History has it that humans evolved somewhere in southern Africa, and then over the course of many centuries, we dispersed ourselves across the earth. At some point in our collective history, we started bumping into one another again, having grown and developed along diverse trajectories. We spoke different languages, we had different coloured skin, we behaved differently when presented with the same set of stimuli. Fast forward a little further, and we’re suddenly all in the same workplaces, simultaneously presenting differences along with our shared humanity. The degree to which those differences are salient depends in large part how willing we are to include one another in our professional lives, how willing we are to embrace and exercise that shared humanity.
See, a lot happened between the time that our common ancestors trekked north, south, east and west. Humanity found power, we developed hierarchy. We started systematically categorizing difference, and ascribing value judgments to the products of diversity. We did a lot of damage. We learnt how to exclude, but more than that, we started to believe that exclusion was as natural and neutral and the sunrise and sunset.
As a species, we’ve spent the bulk of our time traversing the earth focusing on survival. It’s only in the last few minutes of our existence, that we’ve shifted our focus to elevating ourselves beyond and above one another. And it’s only in the last few seconds, that we’ve started to think about inclusion – we’ve started to realise that the differences we thought were part of nature, are nothing more than human imaginings. The differences in our skin colours might be the result of melanin, but the meaning we give those differing levels of chemicals – well that’s all in our head.
But that’s why inclusion is such a difficult thing, a threatening thing, a challenge. Because it requires no less than unlearning and relearning what we know about the world, what we consider to be true. Inclusion isn’t about attending a workshop, or completing an online quiz. Inclusion requires that we reflect on what it means to be human. What humanity really means.
Humans are curious, we’re courageous, we seek to improve our lives and our world. We need to realise that we can do all this without building hierarchies, without excluding others who look, think and behave differently to us. Inclusion requires that we recognise we’re at a turning point in our history. We started together, we moved apart, we came together again and instead of celebrating and welcoming difference, we balked at it. We’ve got the opportunity now to fix things, to reimagine a world and a humanity where diversity is a defining characteristic of who we are. Where it’s not something that we’re scared of, but something that we view as a portal of opportunity.
Including others, recognising ourselves in them, constructing a humanity premised on the value of difference should be our way forward.
Inclusion should not be a buzzword or tickbox, it is and should remain a common commitment to exploring and embracing who we all are.
If you’re ready to think deeply about inclusion, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s take the conversation further!