Diversity Is Not Inclusion

by Corey B. Buckner

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We Want Inclusion, Not Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are not the same. The goal of diversity is to create variety and depth of thought to the in-group by adding more perspective and experiences to their organization or group. Inclusion on the other hand is a specific targeting so that "we" from the excluded group's perspective or "they" from the included group's perspective can become part of the process. Diversity can be measured wholly and completely within the group without need of outside evaluation, but inclusion can only be accurately validated by those outside of the group seeking to be included. While diversity can be achieved in a myriad of ways, when the ask is for inclusion, that can only be achieved via a small subset of conditional solutions..

Unfortunately, for far too long in this country the in-crowd has taken an ethnocentric approach to calls from excluded minority groups for inclusion. Upon receiving increasing cries to be included from a growing chorus of those external to the group, and more effectively; hearing those requests repeated by a large enough contingent of the in-group's base of support; they respond to the desires of inclusion with "plans to diversify". By continually viewing the problem from the perspective of how it relates to their lot in life; they view the answer as a "sea of diversity". That sea of diversity being brought about upon waves of people who are different from them; which is not at all the same thing as inclusion. Seemingly lacking the ability to approach calls for inclusion with cultural relativism; there are repeated, blatant misunderstandings that if I, a black man ask for inclusion; I am not simply asking to see any old black face invited to the meetings or "represented" on the stage.

When a group asks for inclusion they are asking for one of them, or more aptly put, someone like them, that THEY feel represents them to become part of the process. Not just one of them in appearance or description, they want to have fair representation of who they are on multiple levels; culturally, religiously, financially, etc; throughout every level of your organization. Thus, an accurate response to this sort of call for inclusion requires deeper questioning into the request than the goal of achieving diversity does. Diversity says to find a black person, or a Puerto Rican person, or a woman, or an elderly couple and bring them in on the team. Thus, looking around a planning room or on a political stage and seeing a few blacks, Hispanics, female and elderly people speckled amongst a sea of white people would suffice for becoming more diverse. But that diversity does little; not nothing, but very little to guarantee "inclusion".

Inclusion requires that the excluding group actively engage those who are making the request and learning what specific tenants of inclusion are being requested. This is because despite what Diversity Training may have taught you, minorities and other excluded groups are not monolithic segments that can be easily dropped into your neatly-defined logical boxes. Centuries of conquest and colonialism have given you false confidence in your abilities to draw borders around groups of people according to what makes sense to you with the expectation that somehow we will all perfectly fit into your classifications. While your borders may help you segment us for your purposes, they do nothing to define who we actually are, nor do they assist you in understanding how we view ourselves and one another.

Thus, labeling us "Black Americans" or "Middle Class Americans" or "Underserved Populations" does not magically create singularly serviceable groups of people any more than drawing your borders around Kenya or Montana created unified, singularly serviceable African or Native American Tribes within those borders. A call for me to be included is a call for you to cease excluding people like me. Thus, adding a black man to the team that has little to nothing in common with me by way of culture, upbringing, family dynamic, religion and moral values may provide you with diversity, but does not include me. Inclusion begins by first opening your doors to the asker to be part of the process of achieving that inclusion. You immediately exclude the asker when we male a request that our demographic be included and you go back to your demographic to figure out how to achieve it. It is that practice that keeps confounding you when we ask for inclusion and you present us with diversity and we respond with anger and disappointment.

I have witnessed first-hand where members of the excluding group legitimately cared to respond to our calls for inclusion and yet failed miserably due their ethnocentric arrogance producing what was more diversity for them, yet nothing but a more diverse form of exclusion for us.Fun Fact, a committee that includes black members can be just as exclusionary of black communities as all non-black committees. If selected according to the discretion of sexist men, a political group that has active women members in it can still be sexist and absolutely bereft of the ability to address women's needs throughout the country.

So what can be done then. First thing first, remove the word "the" from all of your demographic charts. Do not see a group requesting inclusion as "the" community. It is not "the" black community, neither is it "the" homosexual community, and almost laughably inept is your insistence to try and create "the" Latin X community. Which brings me to my second suggestion. Stop drawing new borders around us for you, and start respecting the borders we have created for ourselves. Go into any community and you will see that we have already drawn our cultural borders. Treating minorities and other excluded groups as large, monolithic, single-issue entities and trying to include us along those broad classifications, is both lazy and incompetent. Your attempts to include us according to these strange, crudely drawn borders of yours would be like a European American asking for inclusion and me picking a German Man to represent him stating that, you know, "he's white, you're white, you should be happy". Treat us with the same intracultural diversity that you treat your own community; because our communities are equally diverse. Finally, accept that it is your community's obsession with carving up and conquering the planet that causes these forms of exclusion that need to be addressed in the first place. Simply put, stop using non merit based factors to exclude people and give up that colonial arrogance that leads you to believe you can define who we are.

If all this seems hard to you, I would agree. In these ways inclusion is a far more difficult to achieve then simply seeking diversity. Trying to include me isn't as simple as having Don Lemon or Lil' Wayne on your program; because as the type of black man that I am, neither one of them represents me. Thus, including either of them does not necessarily make me feel any more included than if you had Anderson Cooper or Garth Brooks on the broadcast. Thus, the real answer to achieving true inclusion is to simply stop self-segregating on the basis of things like culture, gender and race in the first place, and begin operating these systems as true meritocracies. Stop seeking to keep places segregated, as has been the case throughout the duration of this nation's history, and none of this that I have discussed here would even be necessary.I'll go ahead and say it, stop believing that characters are white by default and we won't have to ask you to turn some of them black, Asian or Hispanic to make us feel included. Yeah, I said it. Simply put, quit drawing borders around your people and stop drawing red lines around mine and we won't have to burden you with our requests to be included in the first place.

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