A Good Conversation About Inclusion
Last week Jeffrey Cufaude wrote a post about a struggle he was having–a struggle with being one of four totally awesome people selected for a conference panel who all happened to be white. He struggled because it seems like the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the diversity in our community, but we were putting forward four white folks. Some of the first comments he got were a bit angry. Jeffrey posted an update to the post and then the comments kept flowing, including a long one from me. Please read the whole post and ALL 27 (yes 27!) comments.
I call this a good conversation about inclusion for a few reasons. First, people get mad. This is one of the reasons we avoid these conversations (getting mad has been deemed unprofessional), but in fact we need people to get mad about this stuff. We need people to disagree. Particularly when it comes to white people and conversations around inclusion. We don’t have them enough, which is part of why I think we keep having the same conversation over and over again. We don’t push through the hard places.
Second, it got personal. That’s something else we are typically taught to avoid in professional conversations (and I agree in the sense of not hurling personal insults at each other), but I think issues of inclusion are inherently personal so we need to go there. In my comment to Jeffrey’s post, I reflected on how I need to do a better job at connecting to people who are different than me. I have the opportunity to do it, yet I tend to retreat back to the familiar and comfortable. Not ALL of diversity and inclusion is personal, but a big piece of it is individuals changing habits, as Jeffrey said, in “meaningful yet manageable ways.”
Third, it featured white people talking genuinely about privilege. This one could be just me, but in the years that I have been engaged in conversations about diversity and inclusion, the biggest transformation for me personally was when I really “got it” about privilege. This actually relates to last week’s post about culture and moving from “subject” to “object,” but for the longest time I really didn’t understand what white privilege was, or at least how very deep and wide the privilege is. When I finally understood it and could see how it was operating in my life, it was really kind of liberating. But I only got to that place after a lot of conversations, so lets just keep talking about it (even if it doesn’t make sense to you fully at first). (And if you haven’t read it, there’s a classic article by Peggy McIntosh on white privilege. Here’s a video of her introducing the concept and listing the privileges she named in the article)
Thanks, Jeffrey, for starting the conversation and thanks to all the commenters who put themselves out there to keep the conversation going. We didn’t “fix it.” And there are more conversations to be had, but I think it’s an important part of making our community more human and more powerful.