A Conversation About Respect, Compassion, Kindness, and Inclusion
Written By: Christy S. Renjilian
Diversity. Equity. And inclusion.
You’ve heard the words, and you may even be working hard to promote them in your community. In your circle.
You know it’s important work, essential work, both for yourself and for your organization.
And you know, to your core, that racism, discrimination, and intolerance are not acceptable.
In a year filled with hate and oppression, you could have taken the easy road, sitting back and staying quiet. But you’re focused on self-reflection and self-awareness. Because a change in your organization starts with you.
It’s about asking how can I and my organization be better? Better individually, and better collectively? How can we be sure that we’re being respectful, kind, and compassionate? How can we work to improve our understanding, our acceptance, and our approach?
Here are three things that Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC), a nonprofit organization serving a diverse region in south-central Pennsylvania, have embraced. And you can, too.
Acknowledge Your Implicit Bias
It’s essential you recognize implicit bias in yourself. And really acknowledge it. Talk about it. And explore it.
CCC partnered with Dr. Jessica Spradley, co-founder and lead consultant with Care Based Leadership, LLC, for a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion workshops. This was the first step in our three-year intensive work on diversity, equity, and inclusion; funded by the Donley Foundation.
And it starts with an understanding of bias, as shared by Dr. Spradley; its definition, a tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone.
Dr. Spradley noted that all bias is not bad. It is most often implicit bias, or the things we don’t acknowledge we believe, that becomes harmful in our interactions with other people.
Consider your own life. Do you ever question why you made decisions?
Most often we just say it is intuition or comfort, but bias plays a huge part. It is easy to acknowledge bias when you feel it is inconsequential. The work begins when we move into the spaces that push us beyond our comfort zone.
The work gets hard when we reflect on what we were taught by our family, friends, teachers, faith communities, and other organizations we are a part of. It takes personal reflection and strength to change our beliefs, influence our organizations, and have a positive impact on our community.
It’s up to you, and me, to do the deep work of becoming aware of our biases – especially when we don’t think we have any – and work to eliminate them.
As a white person, I have privileges based solely on the color of my skin. And this is true even though I’m not a wealthy person and have faced other challenges in my life. White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard. It means your life hasn’t been made harder because of the color of your skin.
CCC is on a journey. We are committed to addressing all areas that can help us improve our capacity to ensure everyone is welcome here.
With a deeper awareness, what are you going to do to bring about a more accepting, inclusive, and respectful community?
Prioritize Appreciation, Acceptance, and Value
The team at CCC wants you to feel appreciated, welcomed, and valued – as a colleague, a client, a partner, a provider; as a human being. We started with a confidential culture and climate survey of our staff that we used to guide our diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
“Allow people to be people, to be human. Commit to caring for each other and your diverse clients at a deep level daily.”
– Dr. Jessica Spradley, Care Based Leadership, LLC
Something the team agreed to early in our diversity, equity, and inclusion work, was to be open, and to listen, really listen to the life experiences of those around us.
There’s power in understanding. You are on your own journey, moving at your own pace. Add to that your organization is on a journey, deciding collectively how to continue to grow, to improve, and to identify where it falls short.
Because everyone falls short. Individually and collectively. Each person, each human has intentionally or unintentionally said things that hurt others.
So we strive to do better. We know we can and will do better, for ourselves, for our clients, and the communities we serve. And you know it, too.
It’s about growth, individual growth, and growth as an agency.
It’s about appreciating each other, the struggles, the challenges, and the opportunities. And it’s about fostering a welcoming culture.
To continue our growth journey, and really do the work to strengthen our culture, CCC formed an Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Committee. It’s volunteer. And 20% of the staff participates.
The committee has written a mission, vision, and values statement to guide their work. And is crafting an organization position statement that will be adopted by CCC staff and Board of Directors. They’ll also review our workspace, documents, policies and procedures, everything we do, to ensure we are being respectful, equitable, and inclusive.
In years two and three of our work, we will share the lessons we learned with early childhood education programs and community partners. We will provide workshops, community conversations, and opportunities for them to review and develop their own policies and procedures.
It’s important to us to be a catalyst for change. Because research shows that children of color, particularly Black boys, are more likely to be suspended or expelled from childcare programs. This is true regardless of the ethnicity or race of their teacher. These boys are statistically more likely to end up expelled in the K -12 system and end up in the juvenile justice or prison system.
And it can be traced back to how they are included – or not – in their early learning experiences. When I heard these stats, I knew I had to do something. And as the agency whose mission is to improve childcare programs, and ensure every child has high-quality care, so they can be successful in school and life, so did CCC. And to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the childcare field, we had to do the internal work first.
We are committed. The goal is to ensure that every child, every family, every staff person served by our partners is valued and included.
Commit, and Recommit, to a Goal of Respect
Look, it’s not an expectation that we will all think the same, or have the same beliefs.
It’s about committing to a goal of respect, and having grace with each other as you reflect and grow in real-time.
Biases exist in many forms, from race, ethnicity, and sexual identities – LGBTQ+, to socio-economic differences, cultural differences, and regional differences.
And those biases are formed through a lens of the experiences, trauma, and influences you’ve had in your life.
You’ve seen some things. And experienced things that have shaped and molded who you are today. Some for the better and some, honestly, for the worse. But we can all grow, learn, and change.
This work is not about making you or me feel bad, it’s not about labels or politics – it’s about a commitment to yourself and each other.
A commitment to participate in the conversation, to be your authentic self, and to learn from others.
When I came to this community 20 years ago, with my husband and kids, we had a life-changing experience. Days after arriving, tucked in our newspaper we found hate literature inviting us to a KKK rally. A KKK rally. Two days later, my husband and I, along with our three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, were in Continental Square – protesting.
We took a hard stand, and we continue to do so. Racism, discrimination, and intolerance are not acceptable. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
It is my hope, deep commitment, and sincere expectation that I and all of us do the hard work of personal reflection, checking our internal dialogue honestly. And that we commit and recommit, to the goals of respect, compassion, kindness, inclusion, equity, and antiracism.
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is an inclusive nonprofit. Its mission is to ensure that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care choices that lead to success in school and life. All families.
CCC strives to be an effective, authentic ally and advocate, providing opportunities for meaningful interactions and input from those we serve.
In 2020, CCC was awarded a three-year grant from the Donley Foundation to focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues, both internally and externally. CCC is committed to meaningful reflection and change. This grant is helping them live up to their aspirations of mutual respect, service to others, and compassion here in the central Pennsylvania region.
Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.
To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.
About Care Based Leadership, LLC
Care Based Leadership, LLC supports organizations by providing inclusion and diversity training, cultural analysis, and other relevant talent development services.
Its co-founders, Jessica and Paul Spradley, are committed to caring for rather than caring about historically marginalized people.
Together, they work to increase the capacity of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a unique way for each of their clients and contribute to the growth of businesses, organizations, and educators all over the world.
For more information, visit carebasedleadership.org.