How We Respect Diversity

It has taken some time to really grasp the essence of diversity, equity, and inclusion work and, thus, understand what undermines the success that schools strive to reach through this work — and to address issues that are consistently voiced by diversity practitioners. In the collective research, a key theme is how privilege, power, and fear of talking about race have prevented schools from creating an inclusive and diverse school community. Collective organizational vision draws its power from the narratives of the majority group. A school that resists or dismisses opportunities to understand or question that narrative is less likely to have practices or policies that address diversity.

If we wish to graduate globally competent, college and career ready learners, then we must exhibit and embrace global competence in all that we do. If we wish our students to become socially responsible, then we must model it with congruence. That is, ensure that our messages are aligned and complement our attitudes and behaviors, even when we think children aren’t looking or paying attention. Believe me, children are always paying attention on some level of conscious awareness.

The most socially responsible thing we can do is to prepare our students to be culturally literate in an increasingly global community and to equip them to interact with a broad range of people. But we can’t complete this work well without a well-functioning diverse adult community in our schools. And we can’t have a diverse adult community in a school without addressing issues of inclusion and equity. Cultural or racial literacy won’t appear simply because we use the word “diversity” daily.

Learning how to negotiate racial conflicts won’t become less stressful because we remind our schools about the ideas of social justice in our mission statements. Learning how to accurately read and interpret racially stressful social interactions in our school politics and relationships, modify our fear and avoidance to engage this elephant assertively and competently toward a satisfactory resolution takes courageous leadership — and that takes practice. It is also not a ‘top-down’ mandate. Instead, it is best communicated and encouraged and adopted with fidelity when, from the top, there is a dedicated commitment to overcome.

Color-blindness is disrespectful to diversity. It conveys a message that  says, ‘I don’t recognize your uniqueness, your difference is irrelevant and in spite of who you are or who you represent, we are doing things my way.’ That has characterized the direction that we approach equity and equality, akin to ‘separate but equal’, though never has separate been equal. It is dismissive of the needs of some and the relative wealth of others, and believe that separate reflects equal in any remote aspect. The notion does remarkably resemble the climate of the 21st Century, and some are still overlooked!

Being overlooked has led to under-resourced schools, impoverished communities, and underprepared children. It has led to prison pipelines, mass incarceration, learning deficiency diagnoses, underemployment, substance abuse, and believe it or not, that ‘glass ceiling’. It doesn’t stop there, unfortunately.

We must make reality, an unwavering equal opportunity and democratic society, with the words “equal”  and  “opportunity” as the operative terms. Continuing to blame the victim re-victimizes people who have been the ‘historical’ victims of American policies and practices. If untrue, then why are we witnessing so many protests and groups of us fighting for recognition of their humanity and their rights; not reconciliation;just recognition? Lest we forget, life, too is being prayed for, begged for, and demanded.

So, privilege and entitlement has produced a skewed social climate, that has continued to rob blacks of their heritage and unique cultural gifts, and then turned around to kidnap, adopt and claim them as their own. That is just reality, not being divisive in an already divided relationship. Think about it. Music, dance, culinary favorites, slang/language, fashion, bodily attributes-from lips to butts- not to mention the thousands of inventions, patents and copyrights ….

Need it be more plainly spoken? If that were not true, then why are we not teaching this to little children at school? Not yet have we let go of the fear of losing privilege. Overcompensation is a coping mechanism and in this case,the widespread denial of  positive contributions, attributes or inherent potential, just TO FEEL MORE SPECIAL!?! People only persist putting others down, insult, deny, discriminate, to justify their actions and rid their own demons. Criticizing the morality and attacking the character of others is indicative of unhealthy race relations.

Remember that the most obvious display and proof of educator incompetence exists as a link between a school’s practices and its stated mission. Diversity itself is a construct much too broad, unless specifically strategized and addressed for and in practical application- turning actionable plans into planned actions.

Racial literacy takes practice-action and intentionality. Remember, words without actions amounts to  rhetoric. I read in a great book that the periods of Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights era were only the infancy stages in the fights of blacks in America, and that many more will come with greater significance and stronger impact. And so, diversity now encompasses more than just African-Americans in this country, but Arabs, Mexicans, Native American, Asians,  etc…, etc…., etc….

When will we all be Americans, judged by integrity, not income; character and not color or hue; respect, not race or religion; potential and purpose, not politics or privilege; empathic awareness, not entitlement; globalism, not gender; and compassion cultural competence, not color-blindness? In 2017, can everyone be mindful of children and family, who live on the fringes of society’s positive regard, and consider this: Everybody is somebody’s child, and we all share the most basic component of what makes up a society, and that is our ‘human-ness’!



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