Exclusion is never the path to diversity.
Even if it’s excluding the majority.
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. 😉
Some of you know that, in the summers, my husband and I do professional-level Shakespeare with urban teens. Check it out:
Notice something about this picture? It’s diverse. Now, it’s obviously diverse in a couple of ways: ethnically and age-wise (youngest 13, oldest 24, mode age 16). But it’s diverse in SO MANY other ways because each student is a person. Each has gifts and hang-ups and each is quirky or insightful or sweet or sassy or bouncy or weird. Some have been to rehab and some have been in honors programs (or done both). Some have straight A’s and some have processing disorders (or have both!). It is this diversity that makes our program awesome. We rely on these beautiful, flawed individuals to come together and create something wonderful, and they always do.
So here’s a story: My husband (the straight white Christian male who created this program) was recently casting the group. We don’t hold auditions like most theatre companies. Instead, students apply to be in the program and we hand-select them based on many factors– their leadership potential, special skill sets, the student’s potential to benefit from the group, and, yes, we consider ethnic/economic diversity as well. After we have our group, we hold auditions among the cast to assign roles. For you theatre folks, we’re ensemble-based.
My husband was going through the students who were viable candidates. We had a lot apply this year, so a few were on the chopping block who might not normally be there– they were good leaders, skilled, and would have good symbiosis with the program. The problem? They were white girls and our “white girl” quotient was already a little high. He sat. He thought. He prayed. And we ended up with our largest cast ever- 15 people.
Now theatre people know that larger casts are harder, especially in Shakespeare. There are more actors with small parts, more costumes, less space, more things that could go wrong. So he took a hit. But he wasn’t willing to sacrifice those girls just so he could have an easier cast with fewer white girls. Instead, he’s determined to turn our large cast into an asset, as we have more diversity. Because we are ALL diverse. Each of us is an individual who is different from every single other individual. If more than one person is in a room, it is a diverse room.
Diversity should always be about INCLUSION and never about EXCLUSION.
If you exclude someone because of their majority label, you’re just as bad as the people who are excluding you because of your minority label.
Isn’t the point of We Need Diverse Books to create… diversity? Not just separate homogenies? It’s a little silly, I think, so put all the “diverse” folks on one side and all of the straight white neurotypical middle-class Christian guys (and gals) on the other side. And don’t say this doesn’t happen, or that it’s all “the other side” who’s drawing the line- I’ve seen “un-diverse” people excluded and put down multiple times over the past few weeks.
In short, we should never put others down in order to build ourselves up. Even if those others have been putting us down. Even if the others are the majority and “can take it.” Even if they’ve been benefitting from privilege their whole lives and never realized it. Those are no excuses to exclude them. Those are reasons to invite them in and show them that things can be different.
So here’s your one easy step to nurturing diversity: Include Everyone.
What do you think?