Tuesday, June 20, 2006
One of the questions I ask people when they interview to join our organization is: What would a community be like that is inclusive of social justice and cultural issues?
I want people to just imagine what that would feel and be like -- to imagine that the issues, cultural backgrounds, and ways of life mattered all the time and influenced the process in which decisions are made and ways of being... and not just during a convenient month or on office diversity day.
Since we have very few examples of communities where these things do matter and are valued, I want my candidates to imagine... and be creative... and maybe think about what their role could be in creating such a community. Whether it's in my organization or their own when they leave my space.
For just a few, I get a blank stare. I imagine they're thinking, "What the eff is he asking? That's impossible."
For most, I get a nice smile, a sigh of relief, and the most wonderfully creative and ideal answers.
Some talk about they'd never feel un-safe around the men in their lives. Others talk about they'd feel affirmed and secure all the time. Some talk about that different opinions would be seen as adding to conversation, and not as something to be taken personally. Others talk about how everyone would want to add to, rather than take from, each other and that there'd be no need for competition.
I love the question. I love the responses. I love for people to imagine. And to walk away from the interview knowing that I ask because this is the type of space our organization thinks is important. Especially on a college campus. Teaching people different ways of leading might produce different types of leaders and results in the world.
The late author Octavia Butler talked a lot about imagining a world where hierarchies and competition around ethnicity and gender didn't exist. Great interview with Octavia Butler here.
I like reading Pearl Cleage's novels because her characters embrace many values of social justice and work to challenge current ways of being and doing. She has a great quote about "Imagining" at the top of Pearl Cleage website.
There are many others who inspire us to imagine. Who has influenced you to imagine? What do you imagine a world would be like that is inclusive of social justice and cultural issues?