I sometimes struggle with this blog. If you have been following it for a while, you’d know that I went through a “Ranting Phase” and it was exactly that…a rant, which of course is never “positive”! The trouble is, of course, always being “positive” can appear to be contrived and an avoidance of the negativity that runs rampant in our world. So what’s a happy medium? Well, I thought I’d address the subject of diversity, something I could, should, and may write a book about some day so brevity will be tricky but that is going to be the point…keeping this complex subject “simple”.
Question! “What if someone is viewed as falling under the umbrella of diversity but they are in fact nothing of the sort?” In other words, and there is a buzz around “diversity”, what if diversity doesn’t actually exist? The dictionary says it does. “Di-ver-si-ty”; The state of being diverse. Variety
Okay, that’s a pretty good way of seeing it. Our society has a “variety” of human beings so diversity exists in that context. I was fascinated to have a plane ride conversation with an executive from IBM who honoured me with his time and frankly, asked me more questions than I did of him. We talked a lot about my work as a speaker and he was quite perceptive in understanding that if I was an employee of IBM, I would qualify for their “Diversity Project” which is an internal, unofficial function of his departments he oversees. I asked him if it was an exercise in the politically correct with a focus on optics for the public (I actually used that sentence). He laughed and suggested it happens more than you think but then had a great observation. Allow me to paraphrase his comment; “Diversity isn’t about race, it’s about varied points of view that allow product design and development to represent views from all segments of our population and target markets”. Brilliant. He further explained his view of his team’s diversity indeed represent race, but also gender, age and sexual preference.
I was asked to be a guest speaker at National Diversity Day in Toronto last year and as you might imagine, it was a “diverse” crowd. In fact, white folk like me were the clear minority in attendance. Weird, huh? I actually opened my talk with a provocative line…”I don’t believe there is such a thing as diversity! I believe everyone is living their normal and we should all be called children of planet earth!” There was an audible gasp. Of course, I didn’t leave it there. I actually brought the talk around to where I acknowledged that thinking like that may never occur but isn’t it worth pursuing? To get there, we must also acknowledge the very real presence of racism, bigotry, mysogony and down right ignorance and that these elements may never disappear. But can’t we try?
It seems the latest target is Transgender. I will not get into it here but you may have heard about North Carolina, Mississippi and other assorted states who are refusing to acknowledge the need for gender neutral washrooms or allowing a Trans person to choose which facility to use is just the tip of an ugly iceberg. Again, this subject is not my expertise but it like the iceberg, the real story is beneath the surface. Why, you may ask, am I bringing this up?
Can you imagine how I have been labelled? I started out being a Thalidomide Baby, Thalidomide Victim and in general, Freak of Nature! Then I was Crippled, but political correctness was invented and we became Disabled, then Handicapped, then and now, Person With Special Needs! I truly wonder what’s next. By the way, I get this intellectually, but honest, honest, honest…isn’t it all just stupid? I am Alvin! I am completely “Normal”! So is someone black, brown, or yes, white. Someone male, female, both! Someone heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, non-sexual! I am truly perplexed at this subject. I don’t know why this is so hard for some people when the new reality exists everywhere.
Lets be blunt and pick something specific for a moment. When Olympic athlete and celebrity, Bruce Jenner very publicly transitioned to Caitlyn Jenner, it changed everything in a community that has been fighting for acceptance for decades if not longer. Today in the news, the American Family Association (AFA) is taking aim at retail giant, Target, who are publicly acknowledging transgender humans by allowing the transgendered to use the washroom of their choice. They have launched an online protest asking people to sign a petition to boycott all Target stores because they are creating an environment that encourages pedophiles, predators and voyeurs and endangers women and children who will be targeted and victimized! Last count…167,000 have signed it in 24 hours and the number will likely hit 500,000 in no time. REALLY??? This organization claims it isn’t against transgender people, just promoting family values. Whose family values? Not mine! Frankly, this is the exact ignorance that I am talking about. Ironically, this kind of dialogue has been overheated by claims that Christian values are being compromised by everyone attacking them. “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” is a perfect example. My wife and I have been very vocal about supporting saying Merry Christmas but it’s not because of religion for us. True, the AFA absolutely has a right to exist, state it’s values and protest what they disagree with. I totally get that. But here’s another angle.
My wife and business partner, Darlene, has a cousin on her dad’s side who is gay. He is married to a man and they have a son, who is approaching three years old. Their son was born by a surrogate who was artificially inseminated by one of the men’s sperm (which one doesn’t matter and is private) and I have had the very good fortune of getting to know this family. Make no mistake…they are a “family”. In fact, they are one of the most loving, caring and authentic families I know. The American Family Association would disagree. That makes me sick! But, that’s my opinion. By the way, I arrive at this from a life of struggling to be me and getting to know others who have had similar battles inspire me. I find the celebrity of Caitlyn Jenner a bit annoying but I applaud the courage it took for Bruce to become Caitlyn. I will never understand it but I will always support people who live this fight.
So here’s the question. Where do you land? Have I offended you? Are you confused? Are you in agreement? Do you have any personal examples either way? What does your workplace look like? Are you supportive of diversity? Do you have your own story? Do you understand where my passion for this subject comes from?
See what I meant at the beginning? I never know whether I sound angry or if it is what I call…”A Tone of Challenge”! I am in the business of telling stories and challenging people to raise their own personal “bar” so we can make our world better. What that looks like may be very personal for each of us. But I am eternally grateful it’s 2016 not 1960! Been there…didn’t like it!