Diversity begins with self-awareness

Rick Caldwell, Cultural Competency seminar leader, speaks to more than 50 troops about his perspectives on diversity and inclusion during a seminar on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 10, 2018

Rick Caldwell, Cultural Competency seminar leader, speaks to more than 50 troops about his perspectives on diversity and inclusion during a seminar on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 10, 2018. By taking an active posture toward diversity as a choice, Caldwell illustrated that a unit may be more cohesive and effective by encouraging conversation rather than judgement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton)

Cultural Competency  attendees discuss generational concepts during a diversity seminar on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 9, 2018.

Cultural Competency attendees discuss generational concepts during a diversity seminar on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 9, 2018. During the seminar, troops and leaders were introduced to a new perspective on diversity that transcended race, religion, sexual orientation or generation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Troops from Osan Air Base were introduced to a new perspective on diversity that transcended race, religion, sexual orientation or generation: Diversity as a choice.

The 51st Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity office and RCultures Inc. teamed up to host a cultural competency seminar July 10 and 11, 2018, to bring a different diversity message to troops and leadership.

“Equal opportunity is a law, and that’s something you have to do, but diversity is sometimes a choice,” said Rick Caldwell, President and CEO of RCultures, Inc., who led the seminar. “It’s how we deal with people who are different than us.”

Caldwell said self-awareness should be the approach to understand and empathize with other people, regardless of their background.

“The goal is to understand we all come to the workplace with a different way that we view the world, but we have to get to a point where we can function effectively based on all these different culture differences we bring to the workplace. It goes back to self-awareness,” he said.

During the seminar, Caldwell urged people to challenge their biases and assumptions about different people and understand they’re not always in the moral right.

“Take time, get comfortable, and trust people who are different than you,” he said. “I think the challenge is to recognize your biases and prejudices.”

In addition to taking an objective view of personal biases, Caldwell’s position on diversity requires equal trust and encouraging dialogue.

“Take some time to get to know people before you judge them,” he said. “Get comfortable. Have conversations. Open dialogue. I always use these 2 words: communication and collaboration. If we can communicate, then we can collaborate better. It’s not always about race. Sometimes it’s about a political issue, sometimes it’s about religion, sometimes it’s about sexual orientation or identity. All of these things make us different. I think we can do better with communication and collaboration.”

Master Sgt. Cody Williams, 607th Air Operations Center first sergeant, attended the seminar and said he took away valuable information he can share with his unit.

“The message he’s putting out there is a message I think needs to get across to a lot more people than just those who were here,” he said. “It’s not about just agreeing to disagree, but to understand where each person is coming from. That was my biggest take-away.”

By taking an active posture toward diversity as a choice, as Caldwell illustrates, a unit may become more cohesive and effective by encouraging conversation rather than judgement. People cannot change their race, ethnicity, or generation they were born in, but everyone can focus on empathy and how they choose to relate to others.