How Inclusivity Excludes

There was a great man [who] once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back.
— Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On a brisk Saturday afternoon I found myself with thousands of others carrying signs to the middle of Boston to gather in protest. Across the nation the March for Science has a simple mission. In their own words:

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.
— March for Science Mission Statement

The overall tone of the event can best be summed up with this sign.

Taken at the March for Science, Boston on April 22, 2017.

Taken at the March for Science, Boston on April 22, 2017.

We marched to fight hatred with love. We marched to fight hopelessness with humor. We marched to fight lies with facts. It honestly felt more like a celebration of science rather than a protest. Well, until 'they' showed up.

Just after an elementary schooler read an essay they wrote supporting science to the crowd, loud chanting came from the north. Within seconds a group of about 30 or so proudly carrying a Trump banner walked at the edge of our protest. I couldn't quite hear what they were saying, but I knew they were having a counter protest. Through my limited research at the time of writing this I could not find anything about a fight breaking out. It was our right to protest the actions of the current administration as it was the right of those 30 or so to protest us. A perfect example of what a peaceful democracy looks like.

But why would anyone protest against science?! We were literally there saying facts! How can telling the truth of climate change become a political issue?! And it wasn't just science. At the Women's March I participated at in Bellingham there were counter protests as well. Why would anyone march against women? How did it come to this?!

Some would say Trump. I think that is giving him too much credit. He is a symptom rather than a cause of the problem. World wide populism, from Brexit to Trump, is the backlash to the hypocritical nature of how inclusivity is taught.

Inclusivity, Equity, and Diversity

A few weeks ago the Avarna Group led a two day workshop at my occupation to continue our life long training in cultural competency. I say life long since just because we had a two day training doesn't make us culturally competent. To use their imagery: cultural competency is like brushing your teeth. This daily practice must be done to fight against the systems we all have been taught. We also should be glad when our racism or sexism is pointed out by a friend, because you wouldn't want something stuck in your teeth all day!

We began the training with our main goal: diversity. A person cannot be diverse, but a group can be. We want diversity for two reasons: increased diversity in the workplace can lead to increased productivity just feels right. Like morally we want to make a diverse world (more on this later).

But we in America don't have diversity. Why? 400 years (at least) of systematic oppression to certain groups. The below chart showcases some of the "isms" that have stopped diversity from happening:

The Power House. Avarna Group.

The Power House. Avarna Group.

"But I'm not a racist because I'm white!" I hear some of my friends say. And I would completely agree with you! Just as a single person cannot be diverse, a single person cannot be racist. From my understanding, any of the "isms" is prejudice towards the non-dominant group with systematic oppression. For example, a person who hates Muslims for their faith is prejudice. The Muslim ban is religious oppression since it is larger than a single person's prejudice.

How do we stop this lack of diversity? Equity. Not equality, which would mean giving everyone the same stuff. But equity, which is putting everyone on the same playing field. For example, as an able-bodied white male with American citizenship I should expect to receive less scholarships for college, than those who do not have the means because of systematic oppression.

How can we do equity well? Inclusivity. If we allow space for other voices we then can more effectively use equity to lead to diversity. Simple!

But during training an interesting example was brought up. In the scenario, an instructor was using a fake Chinese accent to teach canoeing. We all correctly said "If you are not Chinese you cannot use that accent in a professional setting." But since we live just a stone's throw away from Boston, someone asked "Well, can I use the Boston accent?"

Some reacted to this question with laughter. Some with impersonations of the accent. I was only able to see the hypocrisy in this action because of the consistent kindness and grace of a dear friend.

North v South

What does the Boston accent mean to you? Is it OK to use? How about a Southern drawl? I can only speak to my own experience, but to me those accents meant dumb. Uneducated. Poor. I would even go so far to say white trash. Many people in my life were serious when they said they could not understand Southern accents because it was not the English language. Even though "y'all" fulfills all of the requirements of a plural you, I could never bring myself to say it. It was beneath me. That was until I lived with someone from rural Mississippi.

Yes, she spoke in a Southern drawl. Yes, she said "y'all." Yes, she even said some phrases that I still don't quite understand. But during our time in grad school she consistently received better grades than me. She consistently showed kindness and grace. I am ashamed to say it, but she was the first Southerner that I had an actual conversation with. And through living with her I discovered an "ism" not on the Power House above: Northern elitism.

As I discussed in my post about American Nations, the great Northern Alliance of Yankeedom, New France, Left Coast, and the Midlands share a moral core. They might approach the problem in different ways, but the core of life is to make a utopia. In our utopia diversity is everywhere. No one goes hungry. Everyone has a purpose. My friend Holli made a perfect chart to explain how this utopia will be made.

Made by Holli Watne

Made by Holli Watne

In America money is power. Because of generational systematic oppression many in non-dominant groups don't have the wealth to live happily. Therefore we will use equity and heavily tax the rich, help the middle class some, and heavily help the lower class. I am intentionally not using the term working class because without help it doesn't matter how much people work; it is incredibly hard to go from one class to another. So even after a lifetime of working they can still not be as successful as someone who retired at 30 in the upper class.

This pathway towards utopia is drastically different than the "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality often found in Southern states.

Made by Holli Watne

Made by Holli Watne

In this mindset, wealth is a ladder. With hard work I can climb this ladder and become successful. Of course I won't be near the top but everyone below me is there because they did not work as hard. The problem then comes when the government tries to step in.

Made by Holli Watne

Made by Holli Watne

While I'm working hard the government is helping those who are too lazy to work. These 'cutters' hurt me! I cannot be successful if 'those people' are getting free rides while I'm over here working my tail off.

Now of course this is a gross oversimplification of both mindsets, and everyone living in either area doesn't necessarily adhere to that mindset. But what these mindsets lead to is where how we currently teach inclusivity fails.

Alex and Morgan

Meet Alex

Alex grew up with two loving parents in Connecticut. They supported her in everything she did; from fencing to horseback riding to astronomy. But in middle school when one of the boys called her a racial slur because she wouldn't let him kiss her, she found her lifelong purpose to fight racism and sexism. Now at Harvard Law, Alex is well on her way to becoming one of the nations great law practioners.


Meet Morgan

Morgan grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. While his parents didn't have much, he learned the value of a day's work. As a true patriot he signed up for military duty at the first chance he got. Because of a combat injury making him unable to stand he was sent back to the states and because he didn't have all of his paperwork, the overworked Veteran's Affairs couldn't help him. Now homeless he walks the streets of NYC just trying to get enough money to live day to day.

Who is more privileged?

Alex has had to deal with racism and sexism in her everyday life. Morgan does not.

Morgan has had to deal with ableism and classism in his everyday life. Alex does not.

In my experience, the way inclusivity is taught makes some non-dominant groups more important than others. I think a few years ago I would say "Of course Morgan is more privileged. He is a white male."

Now I would ask "How can we show equity to everyone in their own way?" Systematic oppression is systematic oppression. It doesn't matter if the person is only being oppressed in one category; we still need to talk about it.

Sexy v non-sexy isms

In talks about inclusivity I have outlined the "sexy" topics of discussion. These topics are the ones that people who like inclusivity want to talk about...constantly (myself included)

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Heterosexism
  • Religious oppression
  • Ethnocentrism

The other topics are those that are either forgotten or not as "exciting" to talk about.

  • Cisism
  • Ableism
  • Ageism
  • Classism
  • Elitism
  • And many more

This line between what is talked about and what is excluded is, in my honest opinion, how we got ourselves into this mess. For too long inclusivity conversations wanted to talk about racism and sexism, while a large portion of the population said "but what about us!" and voted in the Child in Chief who is literally going against his voter base's will.

As we strive to become more and more culturally competent, all I ask is that you, yes you, do two things:

  1. Seek inclusivity in every area, not just the sexy isms. By being truly inclusive to all we can start to heal rather than divide even further.
  2. Tell me when I have something in my teeth. If something in this post doesn't sit well with you, please tell me! I would much rather know when something is wrong than walking around with gunk in my cultural competency.
It takes a whole
village to raise a
— Igbo (Nigeria) Proverb