1. The Removal of Confederate Monuments in Public Spaces Sparks Deadly Protests (December 2017)
In 2015, there were about 700 Confederate national monuments that celebrate the controversial American civil war across the United States. Most Americans gave them little thought. That changed during the same year after Dylann Roof, a young white American, worshipped with members of a predominantly African American church before shooting and killing 9 of them. Police found a photo of Dylann with a Confederate flag and evidence that he espoused white supremacist ideology. There had been considerable discussion about the need to remove Confederate symbols in public spaces for years, but Alabama and South Carolina took down their monuments on state capitol grounds. That led to other monuments coming under attack and protests against the removals. The protests led to a number of high profile rallies against monument removals and counter-protestors that were larger in numbers. One rally led to a Confederate monument sympathizer running over and killing a counter-protester with his vehicle. While more than 60 monuments have been removed across locations spanning from South Carolina to San Diego by the end of 2017, plenty remain. The controversy and protests continue.
2. The #METOO Movement Gives Silenced Women (and Men) a Voice (October 2017)
In the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct by a famous Hollywood film producer, the hashtag #metoo went viral and became the most widely used for sharing sexual violence stories in social media. Actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to use the hashtag social media to publicize personal experiences with being a victim of sexual harassment. A number of famous actresses joined in to tell their stories and encourage other women to the same.
3. Presidential Ban on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Recipients (September 5, 2017)
The United States president ordered an end to the prior administration’s program implemented to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation. About 800,000 immigrants migrated to the United States illegally - some with their parents and many alone. Most are either in the education system or taxpayers in the workforce. The five-year policy protected them from immediate deportation. One problem potential deportees face is that the United States policy for deciding who is eligible for deportation does not take the economic and political climate in the country into consideration. Refugees who migrated to the United States due to a natural disaster in their country may still find the aftermath of the disaster unresolved sufficiently to make returning feasible.
4. Ban on Transgender Recruits in the United States Military (August 2017)
The directive to the Department of Defense and Homeland Security signed by the president reinstated a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military. The previous ban was lifted in 2016 under the prior administration. Reinstating the ban created uncertainty for transgender members in the military, especially those service personnel who had “come out”. The resulting legal actions all but ascertain that the courts will resolve the matter.
5. A Google Senior Engineer Email Demonstrates the Limitations of Unconscious Bias Training (July 2017)
A Google software engineer writes and widely distributes a contentious email memo about the organization’s state of cultural diversity initiative affairs. The white male engineer suggests that the company’s efforts to increase gender diversity does not take into account that biological differences between men and women may account for science and technology job readiness. He also commented that Google created a culture of promoting cultural diversity that fosters an ideological echo chamber intolerant of conservative white male views. Google fired the engineer after an investigation. At the same time, Google was under investigation by the United States Department of Labor for allegedly systemic inequity in pay between men and women. The incident raised questions about how to include white males in cultural diversity programs, the role of free speech, especially conservative views, in the workplace, and the effectiveness of unconscious bias training.
6. Millennials Take the Lead in Cultural Diversity Innovation in Tech Companies (May 2017)
Cultural diversity and inclusion in the workplace raise the bar in tech startup company human resource management today. From Boston to San Jose, startup executives are including cultural diversity in their organization’s DNA early stage. One example is Ohmconnect.com. The CEO Matt Duesterberg is known for introducing and leading cultural diversity topics during staff meetings. A shared goal of these forward-thinking young companies is to create an open and tolerant workplace culture in which all voices, especially the historically excluded ones, are heard. Cultural diversity and inclusion starts early - long before it is visible. A company with a staff of 15 can grow to 60 in a very short period of time. Emphasizing inclusion early creates a more welcoming and inclusive culture that withstands ever-changing, rapidly moving technology company circumstances.
7. Colin Kaepernick Wins the 2017 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award (November 2017)
Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during a 2016 game was not without consequences. It basically cost him his profession and what most of us think is a ton of money. He refused to honor the typical pledge of allegiance stance during the opening ceremonies to protest against social and racial injustice. The victims of a police shooting in inner-city communities were being recognized and challenged in his act. He could not get a contract or even a try out in football clubs after leaving the San Francisco Forty-Niners. It was his steadfast commitment to his social justice message and resulting sacrifices that earned him the Sports Illustrated award.
8. The United States Continues It’s Nobel Prize Dominance Thanks to a Group of Immigrants to America
Since the year 2000, immigrants to the United States have contributed to the Nobel prize winners 33 to 85 or about 4 in 10. The trend continued in 2017 with 2 of 7 American Nobel prizes going to immigrants. In 2016, all six of the Americans awarded the prize in economics and scientific fields went to immigrants. The success of immigrants is in part by design. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminated discriminatory immigration quotas against people of Asian countries. The door for Asian immigrants was further opened by the 1990 Immigration Act.
9. Executive Order Blocking Immigrants and Refugees from Majority Muslim Countries (January 27, 2017)
The president of the United States signed an executive order that blocks the entry of immigrants and refugees from majority Muslim countries. The order granted Christian and other “minority” religions precedence over Muslims in immigration and refugee status decision making. People from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen were specifically targeted. Legal actions against the ban resulted in rewrites of the executive order, which are still be debated and legally scrutinized today.
10. Cultural Diversity & Inclusion is Still Standing
Cultural diversity came under attack in 2017 and it was noticed. Despite the perception of a more rewarding year overall personally, 8 in 10 Americans grew much more concerned about race relations. A September 2017 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that about a third of Americans felt that race relations are very poor, while nearly half of those polled felt that race relations are fairly bad - a combined total of about 80%. The very fact that so many people are conscious of the downward race relations spiral and oppose government policies that aim to exclude people of different cultural backgrounds, is a good sign. Americans disagree about Confederate monuments, immigration, and cultural diversity in the workplace. What we as Americans can agree on is that our country is better as a result of embracing people from all walks of life.
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