diversity erasure

female viewing historical female figures
diversity erasure. This approach focuses on de-emphasizing differences (Wolso et al., 2000; Apfelbaum et al., 2012). Often seen as denial of differences by emphasizing sameness. 

After speaking at a conference for higher education professionals, a conference attendee reached out to me to thank me for what I had said. Specifically, for mentioning that there is a need for us to look inward regarding diversity. “I always feel like it’s taboo to say anything about that in the educational environment,” he said, “it feels so polarizing.”

“Diversity is such a huge part of our lives: I don’t know how to keep it out of discussions,” I replied, “By creating a safe space where we can focus on emphasizing equity consciousness rather than denial of differences that often emphasize sameness, we open opportunities to avoid the single story (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) that on the bad side often misrepresent or marginalize other races and that, what I think is a good thing, can cause some necessary uncomfortableness.” Allowing for full personhood and all of its related idiosyncrasies whites meet the realization that not all tales orient from their view point nor are they always particularly flattering. I’ve found more often than not that when we change the narrative to represent truths of reality we can shift the mindsets on the value of diversity.

Shifting The Mindset on Diversity Started with Changing Me

In my early 20s, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. My life had been pretty exclusive by default as I had previously lived in a very monoculturalistic community. Plainly put, certain people and groups were rendered invisible, blotting out their history, pain and achievements. When I found myself moving with two small children nearly 1,500 miles away to a community rich in diversity I became intrigued with the cultures, races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, language, gender and/or sexual orientation of my new community. I realized there were people all around me who had stories being stifled and I wanted to hear them and quickly learned even though the diversity was present, it was too often suppressed.

I started learning and growing from within myself and built the confidence to influence whatever environments I could. As an educator, I found myself in the perfect position to create an inclusive environment to everyone, internally and externally. A simple question when coordinating my course syllabi, “Whose stories are being taught and told?” “Who is being recognized, overlooked?” Offering socratic seminars on the Matilda effect, exchanging readings that place one race on a pedestal at the expense of another that spotlights equity consciousness was my way of revealing identities and privileges that are not static but rather deeply contextual.

Squelching Diversity Erasure by Revealing the Back Story

As I’ve had the opportunity to form incredible relationships that broaden my contexts of teaching and learning in all different types of industries, I always base my advice on human centrism, even if I don’t always get it right, I live open-mindedly as a learner of the world around me and you can too. Everybody has a story but when we go into the ‘back’ story, we often reveal more equitable and inclusive opportunities. Just a few examples . . .

So, I’ve come to see that my workplace is a place of advocacy: somewhere I choose to reveal the dehumanization of diversity erasure and squelch it through my equity consciousness. But my workplace is more than a place of advocacy, it is also a place of formation – revealing learning opportunities everywhere I look. Dr. D-L Stewart shares useful ways to think about different considerations of diversity, equity, inclusion, and/or justice we can all ask and answer.

Dr. D-L Stewart offers questions of diversity, equity, inclusion & justice
Dr. D-L Stewart Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice

I just need to be willing to see things differently. In every encounter, there is something to be seen. Won’t you join me?

Equity consciousness is about disturbing the habits and behaviors that do not serve an equitable nor inclusive view on universal learning and living. If you want to meaningfully alter your life and those within your sphere of influence, start here! Be equipped to share how you’ve moved toward a more equitable and inclusive way of learning and living.

Share how experience in reflecting on your equity consciousness helps you see things differently, what you want to be free from, but also on what you are now free to become. It’s a game changer. There are several ways for you to be a part of the movement. Pick one, or two, or three, or all. You’ll be so glad you did. 

You can listen in through PodBean.

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