DEI Committee

Diversity Equality Inclusion - September 4, 2020

On Diversity

by Frank Wade, DEI Committee Member

Like many, if not most, of the residents of Goodwin House, I have had cataract surgery and joined the chorus of those extolling its virtues. Also like many, if not most, of the residents of Goodwin House, I was raised in a culture that did not value diversity. I have found that the experience of cataract surgery can shed some light on the experience of diversity.

Cataract surgery does not change the landscape; it enables us to see it more clearly and completely. Blurred or invisible things come into focus. Colors stand out as never before. Things that were lost in the distance are drawn near. Diversity does the same thing, although in a different realm. The world does not change, but our perception of it does. Diversity enables us to see what previously had been vague or outside our field of vision. Color—and in diversity’s case the meaning of color—is brought into sharp relief. Truths we had kept at a distance or never had the opportunity to engage draw near, sometimes uncomfortably near.

Just as cataract surgery needs a corrective lens, diversity needs honest conversation.
Eye surgery without the lens simply removes the film but does not improve the vision. Similarly, diversity without engagement is mere proximity. Neither are worth much.

Cataract surgery does not tell us what look at, nor what to do with what we see. Neither does diversity. They both simply open our eyes. Neither contains any judgement on what one did not see before nor a set of instructions as to how one should feel about what is revealed. In diversity’s case, these matters are addressed by the disciplines of education, politics, religion and parenting.

Diversity and cataract surgery work on everyone who undertakes them. The burst of color and clarity comes to all who have had film over their eyes. In the same way, diversity presents new opportunities for understanding to the powerless as well as the powerful, for the ‘woke’ and the wary, the Left and the Right.

And if one chooses to enrich their sight, how do they proceed? In the case of cataracts, there are many options; for diversity, there is only one: Everyone has a natural circle,
a category of people with whom one is naturally comfortable. Diversity is found just outside that circle. It is breached by listening. Because the circles are natural, listening may require a question to get it started. The questions can be easy:

  • What do you enjoy?
  • How do you think or feel about X?
  • Where did you grow up and what was it like?

Listening can be more difficult than you think!

There is one other similarity between cataract surgery and diversity. If one has the opportunity to see more clearly, physically or socially, why not do so? What is the case for choosing not to see?

____________

Rev. Frank Wade is an Episcopal priest and, since 2012, a resident of Goodwin House Alexandria. His educational degrees are from The Citadel in Charleston, SC and The Virginia Theological Seminary. After serving churches in his native West Virginia for 17 years, he spent 22 years at St. Alban’s Parish adjacent to Washington National Cathedral. Over the years he has experienced many cultural upheavals. In those contexts he has seen that open and honest conversation are as necessary in searches for new understanding as masks and distancing are during a pandemic. While they do not solve the problems, no solution is possible without them. He looks forward to contributing his insight and experience on the Goodwin House Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Committee.

About the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee: We are a group of
staff and residents who together serve a mission to educate, embrace and empower
a workplace of diversity, equity and inclusion. Our vision is to seek open and honest communication and collaboration that will inform and celebrate the cultural, ethnic
and sexual orientation of all members of our staff without bias.

 

Questions or comments? Please contact us dei@goodwinhouse.org.

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