On Monday January 21st, the United States inaugurated Barack Obama for a second term as president. He is the first person of a racial minority to be elected into the role’s 225 year old history. That same day also celebrates the historic life and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose bible was used to swear in President Obama.

Keeping in stride with his path of firsts, the president chose to use his speech to solidify his evolved position on dignity and equality, matching Dr. King’s “Dream”.

As I listened to the president’s specific calls for gender equality and LGBT social justice, an unexpected thought passed like a cloud in my mind’s eye, subtly nudging me toward a connection: that on Sunday, January the 27th – less than a week from the inauguration – we will mark the UN’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

At first, I was taken aback by the thought, a bit overwhelmed even. In North America, we have certainly seen historic discrimination-based violence, laws, and societal actions in our communities. My view is that the Holocaust stands as one of the untouchable poles of inhumanities; one of the Earth’s lifetime of lessons.

That’s when the connection hit me: that it goes beyond the fact that oppression, levied in any degree, is still oppression.

We must constantly acknowledge not only the oppression itself, but just how far we have come as a global community when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

The social media sector dedicated to diversity will frequently have an article that will pass by, insinuating that diversity education is a waste of time, and that it only leads to more discrimination. Yet the examples that are often given to make the case only point to poor education practices, not to the ineffectiveness of diversity and inclusion.

So to those bloggers and diversity doubters, I ask that you look at this progression of time between the Holocaust, whose victims we commemorate this Sunday, to the very fact that we have an inspirational African-American leader in one of the most powerful global leadership positions using his voice to champion human rights. Voted in on a day historically set to celebrate one of the greatest civil rights leaders we have ever known.

I adamantly stand by the work we do as diversity professionals seeking to create positive change within our global workforces, and that our work plays a hand in guiding the progression forward.

As a general practice, we all must seek employment to sustain our lives. This offers us new opportunities to meet, work alongside and learn to understand that the world consists of people built on endless possibilities.

We spend more than half of our lives if not more engaged in work. By learning to communicate and grow comfortable with one another’s existence while working, it leads to expanded thinking outside of the workplace. It leads us to trust difference, rather than fear or oppress it.

I leave you with the thought to constantly examine your progression, your family’s progression, your community’s progression. Then ask yourself what you are doing to help guide that progression in a positive direction.

As I finished this blog, I popped on the television, and a program my son was watching came on. To my pleasant surprise, it was a recording of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Phillip Glass’ “Satyagraha”.

I’ll let you go on your own journey of reading up on Satyagraha(the opera)‘s characters, plot, staging, and serendipitous connection to my blog. 

“A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.” – Mahatma Gandhi

about the author - Elaine


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