Some years ago the Montana National Guard hosted a trainer to conduct some awareness training. I was very impressed by the trainer and his quiet way of sharing his journey to America from Africa. The problems he had overcome. Mostly I was aware of the great hope and humor he projected as he taught us about his experiences with discrimination and social injustice.
He gave us all a quick test, asking us to write the first person we thought of living or dead who best fit the question. Please consider taking this short quiz and see if your results were similar to our results.
1. Name a famous American.
2. Name a famous Native American.
3. Name a famous Irish American.
4. Name a famous Asian American.
5. Name a famous African American.
6. Name a famous Jewish American.
7. Name a famous Woman.
8. Name a famous Italian American.
9. Name a famous German American.
10. Name a famous man.
I was chagrined I was only able to answer about 3/4 of the questions. I expected him to talk to us about bias and being aware of other cultures. As I looked around I gave myself silent brownie points. I had answered more questions then most.
Then he looked at each of us and quietly said, “How many of these questions did you answer with the name of a woman?”
My answer was one. I felt humbled. Here I was a female in a nontraditional role and I didn't think to answer the questions with women leaders. Such a powerful message and it was all the louder because he said it with such gentleness and grace.
Then he said, “We are all products of our education and experience. Education is critical, stereotypes and discrimination come in many forms. It is important to include all the voices as we study and teach history.”
I was shocked by his question and comments. Maybe more importantly it helped me to look differently at what I taught and whom I included. Over the years I have forgotten the speakers name but not his message.
I challenge you to look at your answers. What does this assessment tell you?