Inclusion and the Eradication of Bias and Discrimination Begin on a Personal Level


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To the Editor:

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are part of our everyday language. Some see the goal of DEI as admirable. Others do not, as they recognize that equity is deeply embedded in every failed communist country. Others believe that equity mandates are another form of the bigotry of low expectations, and still others see it as a cash cow for those enforcing the tenets.

Admirable or not, there is an ocean of differences between Diversity and Equity and achieving the goal of social change (Inclusion). Equity and Diversity are concepts encouraged or enforced in workplaces and institutions, and Inclusion and valuing others is the desired outcome. Unfortunately, because Inclusion is an emotional response, we often replace one bias with another. Prejudice is irrational, but we all have it.

Since antiquity, the human community has suffered bloodshed because of identities. Some examples are the Spanish Inquisition, Auschwitz, Treblinka, the slaughter of Jews by their Christian neighbors and friends in the Polish town of Jedwabne, and the savage “holy war” launched on September 11. These are just a few examples of the havoc reaped due to humanity’s need to conquer the ever-present monster- the “other.”

America also has a long and provocative history of prejudice; the scars of slavery are pervasive and entrenched in our country. The Irish experienced a strong arm of discrimination when arriving in America (1820-1860). In the mid-1850s, Protestants deemed Catholics unworthy (The Know Nothing Movement). In the nineteen forties and fifties, Italians felt discrimination, and Jews still feel the sting of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

As America tries to compensate for past and present social ills, as can be predicted by human history, human beings require a source of fear or bedevilment. One up, one down. One in, one out. We always replace one once reviled with another, “other.” White men, Christians, Pro-life activists, and parents who want to be involved in their children’s education and mental health are current “villains.”

The first step towards positive cultural change is to admit our biases. Carl Jung, a psychological and philosophical pioneer, taught that we often project onto others’ personality traits that we have but do not see in ourselves, e.g., lazy, mean, egotistical, dishonest, rude, arrogant, and racist. Unfortunately, these projections are accompanied by strong emotions. And, while Diversity and equity are often a mandate, Inclusion is emotional and can never be mandated as institutions and workplaces cannot change our psychological and physiological responses.

But we can change ourselves; Inclusion and the eradication of bias and discrimination begin on a personal level. Jung provided a method to uncover our prejudices. His prescription went something like this: If we notice that someone or something makes us EXCESSIVELY angry or fearful, recognize that we are usually in the grips of a trait in ourselves that we have split off. He went on to teach that the only way to bring irrational emotion to consciousness is to understand what it is about that person that causes us irrational and over-the-top fear or anger. While some fear, anger, and disgust are justified and rational, the OVERLY emotional and irrational cause us to project onto others what we fail to see in ourselves.

If we can recognize the difference in our emotional reactions, we can recognize that trait in the “other” that is part of ourselves, ugly as it may be. The unknown self stays in the unconscious for a reason. It is hard to admit that we have the same characteristics we see and hate in someone else and, by nature, project outward. It is only with the recognition of what hides in the unconscious that we can remove the projection. We may still see the “other” as unpleasant, but the deranged anger, fear, and resulting prejudices disappear. In other words, hard as it is to look in the mirror, it can be a positive movement toward social change and Inclusion.

Alison Nichols
Essex, CT