There was a time when we were told to never cross the big lines by discussing politics, religion or sex. And you certainly do not discuss any of these topics in the business world. These lines are now more permeable and amorphous.
Business owners have a social responsibility to practice inclusivity, by emphasizing a serving morale before promoting self-interests.
With recognition comes responsibility.
I was named June Trainer of the Month by Personal Fitness Professionals and as a small business owner, I have a social justice obligation to actively participate in conversations, listen to marginalized groups and maintain a commitment to thriving for members of underrepresented groups. I am one small business owner committed to strengthening the health and wellbeing of people ages 65 and greater. My business, being committed to health and wellbeing, is collaborating with the Tacoma Rainbow Center, an LGBT resource center in downtown Tacoma, Washington, to organize the first 5K walk and run event in combination with other Pride day festivities.
After posting an event reminder for the Tacoma, Washington Pride’s inaugural 5K on my public business Facebook page, I received the following targeted personal text message on my business phone from a current participant:
Disappointed with your choice of sponsorship. It is one thing to tolerate. It is another to celebrate. I will not participate in your “Stride” event or further activities with Silver Linings.
I once heard an interview with the Dali Lama who discussed the value of others’ perspectives of another human. He said, “Different people describe me in different ways. Some describe me as the living Buddha. Nonsense. Some describe me as ‘God-king.’ Nonsense. Some consider me as a demon or a wolf in Buddhist robes. That also, I think nonsense. I am simply just one monk.”
I try to live the middle way – with myself and others, thriving somewhere between indulgence and asceticism. I am not always successful. Yet, I do not waver on my dedication to human harmony. Toleration exists on a continuum with acceptance, appreciation and celebration.
I am filled with sadness to learn that someone is in so much pain. Pain to the extent that they espouse what could be perceived as speech that is exclusionary, hateful and disrespectful. I am so sorry you are hurting.
We are richer as a nation as a direct result of our amalgamation of ideas, perspectives and cultural backgrounds. There are countless references from history to science to medicine that emphasize the importance of kindness. We may not always speak, listen, or operate from a point of compassion. We do have an obligation to try though. When we learn that more than 8 million Americans are closeted at work – feeling uncomfortable, excluded and not contributing fully – we can begin a conversation with our colleagues and listen. Reassure them they are safe. We each are valuable. Listen, this is the equivalent of the entire states of Louisiana and Kentucky or South Carolina and Alabama being excluded from politics. How do we gain as a nation by closing off opportunities to some? It’s heart wrenching to here we are eliminating what could be brilliant ideas.
The number of U.S. military service members discharged between World War II and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) is the equivalent to one quarter of the total number of people employed in elected offices in the U.S. government. How kind or tenderhearted would it be if we said, “Yep, you are obsolete. We don’t want you.” This is not very kind or tenderhearted. There must be another way of living.
We are stifling our economic growth potential as a nation by excluding some members of the eligible working population. Rather than creating a breeding ground for discrimination, injustice and hatred, when we respect diversity, we are taking a step toward a more inclusive, productive and thriving America. We need responsible leadership, beginning with small business owners collaborating on causes vital to an economically strong and productive America. Anything short of this is destructive, divisive and distractive.
I learned an important lesson today while listening to a man on the radio. Patrick Haggerty, lead singer and songwriter of Lavender Country, shared a lesson he learned from his dad who suggested that he should never sneak in life. Rather, he advised his son, you should always act in ways you are proud of.
To the speaker of the afore mentioned hurtful words: I forgive you. I am sorry somewhere along your path you were informed that businesses who practice inclusive policies should be demonized. Do you forgive yourself?
And now, in what ways will you act that you are proud of? How will you aim to be more inclusive?