Prompted by Suzi Q. Smith
On Medium: “On Fostering Inclusivity in a Divided Nation,” by Bianca Mikahn, in response to Tilt West Roundtable: Fostering Inclusivity in a Divided Nation
Depending on who is telling the story, it is easy to see that the United States has always been a divided nation. While I have often heard the U.S. referred to as a “melting pot”, I think that a mosaic is a much more accurate metaphor. Our country’s bloody and painful history and all that it has since birthed offers each of us a unique experience and perspective, allowing us to see the canyons between us, or perhaps not notice them at all, each of us holding our own little piece of it. While we continue to shape and be shaped by this nation, it is clear that the divisions between its people are wide and expansive when we examine our exit polls, the wage and wealth gaps. Following the presidential election of 2016, I know more than a few people who ended relationships with friends and family members, each finding the other unforgivable. Perhaps this ever-widening gap in ideology is a crisis – or perhaps this, too, is progress. What does this chasm cost us? What does it offer us? Should it be bridged? If so, by whom?
Inclusivity is defined as “an intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized” (which is not the same as diversity, which is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements”). In spite of similarity bias, where people tend to be drawn to others who are similar to themselves, many people understand that diversity is important to the health of any group—we know that diversifying crops is good for the soil, and that vantages shared from many different perspectives are our best path to a complete picture. However, due to our history of enormous disparities in access to wealth, resources, and power, diversity is rendered useless without inclusivity, particularly when marginalized groups are present but powerless, or required to conform to the dominant group and losing the diversity they may have once offered.
As we examine our own organizations, networks, and affiliations, this roundtable will assemble artists, arts organizers, activists, educators, and other community organizers in a discussion of the value of inclusivity and strategies for creating cultures of inclusivity in our work, lives, and communities.
Resources to help inform the conversation:
—Suzi Q. Smith
About the prompter
Suzi Q. Smith is an artist, activist, and educator who lives with her brilliant daughter in Denver, Colorado. She has shared her poetry on stages throughout the U.S., sharing stages with Nikki Giovanni, Talib Kweli, the late Gil Scott Heron, and many more over the years. Her work has appeared in Union Station Magazine, Suspect Press, Muzzle Magazine, Malpais Review, Peralta Press, and more, and her collection of poems, Thirteen Descansos, is available from Penmanship Books. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Poetry Slam, Inc.