The growing programs, positions, classes, books, and presentations on diversity, equity and inclusion are ultimately answering a call. How do we see, hear, validate, and include people and/or narratives that are different from ourselves and our own? A definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion is adapted from Kapila, Hines, and Searby (Kapila, Hines, & Searby):
Diversity: All the ways in which people differ. Encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another - including, but not limited to gender identity, nationality, socioeconomic status, education, physical appearance, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, language, learning styles, (dis)ability, age, or political perspectives
Equity: The fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people
Inclusion: The act of creating environments and structures via procedure and policy in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate
Overall, DEI is a comprehensive approach to making sure everyone is included and treated the same. DEI education and awareness responds to systems of inequality and a long history of injustices. Countless marginalized populations and people have undergone traumatic experiences, encounters of violence, and discrimination, and it is important to answer the DEI call from a heart-based place.
“It’s OK not to know someone else’s point of view or culture, but when we commit to acknowledging our differences and being curious about them instead of just ignoring those differences, then we can begin to build relationships, and help people feel safer.”
- Crystal McCreary
With every traumatic event or stressful situation comes a sensory experience. We take in smells, touches, sounds, visuals, and emotions that accompany each stress point or event. The sensory experience stays with us long after the actual event or point in time has passed. This keeps the event or stress point alive and active. Practicing presence can begin to transform our original associations and open up positive possibilities.
When we are present with our own trauma triggers, we begin to identify our innate stress responses. Once identified, we can commit to the present moment with compassion and invite in new sensory experiences. Once we can do that for ourselves, we can extend to others. Adding trauma into diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations help us get to the root of issues and embark on a trust-building and healing process.
ACKNOWLEDGE the challenges and gaps surrounding DEI in your business/organization/community. Keep an open mind and heart, and be willing to embark on open and compassionate dialogues. Examine with a “beginner’s mind” or also known as hoshin in yogic terms. This refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying something, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.
When we examine the concepts of DEI, we can view it as a process of heart acknowledgment. Taking the time and space to acknowledge who and what is different than us, and accepting there is a space and place for us all, can allow inclusion to naturally unfold. At the heart of diversity and inclusion can lie the trauma of not being recognized, seen, heard, validated and included in narratives and solutions. There is a balance of not “blanketing” a group of people, because the individual gets lost. Yet, it’s important to recognizing trends and power systems that do not support various demographics and groups.
RELEASE storylines, narratives, and belief systems that aren't valuable to you. This isn’t an overnight process, but it takes extra care, conversations and experimentation. Start with finding complex situations and scenarios that dissipate lines between cultural assumptions and labels. Consume books, information, and media created by people who represent various backgrounds, experiences and demographics. This can begin to help you sift through your own belief systems and decide what you would like to release and what you want to keep.
CREATE your own journey that integrates releasing, examination, and action. When we connect with our heart, and act from heart center, then we can compassionately and empathetically create new diverse and inclusive plans of action.