Day 4: Inclusion

Day 4: Inclusion

Read. Reflect. Take Action.

Reflection (5 minutes)

Before beginning today's reading, reflect on these questions:

  • What does inclusion mean to me?
  • How can I use what I have learned about diversity to build on my understanding of inclusion?
  • Think about the space you are in right now. Would everyone be able to access it? What could be some barriers?

After today you will be a JEDI! So far, you have learned about justice, equity, and diversity. Today's topic is inclusion — the "I" in JEDI. Although the title sounds a lot like that of a "Star Wars" film, it does not get you a lightsaber or telekinesis. But it does give you the ability to harness the force of inclusion!

When the term "inclusion" became popular at work, many adopted Vernā Myers' definition. "Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance." And in an instant, everyone understood what inclusion meant! Not really though. If only it were that easy.

Although I love the simplicity of that definition, it fails to consider that not everyone has the same abilities — or access to the party at all. If life were an inclusive party, it would look a lot like equity. It would include accommodations so everyone could get to the party. For some, the party is at their home. For others, the party is on the other side of town, and they have no car or money for a bus ticket. And some people may not have the physical ability to dance. So, how does inclusion come to life when each of us is unique and has a wide variety of needs?

Let’s begin with defining inclusion. Merriam-Webster defines it as the "act or practice of including and accommodating people who have been historically excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability)." I appreciate this definition because it goes beyond making the invitation. It creates accommodations for all individuals who should and could be present.

On day one, I shared that I often helped my family and my community with interpretation services. What you do not know is I was probably the worst choice they could have made. I had a severe speech impairment which manifested as a stutter. It would take me countless tries and quite a bit of time to get to what I wanted to say. This led me to a point where I thought I would resign myself from speaking and write down what came to me instead. This was my way of removing the burden for others — by minimizing myself.

I was about seven years old when the best song to ever hit the radio came out: Toni Braxton’s "Unbreak My Heart." I would sit on the floor with the radio tuned to FM, and I'd hear the announcer say, "If you have a song request, call us." I don’t know what JEDI force came through me, but I decided to take the invitation. It was open, there were not any requirements, and he said to call!

I walked to the corded phone on the wall and dialed the number. I tried really hard to say the words, "Can you please play 'Unbreak My Heart' for me?" I know what it sounded like — a much more delayed and choppier version than what you are reading today. I know because my sister would record the radio’s top hits that played from 5 to 7 in the evening on her cassette player. And she happened to catch the call I made.

The radio host who answered my call asked me if I had taken too many sips of my grandmother’s cough syrup. He laughed, said, "Try again next time, kid," and ended the call. It was then I realized the invitation was open, but it did not include me. I felt shamed and belittled. The story I had told myself about resigning from speaking was reinforced.

Our society has taken major leaps toward equity and inclusion, but we still have so much work to do. I think about the seven-year-old me — how long it took me to rewrite that story for myself. The host could have used that minute-long interaction to inspire. Instead, he marked me without ever knowing the impact.

Today, many organizations are working to create a culture of inclusion. This happens through surveys of the building, services provided, and employee engagement. But, we know not everyone realizes the force they hold within them to create an inclusive space.

Reflection (10 minutes)

  • Has my definition of inclusion changed? If so, how?
  • Where do I see opportunities for creating a more inclusive workplace?
  • Where do I see opportunities for creating a more inclusive community?

Fast forwarding to today, I speak quite often. Some may even say a lot. I do this as a reminder that the gift of voice is something I cannot take for granted because I have lived without it. Now that I have it, I want to treat my voice like an instrument that brings forth a tune of hope and inspiration. This is why anytime I am invited to provide a keynote or moderate a session, I bring up my speech impairment. I want to inspire others who might have resigned themselves to never speak again, to try.

Telling my story is an invitation to think about inclusion. We must follow what we learn with action. If we do not lead the way, who will?

If you watched "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," you will know the scene I'm referring to. Rey is on the ground struggling when the voices of past Jedis whisper, "The force of the Jedi is with you." "We all stand with you." "The heart of the Jedi lies within you." Let’s continue to share words and actions that inspire each another to rise. And, when we get an invitation to a party, let's create accommodations so everyone can get there and join in the fun.

Calls to Action

  • Think about steps you can take to create a more inclusive workplace. List two or three, and share them with a co-worker or friend for accountability.
  • Think about steps you can take to create a more inclusive community. List two or three, and share them with a co-worker or friend for accountability.

Have questions? Email Kevin Matta at