Being Inclusive Means Excluding Hate
In my role as a professional consultant who specializes in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, I am responsible for putting together programs, experiences, and opportunities for clients to engage in programs to expand their own learning on issues of equity and inclusion both within their organizations and in the world.
I also have the responsibility to be an advocate and ally for anyone experiencing prejudice and discrimination.
And, even more intentionally, I aim to support and be an ally to individuals from historically oppressed communities who still face many of the same systemic barriers today.
This is an important and crucial aspect of the work. In the consulting world, the perception is that we must always remain neutral and that we mustn’t challenge people who share bigoted or discriminatory ideas. The perception is that we must always remain open and inclusive to all ideas lest we commit the same acts we teach against – namely excluding or casting out ideas that are different than our own.
However, being inclusive in this work does not mean we engage passively in the exchange and debate of ideas, perspectives, and worldviews. It means being open to all ideas and then recognizing when the exchange of ideas becomes infiltrated with exclusionary and hateful ideas.
Standing up for more justice, advocating for more equitable policies and practices, putting together and facilitating training programs, and standing with those who feel voiceless is not the only a choice.
It’s our responsibility.
Now, in doing DEI work for over 20 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about the perceptions some people have – especially on social media – about the work that I and many friends of mine do around the country in their own consulting work.
One perception that stands out, in particular, is the reaction some folks express when I’ve forcefully called out racist, sexist, homophobic, antisemitic, Islamophobic, ableist, etc., policies, laws, actions, comments, etc. Sometimes this involves gently, but firmly, responding to comments in a training program that is bigoted, biased or misinformed. Sometimes it involves calling out famous people, or politicians or Presidents of your favorite political party.
In response, I may get trolled. In training programs, I may get the occasional heckler who attempts to deliver a “gotcha” question or tries to poke holes in the training material.
Sometimes people will harass and threaten me online, through email, and on at least a couple of occasions, will send harassing messages via snail mail bemoaning “all the wokeness” that they are sick of seeing.
Occasionally, someone will claim that…
“You’re supposed to be the inclusion guy. You are not being inclusive.”
“I am so disappointed in you because I thought you were open-minded. You aren’t allowing diverse opinions just because you disagree with me.
These responses are very intriguing because it assumes that being “inclusive” means we have to value all opinions equally. It seems to suggest that all opinions are equally valid regardless of the facts. It should be very apparent why this is problematic.
Of course, I believe that all discussions and exchanges of ideas should include an openness to share these ideas. In the sharing and exchange of ideas, one should be prepared to defend those ideas and perspectives with logic and evidence. If ideas and perspectives are rooted in evidence and facts, then we are on firm ground to move forward in exploring further these ideas.
However, if the ideas shared are based on no evidence or “alternative facts,” then these ideas need to be challenged, called out, and/or discarded. You are always entitled to your opinion. But, your opinion is no longer tenable if refuted by facts.
And, when I see bigoted ideas, policies, laws, or actions that exclude others based on their identities, or on harmful and inaccurate stereotypes, my duty is to call it out and stand against exclusion and intolerance.
I must become intolerant of intolerance.
This does not mean I’ve stopped being inclusive. It means I was so inclusive that I remained inclusive to receive the bigoted message.
Then, recognizing that the message is meant to exclude and to harm – or in extreme cases call for the extermination of “the other” – and is rooted in discredited and bigoted ideas of racial or other forms of superiority, I need to fight against this exclusion and intolerance in order to create more inclusion and tolerance.
Philosopher Karl Popper put it this way in his 1945 work, “The Open Society and Its Enemies: Vol.1 The Age of Plato:”
Less well known [than other paradoxes] is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.—In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.
I will always be inclusive to hearing diverse ideas from all perspectives. This is something that is crucial to this work and to the spaces we create in the many communities engaging in courageous dialogue.
However, to create a more just world, we must always communicate a stance against discrimination, intolerance, hate, and oppression no matter who does it, whichever political party they represent, or what position they hold in any society, community, or organization.
As a professional consultant and educator, I am not at all concerned about the consequences of standing against hate and standing up for inclusion, justice, and a more equitable world.
My only concern would be looking at myself in the mirror if I didn’t.
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Desmond Tutu