By Amber Booth-McCoy, Diversity Specialist and Founder of The Diversity Booth, INC.
"Cultural humility is allowing each person to be the owner of their own experience."
Very often in society, we acknowledge individuality and diversity, but we celebrate conformity and convention. We reinforce the ideals with ubiquitous sayings such as, “Trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” “Sticking out like a sore thumb,” and others. The problem is blending in isn’t as easy for everyone. If we are being honest, current national events have illuminated this, the inability to blend in can be frustrating, frightening, and for some, fatal.
As a Diversity Specialist, I am often asked, “How can I be more inclusive?” In essence, intentional inclusivity is moving from asking, “Who’s at the table?” to asking “Who’s not at the table that needs to be?” and “Did they get the invitation with detailed directions to the table and upon arrival a chair and a microphone?” In practice, it presents as being culturally humble. Cultural humility is allowing each person to be the owner of their own experience. Acknowledging that they are the ONLY expert on their experience. So while there is no “magic bullet” for inclusivity, here are five tips from #yourfavoritediversityspecialist.
1. Work towards cultural humility instead of cultural competence. Cultural humility acknowledges that each individual is an expert on their experience. It reminds us to pause and accept that we don’t know everything about every person, population, or culture. It allows for lifelong learning and a willingness to self-assess. Most importantly it seeks to fix power imbalances in spaces they shouldn’t exist.
2. Commit to experiencing people and not populations. It is natural to group/pair like things. Our brains do this unconsciously to assist us with processing the massive amounts of data every second. This same function may cause us to miss an amazing multi-dimensional individual because we place them in a box based on one dimension of their being.
3. Error-correct, at the moment. We are never going to get it all right, all the time. We can own our faux pas, apologize when necessary, and listen to the other person’s experience.
4. When advocating or seeking to be an ally, recognize your privilege. True allyship seeks to fortify voices or work already in existence. An ally is essentially a cultural diplomat, there to assist with access to “tables” or space that may have previously been unwelcoming. Once you make room at the table, return the metaphorical microphone back to the new attendee.
5. Silence is a collision. If you hear something racist, sexist, discriminatory, bigoted, etc. and you say nothing, you have colluded with what was said or done. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
"Until society works at its maximum capabilities for the most vulnerable of us, in reality, it works for none of us."
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a job for everyone. It’s not a job just for the diversity specialist, activist, presidents of homeowner associations, executive leadership, and progressive clergy. It is the job of every neighbor, every co-worker, every citizen, every parent, every friend, and every participant of society. Until society works at its maximum capabilities for the most vulnerable of us, in reality, it works for none of us.
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