A reporter once asked me to talk about inclusion and I said, “Not unless you are also willing to talk about exclusion.” Often, in our exchanges about diversity issues, we mainly focus on inclusion and oneness as if we have already arrived and are now enjoying the fruits of working together and valuing each other.
The truth be told, we remain at introductory lesson, “Diversity 101”. We continue to be under the illusion that representation is the final goal (of inclusion), when in fact, that is only the first step. When we simply honor our differences by way of celebrating ethnic foods, clothing, dances and songs, we are not multi-cultural, but rather multi-holidayed. It is unfortunate that we have not integrated the beauty of our differences into the very fabric of how we conduct business, how we teach, or even run our government.
Someone once wrote: We are all different, but what divides us and separates us is the value we place on those differences. Right now, we in the midst of history. We are so politically, socially and religiously polarized that shootings or hate crimes are becoming commonplace events on our campuses, in our workplaces and communities, and even in our places of worship. We lack the resources and training to fully know how to respond to these types of crises, except by way of law enforcement intervention and, subsequently, imprisonment. But, these are only band-aids to a much larger problem.
As a country and as a people, we are at a crossroads. How we decide to respond and to relate to one another will decide the future of our children and our families and our nation. We must begin with what divides and separates us. We must be willing to look at ourselves, our institutions and the communities in which we live, and take accountability for how we are a part of the problem and are also responsible for the solution.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Real peace is not the absence of conflict, it has always been the presence of justice.” We must be willing to engage and talk about how our differences and our fears divide and separate us. It is only then, by understanding what is not working, that we can move forward with a new understanding- when our differences and similarities are valued, made use of, and integrated into the very fabric of our daily lives and institutions, then the dream of our parents, grandparents and the Lady in the Harbor will finally become a reality… And, not just for a few select people, but for all of us.
During our time together, we will explore some of the ways that we can address the issue of exclusion by answering questions such as:
* In what ways do we avoid talking about exclusion?
* When issues of exclusion arise, how open and curious are we?
* What is the price people pay who do bring up the issue of exclusionary practices?
* In what ways can we encourage and support talking about exclusion?
* What changes are needed to become more inclusive?
* What kinds of training do we need to become more adept to and sensitive about exclusionary practices and behaviors?
Participants will learn:
- How to notice the intent and impact inherent in all our communications
- How to listen to what is being said and what is not being said
- A variety of ways to create a sense of community when confronted by a diverse population
- How to ask culturally appropriate questions
- The importance of listening & responding
- How to mediate conflicts that are cultural in nature
- Exploring, culturally, what is needed and what is not