“Diversity, or the state of being different, isn’t the same as inclusion. One is a description of what is, while the other describes a style of interaction essential to effective teams and organizations.”
– Bill Crawford
There is an often used phrase that is used to help us remember the difference between diversity, and inclusion. It’s something along the lines of, ‘Diversity is when you count the people. Inclusion is when the people count.’ For marginalized communities, it is the difference between being tolerated, and being wholly accepted and celebrated for your contributions to society.
Diversity is focused on tracking characteristics and identities. It seeks to invite people who have previously been excluded based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other characteristics that people are negatively labeled with.
Inclusion is about welcoming and embracing diversity because of the benefits that it brings. It amplifies marginalized voices and ideas. Inclusion exercises diversity. It is is a conversation deepened by diversity.
Diversity + Equal Access = Inclusion
Diversity does not necessarily lead to inclusion. It can only do so when a sincere commitment to equal access to centers of power and authority. That requires that people currently in those centers identify and remove barriers to full and equitable participation. You can help them identify those barriers.
We can’t hope to convince society to embrace inclusion until we do so in our own communities, organizations and personal lives. What are you doing in your personal life to help create a more inclusive world?
prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control
We sometimes think about social change movements as people coming together and speaking with one voice to demand action. Consistent expressions of common values, and a shared vision, however, can and should come in many flavors. We should not let a desire for a strong, homogeneous voice to come at the cost of the knowledge and wisdom found in diverse perspectives and stories of our allies.
Having said that, it is important to recognize that historically, people with the same adversary have often seen their alliances disintegrate due to infighting over what the late writer and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde referred to as “hierarchies of oppression.” Spending time arguing over whose situation is more oppressive only serves to strengthen the position of the oppressor. Injustice is injustice. Discrimination is discrimination.
Lorde’s, “There is no Hierarchy of Oppressions,” like Sojourner Truth’s, “Ain’t I a Woman?” decades earlier, reminds us that compartmentalizing people does not necessarily shed light on their situation. We can identify with many groups simultaneously. Injustice is injustice. Discrimination is discrimination.
It does not minimize my pain to recognize the pain of another. Both of our stories are important, and it is through sharing those stories that we will realize our common values, and goals. Injustice is injustice. Discrimination is discrimination.
“I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.” – Audre Lorde, “There is no Hierarchy of Oppressions“