Since 2004, April has been designated Celebrate Cultural Diversity Month. We took a moment to reflect on how the conversation around diversity has changed over time, and how diversity, equity, and inclusion show up in our work and in our lives. Here’s what staff have to say:
How has the meaning of diversity evolved for you over the years?
Isaac: Growing up in the Midwest, I thought about diversity as having people of different shades and genders in large groups. Now, I think about diversity as representation and having different voices at the decision-making table.
Deonate: Empathy and inclusion have always been important to me, and as I’ve learned about more populations my view of diversity has grown, particularly in the workplace.
Erin: I grew up in a predominantly white, suburban Seattle neighborhood. In the 80’s and 90’s, I remember being taught in school and at home about cultures and traditions that were different from my own, while also receiving explicit and implicit instruction that “color-blindness” was the best approach. In my young adulthood I sought opportunities for cultural and linguistic exchange that allowed me to see my upbringing and its cultural norms from different points of view. In the last 10 years or so, I have been fortunate to develop and deepen personal and professional relationships that have taught me more about systemic racism and oppression, and have continued to expand my understanding of how and why diversity matters.
Jim: Initially I struggled with understanding the importance of stating my pronouns and and honoring others’ pronouns. I now understand that not only was that an example of my privilege but an important piece of truly respecting other human beings including colleagues, friends, and loved ones. I still forget sometimes to state my pronouns, and I realize that’s a reminder of the safety, comfort, and privilege that comes with my identity.
Describe a moment that illustrates the importance of approaching our work through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Elysa: Over the past year, I have been leaning in around my learning edge in equity work and how to check my own fragility. Over the past year, I’ve noticed that I sometimes go in shutdown mode during conversations about dismantling white dominant culture and advancing equity in the workplace – I become silent and don’t lean into conflict. I’ve been trying to check myself, really be self-aware when I am in shutdown mode, and engage in courageous conversation and conflict. The fear of saying the wrong thing is ever present for me and I am trying to braver and step up because that’s how you grow and learn.
Sully: When we asked ourselves if it was possible to end youth and young adult homelessness without also advancing racial and LGBTQ+ equity, we knew the true answer was no. But we realized that under the current technical definition, communities could indeed claim to end youth and young adult homelessness without achieving equitable outcomes for young people of color and LGBTQ+ young people. I’m very proud of the work our Data & Evaluation Director Liz did to create a new definition so communities we work with do need to work toward equity measures as part of their journey to end youth and young adult homelessness.
How do you promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work or in your personal life?
Ashley: Being the parent of a white child, I’ve reflected on my own experience growing up and I am committed to ensuring my child does not see white people as “normal” or better. I didn’t have my first POC teacher until college, or my first Black teacher until grad school, so I’m invested in enrolling my child in schools with diversity in teachers, and also ensuring diversity in the toys my child plays with and the stories we read together.
Liz: I am conscious of the media I consume and who is the author and creator. I try as much as possible to seek out the perspectives of Queer Trans Black Indigenous and People of Color (QTBIPOC), people with disabilities, those most impacted by the issue at hand and those furthest from justice. I use social media to connect with other QTBIPOC from all over the world, and the supportive relationships I’ve formed with amazing people I wouldn’t have met otherwise have helped expand my worldview. I am so glad I have this supportive network in place as we face the COVID-19 outbreak.
Anne: When we order food for A Way Home Washington events, we’re committed to putting ‘our money where our mouth is,’ literally, and ordering from POC- or LGBTQ-owned businesses. I’ve made this commitment in my personal life as well.