Clyde Davis, columnist
The roomful of people is busily engaged in discussing the subject of cultural diversity. This is not just from an ethnic viewpoint, but a class viewpoint as well. How is that possible, you ask, as we live in a classless society? Well, we really don’t. We just have the freedom, at least in theory and usually in fact, to move from one class to another. Since that meeting is only a two-hour one, the subject can only be touched on the surface.
It sets the wheels of self examination in motion, and even though the meeting is only two hours long, my mind begins to wander. Where it wanders is also where I would like to take yours, this morning.
How many subgroups, or classes, are you a part of? One of the differences I think we would see among the people alive today and those of my parents’ parents’ generation is the ease with which folks move among several social groups. I think an analysis of history would trace a lot of that to social ripples caused by WWII, but how dare I conjecture without appropriate research! (Oops, there I go thinking in an academic framework again.)
There are, for example, lots of folks around here who speak “military.” Active duty, retirees, veterans, and civilians who have worked for long periods of time at CAFB all have their own particualr approach — or approaches — to life, and when I for one am around those folks, I unconsciously shift into that culture. If you don’t know the rules, the class if you will, you stand out as one of the uninitiated.
People at the university and CCC have their own academic speak, which is known within the group, and which has its own set of standards. Here I am speaking about the faculty and staff, some of whom are also students. But of course, there are lots of people out there who speak military and also speak academic, due to the nature of the community.
Then we have the ways that we unconsciously shift back and forth, depending on the setting that we are in. I learned at a very young age that I was to speak differently, conduct myself differently, relate differently, around my mom’s family than when we were with my dad’s. Since at the time my mom’s extended family was very large, there were even classes within that subgroup!
Oh, yeah! Throw me in with a group of clergy and I know all the codewords — unless they are from the opposite end of the theological spectrum, in which case I deliberately avoid those codewords. If they have all had CPE (clinical pastoral training) so much the better. On the other hand, if they all like advanced archaeology and linguistics — well, I’m out of sync.
As I mentioned at the above meeting, the focus of which was student success, I personally can speak (or really, relate) jock and I can also speak (or really, relate) drama, though I have never been involved in drama, but our task is to teach all of our students to speak (yeah, relate) college. It isn’t so hard for a 19-year-old to move from one class to another — say, cowboy to college student — but it might be kinda hard for her to realize that she is a part of many cultures, all equally valid.
So what about you? How many classes or cultures or subgroups are you a part of, and how do you synchronize them into the whole which is yourself?
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at