As we individually have opportunity to engage with or recruit those that come from various and differing backgrounds, we should make a focused effort to ensure that they know they also own the table.
I have been recently reflecting on the term inclusivity. What is it? What does it look like? I recently wrote this passage to be part of a work of fiction. It comes from my memories of a segregated school system of the early 1960’s when I was a child.
This cafeteria was one of the few places Mike and other white kids had frequent contact with the black people of Fair Creek or Hawkinsville - they comprised most of the cafeteria’s workforce. Mike recalled the smiles from the cooks and servers, and thought of how they were always laughing and enjoying life. He always looked forward to his morning journey through the cafeteria. And the food was good, especially the biscuits and fried chicken and apple pie and pumpkin pie and turkey and dressing. It was just burgers today, but that was okay. It made no sense to Mike that these kind people were good enough to cook for the teachers and students but not good enough to go to school as fellow students. One small step forward, he thought. Maybe we will be sitting together soon – at the same table.
Our views of society and personal values have changed over time. Blatant discrimination is not legal nor is it acceptable behavior. But are we setting at the same table? Beyond the seminars and books and committees, what have I done to create the table with seats for everyone? Not enough.
As we individually have opportunity to engage with or recruit those that come from various and differing backgrounds, we should make a focused effort to ensure that they know they also own the table. I have no magic recipe for this process, but I know it begins with communication. Often our common ground is in our professional interactions and discussions. These conversations provide an opportunity for personal discovery. We all know that scientific/technical investigations do not always work. It takes effort over time to be successful – repetitions of effort and application. We will experience some frustrations as we open the “cafeteria.” But I am confident we can find ways to do this and better understand the richness of everyone at the table.