So I Heard You Want To Talk About Inclusion

There is a common need, which we all have. There is a basic sense that goes beyond the initial five senses, which are sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. We need a sense of purpose. We need to feel a sense of balance as well as a sense of belonging. We have a need to be included or involved; not to mention the need to be protected or the need to be right. We have a need to dream and a need to feel. We have a need to be wanted and desired as well as nurtured, valued, comforted and loved.

I have been listening to people scream for a better sense of competence and interpersonal cohesion. I have been listening to people call out for inclusion and declare the need for diversity.
Do you know about diversity?
Because when I say diversity, I mean diversity as in the state of being diverse. I mean this as in being all-inclusive and varied by race, belief, culture and creed. When I say diversity, I mean a fluid sense of cultural competence between us all.
This means we are all included and we are all equally valued. This means that my background cannot and should not exclude me nor should yours. Nor should your belief system or your upbringing, your accent or where you were raised. 

I have been listening to people preach about this and scream for change. And yet, I listen to them swarm in their cliques of people and challenge for the right to be as they are. I hear them demand to be who they are and to be included without being subjected to the standards of the common crowds. I have heard people protest the codes of a group or clique mentalities because of the pains of exclusion. At the same time, they lose sight of their irony because they too have formed a clique which is not all-inclusive.

I was part of an anti-bullying initiative. They were talking about what it feels like to be unpicked or excluded. And yet, I was excluded. I was not welcomed or embraced. Instead, the presentation came off as a challenge to see who could be more impactful.

My phone calls went unreturned. I was not invited to any pre-event discussions. I was only told that I would be the final speaker. Thus, as a means to create a sense of unity, I wanted to reach out to the other speakers to see if I could weave our presentations together for a stronger message. I let my inner weakling out. I let this part of me so that he could see this. I let my old senses of rejection and exclusion pick up the pieces. Then I allowed them one big voice, which in fairness, I set off like an explosion through the crowd. And BOOM!

In fact, I called this out in my dialogue. There we were, trying to preach for a change. We were talking about inclusion and giving people the right to be themselves. However, I was not the typical speaker. I was not what they expected and needless to say, I was not quiet or silent.
I was hardly welcomed by the other anti-bullying movements and the drug-free awareness associations, which was fine, which is why I decided to leave my mark as deeply as I did. This is why I exploded when it was my turn and in turn, the crowd welcomed me. The crowd joined my emotion. I was regarded and included by them and not the others who were part of the initiative.

And why is this? Why is there a competition?
Why is it that people want the spotlight or to have their initiative be the best or most regarded?
Why? Is helping people a competition?
Should it be?

One could say that perhaps I am equally guilty because my perception might have been inaccurate. My interpretation was that I was not welcomed in the group conversation. And when I tried to join or when I tried to be included and supportive, I was given that odd glance as of if to say, “Who the hell is this guy?”

I was lied to by one of the speakers, which was fine. I was hardly given a table; unlike the others that had planned the event without sharing this information with me. There are times when I challenge my assumptions and say perhaps this is in my head. However, my suspicions were confirmed before my stage time.
One could say that I took this personally. One could argue that I could have shown a different level of professionalism. But then again, I did the best I could at being “Me.”
And since we are screaming for inclusion and diversity then being me should have been perfect!

It’s strange to be bullied or pushed to the side at an anti-bullying initiative. It is strange to talk about tolerance and acceptance when yet, I was hardly included. I challenged them. I exposed what happened. I explained how this was no different than the power of the crowd in the classrooms. And this was the subject we were trying to change. We were trying to teach kids not to bully.

I am sure the mayor of the town had no clue what was coming when I stood in front of him. This was seconds before I took the crowd and said, “Watch this!”
I laugh now but safe to say, the mayor appeared concerned.

I allowed my inner-puniness to step out and expose what it felt like to be bullied or to be shoved aside. I explained that bullying is more than being picked on or kicked around. There are countless ways to shame someone or leave them to feel left out or unincluded. 
I have witnessed bullying in not-for-profit endeavors. I have seen corporate bullying at its finest. I have seen bullying in the playground and in the workplace. I have listened to people roar for a stronger sense of cultural competence, and yet, they are not competent themselves. 

There was a lesson my Old Man taught me when I was young. The lesson came from trouble in the classroom. Someone was being bullied. I was not the bully nor was I involved but I was there. In fact, I was named by the boy that was being bullied as someone that witnessed the event. Along with the others that witnessed this, I was called down for this and reprimanded by the principal.
Of course, this led to a phone call home. This led to The Old Man finding out and led to a punishment.
“But I wasn’t the one doing it,” is what I told The Old Man.
The Old Man asked, “Did you see what happened?”
“Yes”
“Did you do anything about it?”
“No.”
“Then you’re just as guilty.”

I know there are people out there with contempt in their heart. I know there are people that put on a great posture and they scream for change, and yet, they never notice how they defy this by contributing to the ignorance.

I know that I have my list of faults. I know that I have made several mistakes. I know that whatever punishment I have faced is just and it was equally deserved. It’s funny to me because I have grown since then. I listen to people scream for the right to give someone a second chance. And yet, they seem to see themselves as fit to judge who gets a second chance (and who doesn’t).

I don’t know if inclusion is real or possible. I don’t know if stigma will ever go away or if we judge too often. All I know is that no matter what or who includes us, we do have the right to be exactly as we are. This doesn’t mean people will like it. Or in my case, this doesn’t mean I will be invited back to speak with the same anti-bullying, drug-free initiative. But that’s fine. The truth is I didn’t fit there. And to be honest, I don’t want to be included in a place where I don’t fit.

I’d rather build my own stage. 
I think you’d like my stage. You would be welcome. You would be included. And you would be free to be exactly as you are. That’s what inclusion means to me.

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