The definition of being boldly inclusive encompasses a vast array of ideologies. Most people would be able to describe the concept in one way or another. In the simplest form, to be inclusive means to include all others, no matter their gender, race, heritage, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, political affiliation or any subset thereof. To be boldly inclusive, however, is to stand next to another person even when there are psychological and/or social differences between two people. A person’s positionality, that which defines them, will cause one to manifest an individual perspective of the phrase, “Boldly Inclusive.” When raised with the negativity of intolerance, a person’s positionality will reflect this. What would cause a person, who was raised with negativity toward those with any differences, to choose a different perspective on life? In deciding to become boldly inclusive, an evolution of thinking and being must take place. It is not a simple task to overcome the negative training one may have received in childhood.
A person is not born with the ability to be boldly inclusive. When a child comes into this world, their only tasks are to learn their environment and how to survive. For example, an infant will cry, and if there is no response, eventually that child will remain silent. Conversely, if the child is attended to when they express their needs by crying, they begin to learn trust. Out of trust and repetition, the child will develop a sense of self. Children develop ideologies by watching the adults in their lives and mimicking the behaviors of those they trust.
When an adult, a parent or another person important to a child teaches bigotry against those who are different, it is called negative modeling. By the time the youngster is in school, the hatred has already become part of who the child believes himself to be. When that same child is subjected to attending school with kids who do not fit into the same category as they do, there is confusion. On one hand, these are the child’s peers. Confusion builds. These are the people he was trained to hate; to believe they do not deserve to be included.
What seed must be planted for that young person to begin to question the values they were taught? Is it as simple as being exposed to other people who are not bigots? Or does a child learn to become a critic of the adult who taught them the hatred against the very children who play with them every day in school?
Occasionally, a child is curious or confused enough to step outside the norm of their family and explore relationships with others who exemplify what it means to be boldly inclusive. Sometimes all it takes is an innocent question from the child and an honest, yet simple, explanation from an adult to begin to break down the barrier.
When adults model openness, tolerance and acceptance of the differences in people, the child sees the world through those eyes. There are many people who are involved in the raising of a child, whether they are a birth parent, step-parent, foster parent, social worker, teacher, individual in the community, sibling or extended family. It is their responsibility to model a broadly open, inclusive and welcoming point of view. Through their example, adults can teach a youngster to be open-minded enough to become boldly inclusive.
As they become adults themselves, that youngster must make a choice to be a bigot or to become a person who is capable of placing value in becoming inclusive. If that decision is made, most often it is not carried out on a conscious level. Nonetheless, when the choice is made to become a different person – to be boldly inclusive of others in their life – that person blossoms.
Courage is what it takes to move away from bigotry and to become boldly inclusive of those who are different. Even an adult who steps outside of their upbringing will occasionally find they must fight the deep-seated bigotry that is within themselves. To clearly comprehend that this hatefulness is not who they are, but what they were taught to believe is a difficult and challenging concept.
When one chooses to embrace being inclusive of others and to stand boldly beside someone they do not understand, growth can take hold. That growth could be emotional, intellectual or even physical. Becoming an advocate for others takes open-mindedness, tolerance and a generous soul. To fight for another’s right to be respected takes tenacity, which is the same strength it took to learn how not to be a bigot.
The adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” could easily be reworded. It takes a seed, lots of water, fertilizer, nutrients and more to re-create the hateful mind into one that is tolerant and boldly inclusive. In this sense, the person’s positionality, or the things that define them, have undergone a metamorphosis. It does not matter who a person is, he can evolve and overcome negativity to embrace inclusivity in a bold and decisive manner.
Opinion by Cathy Milne
Guardian Liberty Voice: The Historical Model – “Boldly Inclusive”
Science of Identity Foundation: Overcoming Racism and Bigotry with Wisdom
Cambridge University Press: Kristin J. Anderson – Benign Bigotry: The Psychology of Subtle Prejudice
Little, Brown and Company: Timothy D. Watson – Redirect; The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change
Featured Image Courtesy of Bernard Oh’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
All Inset Images Courtesy of Cathy Milne