Who is Afraid of Difference | Opinion

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The governor of Alabama banned my life’s work. Privileged, white, conservative politicians, like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, are trying to prohibit any education on diversity, equity, and inclusion in public schools, from kindergarten on. This is a much bigger deal than you might imagine.

It must be assumed, they insist, that every student has exactly the same life experiences, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I spent 50 years helping people around the globe understand the exact opposite, and it made a huge difference in the harmony of corporate culture. Ignorance is the parent of fear, and fear is the parent of hatred. Cultural competency eliminates hate and increases harmony and productivity.

Diversity explains and celebrates the unique gifts that every person brings to life.

Equity means that there is no hierarchy of one race, one sexual orientation or one gender over another.

Inclusion reminds us that even if we celebrate diversity, and we believe in the equality of all people, we need to create an environment in which everyone feels safe, valued, and included. 

Among the hundreds of thousands of people who have heard me, and my colleagues speak, no one has come forth to say they disagree with treating everyone with professional respect, nor that any one gender, race, or orientation was superior to another. There was one woman who came up to me after a corporate training on LGBTQ issues who said, “I don’t like that you identify yourself as Irish Catholic. I’m Irish Catholic and I think you give us a bad name.”

Straight, white, cisgender legislators don’t want straight, white, cisgender students to ever feel uncomfortable with their privileges. Spending time talking about the lives of different people will create self-consciousness and resentments, they insist. My experience has been exactly the opposite. I’ve always found straight, white, cisgender students and corporate leaders very grateful for the help I and others gave them in understanding and feeling more comfortable with people who are different.

Legislators who have never been through a presentation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but who nevertheless ban such education seem to have as an unspoken agenda the United States being a straight, white Christian nation. That’s never going to happen, but it’s certain that children who grow up in reactive Red states are being denied the education they need to enable them to live and work in harmony with others.

This effort to prevent cultural understanding doesn’t stop with our schools. There’s a group of straight, white adult men who are trying to stop diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporations. They want to eliminate such departments, trainings and LGBTQ Employee Resource Groups. They call such companies “woke,” as if that was a bad word.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen hundreds of colleges and corporation, as well as government agencies, such as the NSA, who “woke” up to the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion training.


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