You Belong At Lindsay
Part I. Opening Our Minds and Hearts To A More Diverse And Inclusive OrganizationPosted on: September 3rd, 2020
Sheltering-in-Place Blog Entry #21
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity,
there is beauty, and there is strength.”
Exploring the diversity of life is one of the most cherished journeys a human can take, for there are marvels to be discovered, incredible mysteries to unravel, and countless stories to share and learn from. Diversity is an endless source of wonderment for a naturalist (and we are all born naturalists). Studying and understanding the richness of life makes us humble and feeds our curiosity and hunger for learning. We have an innate drive to organize the mind-bogglingly complex world that surrounds us by cataloging species, artifacts, knowledge, and details into volumes of literature that can help us wrap our brains around this unique characteristic of our planet. Our beautiful blue marble is filled with life and endless variety, and the more we look, the richer it gets.
It is then a particular puzzle that when we come to human diversity, we impose a different set of parameters to our values, understanding, and appreciation. The wide variety of the natural world is reflected in the diversity of people as well. Our species has remarkable plasticity when it comes to the expression of our genetic code. No other species has such a broad range of variation in our shapes and forms, sizes, skin color, or hair texture. Our unique adaptations have produced beautiful outcomes that reflect the conditions under which we evolved as a global-ranging species. And when you add the scope of experiences, backgrounds, economic stations, origins, cultures, nationalities, beliefs, traits, and personalities, the diversity factor grows exponentially into the rich and complex tapestry of the human condition.
Currently, Lindsay’s board of directors, our staff, and volunteers reflect only a portion of the Bay Area’s rich diversity. Much of that can be attributed to our physical location in a city that is historically less diverse than its neighbors.(1) But we need to go deeper. As a region, the East Bay is complex and varied.(2) As an organization, we can do more to reflect this richness.
Attracting and bringing together a more diverse workforce is a great first step. But we would only be scratching the surface. There is a lot more we can do. The next step is inclusion. We can define inclusion as our effort to engage a wide spectrum of people in meaningful ways. An inclusive environment takes advantage of diverse perspectives to advance programs and initiatives with equal and significant participation.
Consider the following scenarios:
There is a meeting or a gathering where everyone looks the same, dresses the same, comes from similar backgrounds, similar economic positions, and roughly the same ages and education (meaning, a very homogeneous group of people). It is not a stretch to imagine that everyone in the meeting would probably feel very comfortable in this reunion, mainly because dissent is likely to be minimal, and perspectives would be familiar to all. There is comfort and familiarity in a congregation of like minds.
Now imagine the same meeting with people of different backgrounds, countries, ages, varied incomes, and divergent experiences. There will likely be a range of opinions and perspectives that could spark challenging but necessary dialogue that spurs growth.
Even with our differences, there are things we all have in common like our needs, wants, how we feel when we see a beautiful sunset or watch an eagle soar and call across the sky. What if we look at the experiences that we all share? Like the joy of childbirth and the deep pain of a loss. The first time we met someone different as children, and we just wanted to play with them. Or our first pet animal and how we loved it with all our might and how hard we cried when it was gone. Or the first time we saw the ocean or walked into a redwood forest and felt overwhelmed by their immensity and by the life that they contained. Or the first time we held an injured animal in our hands and looked around for help. The first time we stared into the eyes of a Great Horned Owl and saw ourselves reflected in them. These are all universal elements of our lives as humans and are shared by people no matter where they come from, regardless of their skin color, what they believe, or who they love. These are the things that loudly tell us that we belong to the human species, that we are one, that we are a WE, not a US and THEM.
So, to be truly diverse and inclusive, we first need to build a sense of belonging. And this will only happen once we all feel comfortable being here, working side-by-side with others different from us, seeing ourselves reflected in the values, principles, and goals of the organization, the community, and the natural world we share. We will genuinely be a diverse organization when we strive to understand what it means to reach out and embrace all people with an open heart and genuine honesty.
In Part II next week, we’ll talk about Inclusivity and Equity, two of the important elements of a mature, well-balanced, and successful organization.
Dr. Carlos L. de la Rosa
Video link to go with the blog
A powerful video touches on what makes us belong and breaks the artificial boundaries we place ourselves when we only delve on our humanity’s surface.