My friend Kathy Jourdain out in Halifax recently published a nice set of thoughts on inclusion prompted by an experience she had at a leadership network meeting:
…we need to stop patting ourselves on the back about how inclusive we think we are being and begin to look at our own assumptions and beliefs and look into where the tension resides within each of us around this topic.
When asked, how will we know we are being inclusive there were quite a range of responses. To me, it’s becoming very simple. We will know we are better at being inclusive when we stop responding to the statement we are not being inclusive with all the reasons why we are and begin to ask – with honest curiosity – why that question is being asked so we can learn from the perspective of the person who made the statement who may be someone who is feeling excluded.
This is hard for most of us to do because it requires us to challenge our own assumptions about we are and how we really respond when confronted with what we consider to be accusations about not being inclusive. We want to believe we are inclusive and welcoming and it is hard to face a reality where that might not be the case.
A big question to confront when one makes a true commitment to inclusion is “Am I willing to live in a world that includes what I think I hate?”
I had a great conversation with a young activist at a recent gathering. She was talking about the need to have a world free of war and that is what she works for. She was objecting to the idea that warriorship could be a practice or that any kind of agreesiveness or violenece was acceptable in her world view. Her world view was one of peace and inclusion, except for warriors and racists. I challenged her on that and appealed to her obvious warriorship (she is festooned in tattoos and is a strong powerful woman who fights for her beliefs – what else would I call her? Midwife seemed a little off the mark! 🙂 ). I asked her “Would you rather have this fantasy world of yours, or this real world right here, the one that includes war and racism and hate and fear?” She thought for a moment and smiled and replied “this one.” And that’s a good thing because it means she is living here with us and her energy can be put to use in this world, and more importantly, she can grow to accept the fact that war is a part of this world and it can also be a shameless part of her repertoire as well. How can you fight for a world of peace, unless you admit that such a world does indeed include warriors? (And what do most warriors fight for ultimately anyway?).
All of us have shadow sides, and those sides show up in the system, as the MLA in Kathy’s article points out. But because they are shadows, we don’t notice them…we can’t see that these are us. And if we hold dear this idea of inclusion, then we need to be able to include those parts of ourselves in the world in which we live, because without bringing them into play we can’t work with them. Ignorance of difference and hate is not inclusion. Inclusion makes things messy, which is just the world we process artists love to work within, eh?