- Lenora Billings
CULTURAL INCLUSION vs. CULTURAL HATE
I am often asked why I do this work (diversity, inclusion,and bias). My brief answer is that I am constantly overcome by humankind’s ability to hate. I am overwhelmed by the rationale people use as permission to hate and hurt others for no reason other than that those “others” are different; different races and ethnicities, different faiths and beliefs, different sexual orientations and identities, different ages, different attitudes and politics, different personalities, different abilities, and so on.
On a business trip to South Africa in March of 1994, which was one month before Nelson Mandela was elected president, I had an experience that inspired me to dedicate my work to
spreading the meaning of the South African proverb Ubuntu; I am because we are. We are because I am.
I am driven to do something in whatever way that I can, to help us learn and understand at a deep level that hate comes from fear and fear often is fueled by the belief that we will lose something. We fear that which we do not understand. So, the more we can understand different points of view and recognize that they are just different not wrong, perhaps
the sooner we can all channel our energies toward building on diversity of thought to find better solutions to the problems of the world. This enables us to gain much and lose little.
When we hate just because of a difference, we steal away our ability to discover new solutions. On the other hand, when we challenge ourselves to look for the facts and commonalities, we can then place blame for crimes and other deplorable behavior where it is due, instead of spreading the blame to all people of any one group. Understanding does not come to us without commitment to lean into our fears with the belief that on the other side of that fear are answers to help us make better decisions about ourselves and others. I am inspired by the many people, though not enough people, who are willing to speak up to stop bullying, racism, homophobia, sexism and socioeconomic disenfranchisement.
Change can be frightening, frustrating and fabulous at the same time.
My hope is that the suggestions that follow will inspire you to become part of the solution by taking actions that contribute to a heightened understanding of people different from you. The world needs people who are culturally curious, and who seek understanding instead of blame.
Join with me to take personal responsibility for making a difference within each of our spheres of influence at work, at home, within our communities large and small by speaking up, by asking questions and really listening instead of remaining silent and expecting others to step up. It does take a village, and each village is filled with individuals like you. Each of us can make a difference. It is not hard, just B…BASICˢᵐ
The first step toward being more inclusive is to become more aware.
By breathing deeply, we can calm down our emotions, and thus think more clearly. Physiologically we are providing the oxygen needed in our brain to move our thinking from an emotional state to a more analytical state. When we are using only the emotional part of our brain, we consciously and unconsciously go first to fear whenever a difference from our norm is present.
B - Be the other
Intentionally put yourself in circumstances where you will be the person who is different from others. For example, if you to go to a place of worship regularly, then go to a different service to experience how other people worship whose faith is different from yours. I’m not suggesting that as the only time to be the other. It’s simply an example. There are many situations in which you could be the other- the one who is different. You could go to ethnic
festivals. You could listen to a different type of music. You could attend a gay PRIDE march. You could travel to countries that are culturally different from you. Read books about different cultures or written by authors different from you. The point is to look for places where there will be lots of people who are of a different ethnicity, gender, sexual identity or orientation, age, and so on. Doing so will deepen your understanding of people different from you, and thus reduce any negative biases you may have had. You will see them as individual people,
instead of a stereotypical group.
A- Ask for Feedback
Be willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to get feedback from other people. Most of our biases are unconscious, so we need someone else to point them out. Feedback is a gift, if you listen and consider its validity. Find an accountability partner. Choose somebody that you trust and ask them to give you feedback when you say or do something that seems to be biased or judgmental about others. Of course, choose someone that isn’t going to embarrass you in front of other people. The two of you may give feedback to each other so that both of you are learning at the same time.
S- Suspend judgment
That’s a way of saying assume positive intent. Suspend biased judgment as soon as you realize you have that thought. For example, do you judge strangers because of their size? Do you assume they do not care about how they look or how weight impacts health? Perhaps the person you are quickly judging just lost 120 lbs. and is working on losing more. Look intentionally for evidence that would prove your judgment wrong. Your judgement might be right but be willing to test it first.
I- Invite others
In this case you’re inviting people different from you to be in your space. Choose people to be on your team who are not like everybody else on your team. This can enhance diversity of thought. When a team respects differing points of view, it ultimately makes better more informed decisions. Of course, you must be willing to listen to their different points of view. Invite people into your space socially. The next time you have a house party invite a few people who are different than the ones you normally invite. I’m sure it will create great conversation.
C- Check your ego at the door
Be willing to allow yourself to discover beliefs you had in the past that are no longer applicable now. You can only do that when you stop assuming you’re right all the time. Checking that ego at the door enables you to really hear and value diversity of thought. It enables you to catch yourself when you’re judging people simply based on their height, accent, what their name is, what their handshake is like, et cetera. Check that ego!
I invite you to start B-BASIC today. I know it will make a difference for you at work, at home and in your community.
Each of us is a culture of one.
Let’s work together to build a community of inclusion!