The Exclusivity of Inclusivity

I’m all for including people . . . correction . . . I’m all for every person feeling valued and knowing their worth and having a sense of belonging and importance.  And so, if you see someone lingering on the edges of a room while everyone else is mingling, go ahead, offer to include them in the conversation.  Or if a child needs a bit of accommodations in order to participate fully in class or play, lets make those accommodations.  But, I often wonder

Isn’t there a point when inclusivity actually creates exclusion?

In our misguided build-self-esteem efforts, are we actually diminishing the beauty of the unique experiences we each have?

For example, I worked at a Quaker camp in college, and I absolutely loved it.  It was designed to embrace and live out the principles of Friends and as such we had simple fun, encouraged participation in chores around the camp, embraced spiritual growth.  Around the campfire there was a song I wanted to lead.  It had the word “God” in it.  I was told I couldn’t sing that song because it might people who didn’t believe in a God to feel uncomfortable and excluded.  Fine.  I’m not about proselytizing and it was just a song.  But, in the effort to be inclusive, I felt excluded.

Or, last week’s blog, “Dear Exhausted Mom”, yielded primarily positive comments and people reaching out to indicate that they felt seen and heard.  Yet there were at least a couple of readers who felt it should have been addressed to both moms and dads.  That by addressing the typical mom experience I was somehow implying dads couldn’t have similar feelings.  And yet, isn’t there a place to focus on the commonalities and build up one community?  Does that have to imply that others’ experiences are somehow being minimized?  Can we acknowledge that there are indeed general differences in moms experiences and dads experiences without feeling slighted?

Or, how about the needs of gifted kids?  In an effort for everyone to be included, there often exists pushback against differentiating services for gifted students.  “If it’s good for a gifted student it’d be good for all students.”  “Why should gifted students be the only one’s with exciting projects?”  “All kids are gifted, they just unwrap their packaging at different times.”  Nauseating. 

Can’t we acknowledge and accommodate the specific needs of one group of students AND value the unique worth of every student?  Why has inclusivity come to mean sameness? 

Different is simply different.  It isn’t better or worse.  Acknowledging that difference empowers people who can relate and does not mean that other people’s experiences are less important.  True inclusivity actually allows for the embracing of difference and supporting an environment that allows these differences to co-exist.