Communities of Identities: A White Girl’s Perspective on Diversity and Inclusion
What would a white, cis-female, millennial professional have to offer regarding diversity and inclusion issues? What would she know about diversity and inclusion, anyway? The implicit bias of these questions, along with the assumptions and stereotypes packaged alongside, are exactly why I am interested in issues of diversity and inclusion. My visible identities are (generally) of the dominant majority; yet aspects of diversity go beyond race, gender, and age, adding to the beauty and complexity of our shared experience. This is what makes our systems and our communities stronger.
I struggle to define “community” because each of my identities brings with it a unique community of shared experience, which is what makes my world view unique. I hold identities that are not obvious to others. For example, I am family to an Iraqi War veteran who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. This identity provides me a lens of compassion and frustration that I may not otherwise have when approaching services for and treatment of veterans. Because many problems that veterans experience overlap with those of other groups, this same lens affects my approach to issues of homelessness, violence, and trauma.
As I recognize my own identities, communities, and lenses, I become more aware of the wealth of diversity that is untapped in our systems, agencies, and neighborhoods. I have an increased awareness of my privilege as well as injustices happening around me that previously went unrecognized. This makes me very uncomfortable; I find myself feeling ashamed for the actions and words of others who share my common identities and who use their privilege (recognized or not) to cause harm (intentionally or not) in an effort to maintain the status quo. But I do not need to feel helpless, nor do I need to allow the status quo to remain. Instead, I will work to better understand, and act upon, issues of diversity and inclusion and use any opportunities my knowledge and privilege afford me to embrace both hidden and obvious identities in order to strengthen the systems we work in and our communities.