Although presently employed, I’m looking for something different. Thus, the other day I was in a job interview. It was going as most job interviews go, with me politely telling about the time I transformed the world, saved the day, completed a customer’s meaning and purpose in life, etc. Your average everyday workplace stuff. I’ve done enough interviews to know the drill.
But then, out came a line I’d yet to hear in this situation. The interviewer gave me an über-serious look as she solemnly intoned, “In this company, we’ve spent the past two years fully embracing diversity and inclusion. Do you have any problem working and interacting with people from different backgrounds? And can you treat them with respect?”
There were a few possible answers that flashed through my mind. Were I not serious about wanting the job, there was the “Aw, hell no — I’m the redneck’s redneck” tack. I could have gone the offended route: “Are you asking me this because I’m a white male over sixty? STEREOTYPING!!!” But, as noted, I want the job. So, I chose a different route.
“I have no problem whatsoever with diversity and inclusion … as long as it includes me.”
Silence reigned supreme as I went on, only slightly jokingly, that as a white male over 60, I should have my own unique culture recognized.
We were the ones who grew up with images from the Vietnam War on our TV screens. As I wrote about last year, this was deeply personal as my oldest brother did two tours of duty there. We were the ones who saw nothing abnormal about hippies or the Summer of Love or The Beatles or Woodstock or any of the other 1960s upheavals as we had no knowledge of the post-World War Two normalcy against which to compare current events. We started growing up in the 1960s and finished in the 1970s with Watergate and disco, polyester and promiscuity. It was a time.
From the beginning, adults taught tolerance. Whether from being subjected to hearing “It’s a Small World” 973 times, first at the 1964 World’s Fair and later, at Disneyland, or at home and school where we immersed ourselves in accepting others as they are, we learned racism was illogical and unacceptable. Instead, we embraced the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about the content of a man’s character being the only sufficient data upon which to pass judgment. We learned about America, the great melting pot, where once-despised and viciously discriminated against immigrant groups — the Irish, the Italians, and so on — came, in time, to be embraced and folded into American culture’s rich stew.
There was no separating out; no self-isolation. Instead, there was opportunity for all under freedom’s mighty wings. If unpopular beliefs define a minority, still believing these things makes me part of a minority. So, where’s my flag and month’s worth of media self-worshipping lauding?
We live in a splintered world, an Ecclesiastes-embodying mire, in which there is no Ted Williams and nothing splendid about its splintering. These past few years, the torrent of societal segmentary silliness preaches inclusion, but it doesn’t adhere to its own teachings. It sees color, but fails to acknowledge white is a color. It sees gender, but fails to recognize male is a gender. It sees sexuality, but fails to admit straight is a sexuality — other than its occasional hissing about those evil cis-gendered people who stubbornly insist on making all the babies. There is an incessant hue and cry about marginalized minorities. Yet, time and again, the group most marginalized via belittlement consists of people quite comfortable with their own skin color, and Mom and Dad’s provided plumbing assignment at conception.
Diversity? Sure, why not. You do you. But don’t hassle me about me being, well, me. Don’t stereotype me. Don’t blame me for all your failings. Inclusion? Again, why not. Assuming you have something to bring, bring your best to the table, and let’s make good things happen together. But don’t waste my time and insult my intelligence by insisting that difference alone is worth anything, and don’t cry -ist as a deflection for your shortcomings.
I should find out next week if I get the job. If I don’t, I’ll grumble about it for a half-hour or so, and then get back to work looking for a different place to work. If hired, I’ll do my best. In either case, I’ll continue to be me, reflective of my culture and always seeking to improve myself. True diversity means diversifying yourself from thinking you’re perfect just as you are. True inclusion means including pursuing improvement including increasing knowledge. For example, white is a color. No, really.
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