Tag Archives: immigrants

Inclusion Means Everyone

10 Mar

Last week at the Cities of Migration conference in Toronto, one of the panelists was Rachel Peric – the Deputy Director of Welcoming America. She and the organization were introduced as having helped to turn hostile communities into welcoming ones, which of course caught my attention right away. When Rachel spoke, she mentioned the personality of a welcoming city: equity, opportunity and inclusion.

Hooray!

These are components that can be applied to an organization or a corporation (or any other structure) to create a welcoming environment where people feel a sense of belonging.

Equity asks us to look at and consider people’s needs, power and access to resources, information, and opportunity – and address the imbalance so everyone can participate fully.

Opportunity is not just about what is available, but about being able to access it.

And inclusion is about bringing people into the conversation, creating a space for participation and to be seen and heard, and using the information that comes out of that space to create something new together – whether it’s a community, a city, an organization, or a corporation.

One of the things that Rachel said that stood out most for me was the importance of empathy for all involved, and that these three components of a welcoming city’s personality apply everyone. She made specific reference to the people who are already living in a city that is becoming a welcoming city, who are feeling left out and marginalized. How do we welcome others, when some of the current citizens don’t feel they belong?

It’s a powerful question. And it echoed the question someone asked at the conference about the attention paid to assisting new immigrants and (specifically now) the Syrian Refugees coming to Canada when our Aboriginal/First Nations populations continue to deal with poverty, lack of access, and discrimination on many levels. Our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said he believes we can chew gum and walk at the same time – that both is possible. Too often, however, we look to who is coming and forget who is already there. We look to who we want to attract, welcome, include and in so doing alienate others.

Inclusion means everyone.
When we commit to it, we make a big circle around all involved and we find ways to see and acknowledge who people are, what they need, and what they have to offer – and we move forward together with these things in mind so that everyone feels a sense of belonging and can contribute to making the city, community, organization or corporation a better place – for everyone.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com
Interested in how the power of inclusion can transform your organization? Send me an email!

Radio Show Host – Creating Families
www.creatingfamiliesradio.com
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The Ugly side of Diversity

6 Feb

It intrigues and saddens me to notice how often celebrations of diversity result in xenophobia.

One of this year’s Superbowl ads is a shining example of this.

Coke ran an ad featuring the song America the Beautiful, sung in seven different languages and featuring a diversity of cultures and people. The backlash on twitter and on the comment feed were instantaneous. Many comments were about language – and the sentiment that people should speak English in America.

We may be tempted to shake our heads here “up north” at our southern neighbours and assume that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen here. But I’m afraid we would be wrong.

Xenophobia is everywhere. As is ignorance about our countries’ histories as colonized nations.

Remember, except for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants here.

That would make the official languages of the Americas a variety of Aboriginal languages. Some of these are still spoken today – but many have been extinguished as a result of colonization, residential schools and various other forms of genocide that sadly many of us don’t know about, because they generally aren’t part of the school curriculum (see my earlier post about that, and the debate of the use of the word genocide). 

So once again an attempt to highlight the beauty of diversity has instead brought out the ugliness of living in countries that some people claim as “theirs” while discounting the original inhabitants (and the difficult history of contact as well as the difficult reality of their present situations such as high rates of poverty and incarceration), as well as the many contributions of those who are considered to be immigrants (read: people of colour).

But it’s a great ad.

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Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.
www.beeing.ca

Happy Hallo-what?!

29 Oct

The eleven year old daughter of a friend of mine stormed into her principal’s office recently to demand why they weren’t being allowed to wear their Halloween costumes to school this Thursday.

The reason given was that not everyone celebrates Halloween, so this makes it more fair. I would guess the word may even have been inclusive.

Halloween isn’t a big deal for everyone. Some religions don’t acknowledge Halloween. And it’s one of those things that new immigrants possibly scratch their heads over (last year I gave candy to 2 girls who barely spoke English and who weren’t dressed up, but who dutifully held out their pillowcases while their mother looked on from the driveway). 

But income is also an issue. Families who don’t make a lot of money likely won’t have disposable income for something as fleeting as a Halloween costume – or a good one anyway (and in elementary school I would imagine that it’s almost worse to have a bad costume than no costume).

So the principal’s intentions are good. 

My friend’s daughter wasn’t impressed.  No surprise there. 

Inclusion can be tough, especially since income can be such a very large barrier to participation and people can be judgmental and mean. But my point is this: it is common that when we make efforts to become more inclusive our first response is to remove things instead of finding creative ways to make the event more inclusive, or broadening our awareness of things to acknowledge.

In this case, the school could be losing an opportunity to have a fun day. The solution would likely look very different from the starting point, but it could keep the spirit of celebration. That’s the spirit of inclusion.

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copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.beeing.ca

 

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