Eckhart Tolle says that words can cast an almost hypnotic spell on us. “You easily lose yourself in them,” he says, “become hypnotized into implicitly believing that when you have attached a word to something, you know what it is. The fact is: You don’t know what it is. You have only covered up the mystery with a label.”
A stone, a bird, and certainly a human are ultimately unknowable, Tolle says. Each has inherent complexity and unfathomable depth. “All we can perceive, experience, think about, is the surface layer of reality, less than the tip on an iceberg.”
Words like “diversity,” “equity” and “inclusion” (DEI) represent layers upon layers of other words. Decades of politics and polarization tactics give these words great capacity to, very quickly, cast strong spells on us. It is easy to imagine why companies and communities might give up on DEI initiatives, or why some might think it best not to even begin.
Yet, I’ve seen greater courage and commitment in both public and private sector organizations this year. Awesome DEI approaches are being applied to fit these times in which we find ourselves. By stepping back and embracing complexity, it becomes possible to ask questions that have not been asked before. New solutions emerge.
Organization XYZ began an inclusivity project late last fall. The project’s purpose was to build a language framework and philosophy of inclusion that would guide organization-wide action and set the stage for achieving other strategic priorities.
This couldn’t be just any DEI process, however. The project’s start date almost immediately followed 11/9, the 2016 US presidential election.
I find myself talking more frequently these days about challenges with the word inclusion. This is a bit awkward, since the word is integral to my work.
In May, I was fortunate to travel to Oregon, an almost indescribably beautiful state where I’d previously only spent a short weekend decades ago. I was blown away by the environmental beauty and the foresight of Governor Tom McCall who, almost 45 years ago, championed urban planning and restraints on sprawl that have yielded the most walkable, livable, sustainable and just plain awesome neighborhoods today.
The kindest, most generous take on the brouhaha surrounding Rachel Dolezal — the former head of the Spokane NAACP chapter who resigned after allegedly lying about her race — came from filmmaker Lacey Schwartz. She said it spoke to how much we want to talk about race and racial identity in this country. The thing is, we white people generally have a hard time doing it.