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No Weapons Allowed

We are having some absolutely glorious weather in Seattle. Well, I think so. While it is a bit hot for some, I am contentedly sitting on my porch listening to the birds chirp, with the dogs in their sunspots at my feet, and a light breeze softly drifting by my shoulders.

I have been thinking about an upcoming Inclusive Community workshop. This workshop focuses on inclusive practices, skills, and behaviors that strengthen relationships and create communities that honor the worth and value of every person.

I talk about inclusion a lot (you can't take the coach / facilitator out of the woman…) in both professional and everyday conversations. And when I do, there always comes a point where someone gets stuck on how to reconcile inclusion and boundaries: "I don't know how to include someone who is harming or excluding others." Or, "it isn't inclusive if I can't say or act on my beliefs."

Can you think of an example of a community, organization, or group where there aren't some sort of boundaries for behaviors? I can't. We have laws, rules, and expectations everywhere. Even the dictionary acknowledges that being inclusive is "aiming to include and integrate." The point being, we have long ago determined that, in shared spaces, there are still limits to how we get to act and behave towards one another.

I used to try to explain this by saying "inclusion has boundaries." This is true and that boundary is always when something we say or do violates the worth and value of another human being. That concept, however, seems a bit too ambiguous.

So I have come to explain it like this… you know those signs posted at schools, bars, and courthouses that inform the public that weapons are prohibited? They generally say something like "NOTICE: NO FIREARMS OR WEAPONS PERMITTED BY LAW ON PROPERTY," with the universal symbol of a red circle with a line through it crossing out a picture of various weapons.

THAT is how to think about inclusion.

Our communities, businesses, schools, and other places where groups of us come together are shared spaces. We all have the opportunity to be included but when we bring weapons that will cause damage to people, devalue people, and when we minimize the worth of the other people with whom we share that space, we lose our opportunity to be included until we forfeit our weapons.

Weapons to inclusion look like racism, homo/transphobia, ableism, sexism. Weapons to inclusion look like shaming, belittling, bullying, and harassment. Weapons to inclusion look like talking over people, refusing to listen, and maintaining biases.

Weapons to inclusion look like abuse of power and silence in the face of others' harm. Weapons to inclusion look like refusing to use someone's pronouns AND commenting on a social media post that Christians are stupid for believing God is real.

We all have weapons.

What is your weapon of choice? What weapon do you need to leave at home to make your community or organization an inclusive place that honors and values everyone in it? And, finally, what weapons do you and your community / organization need to make sure are clear on your NO WEAPONS PERMITTED sign?



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