Over the past 20-plus years, I have dedicated my life to helping ALL people in organizations grow and develop. I have worked hard to help people have brave conversations and lean in to make the world a better place. My work has been about leadership, diversity, inclusion, collaboration, connection, and compassion. I have worked incredibly hard to make sure no person ever feels left behind or left out.
For me, Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) are not things outside a leadership toolkit; these skills are at the heart of the matter. We use our head, knowledge, our hearts, our motivation, and our hands to touch things for improvement. My D & I classes help folks call each other in rather than calling each other out. My latest book “Stop, Look, and Listen: Exploring the Human Condition” explains the cognitive diversity and bias we all have and helps all people recognize the automatic nature in our thoughts, ideas, and practices in the hope of helping us all STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN before we judge others. My classes seek to unite all people who have different dimensions, not necessarily to always agree, but also to recognize that it is OK if we don’t all agree. We don’t have to agree to be American…or so, I thought.
Talking about D & I, I am a person who wants to meet George W. Bush more than any living or past president in history. My like for W. should not get me exiled from my village nor should people feel like they need to change my mind because they don’t like him. For the record, I do not dislike Barack Obama and should not have to go into a long explanation to defend my preference.
Somewhere along the way in 2020, we have lost the ability to disagree agreeably. I don’t think we have to be Republicans or Democrats; I thought we could be both and still be American. Now, after studying leadership, bias, diversity, and inclusion since 1991, I learn that I am labeled un-American, after my years of trying to create a world without labels and stereotypes—a world in which people exhibit humanity by respecting others’ viewpoints, which is at the heart of my book “Stop, Look, and Listen: Changing the Human Condition.”
I have trained government employees for years, using anecdotes, principles, practical case studies, and psychological theories that explore the reasons for our diverse and incongruous thinking and behaviors and our inability to consider another’s perspective. I point out that the solution is as simple as a daily practice of stopping, looking, and listening.
Diversity by definition means similarities and differences we have and learning to become aware of them. My company Personality Matters, Inc. was named as such because personality is at the center of the diversity dimensions wheel. There are at least 17 dimensions of diversity, and the recognition of them make us better, not worse.
My passion for diversity came from the neurodiversity of being dyslexic. People laughed at me when I read out loud, and it changed my life forever. I made it my mission to help those who are different find the words and bravery to explain and share their truth.
What is un-American about wanting all people to feel valued? The overwhelming majority of Americans pay taxes, and those taxes help pay for all government services. The government should be an apolitical place. I can’t imagine a place that needs more D & I training.
The oversimplification of what diversity means reminds me that it is time for us to STOP responding automatically and mindlessly. Break the patterns. LOOK at your surroundings and see. LISTEN actively without always feeling the need to say something. America isn’t one thing to any person. I love America just as much, if not more, than the next. Having to defend my love for and the sacrifice of my race over and over is traumatic. Why can’t we accept that all people are different, and that is good?
Being un-American is the latest in a long list of names I and people like me have been called for just trying to show up and do our best. I don’t wish to call out the person who said it. My goal and wishes are that we all do what’s called a “mirror check” and examine our cognitive biases and unconscious responses to different situations. I want us to acknowledge and explore the reasons we respond as we do and the feelings associated with those responses.
Canceling D & I classes will limit my ability to empower government individuals and organizations to achieve their goals. It will not remove the problem. My goal is to help people recognize and value their human potential and through diversity and inclusion see that we all have something to offer. Anyone who seeks a more authentic life by practicing mindfulness and inclusiveness should be able to take a D & I class inside the government ranks – or out of it.
Education helps us learn new strategies and techniques. Collaboration is achievable if you STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. The results are worth the effort – we are better together! Let’s call in the folks who may think differently and hear them. Eliminating things we don’t agree with does not make them go away; it only allows them to become stronger and more destructive.
Diversity classes can build on inclusive habits and collective intelligence to find value in all. America is all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness just as so many D & I classes are. We can pursue things better when we remove our blinders and not allow functional fixedness to occur. We need to see what is, what was, and what we can all be. There is room for all of us in inclusion courses and all of us in America. We are America. There is nothing un-American about helping people understand the collective beauty and value in all diversity dimensions.