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<xTITLE>Diversity Resistance (Part III)</xTITLE>

Diversity Resistance (Part III)

by Marvin E. Johnson
August 2003 Marvin E. Johnson
The underpinnings for Diversity Resistance are a part of our human development (see part II ). Unfortunately, many of these inconspicuous elements of human behavior are activated and become more prevalent when we are in the presence of and/or interact with diverse groups or individuals.

Although the outcomes that derive from these encounters are not always positive, Diversity Resistance, as defined herein, is not about “bad people.” It is about the unconscious behavior of well-meaning individuals who, without provocation, would not intentionally harm another human being. If their actions/behavior inadvertently harmed or injured someone, most would apologize and, thereafter, pay closer attention to their actions/behavior under the same or similar circumstances.

For example, if Mary’s luggage strikes a passenger sitting in an aisle seat while Mary is carrying her luggage down the aisle of an airplane, Mary would apologize and pay closer attention to how she is carrying her luggage. However, if Mary did not know her luggage hit the passenger, she would not apologize, see no reason to apologize, and not alter the way she carried her luggage in such close quarters. Moreover, unless the passenger or a witness immediately brings the incident to Mary’s attention, she will be unaware of the unintended consequences of her actions and therefore may not believe she is responsible for striking the passenger if she is ever subsequently informed. Similarly, because our latent layers of imprints (see part II ) control how we see people and situations, and regulate our response to them, when we engage in diversity resistant actions (see part I ), in addition to being unaware of our resistance, we are unaware of the outcome(s) that flow(s) therefrom.

The psychological paradigm “reactive devaluation” is understood and utilized in the dispute resolution field. It may be helpful in shining some light herein. Reactive devaluation refers to a negotiation in which an offer made or the information provided by the opposing party is perceived as of lesser value or inaccurate because it emanated from the “opposition.” Diversity Resisters engage in reactive devaluation when they devalue or ignore a diverse individual or what a diverse individual has said in a meeting, on a conference call, in an e-mail exchange, etc.

This typically occurs when an action or a statement made by a diverse individual is ignored or followed by dialog or action that marginalizes what the individual has said or done. In this regard, reactive devaluation emanates from the Diversity Resisters’ imprints and thereby fosters an inability to, among other things, acknowledge, respect, and accept the diverse individual in his or her position or role. Like Mary above, when we engage in such behavior, we are striking the diverse individual with the luggage/baggage we are carrying.

As was the case with Mary, if Diversity Resistance is not immediately brought to the attention of the Diversity Resister, s/he will be unaware of the consequence of his/her behavior, will not take responsibility for the outcome, and will not see the need to change. Absent a minimal level of awareness on the part of the Diversity Resister, the same drama of Diversity Resistance will continue to be replayed.


Marvin Johnson is a nationally recognized mediator, arbitrator and trainer with over 27 years of dispute resolution experience. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution and previously was Associate Professor at Bowie State University. Mr. Johnson received his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Catholic University. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Kent State University and a Master of Science Degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin. Mr. Johnson has worked for the Department of Labor, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Football League Players' Association, and the National Academy of Conciliators. As a consultant, Mr. Johnson serves as a mediator, an arbitrator, a fact-finder, and a facilitator in hundreds of public and private disputes. He provides dispute resolution training and lectures extensively on the subject of conflict management.

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