Sunday, June 23, 2019

Diversity, Inclusion, and Expansion

The phrase “diversity and inclusion” has become a societal and aspirational maxim. I fear the day that these words are said in such rote repetition that their mission and meaning will have become lost on society. I applaud the AASE Diversity Committee’s broad definition of diversity that includes, without limitation, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, ethnicity, physical or mental disability, and socio-economic status. Today’s law faculty, administrators, and certainly academic support professionals, are committed to the mission of diversity and inclusion in legal education and in the practice of law.

Our law schools and our communities are filled with students who use household terms without recognizing their pejorative origins; professors who unknowingly misgender their students by using limiting pronouns; administrators who mistakenly call one person of color by the name of another. The list goes on and on and does not ever stop. These mistakes are not born of malintent, but of misunderstanding and misperception. Yet, it is not the mistakes or misjudgments that color us. Rather, it is how we deal with them when they inevitably arise that will shape us in our professional lives.

Although I consider myself to be particularly “woke” and egalitarian, an experience this week reminded me that in order to be truly diverse and inclusive, we must also expand our thinking and self-perceptions. Expansive thinking allows us to welcome viewpoints and historical realities of others of which we would not be otherwise aware. An involved and respected colleague shared, “it is important for us to assume that we will all miss stuff or get it wrong sometimes, but we want to learn to limit that as much as we can.”

The true nature of inclusive and expansive thinking frees us to live and work in an environment where we can readily share our perspectives to call out these human errors in others, and thoughtfully acknowledge and work to eliminate the same errors in our own acts and expressions. I am looking forward to the AASE Diversity Conference this fall to expand the limits of my own thinking and to learn from others who will purposefully address matters of diversity and barriers to inclusion.

I hope to see you all there!

(Marsha Griggs)

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