Over the thirty years I've been involved with Beyond Diversity, every project has taught me at least one important lesson about my own assumptions. What methods do you use to help keep your mind open?
In my most recent project, I assisted by doing individual interviews with staff from an educational organization about to launch an extensive anti-racism initiative. The first step in the initiative asked staff members being interviewed to select a group affiliation with which they most strongly identify. I was assigned to interview those folks who most strongly identify as conservative.
Though I had confidence in my ability as an interviewer - and the simple prompts Beyond Diversity provided gave me an adequate framework for the forty-five minute interviews - I did wonder if my own left-of-center views would interfere with my ability to remain fully present. I was pleased that concern ended up being a non-issue, but more pleased with my takeaway during the debrief I had with the founder of Beyond Diversity after one particular interview. The insights this interviewee had about her alienation from her colleagues were intelligent, nuanced, and convincing.
Feeling unheard and excluded is a common lament voiced by women, people of color, folks from the the LGBQT community, and the disabled. And for me, the systematic and historical silencing of those voices is an ongoing injustice in need of redress. But, in any non-political organization, voices are also in danger of being silenced when norms of that organization - particularly the views of its leadership - begin communicating a political stance, assuming agreement from its staff. Any organization wishing to declare itself inclusive needs to consistently monitor its communications to ensure all voices can be heard and respected. If not, the minority voices - conservative or otherwise - will either retreat into the closet or leave to find a more welcoming work place.