Inclusion in Action, cont’d

As I said in my last post

Diversity means difference, and there is nothing more universally human than difference. Difference has consequences. Rolling a boulder up hill is very different from rolling the same boulder down hill because gravity has consequences. Similarly, thinking of and approaching difference as an obstacle, a problem to be fixed, or something to be tolerated provokes a very different experience and outcome than approaching it as a) inherent to all human interaction, and b) a rich source of value.

Diversity means difference, and difference has consequences. If we are to maximize the positive consequences and minimize the negative consequences we have to do stuff – we might call this stuff the work or the practice of inclusion.

I also, in that post, made the point that fundamental to the practice of inclusion is a certain amount of ongoing education. I did not do an adequate job of emphasizing how much of that education must be focused directly on yourself. The road to understanding others, to understanding human diversity runs directly through understanding your own identity. This can be difficult and unpleasant work, which helps explain why so many of us step around it.

I can still remember the first time I was confronted with the idea of privilege. My knee-jerk, defensive response was “oh, you don’t know who I am. Privilege? I don’t think so.” I do, and have benefited from a tremendous amount of privilege, but it was very hard for me to see it because it challenged the beliefs that I had about myself and the world. I grew up on a working family farm, keyword working. I spent four years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, in the infantry no less. I worked at least one part time job while attending college, etc. – I did not feel like much had been handed to me. But that is not what privilege, properly understood, is about. Eventually I came to understand the unearned advantages and disadvantages that accompany our social identities – and it changed my view of myself and it sent me in a very different direction personally and professionally.

Sincere, sustainable behavior change requires a certain amount of identity change. I do not think that a smart, shiny business case has ever provoked real change – but I have both experienced and seen, over and over again, real change as a result of people getting greater clarity around who they are, what their real values and priorities are, and how all of that stuff connects to diversity and inclusion.

Be good to each other.


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