Atlanta (June 29, 2011) – Walk through the mall, a school or a business office today, and in nearly any city in the country, it will be obvious that “we” is getting trickier to define in terms of race, ethnicity and collective identity. Within relationships, cross-cultural is becoming the norm rather than the exception. This shift from a similar-looking status quo to one that incorporates a plethora of faces, has been referred to as “multiculturalism,” and this typically means both celebrating the uniqueness of each culture and navigating relationships with cultural differences. That might sound nice in an employee handbook, but what does it mean at the bank, at a PTA meeting, on a date or even at a wedding?
Farnaz Wallace, Founder of Farnaz Global and expert in multiculturalism and social and cultural change, has developed strategies and frameworks to help people and organizations find success in forming relationships across all kinds of cultural boundaries. “Multiculturalism should neither be a demand for special rights for minorities, nor a threat to protecting one’s own cultural identity and safety,” she says. “It is a phenomenon of resolving differences and building on commonalities based on values of trust, freedom, respect, equality, justice, dignity, open mindedness and mutual happiness.” Shared values are much more important in any relationship than skin color or demographic status.
Soon the majority of the US population will be non-white. With nearly two million inter-racial marriages today and a multiracial population of 9 million, up 32 percent since 2000, multicultural relationships affect almost every part of our personal and professional lives. This isn’t even an immigration issue; it’s simply an account of the situation that has arrived and a move toward understanding the people who are already here.
Farnaz coined the term New World Marketplace to better define this rapid cultural shift, where the terms “diversity” and “multicultural” often mislead by promoting inclusion and benefits for one or two population segments. “We’re not talking about just an annual celebration of Black History Month or Cinco de Mayo, to give a nod to these groups. The New World Marketplace exist 365 days a year,” says Farnaz.
Family dynamics and relationship roles especially among the youth in today’s modern lifestyle are changing every day. “Good, happy relationships have a lot in common across all cultures, and challenges are the same as well,” says Farnaz. “Taking pride in one’s cultural background should enhance relationships, not burden, because it defines authenticity, a value commonly shared by successful people and companies.” Celebs like Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas both represent the idea of being authentically who you are and being comfortable with cross-cultural relationships.
The workplace of the future is being morphed and shaped right now. Simply taking a look inside schools today, it is obvious that the New World Marketplace is here to stay. In fact one in four children born in the United States today has a parent who is an immigrant. “Think of how parental marriage advice to “find someone like you” will look in the near future,” says Farnaz.
The challenge to each of us as employers, workers, consumers, citizens, or in any other role, in embracing the New World Marketplace is to select and judge based on ethical values, rather than demographic prejudices. “In all aspects of life, you want to align with those with whom you share your values and beliefs,” says Farnaz. “People of all ages, races and cultures actually can share the same principles.”
A lesson in acceptance could immediately be learned from the contemporary youth market, as they live and breathe the New World Marketplace. Gender and racial issues their parents faced seem confusing or irrelevant to them. “Those who have been raised in open-minded, inclusive family backgrounds feel less conflicted and more confident with how they fit into the New World Marketplace and will be best suited to benefit from it,” says Farnaz.