As the world is changing, businesses are evolving to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their core statements and missions. As individuals, we can also take actionable steps towards increasing inclusion within our daily lives. If companies are dragging their feet in committing to positive reform, do not be afraid to harness your power to create change. This blog will share impactful tips for creating a safe space for our minority coworkers, friends, and family.
Question our Biases
To incite powerful change, we must first look inwards and consider our own biases. Whether conscious or unconscious, everyone holds their own preferences from past interactions, stereotypes, and media. We must take the time to intentionally evaluate our internal prejudices and consider how these thoughts influence our daily interactions. By questioning how we engage with the people around us, we can increase our self-awareness. By becoming more observant of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, we begin to manage our inner biases and challenge our negative assumptions.
Observe our Language
This step is all about creating a safe and inclusive space for minorities who may be negatively affected by our unintentional word choice. Think about this question: Would you like to be on a blacklist? No, of course not! Blacklists come with the connotation of exclusion, isolation, and negativity. What about being on a ‘whitelist’? This term describes groups of people who are deemed to be acceptable and trustworthy. This not so subtle color iconography can hurt minority groups around us by perpetuating racist stereotypes.
Another example is the “master bedroom.” While this term may be familiar, many forget that it has ties to slavery. As of 2020, many real estate companies have actually removed the usage of “master bedroom” from their online listings to create a more comfortable buying experience for clients. We must be careful and conscious about our word choice and language. While some may see this as an inconvenience, I see it as an opportunity to protect and support minority groups. These small changes are overwhelmingly worth it to make those around us feel comfortable. Remember, words have power!
Replace Fear with Curiosity
A recent research study showed participants pictures of unfamiliar faces and tracked their neural responses. When individuals were shown faces from people of color, the fear center of the brain lit up! However, if participants were given a new face with a short story about the person, the fear response decreased incredibly. By increasing our curiosity and exposure to unique people, we can replace this alarm with comfort and acceptance. By learning about minority groups and their history in America, we begin to understand the hardships they have faced and the systematic oppression that stands in their way. This knowledge empowers us to break through biases and stereotypes and forge an inclusive environment.
COVID-19 has driven a wedge in so many of our personal and business relationships. With the constant usage of face coverings, shift to the virtual sphere, and community lockdowns, we are now limited in our social interaction choices. By connecting with old friends and establishing new relationships with diverse individuals, we can extend our social circles and learn more about minority communities. Getting to know people from different backgrounds helps us better understand their stories, hardships, and uniqueness. Mr. Rodgers once said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” The more we connect with people, the more we relate to them and foster love and respect in our community.
Be a Courageous Ally
In the last year, we have seen the importance of standing up for groups facing injustice and working alongside minority groups to make a change. A good ally listens to the stories of the oppressed, learns from their experiences, and takes positive action. We should be intentional and committed in our support of minority groups. This step includes observing our environments and speaking up when others may not be able to. Just because people are silent and accepting of something, it does not mean it is right. We can bring the light needed to illuminate wrongdoings and encourage positive change.
With these actions, we can all move closer to a truly inclusive community. Revolutionary change starts from within, and we take the first steps today by increasing our curiosity, questioning our biases, and committing to allyship. These steps will allow an inclusive personality to bloom within ourselves, and this positivity will ripple into our families, workplaces, and surrounding communities.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company. Her mission is providing guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within their organization.