If you’re anything like me, after Francis McDermott won the Oscar last Sunday and shouted, “inclusion rider” as she finished her speech, I looked at my husband and said, “What did she just say?”
Inclusion rider? Inclusion writer? Inclusion, huh?
I mean, I get it, even if the phrase hadn’t been a part of my vocabulary before. Being an inclusion rider means believing that “…there should be requirements in contracts that provide for gender and racial diversity.” Put another way, Twitter also had this to say…
So I got to digging. I felt encouraged by Deidra Riggs’ post, a reminder to all of us that we are already influencers, as we are, where we are. And I remembered Melvin Bray’s thoughts from a couple of years ago. For Riggs and Bray, accomplished speakers on the national circuit, it makes sense to add an inclusion clause to a speaking agreement – after all, they have influence.
But what about the rest of us? What about those of us, like me, who mostly speak at a smaller, local level? What about those of us who aren’t speakers and writers, who aren’t being offered contracts for negotiation?
And this goes back to Deidra’s main point: you already have influence.
I am not Frances McDormand. But that doesn’t mean I lack influence. Neither do you. You are a person of influence. Whether your influence is felt primarily around the dinner table with your family, or in an arena in front of thousands does not matter. Write this down and repeat if often: I have influence.
Curious as to your influence? Let me help you get the wheels churning…
As a mother, I can think about inclusion as it relates to my children’s school. I can notice the books my children are reading (or not reading) at school, and I can make recommendations accordingly. Does the classroom need more books by authors of color or that feature characters of color? Can I help raise the funds for a library transformation? I can see if my local school board or PTA has an equity and race advisory committee. I can become involved, knowing that even if I stumble over my words, at least I’m present – because being present and entering into noticing is where it all begins.
As a reader, I can think about inclusion as it relates to the books that I read. Am I reading with intention, whether in book club or in the cozy chair at home, choosing to read books written by people of color, featuring characters of color? What books fill my children’s shelves? As a blogger (and as someone who regularly features various authors and books for Author Tuesdays), I found myself asking, who’s filling my space? Even though there are so many great books and authors out there, in the coming year you’ll notice fewer authors in this space …but every single one of them is a slinger of justice.
As a writer, I can notice who is and isn’t around me, whether in person or in online spaces. If I’m writing an article, I can intentionally research books and articles by a variety of people; if I’m interviewing people, I can be sure to interview women and men from different cultures, ethnicities and parts of the country. A couple of months ago, I pitched an article to Women Leaders, about how white women can be allies to women of color, particularly as it relates to ministry. After three failed attempts to interview and feature different women of color for the article, it finally hit me: I’m not the one who’s supposed to write this article. MINE isn’t the voice a mostly white audience needs to hear from. So, I wrote a “forgive me” email to my editor and passed it off to a sister of color.
As a speaker, I can believe that I have influence, no matter how big or small my audience. I can include an equity clause, as Marvin and Deidra have taught me how to do; I can remember that I have influence as a speaker, and particularly when it comes to extended retreats or conferences, I can ask questions ahead of time. Who’s on your leadership team, before and during the event? Who’s going to be on stage, giving announcements? If it’s a Christian event, who’s going to be leading worship and afternoon activities? The who at the heart of this conversation matters, and sometimes it takes an outside eye to help others notice who’s not there. Additionally, if I can’t do an event, I can still make recommendations – and you’d better believe that those recommendations men and women, from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Because this representation matters.
This inclusion matters.
This equity matters.
And it’s not just about giving people a seat at the table, but it’s first about noticing who’s not at your table, and then not only giving them a seat, but also passing them the mic.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Two things: first, what would you add, particularly as it relates to YOUR life? Second, look for a board book giveaway on Instagram sometime this week – I’ve got a stack of children’s books, featuring children of color, that I can’t wait to pass along to one lucky reader. Watch for it and follow me there if you aren’t already!0