A subject frequently brought to my attention whenever I discuss issues of diversity and inclusion is that of responsibility.
For what perceptions or actions am I personally responsible? Is it my job to make sure people don’t see me as an “angry black woman,” or is it the responsibility of another individual to recognize biases as they occur and do their best to avoid letting such things cloud their decisions about me?
Is it a city’s job to create commissions to address specific community issues or is the burden on private citizens to bring every individual concern to our general government bodies, whether or not one exists, to address our specific needs?
There are many who may be answering these rhetorical questions with, “No, that’s not my job or the city’s, it’s yours!” Or maybe you’re answering just the opposite, that yes, it IS the city’s job to create bodies that are specific to issues and concerns, just as it is an individual’s responsibility to be aware enough of their own biases to try and act rationally despite them.
What if I told you that my answer to these questions was “All of the Above?”
I may not be able to control anyone’s perception of me, but I can absolutely make a conscious effort not to act in any way that might see me deposited into any stereotypical category as a woman of color. And I can absolutely be mindful of how my inherent biases — because we all have them — might attempt to impact the decisions I make, and balance my actions accordingly.
I absolutely can bring my concerns to the city council or mayor’s office as I have them — and I have — but the city also can absolutely meet me — and others who share similar concerns and needs — halfway with commissions that are tailored to meet those specific needs.
Grand Forks has done just that with our Youth Commission, and we’ve done it with our Blue Ribbon Commission on Social Infrastructure. Why should diversity and inclusion be any different?
Sometimes, it’s is all too easy to look at something and say, “That’s someone else’s job.” But I get it, sometimes there’s stuff that we just don’t have the ability to fix. But when the need is present and the resources are there, far better to look at the person next to you and ask “how could we share the load on this?” than to write it off altogether and walk away.
Grand Forks has promised to be a city that is a place of safety, affordability, health and engagement and of support for our youth. Diversity is part of that. And we’ve all got a role to play.