I don’t want acceptance.
We live in a world full of diversity. Different races, religions, languages spoken, sexual orientations, gender identities, favorite colors, and opinions on pizza toppings. That was not always the case. Unless you live in denial, you’re aware that the first humans originated in Africa. At a time when the sea levels were lower, they made their way into Asia and Europe. They spread quickly throughout the Middle East and into the rest of Asia, then onto the Americas and the Pacific islands. The move into Europe was slower, due to the harshness of the most recent Ice Age. During this time, climate and terrain separated our ancestors from each other and that isolation led to the variety of human beings that we see on this planet today. All of the huge differences between us are a result of our ancestors losing, and forgetting about one another.
Thousands of years later, when they met again, they were strangers, and they treated each other the way humans tend to treat others who are new and different; with trepidation, xenophobia, and violence. How many wars have humans fought in the name of religion, race, or nationalism? How many have killed their own cousins as a result of being different?
But what is our excuse now? It’s certainly nothing new to us that these differences exist. We can’t still be hating those who are different out of fear anymore, or can we? Or, is the hate just being directed at a new group, instead, or should I say in addition?
We work for businesses and attend schools who are proud of their level of diversity. They take pride in the inclusion of diversity awareness training for new employees and students. Entire mission statements are written and specifically mention the word diversity.
But here is the sticking point. Simple awareness is not enough. People should not have to be made aware that they may work with someone of a different religion from them, or even someone who is gay or transgender.
So, what is the step beyond awareness? The answer is acceptance. But I postulate that acceptance is not enough either.
“Hey, Sarah, so, I’m new here and I’ve been talking to a few people and I understand that you used to be a man. Is that right?”
“Well, yes. I’m transgender.”
“Well, hey. That’s great. I can accept that.”
You better accept it, because that’s the way it is! You really don’t have the choice not to. You can substitute any minority group in this conversation and it would all be the same.
“I hear you’re a Muslim.”
“So, you’re a lesbian?”
“So I guess you want to be called they and them?”
Acceptance is superficial. It’s too easy to do in passing. It keeps us separate from those we are told to accept. Just because we accept someone doesn’t mean that we respect them, that we feel empathy and compassion for them, that we care about them.
Take mosquitoes. I accept that mosquitoes exist. I hate those stupid insects and to this day don’t understand what positive impact they make on this planet. Accepting that they exist does not mean that, should they become endangered, I’m not going to keep swatting them when they land on my arms.
When it comes to our diversity, we should not be merely accepting our differences, we should be embracing them. We should instead be focusing on diversity inclusion. We should be building relationships with those who are different from us. Doing so would make people realize that all of those differences that we’ve been accepting for years are really pretty superficial.
The thing is, we don’t need CEOs or Superintendents, Presidents or Governors, supervisors or foremen to tell us to do this. Those of us who are in the minorities can help to be included by being visible and open about who we are. Of course, in today’s climate, that’s easier said than done.
That is why we need allies as well. Those people who have moved past, or were never even in, the acceptance stage. The more allies and friends that minorities have, the more of an impact that we can make on those who are fully accepting and just don’t realize that acceptance is not quite enough.
So, to minorities around the globe, be yourself, be open, be fearless. To our allies, continue to be engaging, inclusive, and vocal in your support.
As the walls that once created our diversity are crumbling, so too are the differences themselves. I envision a future where humanity is one race, one language, one religion (or no religion) at all. Hopefully once that happens, our decedents will wonder what all of the hatred was about in the first place.