It seems like a fairly simple concept doesn’t it? But for people who have never had to think about inclusion because they are automatically included, it can be puzzling. “Doesn’t it mean just letting everybody join us, doing what we do?” Nope, not quite.
You see, inclusion doesn’t only mean the minority being allowed to join the majority. It means that the minority can also have all of the privilege of the privileged. This is where, in the world of the privileged, things start to feel uncomfortable.
This journey of privilege is happening in lots of areas, right now – white people asking why is it OK for people of colour to call themselves certain words, but not white people – men demanding they get the same special attention that women get to improve their position – people with disability demanding the same access to everything as able bodied people – non-Indigenous people aggravated that Indigenous people have their own kinds of government support. These things are causing people of privilege to feel pain and loss. These feelings of loss are, of course, irrational, built from our society’s views towards people with lesser privilege and growing up conditioned to fear outsiders. “They” will take what we have, “they” are dangerous, “they” must be kept in their place.
Don’t think that the disabled or allies, are all self-aware saints in this arena. Ableism is as rife in the disabled community as the abled. Look at the difficulties people have with identifying that they experience discrimination because of who they are. Rocking the boat causes pain, and when you are already experiencing enough pain, adding to it is incredibly difficult. Not everyone is in a position yet to radically change their thinking, to even know they have a choice to be a full member of society because of years of decisions and assumptions being made for them.
We used the word inclusion in our three goals for Articulate Festival, (Art, Inclusion, Culture) because we think that we, as a group, could make positive change (or at least start the conversation) in our town. Some points that we want to make in that conversation are –
- Firstly, that anyone can go ahead and fix an issue if they see the issue, it just takes hard work and getting involved with all the groups effected.
- Two, change the idea that positive change for the minority has to come from the majority. Nope, the effected minorities can lead too, and minorities know best what needs to be changed in their area.
- Lastly, that there’s a terrible amount of discrimination in our town, not only towards the disabled – towards indigenous people, towards people in poverty, towards people with issues of addiction, towards anyone trying to change the status-quo. As difficult as it is, we need to keep this in the light so things can change. We need to keep pushing that inclusion is not only having people be the way we think they should be, but accepting them as they are.
Inclusion is not just a warm fuzzy word, it brings with it the pains of conflict, and a fear that as groups of people are elevated, that somehow that takes away from those that already have a position at the top of the pile. If you experience the thought (and it is natural, we all do it every now and then) “but I feel excluded” when a group of people who have less power than you are claiming their position, then take a breath. Maybe try the Australia attitude of “good on yer mate” and cheer them on. Maybe explore if that pain is shame that you have been part of a system that discriminates, without realising the position of power you are in. Maybe lend a hand by freely and publicly acknowledging the rights of others to do their thing.
So, yeah why inclusion? Because it is worth working hard for.