Make Room for the Whole Person

Working to enact DEI may be next to godliness
Make Room For The Whole Person
Photo by Helen Johnson Courtesy of Advancement at FSU Panama City

Diversity, equity and inclusion have become buzzwords of the moment. Everyone wants to say they support DEI. And they do matter. They have always mattered.

Diversity implies a broad range of people with various racial, ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and differing lifestyles, experiences, religious beliefs and interests. It is something that we can recognize as we observe the ways in which people look, behave and move through the world.

Permit me to suggest that you take some time to look at who you spend your time with. Are they just like you? If so, try to get comfortable with a little bit of discomfort, and go out into the world to explore spaces you have never visited before. Meet new people who are different and talk with them, ask them questions, listen to their experiences. Spending time learning new perspectives will enhance your life.

Inclusion is easy to understand, but it can be difficult to enact. We are inclusive when we use pronouns or chosen names preferred by people we meet. It is also evident when we warmly welcome new people, invite others to join in our activities and avoid language or behaviors that could be triggering to others.

Being inclusive really starts with exposing yourself to diversity, learning about the needs and preferences of others, then making accommodations for them so that they are able to participate in spaces with you.

The most difficult of the three concepts is equity. Equity and equality get used interchangeably, but the application of each is very different. Equality says that everyone should take the stairs. Equity says, “Hey, wait a minute. We have these people who use wheelchairs and can’t take the stairs. What about them?”

In order to create systems with an equitable approach, we must first expose ourselves to the diverse experiences of others so that we can provide appropriate and necessary accommodations.

I have a hormonal disorder. My weight is very difficult to control. At a time when I was eating less than one meal a day, my doctor, without asking me about my diet, diagnosed me with obesity due to excessive consumption of calories.

My condition causes migraines, fatigue, cramping and irregular cycles accompanied by mood changes. I constantly say I am at the mercy of my hormones.

After having my son, my body began to have a hard time “digesting” stress. When I would get overwhelmed, I would experience bodily pain.

The equitable treatment I need is the understanding that I cannot always be at 100%. I live with a disorder that is incredibly challenging, and I battle with not being “enough” when I am physically unable to perform.

It is easy for us to look at others and make assumptions about them based on their work, availability and attitude. But for me, those things can be different month to month, week to week, and even day to day. I am so afraid of someone meeting me on an “off” day and judging me based on that one interaction.

Be gentle with your judgments. Understand that each person you meet lives a life as full as yours and that you are encountering only a small part of them. Be inclusive of their whole selves and allow space for others to be present even when they are not at their best. Move through the world with grace and compassion, forgive others when they do not give their all to you and acknowledge the humanity in each of us.

Raemi Creteur, a graduate of Florida State University Panama City, is the Editorial Department administrative coordinator at Rowland Publishing.

Categories: Opinion