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Continuing dialogue on privilege and diversity

Continuing dialogue on privilege and diversity

The Center for Courage and Renewal, founded by Parker J. Palmer, includes this in the “about” section of its website:

The mission of the Center for Courage & Renewal (CCR) is to nurture personal and professional integrity and the courage to act on it.

We do this by:

Helping people who wish to live and work more wholeheartedly renew themselves, reclaim their vocational vitality, and deepen their professional practice.

Supporting these people in becoming forces for positive change in their workplaces, professions, and communities, as well as in the lives of the people they serve.

Contributing to the growing national conversation about reclaiming integrity and courage in professional and public life.

In the spirit of this description, it is not surprising to find this blog post by Courtney E. Martin, who recounts a “beautiful conversation” at their board meeting. She writes:

Our circles got me thinking about a lot of my own experiences around privilege, power, and all the various -isms. Here are nine learnings I’ve had that I share in the spirit of continuing the dialogue about these issues with the larger CCR community:

1. Friendship is the most powerful “diversity strategy” there is.

There is nothing more important than creating meaningful and organic relationships with people across the various borders that have historically divided us. It is through these real relationships–whole, vulnerable, reciprocal–that we really learn about our own blind spots and the beauty of others’ perspectives.

2. Learn in public.

You will screw up. You will hurt people. You are human. The most courageous thing you can do is not to try to never hurt anyone, but to acknowledge the hurt you cause and try to learn from it….

6. Guilt isn’t productive; accountability is.

Guilt doesn’t put food on anyone’s table or opportunity at anyone’s doorstep. Move beyond it. Move to the discomfort of taking responsibility, of admitting your own capacity for hurt and confusion and insensitivity, and then start learning.

The complete list and thoughtful comments (some offering additional suggestions) is found at the complete post linked above.

What resonates with you, and what else do you think of?


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I loved the entire piece by Ms. Martin; what has jumped out at me is “Friendship is the most powerful ‘diversity strategy’ there is.” It reminds me of the “Quaker check list” of about 15 bullet points, one being “You might be a Quaker if: you think right relationships are more important than being right.”

The notion that “friendship is the most powerful diversity strategy there is” will also work to break down barriers between groups that are deeply suspicious of one another, even oppose each other.

It is difficult for evangelicals and progressives (or who-ever) to snipe at each other if they are working together in a food pantry, bagging groceries for the hungry. A shared mutual task of charity and hospitality sets all those biblical issues on the back burner for a while as they do God’s work. Pretty soon, they stop seeing each other as opponents and start seeing each other as Bob and Sue or Fred and Ethel.

Being friends is not as easy as it sounds. All of us have a tendency to congregate in our own little circles of influence, what some social scientists and theologians call “oikos”, and we need to either enter an oikos of “Them”, get one of “Them” to join one of our oikos, or at least find an oikos that allow members of both factions to participate. And sometimes we have to bite our tongue at what is often said in an off-hand manner. But, if we approach this with the right intention, soon relationships trumps all.

IMO, anyway…

Kevin McGrane

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