Diversity: Inclusion’s Evil Stepsister
September 27, 2017 - Scholars
The English Oxford dictionary defines Diversity as “the state of being diverse” and “a range of different things”. Diversity is the new corporate buzzword, second only to (maybe, sometimes, perhaps) sustainability. Work spaces are noting that their work environment is made better by having diverse employees, and some universities spend millions in diversity recruitment. This is certainly one large step for man, but diversity is only representation. Diversity alone can not sustain growth. Inclusion is the added ingredient that would pull together the American pie we all love so much.
Recently I came across an old photo of myself and my peers after my high school graduation. Our church wanted to celebrate us, and for this reason we all wore our graduation gowns to Sunday service, and sat in the very front of our large Baptist church. Everyone in the photo identifies as Black and although we attended different schools, we were all graduating from the same ‘illustrious’ school district. We were all decked out in our caps and gowns to appease our parents but I stuck out like a sore thumb– and not because I was the size of a 6th grader. My gown was decorated with four honor cords, a sash, a stoll, and two pins. My peers, though all brilliant, had nothing but their caps and gowns.
This illustrious school district we all attended boasts of having such a diverse student body, that over 200 languages are spoken in the district. I went to school with people who represented a vast variety of countries, religions, languages, and socioeconomic status’. This by all accounts is diversity. My high school offered an abundance of accelerated, honors, and AP classes but yet I found myself the lone black girl in almost all of my advanced classes. I found myself working alone on what were supposed to be group projects; first because no one wanted to work with the lone black girl, and later by choice because I grew tired of the embarrassment that came as a result of my classmates ostracization. I sat in accelerated history courses as my teacher gave lessons on what can only be summarized as ¼ an ideology away from eugenics. We took notes on how blonde hair and blue eyes were the international standard of beauty because they represented youth and vitality. When asked which religion encourages child marriage our options were Christianity, Islam, and something that regrettably I don’t remember. The correct answer was Islam.
Why was my graduation gown so highly decorated amongst my peers, and why in such a diverse school district were brown students a rarity in college bound courses? Speculation states that it was because these diverse students lacked role models, or because they feared a challenge, the furthest reaching speculations gathered that they were intellectually inferior. My guess is that my peers valued their mental health much more than I did. They remained in spaces where they could work together on group projects, where they had advocates, and healthy soil in which they could grow.
I can only imagine what you’re thinking; my high school was racist and far from a proper reflection of your company or university that spends millions on diversity recruitment. Well, the same students who refused to work with me in high school are the same students in our universities, and moving up corporate ladders. It’s not enough to hire diverse employees, a company’s curriculum has to be inclusive. Inclusion looks like those in leadership having working knowledge of the history and cultures of those they are to supposedly lead. Identity based employee resource groups that act as safe spaces. The lunch options in your cafeteria having kosher and halal options, and preferred pronouns as part of signatures at the bottom of work emails. Inclusion creates a safe and healthy environment wherever it is employed.
Inclusion takes work; introspection, and discipline. Diversity gets all the attention, but inclusion is the true belle of the ball.