Written By: Madeline Driban, JFS Marketing & Communications Specialist
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” -Audre Lorde
There has been an undeniable increase in prioritization of diversity and inclusion by community organizations and leaders; recent political activity and the rise in social equity movements have exacerbated the necessity of this focus by exposing the foundational, systemic inequities and forces of discrimination within institutions across our country. But “diversity and inclusion” is more than just a checklist item or buzzword to mention on social media—it is a concept encompassing on-going acceptance and respect. In those regards, there is a lot of work to be done to achieve a truly just, equitable society and the leadership to sustain it.
Valuing diversity and inclusion means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing our individual differences along dimensions of race, religion, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, or other ideologies. We must explore these differences to better understand each other and move beyond simple tolerance to embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. This requires a set of conscious practices which involve showing mutual respect for qualities, values, and experiences that differ from our own; recognizing how personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination create and maintain privileges for some and disadvantages for others; and building alliances across differences so we can work together in our pursuit of justice.
It is extremely important to support and protect diversity. By valuing individuals and groups free from prejudice, honoring our differences and strengths, and fostering an environment where equity and mutual respect are intrinsic, we will create a successful, collaborative, caring community free from discrimination. Sage writer and activist, Audre Lorde, has reiterated this many times—we must “take our differences and make them strengths…divide and conquer must become define and empower.”
As Delawareans continue to feel the impact of acts of violence and hatred—especially those resulting in the devastating losses of Black and Brown lives—JFS has joined the impassioned call for racial equity and justice for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). As an agency promoting the well-being of ALL people, we acknowledge the deep pain and anger of our colleagues, friends, family, and partners in these communities and will continue taking a stance on social justice issues.
JFS has always valued diversity, which is reflected in who we serve, who we hire, who we collaborate with, and what we do. Systemic injustices will not be resolved overnight and our commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within the internal and external practices, tone, and culture of JFS will be transformative and long-lasting. Sustainable change starts from within, which is why a diverse team of JFS staff members have formed a Diversity & Inclusion Committee to provide thoughtful direction and structure for the work we must do. Through ongoing dialogue, education, collaboration, and action we will carry out our goals to combat racial injustices in our agency offices and community at large.
We are working diligently to remove the barriers that impede progress and, while we understand there is much more to do, we are driven by the critical importance of this movement. It is not enough to merely accept or tolerate those who are different from us, we must celebrate what makes us different and find strength, joy, and meaning in our uniqueness.