Into the Abyss

Diversity and equity are important topics in all aspects of American and global culture. Whether we all like it or not, we come to all situations in life with inherent biases, both implicit or explicit. Most recently, I’ve had the privilege of participating in two approaches with the objective of developing strategies for inclusion. The approaches were facilitated by two organizations from the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I’m pretty sure that they are not aware of each other, but I think that they could benefit from each other’s work. Their complementary approaches could help in bringing people even closer into the abyss, where we accept each other for who they are and meet them where they’re at, and our differences have no impact on how we relate to one another.

The National Equity Project workshop with colleagues from work helped us become mindful of the difference between equality and equity by not just defining the difference between the two terms, but by leveraging our own life experiences to help us personalize the learning. Equality means the same, and access to the same resources in life does not mean that they are the right ones for each of us. That is where equity comes in, as equity provides us with the resources we need to thrive as individuals. We learned more about the difference between equality and equity as we shared our life experiences that highlighted our differences. Those differences were cultural – socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and religious – differences that resulted in exclusion or the need to assimilate and change one owns culture.

The UC Berkeley Interactive Theater gave incoming graduate students a real-life experience of what equity and diversity is. They provided us with the opportunity to learn about the group members’ differences, share our own differences in pairs, and provided us with a scenario performed by actors, which we could then question and analyze. The performance highlighted the inequalities of the characters and the inequities that resulted. Ultimately, it gave us a preview of how our group work could play out as we prepare to learn together.

Both experiences were good, especially for the audiences that they were for. At work, we were able to get a deeper understanding of who we were working with, which made sense as we were already working together. For school, we were given an authentic understanding of who we would be working with and how we might be able to avoid pitfalls if we are mindful of equity as we work together.

As I watched the performance unfold in front of fellow students though, I couldn’t help but think of a meeting that I had the day before at work. It was almost too similar, and I think that my colleagues could have benefited from watching UC Berkeley Interactive Theater’s performance.

Also, as I shared my experiences with one of my fellow students, I wish we had been able to dive deeper into the conversations like my colleagues and I had been able to do during the National Equity Project workshop.

I mentioned the National Equity Project to one of the managers at the UC Berkeley Interactive Theater and he had not heard of it, but said that he would check it out. I also plan to mention the UC Berkeley Interactive Theater’s work to the folks at the National Equity Project. I hope that they end up finding each other and find a way to work together. They are both doing incredible work and are helping us understand diversity and equity, and supporting us as we make it into the abyss.