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Talking with some people at our Council Volunteer Recognition Dinner last week I found out that the Cubmaster of the only Pack which was all African-American is gone and the pack has folded.

The Council is in SW PA. While there is a lot of farm land and rural packs and Troops, most units seem to be in small towns like the one I live in with about 5,000 people. We have the small "Patch towns" where at one time coal was mined. We have towns where glass was made.

The county seat is the big town nearest to where I live and it only has a population of 15,569. looking at the races the breakdown is:

White Non-Hispanic (92.7%)

Black (3.9%)

Two or more races (1.5%)

Hispanic (1.1%)

American Indian (0.5%)

Looking at the breakdown for the county next door which is part of the council the numbers are about the same.

By my rough calculations we should have about 200 black Scouts.

We don't. In fact I'm almost sure we don't have 50.

Even when we attend Flotilla events where most of the Ship's are from Washington D.C and the Baltimore areas I'm amazed at how few non-white Scouts I see.

I was really excited when I seen that the OA was getting involved with Scoutreach.

I don't know what is happening elsewhere, but it seems in our lodge we seem happy to not even notice that it's there.

While I love soccer, I'm not sure if the BSA soccer program for Hispanics and Latinos wasn't in some ways a cop out? Whats next medical school programs for Asians or some specialized program for Pacific Islanders?

All the Scouter's I know in our Council are now white. (I did know the lady who was the black CM - She attended a WB course I staffed a few years back.) Most of these Scouter's are what might be classified as middle class.

We all seem very happy to keep on doing what we have been doing. That is providing a program to the kids of other middle class parents. Sure every now and then a kid from a poor family might pop up. But for the most part we don't make any real effort to reach out into the projects or poorer neighborhoods.

When BP took that first group of boys to Brownsea Island he went out of his way to have a mixed group of Lads.

I wonder what he would think about what we have become?


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I have had similar thoughts for a long time. When I go to the waterfront at summer camp and view the boys and staff, for some reason my mind drifts to 'Moby Dick'. I wonder why?;)


Anyway, I think the days of token units and segregation are over in BSA, at least I hope so. So what is left is for the program to reflect the make-up of the community. And this doesn't necessarily reflect the %composition as much as it does the dominance of some socio-economic cultures over others. I'm willing to admit that scouting is preferred by members of certain socio-economic 'cultures' more than others. I can't explain why but in spite of our very strong efforts to increase diversity (and we do have fairly good diversity in this unit), the diversity we have mostly reflects a diversity of families - all of whom share very similar lifestyles and interests for their children. Not necessarily along racial or ethnic lines. Perhaps the concept of 'diversity' is in some need of revision.

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Not sure what the meaning of diversity is supposed to mean in Scouting. Does it mean Scouting should appeal to boys across a wide spectrum or does it mean each unit that is primarily composed of white boys should have a boy of color in their unit?


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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Hoo boy, this is a topic that I've learned really upsets people. At one point in our WB course when we had the "diversity" lecture I (big mouth that I am) made the mistake of observing that many units, and maybe the BSA in general, did not appear to be all that interested in actually having diversity within the ranks, but more with making the right noises about diversity.


To the extent that we do talk about or maybe do something about diversity issues, it just seems to me that often times we define "diversity" so narrowly as to avoid getting out of our immediate comfort zone. And doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?

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So what say we first, as Ed kind of suggested, define Diversity. Coming from Chicago, as I do, Diversity can be a positive or a negative depending on exactly what is being talked about. One of the things we are supposed to be doing is making the Scouting Program available to every available (qualified) youth in our area. Qualified intended as gender specific or age specific for the part of the program being discussed. If we are to make the program available to all available youth then there are youth that need special attention. In Chicago we have a far smaller unit to available youth ratio than we do in the communities outside the city proper. The youth of the inner city deserve the opportunity just as much as the youth in the collar communities. If we are to have Diversity in our council we must do something to make the program available to that segment of youth. The adult population of the inner city, when taken as a group, do not support Scouting with their time. They do not support the Scouting program even to the extent of making it available to the youth by getting them to meetings or events. So what is to be done? Urbanize the program to attract the youth? Hasnt worked so well in the past, we didnt attract the urbanities and lost suburbanites we had. Provide leadership and funds to establish units. Problem here has been that the family atmosphere does not reflect the scouting atmosphere. The boys dont get the support, encouragement or recognition from their family they need to benefit from the Scouting program. So what do we (National) do now? LFL !!! We achieve Diversity by creating a separate program. Here in Chicago we serve just as many youth proportionally in the inner city as we do the collar communities. You just wont find those inner city youth at any of the collar community functions and visa versa. Looks good on paper though. At my District Roundtable this week I recall one Afro American that being a female. We have many female Scouters and quite a few Latino Scouters. Our District events are shaded much the same as far as leaders go but we do have units that sever higher numbers of a Afro American youth than their respective adult Scouter representation reflects. What I dont like about this Diversity thing is mandating that X amount of your training staff must be.



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I think that diversity has some benefits by itself, but its primary value is demonstrating that the program is available to all--in other words, if the membership isn't diverse, that shows that we are underserving some communities, for various reasons.

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It seems that when the word diversity comes up in Scouting, it is taken to mean race. Diversity was really heavily promoted at the WB course I staffed this past fall. Diversity is kind of like porn. It is hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. I think that for the purpose of scouting, diversity is anything different from the "norm" or majority". Certainly, sex, race and religion are possible sources of diversity. Age, culture, economic and handicap could be other sources. I do know that we TG's tried to counsel the WB participants to NOT just think of their diversity ticket strictly in relation to race. It was fine to do a ticket based on race, just don't limit yourself to that.


Scouting is not going to be chosen by every boy out there snd there is no way to make scouting all things to all people. I had an African-American gentleman in the patrol I was TG for. Just about every single ticket of his involved diversity. Not just race, but culture and religion too. This man had a musical background. It bothered him that the WB songbook only contained songs from an Anglo-Saxon perspective. He knew a lot of African folk songs and wanted to try to get those integrated into the WB songbook. I led him away from that as a ticket item because there were too many things out of his control in making it happen. He then wanted to approach it at a council level and attend roundtables and make himself available to troops to teach these songs. Again, too many things out of his control. I believe we finally settled on him helping teach Songs at the annual Pow Wow where he could introduce his folk songs.


Even if he were able to have the WB songbook updated with African folk songs in an attempt to make scouting more diverse and reach a larger crowd, how many of the white middle-class folks who make up scouting would embrace singing a song in Swahili instead of The Quartermaster Store song?

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Diversity isn't about quotas and mandates from on high. It isn't served by a rule that says for every 10 boys in a unit, the unit must have 1 boy of a different ethnicity, race, creed, religion, etc.


What diversity is about is creating a space where other peoples "differences" are respected, where we learn from people that aren't carbon copies of ourselves, where people can be comfortable around other people, even people who are "different". The BSA has had a diversity component as part of the Scout Law for decades - as part of a Scout being Reverent, the Scout is to respect others religious beliefs.


It surely wouldn't take much to extend that teaching to a respect for others cultural beliefs and heritage.


SR540Beaver illustrates the "problem with diversity in the BSA" well with his post. The BSA, while it publicly trumpets its support of diversity, suffers from an image problem when it comes to attracting minorities (of different races, creeds, religions, etc). As Beaver asks "how many of the white middle-class folks who make up scouting would embrace singing a song in Swahili instead of The Quartermaster Store song?" There's the public image of Scouting - summed up in the midst of one question - "White, Middle-class".


And the image is perpetuated year after year after year. Why? I submit it's partly because talented people willing to share their culture and heritage are subtly dissuaded from attempting to do so. Good Scouters, who are doing good Scout work, often do the dissuading without really realizing they are doing so - usually in the name of tradition, or of trying to keep someone from failing. I have absolutely no doubt that suggesting that it would be difficult to fulfill a WB ticket item attempting to get the woodbadge song book changed, or would be difficult to fulfill a WB ticket item by trying to get units and roundtable to issue an invite to learn African American folk songs was the right thing to do - in the context of earning one's wood badge beads. Trying to get African American folk songs in the Wood Badge Songbook, or in front of roundtables and units is an admirable goal, but maybe too big a goal for Wood Badge.


Consider, though, that because there aren't any African American folk songs in the song book, or being taught and sung at campfires, and as a result aren't traditional songs for Scouts like The Quartermaster Song, or John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, etc. etc. - that a message is being sent, one we may not notice, but other do - the BSA has no place in it for people who aren't just like everyone else. Perhaps then the follow-up is the promise to help get those invites, and those changes - after the beads are awarded.


Because it fits with the theme, I'd like to relate this story. Back in the mid-70's, my mother still took on a den every year as a Den Mother for the Pack I was in (I was a Den Chief at this time, my youngest brother was a Webelos - Mom had no child of her own in the Den - she just liked doing it). At the fall recruiting session, a young black woman and her son came to sign up. They kind of hung back a bit, just taking it all in, and eyeing the rest of the folks rather warily - this was white bread suburban Chicago - diversity in our town consisted of boys that played football versus boys that played baseball - and the family had just moved to town. Mom marched right over to the young woman, welcomed her and her son to the Pack, got them signed up, and placed in her Den. Two boys who were in Mom's Den were pulled out to another Den because of this - but the rest stuck around.


For the next few months, we only saw K and his mother at Den and Pack meetings. K's dad was around but was a very busy man, always traveling. He had come by once to pick up his son after a den meeting - he was running late and the rest of the boys had come home - we learned who K's dad was but promised to keep it to ourselves for K's sake. Not that Dad was in any trouble or anything, but because K's parents wanted K to have as normal a life as possible. The jig was up on the night of the Pinewood Derby, though. K's dad had the night off, and was going to see his son race the car the two of them had built together. In walked a 6'8" tall, lanky, black man - dressed in a suit, his big hands delicately carrying his son's Pinewood Derby car. The gymnasium got quiet really fast (the Pack had 70 or so boys in it then - you can imagine what it took for a crowd that size to spontaneously quiet down). From a small group of dads off in a corner, we heard "Oh my god - that's Bob Love". K's dad was Bob Love, a starter in the Chicago Bulls. Bob spent half the evening signing autographs for the boys and their dads - and really cheered his son on during the races. Scouting eventually lost K - to school sports - specifically, Basketball - but it just goes to show that you never know what your next encounter with someone "different" will bring.





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What a wonderful story!


I do want to point out one other thing about the fellow in my patrol. While I worked with him to pare down his tickets into something manageable that he could succeed at, I did encourage him to use those as stepping stones to complete his original goals since they were so worthy. I hope he does. I must say, his ticket was the most thourough and thought out ticket of my whole patrol. They were just too broad and massive in scope as originally written.

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I'm kinda happy for Scouts and Scouting to be a good and worth while activity.

I don't see it as a crusade.While we never know what impact or what effect Scouts and Scouting will have on that one kid?

For the most part many of the Scouts will in 20 or 30 years look back and remember the things they did as Scouts with no mention of having become better in any way.

As an organization, we need to believe that the program and programs we offer work.

These programs need to be attractive and pertinent to the youth we aim to reach and serve. If we believe that the programs don't work? They need to be changed.

It would seem at least in the area where I live we seem OK with making little or no effort to reach out to 10% of the population.

We have 11 churches in our small town, 4 in the small town next door which has a population of less than 900 people. Most Sundays the Catholic church I attend is packed. Many if not most of the others don't seem to draw much of a crowd. When I have attended the odd service, it seems that the congregation is small and mostly odder people. One exception is the Morningstar Baptist Church,their parking lot is full, the people I see going in and coming out are dressed to the nines and it seems from what I see entire families are going and coming.I rarely see a white face.

Why don't we seem able to reach out to these families? It would seem to me that they share the same values that we do?


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Using race as a measure of diversity in our area:


Back in my Cub days, our Pack had 100+ boys year after year and was made up of I'd say in the neighborhood of 30% non-white children, mostly in the Tiger to Wolf Dens. Not exactly the demographic of our community back then, but close. As the years go by and the dens move into Bear and then Webelos, the numbers drop. By the time the boys reach Boy Scout age they are gone. The Troops in our area are just a sea of white faces. Why do these boys drop out? Lack of parental interest or involvement? Packs and Troops not really community based? With a couple of exceptions, all of our District's adult volunteers are white - is that a reason these boys drop out? All questions that come up at our roundtable from time to time, no real answers though.

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Why can't we attract and/or keep minorities? I suspect its nothing overt but is the subtle things - things that we don't make a big deal out of yet still lodge themselves in the back of our minds and makes us wonder if we're really welcome.


For instance, African-American folk songs (or Hispanic folk songs, etc.). Not in the Woodbadge Song Book, not taught to Scouts, not part of the traditional campfire. Most of us won't see songs, or lack of songs, as a big issue, or even a small issue, but if you're part of a group who isn't represented by the songs, you'll notice over time, and start to wonder if you're in the right organization for you and your family. Chances are you'll make a decision at some point, without really understanding fully why, that the organization is just not for you and will quietly drop out, rather than try to buck years of tradition to see a more inclusive song book.


Just thinking of some other possible unintentional messages we may send out: Packs that do up their pinewood derbies with a big Nascar theme - innocent fun to most of us, but also vaguely unwelcoming to some of us. The image many Americans have of Nascar, fair or uinfair, especially in the North and among minorities, is a bunch of Confederate Flag waving white people. Flash a picture of 7-11's Nascar vehicle, or Target's Nascar vehicle at someone, and chances are high that they'll swear they saw a Confederate Battle Flag sticker on that car, even if there isn't one. How many people think of the "General Lee" from the "Dukes of Hazzard" with its Confederate Flag coloring as a Nascar car? More than we'd like to think, I'd guess. Sure, the Pack isn't flying a confederate flag, but it doesn't matter because you're evoking the image of something else.


When Packs or Troops go on an outing to a sporting event, how often is that sporting event a Soccer Match? Around my neck of the woods, a lot of Packs go out to baseball games - and rarely go to any of the professional soccer games. If you're Hispanic, isn't it possible you might think that unless my son starts liking and playing baseball, he won't be very welcome in this Pack?


What about a Scout's Own at a camporee, etc. Sure, they're supposed to be non-denominational but step back and look at one sometime. In my experience, they tend to have a staid, white, middle-class, protestant look and feel to them. What is the service like at Morningstar Baptist Church? If its like many churches with mostly black parishoners, the service is upbeat, energetic, joyful, exuberant - if that's the kind of experience you've had at church, might you not be a bit put off by the tone of a Scout's Own and start to wonder?


Of course, we shouldn't discount that in the US, we tend to want to be with people like ourselves. And that's not just about race or religion or creed or national origin. It can also be about region (I've been to places where African-Americans from northern cities are uncomfortable around African-Americans from southern rural areas), economic status, job type, etc. Think about this - if you're a tradesman, how many of your friends are other tradesmen, how many are white-collar financial types, how many are "professionals" (doctors, lawyers, etc.), how many are assembly line workers, how many are office workers, how many are scientists, how many are farmers? Chances are strong that most of the people you are friends with, and may be in a troop with, have jobs similar to yours - there will always be exceptions, but the biggest number of your friends will likely be fellow tradesmen (and so on depending on what your occupation is). Or maybe you're in an area, a suburb most likely, where the devining line isn't occupation but class - upper, middle, lower, upper middle, etc., where no matter your occupation, you're friends with the people that make about the same amount of money per year that you do.


There are some things we just can't change - like the tendency we have to want to associate with people more like us - because it is societally ingrained in us. There are things we can change, though - if we have the ability and desire to stand back and evaluate from a neutral position - if we want to attract and retain minorities. Our challenge is to try to understand what those changes should be and to determine how much we'll work for those changes.



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How many times in these forums do we here someone say something about singing Kum Ba Yah around a campfire? Where does that song come from?


How many of us have sung "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", are these not two African American songs? I might be able to come up with more, but I dont think its fair to say there is no diversity in the song book.


Diversity (IMHO) is about differences, sometimes very subtle. How many scouts are with with both birth parents, How many live with a single mom, a single dad, a grandparent, a guardian? How many have moved in from out of state, country, cross town? How many speak two languages, one at home, one at school/other that home? How many are adopted or in foster care? How many are a race other than white? How many are in Advanced Placement studies at School or are in Learning Support at School? How many are in the band, in sports or in the Theatre? Celebrating diversity recognizes we are all unique individuals with talents, gifts and challenges unique to us and no one else. It means regardless of the differences we have we can still come together and work on common goals to achieve results we all feel are important. And if we realize those in our community who are different from us can help us achieve common goals, maybe we can extend that thought internationally, (although both sides have to cooperate Natually) Diversity is learning to understand and respect differences while achieving results together.


Anyway, thats my thoughts

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Diversity is first an attitude of openness toward others outside a group and secondly it is a legal mandate that provides for that openness. When both parts are not in place, then diversity is little more than a limited action that prevents it from ever happening. One can speak about an action but until the rule of law reflects one's attitude, then it is just words. Those that are outside the group will know that it is only words that are being spoken and will understand fully what is meant by that coded message. Talking about diversity is just that, talk. fb





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