while ago, someone emailed me to ask for help getting word out on a blog post
they wrote on a report about workplace satisfaction or something. I asked, “Did
your report disaggregate data on employees of color?” They said no, sounding
apologetic. This happens all the time, where diversity and inclusion are an
afterthought, something that is a nice-to-have, but not an essential element.
I understand there are times when it makes sense to talk about issues in the general sense. But all of us need to develop and sharpen the lens we use to look at the world and the issues we are addressing. The problems we are tackling are all affected by multiple forms of intersecting inequity, and we must train ourselves to see and analyze race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, disability, neuro-diversity, LGBTQIA identity, etc. Those of us who create content, especially, must take this seriously, as our blogs, articles, podcasts, tweets, videos, books, rock musical, etc., may reach thousands of people. And if we are not thoughtful and deliberate, then we may be unconsciously reinforcing certain things as the default, namely white heteronormative cis-male able-bodied neuro-typical norms.
[Image description: A sepia-toned drawing of an older gentleman playing a violin. He is wearing a hat, a scarf, and a suit jacket with two buttons buttoned. He is smiling and appears joyful. The background includes musical notes. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]
In college—Washington University in St. Louis. Yeah, go Bears!…If that’s still relevant!—I volunteered with the Campus Y and led a program called SAGE (Service Across GEnerations). We students would wake up early on Saturdays, hop on the school shuttle, and visit seniors at a nursing home. We played checkers and cards and talked to the seniors. There was Joyce, who enjoyed drawing penguins and who always called me Lou. And Mrs. Mosbey, a 90-year-old blind woman who listened to the radio and kept up with current affairs, who constantly ribbed me for being vegan. “You need to eat some meat,” she would say, “it’ll put some hair on your chest.”
As delightful as the visits were, it was extremely difficult to get other students to participate. Whereas the program where you read books to small children had over a hundred volunteers each day, SAGE always had just four to six of us. This was not from lack of trying. We had amazing posters! I remember how frustrating and demoralizing it was trying to convince other students to come along, to meet these incredible seniors. A one-hour visit would do so much to brighten their day. It was always a tough sell. No one wanted to spend time with seniors; it was much easier to ignore them and read to children. Continue reading →