Why I prefer inclusion to diversity

I dream of a truly engaged electorate

Not only does the focus on diversity allow people to isolate in their silos, it also misses the point that we all participate in this republic through the same meaningful mechanisms: voting, jury duty, empowering the government through our active participation.

Inclusion is my preference. Through inclusion we neither simply respect nor, worse, simply tolerate — another person’s diversity. When we meaningfully include people, we all sit down at the same table and truly share in the same feast.

Diversity spends too much time focusing on our differences. Inclusion works from the perspective that we all have differences, and we know that. (We’re Americans, for God’s sake, and being different is already our strength.) Inclusion focuses on the work we can do together, not what separates us and categorizes us in silos.

The best way to analogize it is this: it is the difference between genuine hospitality and manners. When we are hospitable, everyone is welcome to join in, no matter their differences between them and us, no matter their differences with each other. When we are hospitable, we don’t ignore, but we don’t focus, on those differences. We invite each person in with the same warm, welcoming tone. As we talk, we go around the table and make sure each person has a chance to speak and greet the other guests. We do this genuinely and authentically with each person, because we want each person to feel totally welcome and comfortable in our presence, just as we have a need to feel welcome and comfortable in other people’s company. We share with everyone else the best qualities each person has, so every person can appreciate all other peoples’ unique perspectives. And we actually ENJOY each other’s company, not because of superficial characteristics, but because of what we learn about that other person that makes them human. That is inclusion.

Diversity, on the other hand is like manners — a code for determining whether certain people are following the rules to act like they are making other people feel comfortable. It is completely focused on superficial characteristics, and digs no deeper into who that person really is. And, manners are judgmental. They still feel dictatorial — if you don’t follow X Rule, you are outside the norm. And, you are marked for that.

If we only work from diversity, we will continue to marginalize, underestimate, and devalue people. If we focus on inclusion, we will encourage people to share more in our government.

The reason why people are afraid of inclusion, and comfortable with diversity, is because inclusion changes the power dynamic. Diversity does not. Everyone in our society is to be included, even voices people undervalue (#BlackLivesMatter), voices that scare people (insert any hate group name here), and voices that dominate (the mainstream media, and censorship-minded social media conglomerates like facebook and twitter).

Every voice. But, the political parties court the voices that echo their own beliefs because that has always been their strategy to remain in, or take control of, power.

Consider how these parties marginalized all of us, providing us with candidates that few people really liked, cared about, or respected. The parties brought us two people with questionable leadership skills with very storied backgrounds that undermine their ability to be trusted with the most valuable of American secrets: our national security. These candidates and their different focuses exclusively on diverse elements in society completely ignored 48% of voters to the point they felt so disengaged in America, they chose not to vote at all. Consider that again: This almost maniacal focus discouraged almost HALF of eligible voters from participating in the most fundamental of our political rights. One wonders what voices are missed there that are exceedingly valuable to our national discourse.

We must stop focusing on superficialities, and we must LISTEN to people, and as we listen, we must listen to hear what would truly engage them in our republic so that we can be a functional and healthy nation, rather than a dysfunctional one.

This comment was inspired by a reading of Mark Lilla’s opinion, The End of Identity Liberalism, in yesterday’s November 18, 2016, New York Times: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html?_r=0&referer=http://m.facebook.com

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