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Intentionally Inclusive: Creating a Legacy on Purpose
by Aleasa Word, FAACT’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
It is no secret that children simply do not process things the way adults do. When it comes to important matters like inclusion and anti-racism, the way caregivers handle a situation is more important than we may realize. Bias, racism, and exclusionism can be passed down through the generations.
A few years ago, a client asked me, “What do I need to start doing or stop doing to be sure I am not biased?” My response was simply, “To not be biased, one would have to not exist, because all humans have biases.” Biases are natural. The human brain has millions of pieces of information it must process every day. To process these mounds of information, we compartmentalize information, and sometimes that compartmentalization includes putting things that are familiar and comfortable ahead of things that are not.
A better goal is to identify the biases we have and work consciously to short circuit them. Here are a few tips to create a legacy of inclusion:
- Look at your circle first. When children see a more diverse, open, and inclusive circle of people around their caregivers, they tend to mirror this. It’s not about picking people who are different to meet your own personal diversity quota. Allow yourself to embrace people and experiences different from your own.
- Don’t accept exclusion. Have age-appropriate conversations with children about incidents where exclusion has occurred and seek out their thoughts on how situations could have been better handled so that everyone was included. Consider using an incident where a person with food allergies might be excluded as an example to start with.
- Admit your mistakes. When you prematurely judge others, exhibit bias, or simply don’t think about how you might have excluded others, admit what you did, acknowledge the impact of your mistake, and be honest about what you will do in the future when faced with similar circumstances.
- Live to learn. There is no way we can know everything about everyone. Commit to learning more about other groups of people that may not be well-represented in your community. This means having a real interest to find real value that equates to real inclusion.
- Don’t spoil the party. When having parties and events, look at the photos you’ve taken over the years. Do they represent the real landscape of what America is – or just the part of America you are comfortable with? Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s also a way to help check your inclusion meter.
Living inclusively may seem like a no-brainer, but we all have work to do. The more work we put in now, the more opportunity we have to leave a legacy of intentional inclusion for generations to come.