Tag Archive for: Diversity

Looking through an Intersectional lens

We live in a world in which we are kept informed by streams of social media and 24-hour news. What’s more, often these posts are at most three or four sentences.


In these short postings we are often encouraged to react instantly to this information by using emojis: and the menu for reactions is often restricted to a small range of emojis – ♥️,  😡, 😢, 😮, 😝 or 👍.


No emoji for thinking, processing, considering or reflecting?


Because we are buying fewer physical newspapers, we are not allowing ourselves time to sit down and read longer editorial pieces – and we are not giving ourselves space to think, to process, and to inform ourselves in a measured, mindful way.  The effect of this can lead to our opinions being formed in what at times can be polarized ways.  When I read through comments, indeed, I’m often struck by how extremely polarized our opinions are and how lacking in diversity they can be.


What has happened to our empathy, and what has happened to our curiosity?


When I think about diversity, I often recall the words of the great Nobel Peace Prize Laureate John Hume:


“Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace – respect for diversity.”


When we think of diversity we often think in terms of a single characteristic.  How we differentiate people and how we populate our diversity can lead us to a world as described by Janet Stovall, in which “Diversity and Inclusion are not the same thing. Diversity is a numbers game. Inclusion is about impact”.  Of course, numbers/quotas are important to ensure that we are including all communities.  However, I believe that this is a more nuanced matter.


For us to embrace difference, we could start looking at each other in a much broader, holistic way – by recognising and embracing the remarkable diversity of humanity. When we see people not in terms of black or white but in terms of rainbows, we can appreciate all the magnificent, fascinating, and different characteristics that each and every one of us possesses.  And, of course, we can also see how the combination of these characteristics informs the perception of our identities.


I’ve heard of people being silenced or excluded because of one particular characteristic: for example “black”, ”pale”, “female”, “male”, “stale”, or “young”.


If we accept diversity as a given – “as the essence of humanity” – and consider it much more from the idea of intersectional characteristics, we might become more inclusive, more tolerant, less judgmental, and slower to decide based on one single characteristic.


These polarizing reactions which we see may reduce.  We might start to consider our reactions – which may well be driven by a bias we have towards the messenger rather than the message.


In a recent referendum in Ireland to change the Irish Constitution, I was surprised to hear people admit that they voted a certain way simply because they did not want to be in the same camp as a certain group (based on one characteristic).


Using an intersectional lens enables us to take more into account and to look at the human, not simply one label.


I look forward to the day when we will have a reaction on social media which signals “processing”, ”considering” or ”let me think about that for a while”. I wonder what that will look like!


And I look forward to the day when diversity is viewed as “the essence of humanity”.  As John Hume said “The answer to difference is to respect it”.