Inclusion and Diversity? You know you wrote that wrong, right?

Oh, hello there! I’m Tiffany. Tiffany Thomas, not Haddish just to be clear. I write how I talk and most times I have to resist the urge to begin sentences with “and”, “or”, and “but” because that’s how I speak. And (<===see what I did there), I believe in diversity. Why can’t conjunctions be leaders of sentences too, just like 98% of the other words out there? Nonetheless, I am a black, 32 year old married lesbian who recently cut her hair bald…. and wears it bald- just in case you’re wondering or cared just a little. I could basically check 4,857 diversity boxes, yet for so many of my “good years” I never resisted the urge to fit in. In fact, it was always a goal of mine to be a tiny particle of a well blended milkshake rather than the shiny maraschino cherry on top!

….Wellllll until now that is! “First Inclusion, Then Diversity” is the world as I see it with lots of randomness in between. Typically it will all be tied to inclusion and diversity in some way, or at least that’s the plan. Who we are is a major aspect of where we are and why we are, so our differences have to celebrated- all 4,857 of our differences!

So why this title? Because diversity ALWAYS comes before inclusion! Like “i before e except after c”, issa rule. Really though, it is an actual phrase with its own pretty little D&I acronym and all! There are: mashed potatoes and gravy, ups and downs, pros and cons and now diversity and inclusion. Have you ever heard someone say “cons and pros” or “pass the pepper and salt”? You probably have not, and if so, it would make you think, “why the heck are they saying it backward?” Well, THAT’S HOW I FEEL ABOUT INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY!

I think we are saying and doing it all wrong! Do I really want to come to the party (diversity) if I keep showing up and never get the opportunity to dance (inclusion)? Many of our companies, organizations, friend groups, churches, etc. lack visual diversity because we are missing the inclusive mentality. We are not asking people to dance and perhaps that’s because we don’t know how to dance ourselves. Let me be clear, we don’t know how to be inclusive because we don’t know what it literally looks like or how to do it. However, inclusion is a basic finger snap and a body roll, we just have to learn how to catch the beat (I can’t let go of this dance metaphor). We have to be willing to try new things, step out of our comfort zones and begin with an open mind, which is why I now love eggplant parmesan- something I would have NEVER EVER tried before (“randomness in between” inserted here)!

I want to talk about food, love, people, experiences, gender, sexuality and things I know very little about but want to explore all in the name of First Inclusion, Then Diversity.

What are your thoughts, what comes first? Inclusion or diversity?

Finger Snap and a Little Body Roll!

Ok, so lets inspect this idea a little further. I had a friend ask: “Are you seriously comparing diversity and inclusion to partying and dancing? Lets face it, if inclusion were REALLLLYYY that simple, the problem wouldn’t even exist in the first place.” My answer was short: “Uhhhhh, yeaahhh- because the problem is still prevalent and polarizing. We have proven methods, free education about it, and the information is more accessibility than ever before … and people are STILL getting it all wrong!” Just to be clear, I was solely talking about dancing!

At some point or another, we have all seen someone dancing, or at least that’s what they called it, and thought to ourselves: “What the heck are they doing? I mean, I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I sure as hell know dancing isn’t supposed to be done like THAT!” Or when someone is trying to be inclusive and starts the conversation with “Oh you’re Asian? I went to China once!” or “Oh, I bought you a book about plantations. I mean, you are colored right?” We aren’t experts, but we sure as hell know inclusion isn’t suppose to be done like THAT!

Yet, it does and did happen…. both the statements (yes, the book gifting actually happened to me) and the bad dancing! How? Because people aren’t trying hard enough, or maybe trying too hard. Inclusion isn’t that difficult, but it does take a little effort- especially if you have no idea where to begin, just like dancing! If you don’t know what to do on the dance floor and you’re about to do the Running Man to a slow moving country love song by Blake Shelton, stop yourself… and then start with a finger snap and a little body roll. If you feel yourself about to tell your African coworker that you had a friend in the 4th grade from Africa, stop yourself… and then start with a finger snap and a little body roll. Well not literally, that would most likely be very weird and awkward- unless of course you work in a dance studio. However, the finger snap could be: “Hey, how was your weekend?” and the body roll could be a follow up question like: “What did you do?” Before you know it, you go from finger snapping to break dancing. Maybe not that drastic, but you get my point!

The same way that dancing feels good and people want to do it whether they’re good at it or not, is the way we should look at inclusion. Except inclusion is easier because there is no literal rhythm required. It just takes a little courage and a lot of respect. If you can do a little finger snap with a hint of a body roll (EVERYONE can do this move), you can do inclusion- it’s just a matter of being willing to dance and saying “yes” when asked!