Born in Puerto Rico before he moved to the Pacific Northwest, Eliacín Rosario-Cruz describes himself as husband/ father/ rabble rouser/ organizer/ communitarian/ provocatuer/ grassroot practitioner/ community cultivator/ unschooled practical educator/ organic intellectual/ coffee drinker/ theo-philospher wannabe. He has written a challenging and enlightening post on his blog, the kingdom praxis, entitled ‘I do not want to be tolerated or included’, which has (as a good rabble rouser should) stirred up both controversy and discussion. Why? Because ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusion’ (along with ‘diversity’) are the cornerstones of our majority/dominant culture/in-group discussions around who should be admitted (‘included’) and who should be kept waiting at the gate (whilst still being ‘tolerated’, of course). And, naturally, diversity is all about the mainstream attempting to make sense of those whose ‘unlikeness’ sets them apart from…the mainstream.
Thanks to the ubiquitous dictionary.com, definitions are ready to hand
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
2. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
Or, you MODERATELY respect the ideas of others. And guess who gets to decide whether something is ‘fair’ and ‘objective’ to say nothing of ‘liberal’ or ‘undogmatic’?
Tolerate, the verb, is even less ambiguous:
1. to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hindrance; permit.
2. to endure without repugnance
Nice. I’ll put up with you, allow you to exist — ideally without repugnance (but no guarantees). So, how about a moratorium on the words ‘tolerance’ and ‘tolerate’ until we have a thorough discussion about what they really mean? And how incredibly offensive they are perceived as being by many of those we are trying our gosh-darn hardest to ‘tolerate’?
For the Omnivore the difference between the uses around ‘being included’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive’ are equally as stark. A trip back over to our friends at dictionary.com:
1. to contain as a subordinate element;
2. to involve as a factor,
3. to embrace
1. the act of including.
2. the state of being included.
1. including a great deal, or including everything concerned; comprehensive:
2. that includes; enclosing; embracing.
As the Omnivore partners with her clients to create and sustain inclusive working environments the key is that the status quo should be reinvented, to the point that THERE IS NO NORM. So, we don’t ‘tolerate’ those who are different, we don’t ‘include’ their ideas, an atmosphere is created where INCLUSION IS THE NEW NORM. Emphasis is on the last definition, that of ‘inclusive’: enclosing, embracing.
And, of course, the very word ‘diversity‘ (the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness) assumes there is a norm that ‘different’ people aspire to. Myths and assumptions drive our world, and we have a unique opportunity not to replace the present set with a new one, but to reframe it, as Rosario-Cruz says, from a perspective of community.
A contributor to Jim Wallis’ blog, ‘God’s Politics’, adds to Rosario-Cruz’ post: ‘One of the best lines in one of my favorite movies, “Cry Freedom,” delivered by a black South African to a white newspaper editor, goes as follows:
“The best you want for us is to be allowed to sit at the same table using your silver and your china and, if we learn to use it like you do, you will kindly let us stay. We want to wipe the whole table clean. It’s an African table, and we will sit at it in our own right.”
To my clients, and the wider corporate world in general the Omnivore adds: if you don’t wipe your table clean, and start over, you will never be able to incorporate the very talent that represents the future for you, your company, very likely your industry and certainly all of your stakeholders. And not that it should particularly matter, to someone who holds the principles of servant leadership close to their heart….but your own job very likely depends on your ability to not tolerate, not include, not promote diversity, but rather to create an inclusive organization where all are able to contribute, to be heard, to be recognized, respected, accepted, acknowledged and rewarded for the unique and creative value they add to the organization. Wiping the table should begin with yourself, with the senior management, by the way. Perhaps we should all take to heart the message conveyed so perfectly by Groucho Marx:
I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member
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