Let’s talk about diversity and belonging, diversity and community, diversity and connection

Dear friends,

I have a problem with the phrase “diversity and inclusion.” I realize that it’s become a catchphrase in academia and industry, and is so entrenched that hardly anyone examines it anymore, and even fewer are willing to problematize it. Questioning this phrase might indicate that one is racist, or favors exclusion.

Ah – see what I did there? Exclusion is the problem. “Inclusion” implies “exclusion.” Furthermore, “inclusion” implies that it’s already somebody’s turf, and they’re willing to let you in. Those in control are willing to open the door for you (perhaps open it just a crack). Being “included” is supposed to make you feel special, as if you’ve passed some kind of test – not as if you belonged there in the first place.

Historically, “inclusion” has been the right term. Those in power might deign to include the powerless. Whites might include non-whites, the wealthy might include those without resources, the young and vital might be willing to include the elderly. Those who ruled the turf chose whether or not to allow outsiders to step onto the turf.

Let’s declare ourselves past that, shall we?

Let us work toward the belief, the deep cultural conviction, that the “turf” belongs to all of us, and that we belong to each other. That nobody owns it, but that we share it. That we must learn to live in community with each other, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Okay, but how? (Easier said than done, right?) It starts with you. It starts with me. As I always tell my students in Intercultural Communication, the only person whose behavior you can control is you. You and I need to have courage. We need to try. We need to be willing to get it wrong, to be willing to embarrass ourselves in our efforts to be better, to do better.

Cultural shifts take a really long time. We can wait till they happen organically (which could be forever, or worse, never), or we can try to drive a cultural shift. We do this by educating ourselves and others, and behaving our way there. It’s difficult, it’s frustrating, and we’re going to fail a lot along the way, but let’s commit to ourselves and each other. Let’s do better, today and every day.

Let’s work on belonging, connecting, and living in community. Be an example for others.

Dr. Hamel