Sunday, April 5, 2015

the journey: inclusion

I'd like to think that I am an advocate for social justice, inclusion, and learning. Am I always perfect at all of these things? Definitely not. But I'm open to being challenged, to acknowledging misteps, and to growing from the experience.

I've been reflecting on a conversation we had in class a few weeks ago regarding the desire within student affairs to create inclusive environments for all people. In that conversation, the statement was made on whether our inclusivity silences the "exclusive" voices. In thinking about that statement, I wondered, "Where/How do those view points fit in the work that we do?"

I stand by my belief in the detrimental consequences that occur when there is lack of recognition in the unearned access and resources, or privilege, we have. I think I'd be remiss to overlook that. But I've thought about what that means in spaces like a student affairs classroom, where certain voices that are often "the loudest" in our society go unheard in that space. Is it not the point for us to learn from one another?

I believe that as long as a value/faith/belief is not harming another, that individual can continue on their way. But how do we evaluate what that harm piece looks like. For example, blue cheese. I'm not a fan. But if someone loves it, that's their prerogative. But don't force feed it to me or I will not be a happy camper. Not social justice related, I know. But now let's think of it the context of social power. Let's talk about marriage equality. If you believe marriage should only be between a man and a women, that, again is your prerogative. But I don't believe that these individuals should have the power to impose that belief and hinder the rights of others. And we could go into a whole blog series to discuss this topic alone but that's now what this post is about. For today, at least.

So how do we navigate these differences in our values/beliefs? Do we recognize that values differ from individual to individual and leave it at at that? "Agree to disagree?" Personally, I don't think that's the best option. Or do we find a way these values/beliefs intersect so that we create collaborative environments that move us forward to create positive social change? 

I'm not sure if I know what the best answer is, and I don't know if there really is an exact answer. I often have these conversations and end up with more questions. 
But I think that's the beautiful thing about this journey called social justice. 

What I do know is that it's up to every one of us to be open to learning from others, to understanding what our own identities and lived experiences mean, and to figuring out how we can all uncomfortably but lovingly coincide with one another.

*I am by no means the expert on the topics of social justice, diversity, and inclusion but know that it is something I value and will always be, whether it's formally or informally, a part of my professional and personal life. It impacts the way I interact with others, my behaviors, and the way I make decisions. I'm far from perfect but always open to the challenging, uncomfortable, and rewarding experience this work brings. I am pretty sure this is the first post of many as I process what this looks like for me. Thanks for reading and being open to going on this journey with me.


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