January 8, 2021
Amplify Inclusion Podcast
Welcome to Amplify Inclusion, a podcast where we share authentic stories of inclusion in action.
Evelyn & Risa join the host for a group chat focused on the benefits and challenges of using dialogue as a means for making positive change. Listen now or view the full transcript below.
This episode was produced by Aspire Inclusive Solutions and engineered, edited and mixed by Subframe Sound with music courtesy of Nealle DiPaolo.
Welcome to Amplify Inclusion. I’m Clare from Aspire. Thanks for joining us as we share real stories and conversations about the power and importance of disability inclusion.
Last time, we heard from Evelyn & Risa, two local leaders who shared their personal stories. In this episode, they join me again for a group discussion about the importance of using dialogue to advance inclusion, the challenges we may face in the process, and why it’s worth it.
So today I’m here with Evelyn and Risa. We’re going to engage in discussion about the power of dialogue so specifically as it relates to inclusive mindset, which I have talked to each of you about individually and I think you know examining the idea that mindset is foundational but more specifically that conversation can serve as a catalyst to furthering our mindset development. So, to dive in, to dive into the first question which is why is dialogue and conversation so critical?
I think that our dialogue today and just you know, echoing again is reflective of why dialogue is critical in in you know, an inclusive mindset because again, you know, how can I be inclusive if I don’t continue to have dialogue and discussion with people who have similar identities to me and have different identities to me.
So I think you know dialogue is everything. I think dialogue also can be like a starting point cause it’s like one thing right to have a conversation and it’s another thing to say what happens next? And so I think the worst that I do after a critical conversation, including this one, is really thinking about where and how I change what I’m thinking and what that means or how I continue doing what I’m thinking right? Cause sometimes change is needed, sometimes I just need a validation that I’m going in the right direction too.
No matter where you fall kind of on the spectrum of inclusive mindset- I can look in somebody’s eyes and
see them have that ‘aha moment’ from a conversation or a story that I tell. Or them dialoguing with their colleagues and peers and I just genuinely believe- genuinely believe that’s how we change and grow or that’s one of the ways is by taking other people’s perspectives and understanding, again, how different or similar it might be to yours, but how it shapes what you thought and how it can also change what you think.
Something that I’m thinking about now is one of the big questions which is- when is the time to have the conversation? Because I think that one of the things that many of us are grappling with, especially now as there’s so much more productive dialogue happening is thinking about the discomfort with certain topics
thinking about our personal fears about having certain conversations. And so I’d like to hear what you think about – when is the time, when is the place, is there ever not one? How do you think about your approach to kind of maximizing when a conversation can be utilized?
I don’t think there’s ever a moment when we can afford not to have these conversations. It’s always the right time to have this conversation. It’s always the right time to be uncomfortable, if that’s what it takes to have these conversations and to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And in those moments, no matter where we are and what we’re doing, it’s needed. So again, if you’re not already having them you’re late, but you’re not too late to never start. Never starting is not an option.
Yeah, I would agree, and as you asked the question, Clare, I was thinking the difference between me now and me thirty years ago when I may have been much more reluctant to engage if I didn’t feel like people were ready to listen. When I see something that I think needs to have a discussion around it, I’m going to
say it and have that that discussion. And I don’t really think any more about how uncomfortable I’m making somebody else because I think that that’s one of the ways that you grow, is to be uncomfortable and I think it’s important for people. This is the time to be uncomfortable. It’s time for everybody to be uncomfortable in order for us to have real change. And so yeah, I don’t think that there’s never not a right time. I think that there are as we call them in early childhood “teachable moments”, especially I think when you hear or see something that is so totally opposite of inclusive mindset.
Yeah, and there’s progress right in discomfort when we when notice it and use it in the right way. I think that’s something that requires a degree of flexibility to say- “Okay. This is a space that can be productive this this uncomfortable space” and I think that’s where there’s a barrier for a lot of people- is as soon as they feel that there’s a shutdown or there’s a defensiveness or a block. And it’s a matter of reframing and
seeing something that feels unpleasant as an opportunity. So I wonder if either of you have some strategies that you’ve developed – in terms of things you say or approaches you use that invite that conversation to be productive so that others don’t check out or shut down.
I think there are ways to do it that you know, and that’s probably another difference in myself twenty years ago and now- is I know better than to approach it in an angry kind of way. And so I think what I tend to do is to ask lots of questions, and especially lots of ‘why’ questions. Well, you know, why do you think that way? Or why shouldn’t someone be a part of something or a member of a certain group, simply
because they’re different from you? Whether you know, it’s a disability or gender or race or whatever it is, but asking lots of why questions of people and hopefully having them engage with themselves and really think about where those opinions may have come from.
Evelyn, I love the strategy of like asking questions. And then what I find valuable is saying: well I heard this, I felt this, I think this. So, is that what you intended? Is this where we are going? You know, taking liberties to share my own reflection in those statements and then asking a question for like checking and then going from there, and then it’s like well, maybe we shouldn’t really be doing this then, right, or maybe we need to do this thing over here. And I think I hear a lot of questions some people have like, how do I like be a good Ally? If I’m someone who is- not someone with a disability or if I am white or if I am cis gender like all of these you know, how do I be a good Ally? And I think a lot of these times and situation- sometimes in our example we just shared is also putting the emphasis on the person who is a minority in these situations to be the ones to speak up but these are totally situations in which if people really want to be a good Ally, they can also speak up and say “I’ve noticed this is just what’s happening?” You know, and asking those clarification questions. Because being a woman with a disability who is a Latin woman, I don’t always feel like I want to be the one to ask those questions. I will if no one else is but it shouldn’t be my responsibility alone. So it does get tiring to be that voice. It is my responsibility I feel like if I am at the table, you know, making decisions, but it could be a shared approach.
Oh, I cannot agree with you more. Frequently I think the part of the work that I’m doing now is helping folks who express a desire to be an ally, figure out that truly being an ally is you speaking up. And so yeah, I agree wholeheartedly that it’s not always my responsibility, you know as a black disabled woman to be able to be the one standing in those spaces. Sometimes as you said, Risa, it has to be me cause nobody else is going to step up or nobody else is stepping up. How can I be an ally? Is- you can do the work and not expect me to do it for you. And you can then take that message out.
Yeah, these are really great points. So we’ve established two things. The time is always and the people are everyone in terms of conversation. Right? Those are two key pieces. But I appreciate all those comments because something that’s always on my mind in trying to be a better ally for any Community, or population, or group, is one recognizing my privilege and the platforms that that brings me, the opportunities that brings me to create dialogue, to speak up, regardless of how comfortable I am with that. But one thing that I’m always having in the back of my mind is not wanting to speak on behalf of others, right? Because, what I’m hearing from you both is- there may be situations where well if no one’s else is going to do it, I have to be the one to do it again. And I think one thing I consider is – should I be the one or am I again consuming the space of someone else’s voice?
You talked about you not wanting to take up the space when there are other people there who you know, it’s their experiences, but sometimes the other people there don’t feel comfortable doing it without an invitation. So you can invite them by saying, you know, this is not my story. We have someone here who can do it. Would you mind? I don’t know that the majority of the world is perhaps as bold and insistent as Risa and I seem to be about stepping in. And so sometimes we need to invite people.
I think it is a- something that is needed to be navigated in each situation uniquely. So, you know, determining when to jump in, not jump, when to speak, and not speak. So I think it is the work of an ally in these situations to say- Am I talking first? Am I talking more than others? So it’s a balance and then I would also say like depending upon the situation, right, I’m envisioning, what we’re talking about to be like a boardroom or you know a committee and sometimes this conversation can be taken offline, if you will, and you know, I would encourage like a separate conversation, if someone is an ally and feeling like- I didn’t know what to do. Like maybe it would be like, hey Risa, you know in these meetings, should I step in or shouldn’t I? I will tell you- yeah! Get on in there! And then also like if I am talking, like don’t talk over me. But again, there’s so many variables to like a situation that I don’t think I can be prescriptive and say like each situation merits the same action the same strategy. I will like stand by my statement though that no matter what situation it is, we all have a part to play and the part to play can be a little different but it really involves all of us.
Yeah, these are really helpful ways to think about it. It’s going to depend on the setting and how you fit in at that moment. What your contribution can be to move the conversation forward. So, I think sometimes there are moments when people will say or express some incredibly alarming points of view or things and it’s very hard to control those emotions in the moment and also to be finding a productive path. So, I think
these are all really helpful ways to be thinking about that. We’re talking about some proactive strategies and I wonder if either of you can speak to moments when there’s very common or prevalent types of roadblocks.
I think that there are tons of roadblocks and challenges that come up in this in this work, in this conversation, that are probably not unique to different situations or different organizations. And I’m thinking of roadblocks that include like- well, we don’t have the money to do this, or we don’t have the expertise to do this, or we don’t have the people to do this, or this isn’t really relevant to our work. Or, where do we even start? Right, I mean, those are just some of the common questions that I’ve heard asked. To which all of those questions, I would say like any organization any individual can figure it out and you don’t need a huge budget and you don’t necessarily need more people – you start with what you have. And no matter what any of us do for work- no matter the mission of the organization- whether it be in the private sector, in a non-profit sector, in the public sector, somehow, we all connect to people. Somehow we all serve people whether as clients or in other capacities, participants, whatever it may be, so I would say any organization should be involved in this work. I can’t say that I have a magic trick of a strategy that I have pulled out for how to really meaningfully address this other than just trying to make clear – people with disabilities are part of every community. It’s not like we all live over here and we don’t interact with your public agency or that we don’t shop at your stores, or that we don’t work in your organization. So if we’re not looking at bringing disability into our diversity work, or inclusive mindset, our leadership development work, we’re leaving a whole lot of people behind. And we will not move forward, as a society as a whole- we will not reach our full potential as a whole if we are not intentional about bringing people with disabilities into our stream of work whatever that might be.
I was actually- when you asked the question, thinking about my work-work. Often it is professionals who who work with children with disabilities who where it’s the biggest roadblock. And sometimes it’s just because that’s what they were taught. They just need to see sometimes if there’s another way, you know, I have to say that I’m not thrilled with the pre-service education that a lot of folks get because you know as with a lot of things, you know, it’s rooted in what we did fifty years ago and not what we know now. So I think that that this comes right back to that having conversations again and being able to talk to people and show them that there are other ways and how those other ways might be more productive for everyone. But I also agree with everything that Risa said.
Yeah, hundred percent. And I – What both of you said makes me kind of think of this idea of unlearning things that we have been taught or the way, we have experienced or maybe had very little experience with others that are unlike ourselves, whether that’s all of the areas, we’ve talked about disability, race gender. How can we go even further back and think about that unlearning piece? What could be different if we all had that type of exposure to this dialogue earlier on in life?
I think about my children who are in their twenties and thirties now and their whole mindset is so totally different. I mean, it’s nothing to them to include people with disabilities because they had been included in everything that they did all of their lives. They were part of everything. And so I, part of me really believes that the younger we can do it and the more we can do it eventually, although I don’t think we have till eventually to wait, but I think that eventually it will get there because I can just see so clearly the difference – teenagers now, they are even more accepting of differences and of it being a natural part of the fabric of our society and no big deal.
Evelyn, I love that answer because I was thinking along the same lines you were of- for me I am part of that ADA generation and I know my growing up was different than the generation before me and it’s also different than the current generation because it was like right on the edge. There’s been so much improvement in the last twenty or thirty years, but there’s still so much more to go. So even though we’ve been more integrated, we’re still pretty separate. And we’re lacking conversations that are intersectional. So, you know, I am seeing an increase in these conversations happening more regularly with all generations including our young ones and I think it’s great and I think it’s going to continue to influence and change our trajectory. Because the younger we are, I feel like, that we have the expectation of real inclusion and what that means, the more it will be demanded and I can’t wait for that to happen. It’s a long way off- it’s not going to happen overnight and certainly every generation, I think, is moving more and more toward the expectation and the demand.
Yeah. I think you’re right. I am excited, now when I look at kind of the social justice mindset that you know, the younger generations have about things not being right and why aren’t they right? And we need to fix them. Period. That was funny that you said that, Risa, about being like on the edge of the ADA generation. I feel that way about the Civil Rights generation, cause I grew up, you know, not in the middle of the marches they had happened and you know voters rights had been passed- but it was still a sticky weird kind of time. So I can definitely relate to what you’re saying there. And yes, I just think that it gives me a lot
of hope because I think that they’re not willing to wait for things to change and for the old people to change things for them.
And if I can just jump in with one more thought. Evelyn, I love that you brought up like social justice because I feel like you know, we’ve been talking about it without actually saying it so far. But you know, the inclusion mindset is where we’re going. But really where we are actually going is a more social justice framework. And I think that’s also a reflection of the demand that our collective generations, our younger generations are bringing into their work.
If we could frame it in terms of advice for others while also integrating, you know, obviously your own experiences. What does it feel like for each of you in the moment? What strategies what self-talk what things can we use to motivate ourselves to move through these conversations?
So I will just have to say in confess that you know part of this whole living life with ADHD is emotional dysregulation, you know, and we’re learning more and more about that. So personally and I think that it is helpful for anybody – is to really think more and more about mindfulness and trying to stay in the moment. And you know, I talked about asking questions. Well, I need to ask myself questions too- like what is making you flip out like this about this and let’s take a deep breath and count to 10 and think about you know right now where we are and- and is getting angry going to change anything? Is crying going to change anything? Or what proactive kind of things can we do to make a difference? I don’t want to make it sound like I’ve been that zen for 30 years cause I have not- it took me a while to get there. But I do have to say that for me personally, just being aware that I have a low tolerance for a lot of things and being able to deal with it through mindfulness and staying in the moment and really thinking about what results I want to see has helped for me.
For me, I’m still figuring it out. I don’t know, you know. I get so ready at work and this is a moment where we’re all definitely feeling tons of emotion, daily that we are living through a pandemic on top of everything else and so nothing is normal in our world right now. And I think just, for me trying to remember to give myself grace in recognizing that and not expecting that I’m going to be perfect every day. It’s a work in progress. And I think it is also powerful for me to be able to like get angry but not act angry, you know, and to be ready and to fight. Because I feel like a lot of the times it is a fight. So, those are my thoughts, I’m still learning. Welcome any mindfulness strategies that might be out there.
Yeah, and those are usually a good cue that this is the time to speak up. It’s a matter of how we frame that in a productive way. So I would like to kind of start closing us out by asking each of you what this conversation between the three of us has brought up for you? What takeaways do you each have from this experience?
Clare, thank you so much for inviting me to have this conversation with you and Evelyn. A few takeaways for me, one, I feel like sometimes I don’t talk about what I do and, you know like my strategy is just do it-
but I have found it helpful to talk about it and to hear your experiences, Evelyn, too. You know, I feel like sometimes we just do the work without taking a moment to really think about it. I said earlier, sometimes you just need validation you know, and I so appreciate, like all of us just being like yeah, now is the time to have this conversation and if you’re not, get on it! You know, I think it’s good to hear that. And just another thing is no one has figured it all out. We are all figuring it out together and it is a journey and clearly we haven’t figured it all out because we haven’t met our goals yet, but it’s good to know that there’s many people on the journey with us.
Yeah, that validation sticks out for me because I agree. I don’t think we have these conversations with other people in this kind of space. We’re thinking about our work all the time, but it’s usually in a kind of problem solving, what are we doing the work. And not a chance to really reflect and so, I’m appreciating the opportunity to actually reflect on how I’ve grown and how things have changed and to get other perspectives. Like I said, you know, just listening to Risa talk about what an inclusive mindset meant to her made me kind of rethink and reframe some of that and then put it in a different perspective. So, really the biggest thing is that we need to have these conversations with each other as much as we need them with other people because we feel even more isolated than we may have before and so to know that we’re not on this journey alone, that there are other people that may be doing it in a different way or with, you know, different populations or whatever it is. But you know, we all have the same ultimate goal and we can support each other.
Yeah, thank you for saying that cause I think something that we all expressed is that doing the work is really exhausting too, and even more so when you feel that you are being the voice or have always had to be the voice for a certain marginalized population. And feeling that it’s time for others to share to share in that fight, you know, which is something that you both sort of expressed. So I think you’re right that just motivating, lifting each other up, acknowledging the exhaustion and the challenges that come from that is a big part of it. And I want to thank you both because you were incredibly open and sharing your personal stories with me individually and being open to thinking critically about how others can kind of start to adopt or be more reflective about their own inclusive mindset. This conversation was so useful to me, personally, this whole process was so thank you both for helping me to grow through this experience and I think that others hearing our conversation and the learnings and your perspectives will hopefully inspire others to do some more of that personal reflection and thinking about how they can take action and hopefully help others to start growing as well. So thank you so much for being a part of it.
Well, thank you for inviting us. It was great.
Thank you, yes!
I’d like to thank Evelyn and Risa for sharing their time and insights with us. Join us next time as we meet two new guests focusing on greater accessibility in arts and culture. Until then, stay connected with us at aspirechicago.com – and be a part of the inclusive movement by rating and subscribing to Amplify
Inclusion. Thanks for joining us! This episode was produced by the Inclusive Solutions team and co produced and engineered by Subframe Sound.
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