What does Inclusion look like?
Everyone likes to be included. To be part of the whole, and feel that your contributions are noted and appreciated. It's a basic human desire, to feel that you belong and that your life has a meaning where you are. We all want to feel appreciated, valued. But how do I include people I don't know, how do I make sure that others feel valued- if I don't have a direct relationship with them. It all boils down to making sure they are represented in all aspects of life. For example, female children that are not shown pictures and stories about women in the workforce, have a harder time picturing themselves as such. We tend to identify better with those that look like us, that talk like us, that live like us. How can I strive to be a politician, if I've never seen one that resembles me? Thankfully, there are indeed trailblazers that have challenged the status quo and proven that minorities and other less represented groups are capable of doing just as much as the ones currently there. Their job is not easy, however, as they represent not only themselves but their whole group- and that's a huge responsibility. We need to have more representation in all aspects, in public life, on tv even.
When I think of inclusion, I remember how happy my 14 year old daughter was when she found a cartoon series about a Dominican American teenager that spoke English perfectly and was inquisitive and a good role model. Having a Dominican mother was not the center of the story- it was just part of who this character is. Her being bilingual was not the center of it either. She was portrayed as a normal American teenager, with a very vivid imagination. It was the first time she saw such a character, someone like herself, not as a curiosity- but as someone accepted, normal. She liked it so much, she cut her hair to resemble this character.
And that's how inclusion works, in my opinion. It's accepting that others, although different in many aspects, are still normal. Portraying them in movies as curiosities to be laughed at, is not inclusion. Pointing them out as exotic, is not inclusion. Assigning a whole group of people a single purpose, or classifying them as one hive mind, isn't either. Any time anyone is reduced to one aspect of their life, and not considered as a whole individual, with dreams, and their own complex personality, we do them a disservice- and it's definitely not inclusion. Being a person of color, or of a different sexual identity, or someone that was born in a different country, or has a different religion, or language- does not automatically make you behave the same as someone else with the same characteristics. We are all different, and at the same time, so alike. We need to redefine what normal looks like, to accommodate all of these different people, so they can see themselves represented. Everyone should be able to look up to someone that looks like them, and feel like they belong in this beautiful place, and that they are normal- whatever that word looks like to them.
Helping others dream of a better future, where people see them as a whole complex human being, and not reduced to their race, or their background, or whatever else they might have different from you- that's inclusion. And we should all strive to do so, and to see that others do as well. I want to make it a habit, to include people. To challenge not only our biases, but other people's biases, to get to know others that think differently so they can enrich my experience in this life. Who knows, maybe we can help each other feel included.
Inclusion should be the norm, not the exception.
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