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An unequal equality


An unequal equality

When we reach a point where ‘inclusion’ just excludes a different group of people, what have we really gained, asks Jane Stephens.

Our society has come a long way where diversity and inclusion are concerned.

Our new parliament more closely reflects our society than the old one did.

As a nation, we are making great strides in honouring the original inhabitants of this land we live in. And this whole month is dedicated worldwide to Pride.

Our communities are better because they are made up of people with all different characteristics. In embracing difference, we are culturally richer, more understanding and our world view is broader.

But I can’t help but think the way we approach so-called inclusion too often just creates a greater number of exclusive groups.

Bear with me on this.

Policies and practices geared towards diversity and inclusion rightly aim to afford equal opportunity for all, but when we require numerical or proportionate representation, we end up with the opposite to equal. When we laud or promote one group over another, the exclusion just shifts. When only those who are part of a specific group are allowed an opinion or a voice the problem is added to, not solved.

I am in almost every way a part of the majority: I have Anglo-Saxon roots, am heterosexual, educated, employed and have a stable home.

While these attributes afford me ‘privilege’ in our society, most of these were not my choice – in the same way as someone born in a brown skin, into a religious minority group or who is same-sex attracted had no say.

It doesn’t mean I can’t work to understand others’ experiences. It doesn’t mean I live only to look after those who are just like me.

Majority is not a dirty word. Democracy is built on it. There is no shame in it.

Surely we should aim for something better that swinging a pendulum back and forth. Respect is too often missing from the list of aims in discussions on inclusion: respect for self, others and for our differences.

Without any one of these, we just continue to perpetuate exclusion.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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