Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching a cultural intelligence workshop in Washington D.C. at the U.S. Department of Justice. It was invigorating to interact with some of our nation’s finest leaders in thinking about how cultural intelligence needs to permeate our justice efforts.
But one of the things that really struck me was the multicultural experience I had just entering the DOJ building. As you can imagine, there’s a thorough security process that ensues. After getting through the first round of officers outside the building, I went to the visitor’s reception desk. Behind bullet proof glass, there were 3 African American officers and 1 Asian American one who were doing the security clearance.
As I waited for them to run a security check on me, I saw the pictures above their heads: President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. I was struck by what a different world we have these days. I was standing there as the minority. Politics aside for a moment (PLEASE?!!), I wonder what it’s like for these officers to have the pictures of their senior leaders behind them look more like them than me.
The afternoon training session was equally enlightening for me. How might cultural intelligence have alerted law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, and military personnel to the plans of the alleged murderer behind the Ft. Hood slayings? How does the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (part of the DOJ) embody the cultural intelligence they enforce throughout the country. Can cultural intelligence co-exist with the traditional approach that’s been used to unify security efforts–having a “common enemy”? As usual–I learned as much or more as I taught.