Diversity & Inclusion in the real world

Where I work – Paradiselandia, of course – a survey was sent out asking what parts of a Diversity and Inclusion initiative they would like to be a part of and what issues they would like to solve. For the sake of timeline, that was in July.

We are now approaching the latter part of October.

A few weeks before that, we had a Pride event here and the people of Paradiselandia were out and about there. The next day, I asked one of the HR folks if we have any kind of internal initiative for the people who work here.

HR person: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, I’d hate for people to see us at all of these events for pride and such, but not feel safe and seen while working in this office. How are we making that an intentional part of our culture?”

A week later, I would learn that the person who sent the initial survey left the company and no one was assigned as her successor. A different, well-intentioned person, came to the office a week later and I asked them what was happening there.

It turns out that they have no idea how to make this work, but they have tried with an FB workplace group. I asked a bunch of questions about who we are talking to in these communities (PoC, LGBTQ+, etc) about how to scale a community initiative like this and after getting those answers (“We haven’t spoken to anyone and we don’t know where or how to start honestly.”), I made some suggestions for follow-up actions and we went our separate ways.

The follow-up actions involve me.

Because they have to. Yes, I care about these things and I volunteered as such. I live to make communities where people who are usually made to feel unsafe or uncared for can find a bit of relief and I’m happy to be a part of things like that.

…but also? If I didn’t volunteer, this wouldn’t happen because no one knows where to begin when thinking of ways to deal with people like me or the spectrum of marginalized groups that exist. Also? Only two people have been involved until this point in trying to even broach the subject in a formal, company-wide manner. I am the only person who followed-up to find out what happened after the subject was brought up.

I can’t help thinking about how often it is that if you are part of a marginalized group you are constantly having to spend time and energy to teach people how to include you. How to be aware of you. How to treat you properly. Always educating and having to be on hand to educate lest you be rendered invisible or worse.

The truth is that, in the real world, Diversity and Inclusion sounds really cool. Socially conscious. Aware. Who doesn’t want that as part of their brand?

But also? It requires people to actually be those things. That means google. That means reading. That means a lot of hard conversations that expose you to a world beyond your perspective in which you are not ever going to be the center. That means dealing with a lot of pain and anger from people who are asked to draw forth their trauma again and again to explain things people could look up and/or defend their right to be angry in the face of injustice.

That also means being accountable to do better with what you learn.

The lion’s share of making that happen falls on me and people who look like me because we have to know these things in order to function. And isn’t that the funny part? The punchline? That every Diversity and Inclusion initiative in the real world is a seance. A summoning. A thing in which, in spite of all the resources we have available, doesn’t happen unless the marginalized speak up for it again and again and again.