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What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is part of workplace culture and is the absence of interpersonal fear. Cultures of safety allow people to raise concerns freely and both teams and individuals can perform their best.

What is diversity?

Diversity is simply “all the similarities and differences amongst people.” Diversity is the term for the entire spectrum of human differences, including (but not only) race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, disability, military experience, physical attributes, attitudes, beliefs, religious faith, ethics, and even political beliefs. Recognizing and embracing diversity lets us remove barriers to understanding each other and ourselves.

What is equity?

The concept of equity refers to providing tools to compensate people for preexisting disadvantages, to enable everyone to reach their potential.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is an active management strategy. Inclusion is a purposeful effort to make different people from diverse groups comfortable in working and/or studying together.

What is belonging?

Belonging is the sense that you fit in, that you’re welcome where you are, and that the people around you are happy to work with you and not just tolerating your presence.

Is "diversity, inclusion and belonging" another way to say "affirmative action?"

Diversity, inclusion and belonging are not another way to say “affirmative action.” Affirmative action defines a legal concept of redressing past racial inequalities, using quota systems and set-asides. Diversity, inclusion and belonging are terms that describe a balanced approach to creating a welcoming working and/or student environment.

Isn’t this critical race theory?

No, it isn’t. Critical race theory is a term that describes a legal framework that is taught in law school. It is not a term to describe any discussion of race at all.

What is the difference between equality and equity?

Equality is the concept of sameness of resources regardless of need, whereas equity is the concept of taking different needs into account in order to achieve fairness. Let’s say, for example, every student in a classroom needs a desk chair. In an equal distribution, every student would get the same type of desk chair, regardless of whether they are left or right-handed, or able to write with a pen. In an equitable distribution, the classroom would have enough desk chairs for the left-handed students as well as for the right-handed ones, and desks big enough for those who need to use a keyboard.

But I'm not racist. Why do I need this?

We never call anyone racist. Our work is intended to provide a variety of information and histories to keep in mind when you encounter someone who is different from you, or when you work with or collaborate with someone with someone who is different from you. It never hurts to be considerate, and it costs nothing to be nice. Knowing how to interact with people with kindness will smooth the way for everyone and contribute to your organization achieving its objectives.

What about defunding the police?

This concept is actually one of redirecting funds to prevent crime through social services, crime prevention, and intervention. Law enforcement maintains their jobs but there is a shift to using other social services to address mental illness, addiction, homelessness and employment training to reduce crime and improve public safety.

Do we have a class system?

Yes, Virginia*, there is a class system in the United States. This is a ‘dirty topic’ that is both “complicated and subtle” (Fussel, Paul). When the different classes are asked, “If there is a class divide?” The upper class reacts by expressing it is about values, ideas, taste, styles, blood lines and proper behavior regardless of monies or education. The lower classes explain the divide by the amount of money you do or do not have and lack of privilege they experience in medical care, education, employment, incarceration. The middle class panics on this question for fear of dropping a few rungs and believe their place is determined by monies and educational levels. So simply explained: Classism is a socially constructed system of oppression which “privileges the wealthy and elite and discriminates against those with less wealth, especially the poor and working classes, and those with less prestige” (Adams, Glenn).

What is the definition of sexual assault?

Sexual violence is nonconsensual sexual interaction with force or manipulation, including unwanted touches, penetration, sexual comments or stalking. Anyone can be a target of sexual violence regardless of age (children, teens, adults, and elders), race, ethnicity, gender, religion, ability, gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation. Anyone can be a predator, such as acquaintances, family members, or trusted individuals or strangers.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances and demands for sexual favors. Both males and females can be perpetrators whether it is done in a serious or joking manner. In a work environment, from the victim’s point of view, the implication is that refusal could have negative consequences related to their job Persisting in this unwanted behavior, creates not only an unhealthy and unproductive environment, but is mentally and physically damaging to the target of the unwanted and inappropriate advances.

No one acts like this any more, isn’t sexual harassment all in the past?

No. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center sexual harassment is quite common: “Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.”

What are microaggressions?

Microaggressions are derogatory or hostile references and biases toward race, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, immigration, class, religion, etc. Microaggressions are slight comments, behaviors, or degrading actions, some intentional and some not intentional, which result in a hostile environment.

What does knowing and understanding any of this do for me? Why should I engage?

Cultural sensitivity is important because it allows us to effectively function in other cultures, allows us to respect and value other cultures, and can reduce cultural barriers between and among professionals and those they serve. Cultural sensitivity can result in a deeper understanding of colleagues, clients, friends as well as casual associates.

Inappropriate behaviors and comments cast a dark shadow, leading to not only broken individuals, but broken laws and lawsuits.
We often hear the expression “woke” and various comments but let’s be serious about being culturally, ethnically and socio-economically conscious of others. When we can respect, empathize and understand each other, as a whole, we create a healthier and more productive work or academic environment.

Aren’t we becoming too sensitive? Why can’t I say whatever I want?

There are relatively few situations in life where you can “say anything” you want. In a group situation in which you are working towards a common objective (regardless of the type of organization), sometimes just saying anything can hamper reaching that objective. Within groups and organizations who must work together, ensuring an environment where all individuals feel accepted and valued is a basic need.

What if I don’t get involved? Why should I be an ally?

Being an ally creates and fortifies a welcoming, safe and productive environment. If you are part of the group who is bullying or harassing someone else, but you intervene and stand up for the victim/victims, you are an ally! It takes action to be an ally. 

How to become an ALLY? 1) Know the issue; 2) Provide support; 3) Educate yourself and others, and 4) Advocate for change and equality.

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