I couldn’t not write on Trump and what his election means for inclusion and diversity. So, for better or worse, I have, and it’s emotional. Just giving you fair warning.
The recent US Presidential election culminated in such a theatrical and dramatic finale that I, like the rest of the world, was hanging on every word – written, spoken, mapped, memed, debated and statistically analysed. Yet, as a seriously avid observer, and one that has lived in the US and knows well how seriously they take their politics, I have felt too discombobulated about it to add my voice to the thunderous chorus around the world.
Instead, I’ve found myself wondering why I felt so hamstrung with emotion and completely unable to speak – like I’m walking on eggshells in my own mind.
Like many of us, I don’t lack an understanding of the situation. I get the disenfranchised working class, the uneven (and often unfair) impacts of the global economy and global manufacturing, the increasing wealth division of the world, and the need for everyone to feel they have a voice and a champion when they feel they’re invisible to the ‘establishment’.
But way before all that intellectual understanding and over-discussion of privilege and the return of class warfare, I have a deeply personal and emotional response.
This is where I landed: It’s because I’m so emotional that I cannot find a completely rational voice with which to speak.
“Grabbing pussies” is emotional for me – as a woman, as a mother, a sister, a friend and as a decent person. Calling the other candidate “nasty” or “old” or “unfit” is emotional for me. It disrespects her candidacy long before we even get to talk policies, opinions or legislative interventions. Banning abortions is emotional for me. It questions a woman’s rights over her own body. It doesn’t trust us to decide on our own context and make good decisions.
Having a homophobic running mate is emotional for me. Imitating people with a disability by flailing your arms around is deeply offensive to me. Calling for the deportation of one religion or building a wall to keep out a whole ethnicity sets off a visceral reaction in the very pit of my stomach. I literally close my eyes and hope it’s gone when I open them again.
And that’s the reality of inclusion and diversity and, in the case of the American election, politics. It’s deeply emotional and personal.
Since the election, there have been protests and rallies, and on the other side people telling everyone to get over themselves and move on.
Intellectually, I get that’s how Democracy works. We vote, our candidate wins or loses, and we move on by respecting the majority decision.
But never before have we been faced with accepting a person who affects us so personally, and it all centres around the fundamental belief – or disbelief – in diversity and inclusion.
If we believe in diversity and inclusion, we know it’s about fairness and being treated as an equal on a personal level , but also in step with every person we stand next to in our shared society.
How does that play out in our most emotional inclusion and diversity debates at the moment?
- Marriage equality: I cannot talk calmly about a plebiscite and all the hate speech it will enable if my right to marriage equality is on the line. If my right to love is not as valued as yours, or if my family is not treated as equal to yours.
- Gender equality: I cannot accept that women are paid less because whenever I hold a contract I always wonder whether a gender discount has been applied.
- Termination: I cannot talk the intellectual side of abortion when it’s my body that carries a child. Or my friend’s body, after she was raped by a family friend. Or another who made the gut wrenching journey to the hospital with her 16-year-old daughter.
- Islamophobia: I cannot respect your debate around deporting my family, when I’ve spent last night listening to their fears. I cannot allow religious vilification when my friends are the victims of hateful actions.
- Youth detention: I cannot debate youth detention when it is my people who are institutionalised and left without hope before they even hit high school.
The list goes on, but the bottom line is I cannot stand by when you vilify, mock or seek to exclude any part of our diverse community. Our belief systems are just too far apart for my efforts at building bridges make it to you.
Because inclusion and diversity, equality and respect for each other is not a political view: It’s the very foundation of our lives and the future of the society we share.
It is – quite fundamentally – who we are.
Rhonda Brighton-Hall (FCPHR) is Non-Executive Director of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) and Chair of AHRI’s Inclusion and Diversity Reference Panel.