many feeling trapped with no other viable options outside of formwork and with the shame and indignity of returning to their homelands with less than what they came.

Why Do They Come

A host of push-pull factors contribute to the overwhelmingly immigrant farm worker labor pool. Some push factors in farm workers’ countries of origin are economic instability, political unrest, population growth, land reform shortcomings in rural areas, and scarce employment opportunities. Push factors that impact immigration patterns vary from country to country and from individual to individual. This is to say that the circumstances that cause an individual to emigrate from Colombia, South America may be different from those that cause an indigenous person from the states of Michoacán, Oaxaca, or Guanajuato in Mexico to come to the United States. A Colombian immigrant fleeing political persecution and civil unrest seeks asylum as a political refugee, while the indigenous Mexican treks across the desert into the US in search of work and income to support their family back home or just to be able to eat.

Pull factors within the United States include the ongoing desire for a low cost labor force to fill jobs no longer attractive to US citizens due to low pay, limited or no benefits and/or substandard work conditions. Other more direct pull factors have included federally enacted and administered farm labor programs such as the Bracero contract labor program that recruited workers from Mexico to harvest crops in the Southwestern United States from 1942 – 1964. Today, larger numbers of Mexican farm workers have moved into other regions of the country, including the Northeast, through a similar farm labor contract program known as the H-2A agricultural guest worker program enacted by Congress in 1952 and more widely used when the Bracero program ended in 1964.

Immigration Status

One of the key dynamics that detrimentally impacts the lives of migrant farm workers is their lack of legal status within the U.S. Unlike other immigrant groups that came before them these workers have not been granted legal status to live in the U.S. The undocumented status of an overwhelming number of farm workers has given way to increasing injustice and abuse against them. While not always making headlines, reports of injustice and abuse against farm workers abound including those of opportunistic crew leaders, substandard housing, violence against farm workers by community members of the dominant culture, exclusion from labor laws, inadequate housing, pesticide violations, and the inferior education of children of farm workers. Out of fear of displacement and deportation, farm workers often remain unable to protest inadequate conditions or report employer’s violation of labor, health or safety laws to state authorities. Furthermore, despite their overwhelming representation and contribution to the agricultural community, farm workers lack political leverage, therefore remaining a disenfranchised population. This lack of legal status sets the stage for farm workers’ lack of voice, agency and advocacy – in essence it creates their invisibility.

The Changing Face of Immigrants

As we continue to grow as a nation of immigrants, we need to make an extraordinary effort to understand farm workers in their full context. The legacy and lingering effects of living in a divided society have left us with incomplete, inaccurate and distorted information as to the history, triumphs and contributions of different groups within our society. As a nation built on the sacrifices of many different immigrant groups we must bear in mind that while the faces of immigrants have changed, their pioneering spirit, courage, determination, ability to thrive, and dreams of securing a better future for their children remain the same.


Finding from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 1997-1998: A Demographic and Employment Profile of United States Farm workers US Department of Labor.

The Human Cost of Food: Farm workers lives, labor and advocacy Edited by Charles D. Thompson and Melinda Wiggings Working Poor: Farm workers in the United States by David Griffith and Ed Kissam.

Coming Up on the Season – Farm workers in the United States and Farmerworkers in New York State by Kay Embrey.

Farm workers and Racism by Betty Garcia Mathewson.

Photo by bobjagendorf / CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Authenticity in a Community Setting — A Tool for Self-Reflection and Change

The process of change from a multicultural perspective will ask individuals and organizations to consider many new and exciting thoughts, ideas and processes. Change is a process that must be intentional, purposeful and fluid. Oftentimes the process of multicultural change is one that almost exclusively centers on the “other” in the relationship as the place where change should occur. In my attempts to work more effectively, thereby, more authentically with communities of difference, it has been important for me to begin any process of change as a journey of self-focus, self-excavation and self-reflection.

In my own personal journey, it has been important to keep present the duality of my multicultural reality; that is, that I have membership in both target groups and a non-target groups. Target groups are groups that are targeted as “less than” or different because of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, role or job, and other differences. Non-target groups are defined as groups that are more likely to receive privileges and benefits in a society and who believe that their “way” is better.1 In any given situation, I am an elder, 40+ years old and Latino [target group] and a male, middle and owning class, heterosexual, U.S. born, a person without disabilities and an English speaker [non-target group]. These group memberships, along with the actions, behaviors and reactions that are associated with each, have an impact on my ability to work effectively and authentically with communities of difference. Moreover, when I can operate from a place of healing of my target group experiences and understand when I am operating from my points of privilege and in less authentic ways from my non-target group status, I may be able to incorporate ideas such as trust, sustainability, authenticity and community in-reach.

Operating in relationships across differences from a place of trust and authenticity that are grounded in sustainability and community in-reach, will, over time lead to new and exciting opportunities. These opportunities will engage individuals and organizations with new audiences, lead to individual and organizational growth, and result in the continued relevancy of any organization willing to commit to this ongoing process. Committing to and incorporating these tenants on the individual and institutional levels will assist as a foundation for multicultural change.


A key foundational tenet for developing and maintaining healthy relationships across differences is the development and preservation of trust. Trust goes beyond the desire of individuals or organizations of difference to be engaged in an interaction together. It must be a mutually defined relational principle that needs continuous work and updating. It is effortful, intentional and ongoing. Developing trust across difference requires active listening that is focused on understanding others’ realities and holding those differing realities as relevant as my own. Trust is centered on the ability to reduce denial and defensiveness and a commitment to remaining in the relationship and “at the table” as the relationship develops and when tension or discomfort arises. Trust is identifying where we get stuck and how we will work collectively to keep the relationship intact operating from a place of wholeness, health and authenticity. Helpful questions to keep in mind when developing trust across differences are:

1. Why would the target group I am interested in working with desire to be involved with my organization or me?

2. What are my motives for wanting to be involved in this relationship? Are those motives foundational principles to building trust or are they obstacles?

Trust (continued)

3. What history of involvement does my organization have with the target group? What obstacles or opportunities does this history present to the relationship?

4. What personal excavation and work must I continually do to understand my privileges, my assumptions and prejudgments, and other potential barriers toward building trust as both parties continue working more closely together?

5. When interacting with individuals who are culturally different from myself, what reactions or internal messages do I receive that trigger defensiveness or denial on my part? What do I need to do for myself to work through these reactions to build and maintain a trusting relationship?


One of the true indicators of a successful multicultural relationship, collaboration or initiative is whether or not it is maintained over time and leads to other opportunities that capitalize on each other’s assets and strengthen the alliance. Although conditions for sustainability may not be measurable until the end of a process, it must be a goal of an authentic multicultural process, and intentional and purposeful planning must be integrated into all aspects of the relationship from beginning to end. It is also important that sustainability be a mutually defined and agreed upon goal, which is constantly discussed, updated and open for redefinition. Helpful questions to keep in mind when developing sustainability across differences are:

1. What characteristics and systems of mutual accountability will need to be a part of the relationship in order for there to be sustainability of the relationship or effort?

2. How are target group members involved in all aspects of the process and empowered to discuss the desire to sustain the relationship or effort beyond the original funding source, length of initiative defined in the original proposal, or when the relationship becomes internally or externally difficult?

3. What personal or non-target group characteristics must I examine that can be obstacles to sustainability? Do I need to be aware of issues related to control? Do I need to be aware of issues related to a well intentioned “savior mentality,” where my thoughts are centered on having all the right solutions and approaches to an issue and coming in to rescue the target group?

4. What do I need to be concerned about related to my tendency to operate from a monocultural approach to how a relationship or effort should be developed or sustained?

Community In-Reach Instead of Community Outreach

Many of us have been involved in community out-reach programs and initiatives. Although they may be needed, helpful and impactful, they are often based on maintaining relationships, intentionally or unintentionally, that are grounded in power and control. Many of these efforts begin with the assumption that people in non-target groups have all the “right” knowledge, information or programs, and that they need to spend time with target group members and show them what they need out of the kindness of their hearts. Moreover, non-target individuals can then tell others about their good deeds and feel great about themselves. They might even be able to receive additional funding or accolades from this endeavor while never having developed any long lasting connection with the community in which they served. These efforts are often grounded in a “savior mentality,” where individual’s thoughts are centered on having all the right solutions and approaches to an issue and coming in to rescue the target group. Additionally, these efforts based from a “savior mentality,” may include good intentions but result in limited impact, multiple levels of frustrations, and cursory relationship building.

On the other hand, community in-reach efforts can be characterized as those efforts that begin with the premises that all parties entering into the relationship have assets and that combining these assets can lead to authentic community efforts that can be established and maintained. It is less centered on maintaining power and control, and it focuses on establishing trust and genuineness. Community in-reach efforts are grounded in all parties’ willingness to be humble, patient, open to learning about themselves and others, flexible and adaptable, and committed to doing what is needed – not what is most expedient. Helpful questions to keep in mind when wanting to create community in-reach efforts across differences are:

1. What are my individual and organizational motives for wanting to do work with target groups or a target group community?

2. How will I create a process that allows for the assets of all involved to be honored?

3. What measures will be used that allow all involved to recognize when they have created a community in-reach effort that can be a model for future collaborations?

Authentic Relationships

It is important to work toward authenticity in relationships across differences. Authenticity moves beyond a mere friendship or working affiliation. It is based on trust, honesty, genuineness, responsibility to each other, willingness to be open and humble, willingness to take risks, and the understanding that tension in the relationship is a necessary component that will lead to growth. Individuals in this type of relationship practice self-focus, are more concerned about the impact of their words and actions vs. the intent, are collaborative in nature rather than competitive, are committed to being in an active and ongoing process of personal change, and constantly question their inherent biases and prejudices. Authenticity also encourages and nurtures opportunities for all engaged to heal from the ravages of oppression and work toward bringing a wholeness of spirit and mind into the relationship. Helpful questions to keep in mind when wanting to create authenticity in relationships across differences are:

1. What intentional work have I done on the personal level to understand the realities of individuals who are different from myself? In addition, what work have I done to understand the totality of my own cultural identity as a way of being conscious of my privileges?

2. Am I willing to speak my truth about my target group experiences and what will need to be present in the relationship for this to occur?

3. Am I willing to listen deeply as individuals of difference speak about the pain and reality of their experiences?

4. What work do I need to do to heal from the pain of my target group experience in order to more deeply understand my non-target group experience as I work to dismantle all forms of oppression?

5. What am I willing and able to do to continue to be aware of my tendency to perpetuate “modernism” behaviors from my non-target status for example, dysfunctional rescue or avoidance of contact, etc., that hinder my ability to develop authentic relationships?

6. Once established, what will need to be present in order to nurture this authentic relationship toward further growth and understanding of all involved?

7. What are the costs to my organization, my community and me if I am not engaged in and committed to an authentic relationship with those different from myself?

1 Batts, V. (2002). Is Reconciliation Possible: Lessons from Combating “Modern Racism.” In Douglas, I. (ed.), Waging Reconciliation: God’s Mission in a Time of Globalization and Crisis (pp.35-75) New York: Church Publishing Incorporated

© November 2003––——