actions best practice diversity values

embracing diversity

i often hear people asking how they can create more diversity in their work/community. here’s my typical response.

if you want more “non-white, non-straight, non-disenabled*” in your world (or projects): don’t expect them to come to you. instead, invest time in non-white, non-straight, non-disenabled* spaces.

seek out and go to events/activities that they run by and for their own communities and allies. go repeatedly. sit, stfu, listen, help make tea and stack chairs, pitch in to the projects and ideas they call for/lead. and do it all without expecting anything in return: leave what you want *from* them outside. whatever benefits you believe you/your work can bring them, in this case it’s just not about you and you are not the best person to make that call.

in time they’ll ask why you keep turning up, and will likely begin asking you about yourself. that’s when you have the invitation to discuss yourself, your project and your ideas. unless you’re doing something dubious, they will inevitably either be interested personally, or know others who might be, and will introduce you to them. eventually you will find yourself within an entire network of awesome humans who come from an entirely different world-view, and who will trust you because you’ve proven you understand how to “walk with, not speak for”.

yes, it does require a great deal of time and consistent selfless energy. but given what they have to do each day to simply survive, it’s not too much to offer – surely.

it’s not an easy journey – truly acknowledging the privilege we have gained because of the ongoing oppression of others is a deeply shitty un/re-learning curve. but if we want to be a genuine ally (or better: a genuine co-conspirator), it’s the work we have to do, every damn day.

also make sure you follow and share diverse voices on social media, and encourage others to follow them and share them. educate yourself on the issues they raise – don’t ask them to do that emotional labour on your behalf (just imagine how many times they have had to repeat those lessons, or reveal their own trauma just so A.N.Other white/straight/’abled*’ person might understand a tiny bit better what they live through). we only learn by surrounding ourselves with their voices.

decolonisation is also a great place to start your self-education path, and this is a great book. it’s based around First Nations in Australia, but the learnings (and failures) are global: http://decolonizingsolidarity.org

and finally, as I said above: this stuff hurts. it changes who you are on a deep level. be kind to yourself while you’re adjusting. be aware that as you start to learn more you’ll naturally have more conversations about these issues with your friends, families, colleagues and networks. you might find yourself facing significant opposition (people rarely like to have their privilege revealed, mainly because they misunderstand privilege to mean ‘wealthy/easy life’ as opposed to ‘able to freely walk down the street without fear of abuse/violence’). you may find yourself losing friends along the way, although in my experience you will probably find that they will either join you or you will realise you don’t need that kind of person around you after all. our silence in the face of bigotry is compliance – let’s not comply with oppression. instead let’s use our privilege to meaningfully drive equity.

stay safe, grounded, and connected. change takes time and the ripples will naturally affect every aspect of our lives and how we choose to live them. the more time we spend in meaningful connection with others outside our own ecosystems, the stronger we all become.

* note it’s not our bodies – or minds – which are ‘disabled’, it’s the world we live in which makes it impossible to thrive (and often extremely difficult to even survive). check out ‘social model versus medical model’ to understand more fully.

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