Hello readers, my apologies for leaving you alone last week, I had the intention to write but it never materialized. I went into autopilot mode, without being mindful about it, and time just kept going. In Shankar Vedantam words: that’s when the problem arises, when our unconscious self takes charge but we are not aware of it (“The Hidden Brain” thinking for us). I could share with you how I ended up in autopilot mode, but that is a story for another moment. Instead, I would like for you to remain with your mind wide open while I attempt to explain why I believe we should erase, destroy, disappear, etc. two very dangerous words: DIVERSITY and INCLUSION.
If you have read my posts before, you might think I am joking, based on my typical sarcastic tone, but NO, I AM NOT. I firmly believe that words such as DIVERSITY and INCLUSION, as well as MINORITY, UNDERREPRESENTED, and similar words that speak of differences and discrimination should be erased from our conscience, from our vocabulary. This might sound controversial, but here is my reasoning for this proposition. All these words have the unattended consequence of “stating, highlighting” the existence of DIFFERENCES, instead of recognizing and giving value to the existence of IDENTITY. I know that for some it might seem a simple matter of interpretation, a matter of linguistics, but words are powerful, as Professor Christine Labuski succeeded to highlight in the description of the Universal Precautions project1. She discussed the great impact that talking about “us” instead of “them” has on discussion of sensitive topics, and the benefit of thinking that the person sitting on your side might have gone through that hard topic situation (e.g. abortion, racism, rape, transgender). When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you are more mindful about the words you use, you are likely to look at a problem from different angles, from another perspective.
Another problem that I have with the words DIVERSITY and INCLUSION, not with the intention of promoting diversity and inclusion. Is that now you see them almost everywhere, and seems like all organizations need to emphasize that they promote an INCLUSIVE environment, even if in reality they don’t. But hey, it looks good to advertise it. “Corporations spend billions of dollars to attract and manage diversity both internally and externally, yet they still face discrimination lawsuits, and the leadership ranks of the business world remain predominantly white and male”2.
Let’s go back to the previous idea of recognizing the existence of differences versus identities. Probably this is not the best moment to introduce this question but, what do you think of when you read: “we need to promote diversity and inclusion”. It might be my personality, but to me it brings negativity, I directly associate this phrase with the need to overcome differences between us, instead of valuing what each can bring to the table. Why do we have to highlight that there are differences between us? I acknowledge the importance of recognizing that not everyone is equal, each person is unique in multiple senses. Should we talk more about developing OPEN ACCESS environments instead of promoting DIVERSE and INCLUSIVE environments? Perhaps “open access” is not the best term either, but from my perspective it partially removes the focus around highlighting the differences. The later a word which I admit to associate with negativity and discrimination, a perspective you might not have. But then again, the same word could have a completely DIFFERENT meaning and context, highlighting once again that the problem seems to be in: not being open to other perspectives.
Diversity and inclusion/inclusive, bring the same negative effect that terms like minority and underrepresented create for me. The later speak of someone else being superior, even if that might not be the purpose. That is why I don’t consider myself a minority, nor part of an underrepresented group, I consider myself a human.
Following my thought process in this post might not have been as direct as I wished. But I hope you forgive me. At the end, probably I didn’t succeed to explain why I consider DIVERSITY and INCLUSION to be dangerous words, and perhaps my writing was more on the lines of a “confuse the masses and you will be king” speech type. But I hope your mind continues to be wide open, to be prepared to carefully listen and read what others have to said, and not going into autopilot mode, ignoring mode, as soon as you hear ideas coming from other perspectives.
You see, at the end, it is not a matter of erasing DIVERSITY and INCLUSION (the words) and replace them with another term, it is a matter of acknowledging the importance of perspectives and what body language, written words, spoken words, etc. could mean to someone else. How messengers can impact the message being delivered. How we should give always our best, no matter who is in front. How there is always more than one story to be told. If you haven’t heard to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TED talk, please do so: “The Danger of a Single Story”.
Let’s keep learning. Let’s keep educating. Let’s keep moving forward. Let’s keep asking WHY. Let’s continue to be more mindful. Let’s forget about A, B, C, D, E and F (the grades, not the letters) … easier said than done. Let’s focus on making sure to help each other out. Let’s create successful teams. Let’s remember that we are unique, and the only single common element among us, but the most important one, is that we are HUMANS.
Carlos F. Mantilla P.
- Christine Labuski, project description for Universal Precautions (not open for public access)
- Katherine W. Phillips, “How Diversity Makes us Smarter” (2014 – updated 2017)