Martin Luther King Jr. & Inclusivity
Updated: Jan 20
In one way or another this month we will all be reminded of the world changing work of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. We’ll see iconic images of him leading marches and making speeches. We will be inspired and wishing that we could find some way to take action to build on Dr. King’s amazing legacy. Fortunately, he gave us a hint as to how we can do that.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Even in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama Dr. King knew that we’d need some prompting. I wonder if he’d mind if we proposed a similar message in our efforts to decide the next right thing; “Justice anywhere uplifts justice everywhere.” Perhaps this gives us a solid foundation from which to decide how we’d like to influence the spaces in which we live, learn, and work, not just because it’s poetic, but because it’s true. Systems and cultures (companies, organizations, schools, churches) that clearly demonstrate that they value equity and inclusion are experienced as safer, happier, and more interested in individual members’ wellbeing by everyone who participates, regardless of demographics.
With that in mind most companies, organizations, and schools may say they have it covered. Many have non-discrimination policies, policies that “discourage” harassment and discrimination, among myriad other written declarations of focus on equity and inclusion. Unfortunately, writing something down is the least efficient way of communicating systemic and cultural values. The human mind learned to watch what’s going on around us long before it learned how to describe it in words. Systems and cultures must show evidence of equity and inclusion as part of everyday operations. For example:
-School cultures that value equity have systems in place to make sure that every student gets lunch, regardless of their ability to pay at the cash register, even if they just “forgot” their lunch money.
-Educational curricula include the contributions of folks from marginalized groups in all subjects, all the time.
-Organizations that serve the public educate their staff about the demographics and cultures of the community members that they serve, regardless of how many (or how few) members of marginalized groups receive their services.
-Leadership actively discourages biased harassment, such as the use of “gay” or “fag” as insults among members.
Businesses focus on accessibility for customers in architecture, language services, materials distributed, and all other aspects of customer service.
This month we will experience some examples of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s calls to action about equity and inclusion. All of us have the power to influence the spaces where we live, learn, and work to demonstrate evidence of the value of equity and inclusion, knowing that even small, subtle actions communicate far more than words ever could.
-Ann Ronayne MS, NCC, LLPC