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A Courageous Conversation: Building an Inclusive Community

Posted By Monique Harris & Chelsea Borruano, Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I don’t see color.” This statement is often said in an attempt to showcase an appreciation for diversity and acceptance of those that may be different from one’s self, but by the end of this blog post I hope you’ll think twice before using it again.


At this year’s Diversity Summit, Building an Inclusive Community, the panelists tackled inclusion’s role as the second wave of diversity and its importance.


About 15 minutes into the panel discussion, I regretted not being able to record it. The dialogue between our esteemed panelists was so authentic, vulnerable and insightful, both Chelsea and I knew we had to somehow capture the takeaways. So, we did that by getting together on a beautiful afternoon and having a real talk about diversity and ultimately, inclusion in our community.


I could dedicate this post to simply recapping who said what, but instead I’d like to share the insights that all seem to hinge on a central theme: diversity is being invited to the a party, inclusion is getting asked to dance.


One of our panelists shared a story in which he and his best friends were on their annual guys trip when his friend said, “man I don’t see you as black.” The panelist replied to his friend that there wasn’t a day that he didn’t know his friend was white. He injected that for someone to be colorblind means that you can’t fully see another because who you are is a direct result of your experience, and part of that experience is a result of your culture, your background.


The panel echoed this sentiment, and suggested that we grow together and we grow as a community when we give people the space to be themselves, their whole selves. Not having to check part of their identity at the door; that is what inclusivity is.


This matters to our community because, when there is a brain drain of people leaving for other places they feel more accepted, we all lose. We lose talented people, we lose prospective jobs, we lose solutions, and we lose community enrichment. For our city to continue to blossom, it is imperative we become inclusive to all of our residents.


Through multiple examples, the panelists shared ways in which they leaned into difficult conversations with an open mind, and simply kept asking questions without judgement.

How do you create inclusivity? You ask questions. You seek to gain more understanding of someone else’s experience. The starting place is acknowledging someone’s story without judgement; listening to seek to understand, not to offer a rebuttal. “I can't hear you when you’re screaming.” The core is being vulnerable to one another’s humanity. This challenge is what they left us with.


And now I’d like to challenge all of us to do the same. I hope that in your daily conversations you’ll lean into what can sometimes be the discomfort to learn more about someone else. I hope that you won’t work to be colorblind (or gender blind or any other type of blind), but rather work to see people as they are and as they share themselves to be. I too, am working on this daily. When I hear someone offer an opinion varying from mine, instead of immediately rebutting, I default on asking them follow up questions on why they hold that belief. In the short few weeks of practicing this, I’ve found myself growing to understand those around me on a deeper level than I expected.


We should all be having these conversations, with our peers, and with people who are culturally different from us. If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative and continuing the discussion, let us know by emailing diversity@forum35.org.  


Tags:  baton rouge  community  diversity  inclusion 

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