As we observe Diversity Month in 2023, I was reminded of this quote. Diversity means many things to many people, but the one thing that it should universally stand for is inclusion. Inclusion, which does not only apply to those who we agree with, but true inclusion, also means those who we do not. Since its launch in January 2022, the LISD Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has kept this idea central to its practice. The Office has sought to be a resource for all LISD stakeholders to advance access and opportunity for every student, every day. In order to accomplish this, we need everyone and every perspective, for viewpoint diversity is the foundation of true inclusion.
Over the past 20 years, the LISD community has witnessed significant population changes. These changes have led to an increase in both physical diversity, and also in diversity of thought. It is the latter that I ask us to reflect on this month. It is easy and sometimes convenient for us to push out those who we disagree with, but this only leads to perpetual divisions and mistrust. How do we move toward a more inclusive environment in LISD? An environment where diversity is not synonymous with division, for this was never the goal of diversity work. Going back to the 1970s, diversity work has always been about inspiring us to see past our differences so that we could focus on the greater good. Let us set about rekindling this spirit in 2023.
Courage is required to live in a diverse environment, the courage to know that listening to another person’s position does not weaken yours.
Today, diversity work has become cloudy and some are questioning its overall aims. In LISD, we seek a practice where all are welcome and all are valued. This does not mean that any of us must compromise our convictions, only that we do not use them to exclude others. Courage is required to live in a diverse environment, the courage to know that listening to another person’s position does not weaken yours.
Early in my career as a diversity champion, I thought my goal was to convert people to think like me. When I was unable to do that, I sought to discredit everything about their point of view, even going to the extreme of seeing them and everyone who agreed with them as being beyond redemption. This allowed me to dismiss them and released me from my responsibility to continue to grow and learn about those things I was not familiar with. I was not evolving and feared that others were and that I was being left behind. It took courage to finally admit that my views were not the only ones that mattered because the world is a big place and there is always more to learn. Once I accepted this, I became less myopic and more open to the opinions of others, even those I disagreed with.
In LISD we are fortunate that the mosaic that is our community is so dynamic and expands almost daily. The way that our district looks in 2023 will be different from how it looks in 2033. New languages and cultures will join the #1LISD family, adding more layers and vibrancy to our story. This is what diversity work was always designed to do, to bring people together while acknowledging our differences. Differences that should not obscure our common bonds and our common focus – the 42,000 students who attend our schools. We have an opportunity to model for them what a truly diverse community looks like, not only physically, but in thought as well. Let’s do this for them.
Leander ISD Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DeWayne Street contributed to this article. For more information on the district’s DEI initiatives, please visit www.leanderisd.org/equitydiversityinclusion.