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And the award for being me goes to ... me!
by Nathan Orme
May 03, 2008 | 705 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartoon by Joan Galt
Cartoon by Joan Galt
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Amid the flurry of press releases that came into my e-mail box this week were two from the City of Sparks honoring two employees. Such releases are common from all kinds of employers, both public and private, and most are promptly deleted.

But these two releases caught my attention. The first release was a summary of the City Council meeting of April 28. The last item noted that the council honored a city engineer for being “instrumental in working with numerous state and federal agencies in keeping the (Sparks) Marina area out of the designated floodplain which would have required homeowners and developers to purchase costly flood insurance.”

The other release that caught my eye honored an employee for working for the City of Sparks for 30 years in nearly every position in the Maintenance Division and for volunteering for non-profit organizations.

It sounds to me like both men have worked very hard, done good things for the people of Sparks and are worthy of recognition. I tip my hat to both of them.

But there was an important difference between the two honorees. The headline on the second release read “Nevada Hispanic Services and the City of Sparks Honors City Employee.” The release also mentioned the Adelante Hispanic Awards Gala, held Friday night “to celebrate organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to the local Hispanic Community.”

“Why the distinction?” I asked myself and others in the newsroom. Shouldn’t the Hispanic employee be honored simply because he has faithfully and dutifully served the City of Sparks for what has certainly been the majority of his life?

The Adelante Awards Gala was held in conjunction with the Cinco de Mayo festivities that took place Saturday in Victorian Square and around the country thanks to May 5 falling during the week. (The holiday’s corporate sponsors can’t make money on a Monday, of course.) I would hope, however, that if I gave 30 years’ worth of blood, sweat and tears to an employer that the dinner in my honor would be called “The Nathan Orme Is Awesome Gala.”

We live in a world, however, where everyone needs their own category. I am not faulting the City of Sparks for this situation. It has existed since African Americans, Hispanics, women and others decided earlier in the last century to stand up for themselves and battle bigotry. They fought for equality and, in many respects have succeeded. In many respects, their battle continues.

If equality is the true goal, though, it seems to me that honoring someone for hard work and achievement should be blind to irrelevant factors. I have received a few awards for various things in my life and none of them mentioned my gender or skin color or other characteristics that were determined soon after sperm met egg to form wonderful me. When I received a certificate at the end of my college career, it said “Journalism Student of the Year for 1998,” not “White Male Journalism Student of the Year for 1998.”

One of the wonderful things in our world is the celebration of diversity. I love going to Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day parties and indulging in Americanized versions of other cultures. But seriously, I wish I spoke Spanish or some other language fluently and I would get really bored living in a world where everyone looked and talked just like me. I love the fact that I can listen to beautiful Spanish guitar or Irish drinking songs while disliking mariachi music or polka. I can’t wait to visit Japan and get completely lost in a completely foreign place.

What would bother me, and should bother women, blacks, Hispanics, etc., is that when it comes to working hard our differences are superficial. The things I love about diversity have no bearing on one’s ability to write an article or do volunteer work or assess a flood plain. It’s like congratulating me for having fingernails or for my astounding ability to grow hair (though some follically challenged people might say that ability is award worthy).

As I mentioned, minority groups are still battling for equality. I understand that a tactic in that battle is for groups to honor their own when individual efforts go unnoticed by the world at large. I guess I just dream of a day when the press releases will tell me that people are being honored only for what they do without mentioning what they are.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I going to get a taco for lunch.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at norme@dailysparkstribune.com.
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