Fuck Inclusion. It’s Time To Take It Further.
Inclusion. I wanna talk about that word for a moment.
Inclusion, to my mind, means to invite someone to participate in something you’re doing anyway. Inclusion means making some changes to your way of operating now, that are essentially compromises, in order to allow a person to have access to your space.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s an excellent start. But we need to do a whole lot more than that. Because just providing access, just doesn’t cut it. Inclusion, as the inverse of exclusion, still points to who is allowed where — not where was designed for whom.
It doesn’t offer much more than a modification of existing systems that were designed to hurt or limit access to a minority. Pure and simple.
When you design a space, whether it’s a physical space or the culture of a startup, or the atmosphere of a coworking space, or even just a meetup that you want to run, you can’t just ask whether or not you’ve done the bare minimum by offering “inclusion” as a free gift.
You have to go a step further and ask what you have done to specifically make your space with the needs of people who aren’t you in mind. How would you design a startup space if you were designing it for more than a straight white private school kid?
How would you design an accelerator in order to make it feel like home to queer people, blind people, people of colour? How would you design it to make it feel like home to a transgender person? How would you design it so that any group of people who apply to that accelerator don’t just feel like they finally have a key that works — they have a place that actively wants the door to be open for them?
It really does come down to that level of consideration, that’s the next step. Because here’s the truth. If you feel hobbled by having to think about that level of work on your culture, or those requirements on what you’re building, you need to ask yourself why making choices that don’t make other people uncomfortable make you so uncomfortable. If you don’t want to compromise a part of what you do in order to make a space that, at a granular level, is designed to give voice and breath to every person who can contribute to it, it’s worth considering why that compromise is alien to you. You might not like the answer.
I’m sure some of this is going to come across as nitpicking. Or, in the dutch vernacular, ant-fucking. But I don’t see it that way. I think yes, we have made some steps out there towards a better world for everyone. That might be true. And yet, if I just say hey, let’s be grateful that we’re not always actively excluded, aren’t I selling myself both short and out?
Inclusion has gotten us this far. Sure. It won’t get us a whole lot further. The next step is deeper and more systemic change towards our framing when we take the first step to build literally anything. I think that matters.