The Fallacy of Inclusion

Inclusion is a big word in our politics nowadays. It sounds good. People want others included in their groups, organizations, affiliations, parties, and movements.

Inclusion goes a long way to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, and to acknowledge that they matter and have value. For generations people across racial, class, sexual orientation, gender, and cultural lines have fought to be seen and recognized in this country claiming to be a melting pot.

There is a rising tide of criticism from the majority, specifically and predominantly white males (Anglo Saxons to be specific) for whom this country was built, that we are engaging in identity politics, which is interesting because people were oppressed as groups from the country’s founding – Native Americans, Africans, Irish, Chinese, women, gays, and so on.

Their claim is now that we allegedly have equal rights for all people, there is no need for groups to demand special treatment. They reject the notion that any particular group needs specific legislation to ensure they are not discriminated against.

They believe it is about the individual, that we need to comport and judge each other solely on that basis, and that there is no longer any form of discrimination that holds us back from achieving our dreams and fulfilling our destiny.

Which is interesting, because they omit the historic move from overt to covert discrimination post-Civil Rights era legislation. Therefore, it is more difficult to prove disparate treatment based on intent. So the argument is that if there are not prima facie cases of discrimination, it simply does not exist.

But discrimination and advancement are two separate situations. There are cases where persons have not advanced because of discrimination, but many have advanced despite it. That does not mean discrimination does not exist, and that persons have not been subjected to such because they belong to a particular group.

Ironically, people like Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro have themselves cultivated a group to advance the ideas of individual freedom and liberty to the exclusion of group sociopolitical economic dynamics.

They are of the notion that you can have a healthy robust dialogue about these issues that does not descend into name calling and emotional diatribe, and call for debates based on facts not feelings. That in of itself on the surface is good and non-toxic. But there is a sense of undergirding of invalidation and revisionist history that simply does not work.

Moreover, it appears that those who are advancing the notion of the individual over the group have not been active in movement building. In fact, it is my experience that those whom have the most to contrary things to say about movements, have not engaged in any levels of fundamental grassroots activism. This is not to invalidate their ideas, for everyone has a role to play. I believe however that those who have not had any skin in the game should temper their remarks accordingly.

There are always going to be irrational actors across the spectrum who ignore the facts to hype their own agendas, some of whom I worked with over years, so I have firsthand experience. They do not represent, and are not the majority of those who are seeking to create a more perfect union, one beyond the vision of the Anglo Saxon founding fathers who owned slaves and cleared out the Native Americans for their frontier ideals of Manifest Destiny.

So inclusion is critical for the progression and uplift of a society, and any group that has been marginalized and oppressed must be made whole. But herein lies the problem.

Every social justice movement in this country has had a gross element of exclusion, despite their mission being to serve those who have been excluded.

Many social justice, nonprofit and other such organizations dedicated to assisting and advocating for social justice have been majority white, many of whom ironically on the surface to fight for the poor, working class, and people of color.

What is missing are those said folks in leadership and decision making positions, in front of the camera, sitting on panel discussions, being the voices, and earning lucrative salaries. When it is brought to the attention of the powers that be in these positions, the common retort is, “we want to include you.”

That sounds good, but the underlying question is, why were we excluded from the beginning?

Is it intentional or unintentional? It is a sphere of influence issue, where the majority white folks are reaching out to those with whom they have worked? Why aren’t they assiduously seeking a diversity of leadership? How can they claim to be about fighting for social justice, and having only, or mostly them in the room?

Furthermore, the people that head organizations that are for, by, and about them struggling mightily to gain political and economic leverage. Often they are ignored, lambasted, and if they are given funding, it is palsy. Only if they change the complexion of their leadership, the entire dynamic shifts.

Some would argue that whites have an advantage because they are able to get funding, favors, services, and a seat at the table where people of color could not. In other words, having a significant segment white faces fronting the organization dramatically improves the chances for success.

Then how do we ensure that black, brown, red, yellow, poor and working class voices are leading and representing? Over 25 years after Shirley Chisholm spoke about having a seat at the table to accomplish this, we are at this question.

That is the fallacy of inclusion, that the push for inclusion creates more exclusion.

Ron Kipling Williams