DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

                  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. A dynamic Southern preacher who came to be the face of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and beyond. He is oft quoted (as above) and represents the very best of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.

Three words which are being bandied about with great frequency in the eating disorder community. Seemingly every eating disorder organization now includes a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.

How do those three words intersect? After all, what is diversity without inclusion?

For that matter, what do those words even mean in the context of a serious, deadly mental illness like eating disorders? We are not addressing those terms in the context of being able to sit on a bus. We are not addressing those terms in the context of admission to a school or university. We are not addressing those terms in the context of greater representation on corporate boards of directors or partnership in law firms or accounting firms.

We are addressing those terms in the context of a deadly mental illness, an illness with biological and genetic components. An illness that claims a life every 52 minutes. Life and death. The highest stakes possible.

Today, many organizations in the eating disorder community are racing head long into political correctness to see which one can virtue signal the most. Some are choosing to include pronouns after their names believing that illustrates how enlightened and inclusive they are. Some organizations publicize how they are expanding their membership and committee involvement to include greater representation among African Americans, Hispanics, LBGTQ and other minorities. All are commendable and worthy actions. All are needed actions.

No rational person can argue against the fact that the mental health industry in general, and the eating disorder community specifically, need many more African American, Hispanic, LBGTQ and other minority counselors, therapists, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and other medical and mental health professionals.

No rational person can argue against the fact that medical and mental health services must become more available and more affordable to the African American, Hispanic, LBGTQ and other minority communities.

To further those ideals, I am embedding an article from National Council of Non-profits. This article sets forth practice pointers; questions to consider when establishing a D&I action plan; Resources for your learning journey; Resources for Non-Profit Employers; Diversity on Boards of Directors and for Grant makers and includes other useful information:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/why-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-matter-nonprofits

These are incredibly complex issues which involve and impact all aspects of life … from education, to healthcare, to access, to education, to treatment and research funding, to the family structure and society in general. And because these issues are so incredibly complex, to provide real life, workable solutions which will better society as a whole, we need the greatest thinkers and leaders from all walks of life, who are well versed in and have ideologically diverse backgrounds and experience. And therein lies the breakdown in the mental health community, particularly the eating disorder community.

Most of the eating disorder organizations are dominated by women who identify politically with the very far left. Women of intelligence. Women of passion and drive. Women who have controlled and monopolized the eating disorder community from its inception. And in the present drive to be more diverse, they are looking for women, people, and non-binary persons of different races, creeds, or sexual orientation. African-American persons. Hispanic persons. LBGTQ persons. Trans persons. Non-binary persons. A veritable rainbow of persons. All commendable. And yet despite this drive for diversity, these organizations seem to be only seeking persons who all think, believe or have the same ideals, ideological mindset and political views. If you are politically far left with a far left mindset, you are welcome. That ideological mindset is cast in stone.

However, if you do not have that mindset, not only is a place at the table not open to you but you are subject to being ostracized and in some cases, fingers are pointed at you as part of the problem. Despite the fact that eating disorders intersect between medical and mental health issues, one person in the eating disorder community publicly stated, “Public health in this country is getting it so wrong. Those of us who have done the work around our internalized biases no longer trust the medical establishment to actually help us. This is no space for white, straight and thin folks to jump in.”

One organization likened eating disorders to intersecting with oppressions like racism, ableism, healthism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and more. When one delved further, white male privilege was included in the list of “isms” harming people with eating disorders.

And therein lies the problem and begs the question … How can an organization or leaders in a community preach the necessity of diversity and inclusion, when their very actions dictate that diversity without inclusion is not only acceptable but is the right path to take? They ostracize and exclude persons of different ideological intellects simply because, they think differently.

In 2015, Somalian born, Dutch American activist, Ayann Hirsi Ali authored an OpEd article in The Harvard Crimson in which she stated the following:

“Diversity. It is a principle that today’s society values greatly—a sign of virtue, moral progress, and greater social inclusivity. 

Yet somehow we have got so caught up in the pursuit of diversity that we have drifted away from the core of what it was all about, the core of liberalism: the individual.

Instead of struggling and campaigning for the freedoms and rights of the individual, some of us seem more focused on the freedoms and rights of the group.

The greatest overarching identity that liberalism exalts above all others is humanity. We should be fighting for the individual not simply because he or she belongs to this or that minority, but because we are all human.

The identity politics of our time has created a language of political correctness that sometimes verges on censorship. We have allowed the voice of the group, or whoever claims to represent the group, not only to speak for the individual, but sometimes to shout down the individual if his or her story does not fit with an approved narrative.

As a black woman and an immigrant, I am all for diversity. Who isn’t? But I care more for individual freedom. For, in a truly free society, our group identities should diminish, not increase, in their importance.

That, not the entrenchment of historic differences, should be our goal.”

Greater societal inclusivity. Standing up for the rights of the individual. Diminishing group identities. Listening, then trying to understand, and in some cases, embracing the ideas, passion and vision of those who may be ideologically different. Instead of attempting to quash the ideas and resources of those whose thoughts and vision differ from ours. That doesn’t mean you are wrong. To the contrary, it shows greater wisdom, foresight and vision.

Eating disorders are an incredibly complex medical/mental health illness having biological, genetic and societal aspects to it. As such, one wonders why all interested parties, organizations, persons, and leaders cannot band together as one since we all share one common goal, that is, saving as many lives as possible. Why can’t we put away our egos, our own insecurities, our hubris and fears and remember what we are working toward. We certainly don’t have to like each other, but if an intellect and resources we currently do not have or are not making best use of are presented by ideologically different persons, how can we possibly turn down those resources?

The activist, Leigh Morrison in an article in The Inclusion Solution, stated as follows: Next time you encounter an activist action that you may view as “unproductive,” I invite you to ask yourself: why might this person or group see this action as necessary? What privileges do I hold that may prevent me from fully understanding their experience or decision? What may I need to reflect upon or learn more about before I can respectfully engage in thoughtful and informed discussion about this topic? 

And on the day we remember Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his words:

“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

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