Diversity and inclusion is not about hiring people from marginalized communities; this is a product, a catalyst, or a short-cut.
Diversity and inclusion is about being able to first acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, and the boundaries of our experiences. In doing so we can acknowledge that others have experiences which, while different from our own, are equally grounded in a shared reality. Moreover, that their perspective has something to contribute to our perspective.
The barrier to our acceptance is that we are not able to immediately understand how their story is equally grounded. Our own biases get in the way. Internalizing the awareness of this inherent ignorance then becomes an act of transformation.
On one level, when we admit to the existence of boundaries for our perceptions, processes and projections, we can free ourselves from the need to be perfect, or correct. It would be another discussion as to how media bombards us with unattainable images, destabilizing our identities. While others assert that our cognition is occupied by a trinity: the person we think we are, the person we wish we were, and the individual we actually enact. Regardless, freed from the need for certainty, we can begin to experiment and play games with our identity and its boundaries.
On another level, when we acknowledge that another’s perspective is equally valid, no matter its presentation, we enable ourselves to learn. Up until this point, external perspectives are often manipulated, by our own hearts and minds, in order to substantiate preconceived notions. The man stole from the store because he was poor and hungry; he is poor and hungry because he is lazy and probably not that smart. Boo-hoo, but gimme a break on the pity and put in a little effort; or so a coarse narrative might extol.
But now, when we listen to his perspective: his father returned from the war disabled, and turned to drinking. Soon his father died, but not before giving the boy’s mother two more mouths to feed. He, being the oldest child, took on the responsibilities his father could not. He worked to put food on the table and help his mother, but it was never enough …
After we’ve set aside our experiences, and listened to another’s story on its own merits, our own perspectives on life and society are challenged to grow. We are left almost no choice but to learn. Pending that their narrative is held as equal in worth, and validity, to our own. This is a personal decision we make in every interaction we conduct with another human being.
If committed to, the roads we walk are now better illuminated by the light of another’s experience, as are the obstacles we face. And finally, the solutions we might have once held so dear, they are now able to be seen in a different light. Their weaknesses are no longer obscured by the same shadows, nor their strengths. We are given an opportunity to improve, or all-together change, these solutions based upon this new information.
In this age of chaos and confusion, diversity and inclusion encompass necessary tools to build the road forward. Far-from being buzzwords, or a catch-phrase, they are arguably the next step in our social evolution. Instead of simply learning from our experiences, we can compound our growth by learning from the experiences of others.
But can we do this without imputing our own biases? Can we listen to another’s obstacle, and instead of giving them our solutions, listen first to theirs? Can we tell our own stories, and accept the perspectives of others on our solutions? These questions, and experiences, will expose our weaknesses; allowing us the opportunity to strengthen them. This is how growth occurs, and the foundation for innovation laid.
Inviting bodies whose experiences are divergent from colonial structures can thus be seen as a short-cut, which in itself is not a solution. Rather, if brashly navigated, can do considerable damage. And so great care must be taken.
We first need to acknowledge, process and accept our own boundaries. Which is not a one-and-done operation, but rather a daily practice. Knowing our experiences, and the biases they’ve formed, we can move beyond these boundaries. This enables us to listen to another’s story without distortion. And being able to see others, and ourselves, more clearly, is the beginning of the rewards diversity and inclusion set into motion.
Hiring bodies who occupy experiences outside of colonial lenses can no longer be seen as an answer. Rather, “diversity and inclusion” generalizes an expansive and continuous process. One tool-set, is to evolve hiring practices; but only after an organization has prepared to evolved.