Although presently employed, I’m looking for something different. So, I went to a job interview the other day. It was going as most job interviews go, with me politely telling about the time I transformed the world, saved the day, completed a customer’s meaning and purpose in life, etc. You know what you do every day at work. I’ve done enough interviews to know the drill.
But then, out came a line I’d yet to hear in this situation. An interviewer offered me this: über-serious look as she solemnly intoned, “In this company, we’ve spent the past two years fully embracing diversity and inclusion. Are you able to work with people of different backgrounds and interact well? And can you treat them with respect?”
I had a couple of possible solutions in my head. Were I not serious about wanting the job, there was the “Aw, hell no — I’m the redneck’s redneck” tack. I could have gone the offended route: “Are you asking me this because I’m a white male over sixty? STEREOTYPING!!!” But, as noted, I want the job. So I took a new route.
“I have no problem whatsoever with diversity and inclusion … as long as it includes me.”
While silence reigned as my conversation continued, I joked slightly that, as a white over-60-year-old male, it was important to have my culture recognised. The images of the Vietnam War were a part of our childhoods. This was a deeply personal experience, as my older brother served two tours in Vietnam. As we did not know the post-World War Two norms, our perceptions of hippies and the Summer of Love, The Beatles, Woodstock, or any other upheavals of 1960s were different. Growing up, we started in the 1960s. We finished our education in the 1970s. That was an era.
Tolerance was taught from an early age by adults. Whether from being subjected to hearing “It’s a Small World” 973 times at first the 1964 World’s Fair and later at Disneyland, or at home and school where we immersed ourselves in accepting others as they are, we learned racism was illogical and unacceptable. Instead, we embraced the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about the content of a man’s character being the only sufficient data upon which to pass judgment. We learned about America, the great melting pot, where once-despised and viciously discriminated against immigrant groups — the Irish, the Italians, and so on — came, in time, to be embraced and folded into American culture’s rich stew. It was not possible to separate out, and it wasn’t necessary for anyone to be isolated. Instead, there was opportunity for all under freedom’s mighty wings. Unpopular beliefs can define a minority, but believing them still makes me a part of that minority. So where’s my flag and month’s worth of media self-worshipping lauding?
We live in a splintered world, an Ecclesiastes-embodying mire in which there is no Ted Williams and nothing splendid about its splintering. These past few years, the torrent of societal segmentary silliness preaches inclusion, but it doesn’t adhere to its own teachings. It doesn’t recognize that white is a colour, even though it sees colors. Although it sees gender, it fails to acknowledge that males are a gender. While it can see sexuality, it cannot admit that there is one. Other than occasional hissing about those evil, cis-gendered persons who want to make all the babies, It is a constant cries for marginalized minorities. Yet, time and again, the group most marginalized via belittlement consists of people quite comfortable with their own skin color and Mom and Dad’s provided plumbing assignment at conception.
Diversity? You can’t deny diversity. You do you. But don’t hassle me about me being, well, me. Don’t stereotype me. Don’t blame me for all your failings. Inclusion? It’s not a bad idea. Assuming you have something to bring, bring your best to the table, and let’s make good things happen together. But don’t waste my time and insult my intelligence by insisting that difference alone is worth anything, and don’t cry -ist as a deflection for your shortcomings.
Next week, I will find out if the job is mine. If I don’t, I’ll grumble about it for a half-hour or so and then get back to work looking for a different place to work. If hired, I’ll do my best. In either case, I’ll continue to be me, reflective of my culture and always seeking to improve myself. True diversity means diversifying yourself from thinking you’re perfect just as you are. To be truly inclusive, you must strive to improve your knowledge and skills. One example is white. No, really.