Bahai News - Diversity Training Criticized
Tuesday, April 11, 2000
LANL Diversity Training Criticized
By Ian Hoffman
Journal Staff Writer
SANTA FE Diversity advocates in the
Birthplace of the Bomb stumbled into a minefield as they tried to train
co-workers to embrace their differences.
The idea for a "diversity stand-down" was Energy Secretary Bill
Richardson's. It was his answer to Asian Americans angered over the Wen
Ho Lee prosecution and a report that unearthed "racial profiling" at
nuclear-weapons sites. He set a May 5 deadline for workers nationwide to
undergo a few hours of diversity training.
Los Alamos National Laboratory's new diversity director jumped at the
chance. Lisa Gutierrez and fellow organizers juggled the schedules of
two speakers and the lab director.
For the date they planned, they narrowly dodged Spring Break and a
string of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic holidays.
April is loaded in holy days, and Gutierrez ran into three by selecting
April 20: Passover, Holy Thursday and the Baha'i Festival of Ridvanbut
"Almost every day in my calendar is something," she said later. But then
she committed a real sensitivity faux-pas: In answer to protests from a
handful of Jews and Christians, she noted that April 20 also is Adolf
Hitler's birthday, a fact other employees had pointed out to her.
"It wasn't intentional," Gutierrez said Monday. "It was one of those
things where people thought Adolf Hitler's birthday is a negative thing
and diversity training is a positive thing ... I realized when I read my
e-mail that it sounded like I was equating Hitler's birthday with
Passover and Holy Thursday."
She immediately wrote an explanatory e-mail and apologized.
"I'm apologizing because I did not mean to imply that (Hitler's
birthday) was in any way equivalent to the first three religious
observances," Gutierrez wrote in her e-mail. "I was including 'apples
and oranges' in my comments and didn't intend to do so."
Some workers were still smoldering the next day, and Gutierrez's
colleagues rushed to her defense.
"As I sat in the planning meetings with Lisa, there was almost constant
caution and reminders by Lisa to show sensitivity to people," said Mick
Trujillo, director of the lab's equal-employment opportunity office. "I
think maybe an individual or group of individuals misinterpreted Lisa's
"It's difficult to find a day in this world that's satisfactory to
everyone," he said.
That it is, especially during Multicultural Communication Month.
©Copyright 2000, Albuquerque Journal
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