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Diversity check

Please remove your house colors for a moment and let go of your pre-judgement about the word diversity.

A diversity check is the moment when you look something over you have done, such as a presentation/talk, documentation, writing a blog post or an email, where you must think, “Did I just write this for people only like me, or does it make sense to a diverse audience?  Will a diverse audience find offense where it is not intended?  Will I turn away people I want to attract and keep around?”

As an example, imagine if you were trying to build morale in a group and you wrote, “Cheer up!  Put a smile on your face!  We’ll make it through these tough times together.”  As the optimistic extrovert I am painting you as in this example, this advice makes sense to you.  You find that putting good cheer on your face helps you be brave for tough experiences.  You consider it important to simply trust that we’ll survive and thrive.  But do you know how many of your audience feel the same way as you do?  Do you know how your words are affecting them?

What is your goal, in this example?  Are you trying to bring up the group’s morale or trying to make the world be like you?  Uh, what did I just ask?

If you want to raise morale, you need to address all of your audience.  Some people are tired of being told to put a smile on their face they don’t feel in their heart.  Some feel treated as if they were children or idiots or as if their experiences and feelings are being ignored.  Some people only feel comfort when they have updated and accurate facts.  Some raise their morale with their circle of friends by sharing and recounting negative experiences.

The phrase catching me recently, one where I’ve been writing around and around it, is the admonition, “Be bold,” as in this paragraph from the page telling how to write on the Fedora Project wiki:

Be bold while editing changes. Wiki changes are tracked and can be reverted when necessary. This doesn’t mean you should be reckless, especially when making large changes to key documents.

Concentrate on how “be bold” makes you feel.

If you feel emboldened to edit the wiki, then the message works for you.

But for some of you, that instruction is going to make you feel uncomfortable.  Or it will frighten you instead of inspire you.

The point isn’t for you to understand how different views feel from the inside.

The point is to understand that there are different views and check your words and methods. Seek to be inclusive. Don’t try to create a bond by forging Us against an Other Them.

Sometimes the most important thing to do is to simply recognize there are other experiences and you don’t fully understand them.

So …

“When I feel discouraged, I put a smile on my face to give me courage and hope in the face of adversity.  Whatever I can do to help you feel better during these adverse times, please reach out to me.”

… and …

“We encourage you to be bold when editing the wiki because wiki changes are tracked and can be reverted when necessary.  We would rather you do something than wait for permission.  Our culture doesn’t run on permission, it runs on people recognizing something needs doing, then doing it.  If you feel you have found something worth doing, please go ahead and do it.  And encourage others to be bold while you are at it.”