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Juana Bordas
Diversity leader

Juana Bordas

Juana Bordas is president of Mestiza Leadership International, a company focusing on leadership, diversity, and organizational change. Author of the 2007 book Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age, she is a board member of the International Leadership Association.

Shut your mouth

Barack Obama in his first news conference after being elected president referred to himself as a "mutt." In fact, the debate on whether to call this son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan biracial, African-American, café or latte, or black continues. This is indicative of America's "stuck on race" bias that has its roots in the Constitution where black men were designated three-fifths of a person. Reid has stepped into a historical wound - one where today we must all tread lightly.

But there is redemption. In communities of color, a leader is required to "walk his talk" which means what one does and how one leads his life is the litmus test of leadership. The NAACP in Reno and Las Vegas have accepted Reid's apologies based on his proven record on leadership in civil rights and social justice. We should do the same. How many of us have used racial terminology, listened to a racially insensitive joke, or mistakenly said something about race which did not come from our higher angels? Times change - sometimes we do not even know the right terminology to use. The NAACP for instance stands for the National Association of Colored People. Reid would have been in the same boat calling Obama colored.

I grew up in the segregated South and understand the great transformation America is going through in becoming a multicultural society. In shedding our racially biased skin, we are all going to make mistakes like Reid did. The best advice I can give is shut your mouth, listen, and then show people the respect you would want for you, your family, and whatever group you identify with. Our multicultural future will depend on our ability to treat each other with compassion, to educate one another about who we are, to forgive one another our trespasses, and yes, on redemption.

By Juana Bordas

 |  January 12, 2010; 6:37 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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When I listened to Dr. Ralph Bunche in l955, he was described as a negro...He was so interesting and many of us in that church in Michigan learned a lot. Several days ago, on CNN, Ms. OBrien got crazy beating up folks who use the word, negro..she can't help it..she is too young, but as a commentator...she could help it if she did a little more book reading....Ignorance is NOT bliss! We have so many Americans who are ignorant...so, maybe they were poor and couldn't go to college. OK. now we need parents who insist that their children go to the library...so, walk 5 miles..it will be good for you.

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 14, 2010 7:19 PM
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I hate the phrase "people of color". It's so ungrammatical.

Posted by: Annapolis1 | January 12, 2010 4:03 PM
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I agree with what you are saying but let's not forget that the comments were mentioned in a book, not an impromptu speech or interview. Should we believe that it did not raise ANY red flags prior to publication? Come on... I think we know better. And if he did not know better, where the heck were his editors? Can you say "increased book sales?"

Posted by: interestedparty6 | January 12, 2010 2:44 PM
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Amen, Ms. Bordas. It's all about treating people the way you would like to be treated. It's that simple.

Posted by: bravegirl01 | January 12, 2010 10:04 AM
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