Does Inclusion really start with I?

By senior consultant Jim Morris

Attention for diversity and Inclusion is a topic which I expect to be at the forefront of many of our requests for training in 2021. One of the slogans that I hear a lot is: “Inclusion starts with I”. OK, I get this. It is a call for you to take personal responsibility for inclusion. It starts with an ownership and acknowledgement of our accountability towards this topic.

However, I would suggest that an inclusive organization will truly succeed with a collective approach. In other words, inclusion starts with I….but there is an 'us' in there if you look closely.

‘Self’ is the prefix of 2021

The world has become too much of an I, I, I, me, me, me, place. Looking after number one, that’s what we do well. The word ‘self’ is already the prefix of 2021. Think about it. Self-help, self-awareness, self-righteousness, self-confidence, self-determination, self-service, self-control, self-discipline, self-denial, selfies! Oh yes, how incredibly self-important we all feel.

“An inclusive organization will truly succeed with a collective approach”

As we push on into a decade which, let’s face it, hasn’t started well, let us lose this obsession with 'self'. If we can shift to a balance of understanding ourselves and also those around us, we will be in a stronger position to advance the values of inclusion and community. This will help us drop the prefix of self and sow the seeds of compassion as we move from selfishness to benevolence.

At the time of writing this, we still miss the benevolence

At the time of writing this 72 countries still ‘choose’ to condemn homosexuality as illegal. Diversity is a fact, yet inclusion still remains a choice. Who we walk towards and which people we let into our circle is a choice. There are 195 countries in the world today which means for the LGBTI+ community you are criminalized for being you in 37 % of the world. Criminalized!

At the time of writing this there are still stigmas surrounding neurodiversity. Neurological differences such as dyscalculia, autistic spectrum, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, and more. Which, instead of being recognized and respected remain labelled as ‘disorders’. A quick Google of the word disorder throws up words such as illness, complaint, dysfunction, problem and even disease.

At the time of writing this, it is ironic that the advice we are repeatedly given when facing a difficult situation is to "just be yourself" However in the case of LGBTI+ how can you be yourself if it means being met with punishment and rejection? For those with neurological differences how can you be yourself if it means accepting the common line of thought is that you have a disorder. There is no disorder. We need to realize that neurodiversity simply involves painting with a different pallet of colors, and how wonderful that is. 

So here is an idea. When people are facing a difficult situation perhaps we should not say to them "just be yourself" and instead turn the advice on ourselves and change it to "just be benevolent yourself". Afterall, liking feels good. It encourages us to approach and engage with the world.

Let’s normalize and not marginalize

So you see, Inclusion doesn’t start with ‘I’ it starts with ‘US’. If not, how on earth are we going to point our planet in a direction were every person matters regardless of who they are, who they love, what they look like or where they come from? I’ll tell you how. It begins with that collective approach I mentioned earlier. All of us must become a little more understanding of the collective experience of our species. We need to be collectively able to understand as human beings where we want to go with our world. To marginalize people is to lose a sense of what we call civilization. To not invite and give room to understand each other is to deprive the collective knowledge and therefore our ability to do great things.

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