How challenging is it for you to be inclusive?
If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re liberal. You’re on a journey toward inclusion that you have chosen. You are always growing, but it’s probably not too hard for you to be open to different gender, racial, sexual orientation, and other identities.
But what about politics?
I’ve been thinking about this because Fletcher Consulting is in the planning phase with our law school clients, discussing the orientations we’ll be facilitating for incoming students.
As you may know, several law schools drew media attention this past year when students prevented people from having a platform due to their political positions. Whether by disrupting their presentations with heckling and chanting or by establishing a policy not to invite certain people at all, they expressed their political opinions by trying to silence conservative ones.
When I was in college and law school, I would have been among the protestors. As much as I value inclusion, I have a strong reaction to hate speech. I feel it is important to express my opinion and to raise awareness.
But what about the workplace? Should my desire for inclusion extend to work colleagues whose views I find totally loathsome?
When I lead a DEI workshop and a conservative participant disagrees with a core idea, I tell them that I am not trying to change their belief system. Instead, I say that the workshop is focused on creating behavioral norms and implementation of organizational values. If the organization values inclusion, employees (particularly managers) need to behave in ways that help to create an environment that is inclusive of all people, even if all of our beliefs don’t align. So we ask our conservative colleagues to be inclusive of employees who have historically been excluded.
For some of them, this is challenging.
For those of us who view ourselves as liberal or progressive, what’s challenging is being inclusive of people with conservative political beliefs.
Practicing inclusion isn’t always easy. At some point each of us will encounter someone who we would rather not include because of their beliefs and/or behaviors.
But if I understand where it’s hard for me, it might help me understand why it’s hard for those who disagree with me. And that empathy can provide opportunity for growth and discourse.
I’ve always connected with the idea expressed by novelist and activist Robert Jones, Jr. (aka Son of Baldwin): “We can disagree and still love each other—unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression, and denial of my humanity, and right to exist.”
This is the bar for me. If we can respect each other’s right to be, then we can co-exist. But I have to draw the line with those who believe in their own supremacy and deny the humanity of others. For me, inclusion does have its limits.