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The Baltimore Sun

Letter: How about cultural diversity training for politicians

With the many different cultures represented in Howard County, it makes sense to offer cultural diversity training to teachers and administrators in the school system. Cultural diversity training helps to make them aware of the many different languages that students may speak at home, different styles of dress, differences in home life, in household income, parents education level, and the importance of education. Muslims, Hindus, African Americans, and Hispanics all have different styles of dress that are common in their ancestral home, be it Pakistan, India, Africa or Latin America, and are worn in this country to show solidarity to their culture.

It may be time to offer training in cultural diversity to our political leaders.

As a candidate in 2010 for the Howard County Board of Education, I experienced a lack of cultural awareness. I was at a meeting of the Columbia Democratic Club where the candidates the club would support in the coming elections would be selected. I am a Hispanic of medium complexion and was wearing a pair of slacks and a guayabera. I went to greet a gentleman I knew who was talking with a politician from the county.

Both men were seated and I shook hands with the gentleman I knew who then introduced me to the politician. The politician looked at me, remained seated, shook my hand, nodded his head then turned to continue his conversation.

I thought this strange but it may have been an important conversation. I thought no further of it until another BOE candidate, behind me and dressed in a suit and tie and obviously Anglo, stepped up to introduce himself to the same politician. This time he stood up, shook hands, and held a short conversation then sat down again to continue his conversation.

Was this just a case of insensitivity to my culture, in the way I was dressed, or outright discrimination? Either way I felt disrespected. This politician was mentioned in a recent article in the Howard County Times, which reminded me of the encounter and how I felt at the time.

Perhaps cultural diversity training ought to be offered to our politicians in order to prevent others from experiencing the insensitivity, discrimination and disrespect I felt.

Marcelino Bedolla

Columbia

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