Ableism is probably one of the least discussed topics in the diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations, yet it’s one that also affects an enormous portion of the population globally. Racism and sexism are pretty simple to understand as a concept and something we are more aware of. Most people can say with some degree of confidence if they hold any of those mentioned above prejudices, but ableism and how it manifests itself, have been a bit more elusive. While racism, sexism, and discrimination against the LGBT community appear more evident as straightforward, demonstrable actions, behaviors, or beliefs, ableism is something that many of us have exhibited unknowingly and unintentionally.
Consider how many times we say things like,
“He’s can be a little bipolar.”
“Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. I was spaced out, haha, I’m so, ADHD.”
Or the client...
Everyone is “aware” - we all “know.” Over the last several years, society has been a part of a shared experience of becoming more “aware” - of racism, discrimination, misogyny and sexism, homophobia and transphobia, classism - the gamut of destructive ideologies. And as well-intended and necessary as awareness is, it’s been used so much, or overly prioritized with nothing supporting it, that it’s almost exhausted its meaning.
Cultural awareness is a fantastic first start…in 1995. We are in 2022, a time when basic understanding is not a special feat, and certainly not optional. We are constantly being fed with information that should be making us curious, incentivizing action. In contemporary workplaces, the expectation is even higher. Today’s workforce is demanding a new level of activism from their employers. They expect champions. Being a champion is exactly that, shifting from awareness and even a deep sense of care...
"Anywhere where the humanity of people is undermined, anywhere where people are left in the dust, there we will find our cause."
Desmond Tutu died earlier this week. He was 90 years old. As I look at my office bookshelf, I see his books and think, how did this religious leader who lives on the other side of the planet find his way into my life? How did this man, living under such an oppressive regime, break through the systems of apartheid? How was he able to rise to his position of leadership as the first Black archbishop within the Anglican faith? How has he, despite the conservatism associated with his faith and geography, become such an ally for the LGBTQA++ communities?
Desmond Tutu has had such a profound impact on me, an outsized impact that goes beyond books and translates into my life.
In our coaching sessions, I often hear people say,
“I don’t need an ally, I need an advocate.”
I totally get it. They’re over, as many of us are, having people identify as quiet supporters. You know what I mean, people who genuinely care about us, or care about the same issues that we do, and offer to take us to coffee or reach out with a phone call when they think we could use a hand. In my experience, those kinds of gestures are often, as my daddy says, “a day late and a dollar short.”
Those expressions of care appear to be, at least, more about the person than about me, or you. If the interest was really in actively being a supporter of another person, the act wouldn’t be so hidden, so out of sight, or happen outside of the context in which we really could use it.
Actively being an ally and advocate is something important to grasp intellectually, but like so many things related to inclusive management and equity, diversity and...