Micro-inclusion: A small step to include someone

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

Since the origins of this country we have been embedded in a belief about the hierarchy of human value, a belief that some lives are more important than others. Two examples of this clearly expressed are racism and sexism. As long as this belief system persists, it will undermine democracy.  One way it shows up is as microaggressions, those little bitty acts that say to someone, “you don’t belong, you can’t be trusted, you’re less-than”. It’s a message a black man gets crossing the street in front of a car when people lock their doors. Or the catcalls a woman gets walking down the street. Brain scientists are teaching us that these types of aggressions are deeply wired in our brain and to change them we actually have to change the experiences that people have.

An antidote to microaggressions are micro-inclusions. These are little symbolic actions that force us to recall our humanity. They’re acts of humanity that signal to those at the margins they are included.


I remember one instance that I had of a micro-inclusion. I was in Nova Scotia with a Haitian friend of mine. We were sitting on the beach in a cove with nobody nearby. There was a  beautiful sailboat with three masts out in the water and a little dinghy on shore. All of a sudden a group of white people come down the shore and stopped to admire the boat. They turned to us and said, “is that your boat?” We looked at each other and cracked up laughing because in our experience of being in America, we would never be asked that question. But in this one instant, we were included as people who could be the owners of the boat.

We need to start practicing micro-inclusions as a nation, as a people, in order to create a mass of people who can bring in a new form of democracy. If we do that, this generation, this planet, ultimately all that we are, will be better. But we can’t get there without you.

For example, when you’re in conversation with friends and you have people whose first language isn’t English and you’re talking about deep subjects, why not turn to them and say, “Tell me first in the language in which you feel most eloquent. Know the answer deep inside yourself first and then worry about translating it to me.” This invitation lets them know that you are interested in them being able to speak first for themselves, and second for you.

For Big Democracy to work all types of new social norms and actions will need to be created to undo the damage of past exclusions and help us build a new social fabric to move forward.

Will you create a micro-inclusion today?

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