As we all work to be inclusive and respectful, we don’t always know what to do. Here is a non-exhaustive guide to help each of us in our quest to embody our ideals.
Here are some tips on how to be inclusive of the disability community:
- Identify yourself by name before speaking. Not only is this helpful for persons with visual and auditory disabilities to identify who is speaking in conferences with larger groups, it also helps captioners.
- Speak clearly and slowly at a medium volume.
- “Handicapped” has a negative connotation. Instead use “person with a disability.”
- People with disabilities are not “suffering” or “struggling.” They may be managing and/or celebrating their symptoms and diagnosis. Suffering is optional, and subjective.
- Terms like “physically challenged” and “differently-abled” can be patronizing. If appropriate, note that a person has a physical, sensory, or mental impairment and leave it at that.
- Use “person-first” labels to ensure that people are not labeled with their disability (“person with a disability” instead of “disabled person” or “person who uses a wheelchair” instead of “wheelchair-bound”).
- Remember, people without disabilities are not “normal.” That implies that people with disabilities are “abnormal.”
- When introduced to a person with a disability, it is polite to shake hands. Most people with limited use of their hands, or artificial limbs, can shake hands. If you are not sure, let the other person make the first move or ask.
- Do not be embarrassed to offer to help someone with a disability, but wait until the offer is accepted and instructions are given before proceeding. Be gracious if your offer to assist is declined.
- To get a deaf person’s attention, touch the person lightly, wave your hand, or use some other physical sign. If an interpreter is being used, speak directly to the deaf person rather than to the interpreter.
- When meeting someone with a severe visual impairment, identify yourself and introduce anyone else who is present. Before trying to shake hands, say something like “shall we shake hands?” or reach for the other person’s extended hand.
- If walking from one location to another, offer your arm as a guide and alert the person to any obstacles such as steps, curbs, or low arches.
Racialized Communities Inclusion
Racism, antiBlackness and Indigenous erasure exist so commonly in our lives that even the most politically conscious individuals can perpetuate harm. Here are some tips on how to be an ally:
- Assume BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)/Sunkissed people are not available to teach you about their cultures, struggles and experiences without payment.
- Remember that everything we are doing is on stolen land and these imposed borders hold thousands of distinct Indigenous nations.
- The Indigneous peoples whose land we occupy are still here. They and their cultures are not props, mascots or novelties.
- All people who are not white do not have the same experiences, struggles and histories. Do not lump BIPOC/Sunkissed peoples into a grouping and do not use the positions of one person to challenge the position of another.
- While efforts to overcome the challenges of oppression across communities are real, it is important to understand that all communities can perpetuate antiBlackness, including nonBlack POC.
- Racism is embedded in our culture and not always easy to discern. If someone points out your racist behavior, stay calm and listen. Examine your behavior and identify solutions, rather than defending yourself and your actions.
- Respecting boundaries is important. Ask people if they want to be touched or interacted with before doing so. This includes clothes, hair and possessions.
- Don’t assume the culture of other groups by speaking like them or engaging in behavior that is not natural to you.
- Accept discomfort. Equality feels like oppression to those who have lived with privilege.
- Accept exclusion. As people from BIPOC/Sunkissed communities have been and continue to be disempowered in our systems, they can experience harm in white-centered environments and may need to be away from those who have been closer to the power.
- If you see racism, counter it. Step in and carry as much of that burden as you can.
- Recognize that you may not recognize and understand terms, behaviors and approaches of people from other cultures. When you see people engaging in and enjoying things that are culturally different from you, don’t gawk. Other’s cultures are NOT a source of entertainment.
- Respect that people experience different levels of oppression based on their intersectional identities. We do not have to compare oppressions to learn from the plights of others.
Transgender & Gender Nonbinary Inclusion
Do not assume anyone’s gender, even people you may have met in the past. A person’s external appearance may not match their internal gender identity. Pay attention to a person’s purposeful gender expression. It’s polite to ask: “What is your name and pronouns?” before assuming and using pronouns or gendered words. And when you learn pronouns, make sure to use them every time. When addressing or speaking about a group, use gender inclusive language like folks, y’all, everyone or guests instead of gendered terms such as you guys or ladies and gentlemen.
One way of acknowledging transgender and gender nonbinary people’s needs is to designate restrooms as gender neutral. In bathrooms, many transgender and gender nonbinary people face harassment, so please let everyone pee in peace regardless of whether or not they are in a gender neutral bathroom.
Listen respectfully to transgender and gender nonbinary people’s stories if they are volunteered, but please don’t ask unnecessary questions. Respectful allies who learn from and with transgender and gender nonbinary people and then educate others are important for successful transgender and gender nonbinary liberation.
Bi/Pan/Fluid/Queer (Bi+) Inclusion
Being openly supportive of the bi+ community creates a space where we can all be our full selves. Here are some pointers on being an ally:
- Use inclusive language. Instead of “gay rights” or “gay marriage” try “equal rights” and “marriage equality.”
- Respect people’s privacy and boundaries. Accept you might never fully understand someone else’s sexuality.
- Sexualities outside the exclusively homosexual/heterosexual binary are often erased and delegitimized, so bi/pan/fluid/queer people usually have to repeatedly come out. Many face similar discrimination as gays and lesbians with regard to issues like job security and healthcare.
- Do not insist that a gender non-conforming/trans person or their partners discard their identity label.
- Recognize that the way specific relationships function is independent of sexual orientation. Be positive about all relationships—monogamous, polyamorous, or anything else.
Thanks to Faith Cheltenham and BiNET USA, the National LGBTQ Task Force, UltraViolet, Liberty Resources, and BluWomyn Company for their help in developing and updating these guidelines.
GLOSSARY OF A FEW SIGNIFICANT TERMS
Racism: racial prejudice plus power
Reverse Racism: a term of white fragility used to assert that anti-white prejudice has the impact on white people that racism has on BIPOC people. This is a false phenomenon that cannot exist. The term ignores the significance of systemic oppression and violence that is inherent in racism.
Anti-Blackness: a systemic aversion to Black people and Blackness as constructed through a white supremacist lens (BYP100)
Anti-Black Racism: the unique discrimination, violence and harms imposed on and impacting Black people specifically (Black Lives Matter)
BIPOC: an acronym for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color that centers Black & Indigenous people and recognizes that they have historically bore and currently are bearing the brunt of state-based violence and oppression.
Sunkissed: a way to reference BIPOC people that does not center whiteness or colonization (YahNé Ndgo)
Misogyny: the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls (Merriam-Webster)
Misogynoir: misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias (Moya Bailey)
Mansplaining: when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does (Merriam-Webster)
Whitesplaining: when a white person talks condescendingly to someone (especially a non-white person) about something they have incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that they know more about it than the person they’re talking to does (Merriam-Webster)
Intersectionality: the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, and how they create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage (Kimberlé Crenshaw)