It may be 2022, but the residue of segregation is still with us. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, we still needed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 to prohibit discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and sex. And it was amended to include physical challenges and family status.
The act of 1964 had to be amended because we cannot legislate people's hearts. When it comes to discrimination, people need information for their heads. Statements that explain what, why, and how. But to have lasting change, we need to be able to change people's hearts.
The harm of segregation can be seen in how people make housing decisions. It can be seen in how people of color are seen as suspect and guilty, leading to the over-policing of Black and Brown bodies, not just by the police but by the private citizens they work with every day. That suspicion leads to microaggressions and statements of disbelief, such as "Wow, you're so intelligent!" While that might seem like a compliment, its nature is rooted in counterexpectations. The question then becomes, why would you not expect a Black or Brown human to be intelligent? Where did your expectation come from?
Racism is institutional, systemic, internalized, personal, and interpersonal, and based on 500 years of conditioning. So, to expect that it will disappear overnight without educating people on what they are dealing with is unrealistic. Likewise, thinking that legislature alone can solve segregation is unrealistic. Centuries of trauma and violence remain in the psyche for generations. And not just the psyche of the recipient of violence, but also the perpetrator and those who witness it. We have to start somewhere to heal the ills of the past, and inclusion can guide the way.
Inclusion allows us to learn together. When we include one another, we open the way for conversations that lead to understanding. But because we've lived segregation for so long, inclusion has to be intentional. So, if your organization is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, you'll need to ask yourself some key questions. Namely, how can we have equity without inclusion? Where are we excluding members of our organization? If we were to ask the marginalized members of our organization (BIPOC, LGBTQ, mentally and physically challenged) if they feel excluded/included, what would they say? Can we hear their answers? Moreover, would we act to make the changes needed?
To have an inclusive organization, you'll have to consider all its members. Know that people who have been marginalized are sometimes suspicious when they are first included. They may not feel comfortable, and it may take them some time to trust. Continue to ask them. Build trust through consistency. Create opportunities for people to feel part of something great, something that makes a difference in the world. Let all those you work with know that they matter, that their contribution makes a difference. Include them in after-hour events. When appropriate, include them in your complements, and let them know they count. Find opportunities to engage. When people feel included, they feel that they belong. When people have a sense of belonging, they tend to be more loyal to the organization.
The Great Resignation, or "the Great Resign-Nation," is opening the way for companies to reimagine themselves. What could your company become by being more inclusive?