Inclusion is Activist

Organizational and community inclusion is not simply about what you do not do, though that is often what I hear about.  When talking about issues related to diversity and inclusion, people regularly tell me about how they do not discriminate, do not judge, do not exclude, etc.  Admirable aspirations certainly, and I hope that we can expect our organizations and leaders today to be serious toward those goals.

But those things do not equal inclusion.  Not discriminating (at least not intentionally) is not discriminating…inclusion requires something more.  Because this is not rocket science…this is far more complex than rocket science.  There are messy, bizarre, unpredictable, beautiful and unique human beings involved.

And being human gets in the way of inclusion.

Good intentions aside. Open-mindedness aside. Level of education aside. Human nature is always at work and it nudges us and nudges us and nudges us.  We tend to be more comfortable with people that we see as being like us than we are with people that we think are not like us.  We tend to avoid tension. We tend to be more comfortable in situations that are known and safe than situations that are unknown. Regardless of how “open minded” or “non-judgmental” we like to think we are, labels, assumptions, stereotypes, attribution errors, unconscious bias, cognitive biases and implicit associations are always pushing on our decisions about people.

Regardless of where I go or who I am talking to, the front row fills up last. And now we know that waitresses who stand closer to their customers get better tips. Human nature matters. And regardless of what is in our hearts, our brain has to take some short cuts in making decisions about people.  We categorize and label and make assumptions and none of that is necessarily bad, its simply part of how we are put together…we might not have survived as a species if we were not so very good at doing that stuff.  We just have to be honest and proactive about that stuff if we do want to be more inclusive and reap the rewards that can come along with that.

It has always amused me that diversity and inclusion work is thought of as this warm, fuzzy, kumbaya body of work that basically consists of me playing the guitar and you dancing around the campfire.  Hardly.  There is a reason that most people and most organizations and most communities avoid this work…it is ridiculously hard.  This is work is fueled by courage and honesty and authenticity and tension and vulnerability and we prefer to avoid that kind of stuff at work.

Inclusion requires action. Consistent and real action. If we are not intentional, proactive and deliberate about inclusion we will always unintentionally exclude…that is the role that human nature plays.


What is your organization doing?  What is being done intentionally and deliberately to reach out and include different people, practices and perspectives right now?  Are you creating intersections or avoiding them?

Be good to each other.

  1. chris aka newresource

    Okay, I’ll give it up, its hot. I was expecting the same ole talk and I got something different and better. Thanks

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