Inclusion Has Left the Building

Is it just me but has the world gone a little bit crazy here lately. I almost have to pinch myself in order not to feel like I have been transported back to the mid-20th century of Jim Crow.

Take a glimpse at some of the offensive statements and incidents in the news that suggest we have lost our national inclusion compass:

• TV host Rodner Figuerora was fired by Univision after suggesting that First Lady Michelle Obama looked like she was part of the cast of “The Planet of the Apes.”

Remind you, this comment comes from a biracial, Hispanic and gay journalist who twice voted for President Obama.

• Two University of Oklahoma students as members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were expelled due
to their participation in a racist chant video highlighted by frequent use of the “n-word.”
Ironic that one of the banished students graduated from a Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas, TX that has as one of its core values, “to help students discover themselves and members of diverse communities, which include among other categories race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, ability, geography and socio-economic status.”
• A University of Alabama Chi Omega student was expelled from her sorority after posting a photo on social media with a racial slur demeaning Black people and discouraging them from joining sororities.
• E!’s Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic referred to Disney star Zendaya’s dreadlocks at the 2015 Oscars as “smelling like patchouli oil or weed.”
• A 57-year-old unarmed, limited English speaking Indian man visiting his son in Alabama was left temporarily paralyzed after being detained by police who were notified by residents to a report of a suspicious person just walking on the sidewalk.
• The critically acclaimed film Selma received only two trivial nominations which help make the 2015 Oscars the Whitest since 1998 without one single Black person nominated for an acting award.
• In a Peoples Magazine interview, First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that President Obama has been mistaken as a waiter and a valet at black-tie events.
• A Congressional staff communications director took to Facebook and criticized President Obama’s children, Sasha and Malia, for not being good role models during a televised public event for dressing like they were at a bar.

It was later revealed this same staffer was arrested for shoplifting as a teenager and received deferred prosecution.

A Department of Justice investigation into the Ferguson, MO police department unearthed several racist emails that disparaged African Americans:

• Said President Obama would not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
• Mocked African Americans through a story involving child support. One line from the e-mail read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
• Depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee.
• An e-mail said: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’
• Described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
• Included a photo of a group of bare-chested women dancing, seemingly in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”

What do these statements and incidents have to do with inclusion efforts within the federal government and the nation:

• Many of these remarks are directed at the President and his family. Lest we forget, the President is on the federal government payroll.
• They shape the national narrative on inclusion or the lack of inclusion which seeps into the federal government conversation.
• These personal attacks weaken the national dialogue we need to have to create workplaces and communities where everyone can reach their full potential.

The term “Elvis has left the building” is operative here as inclusion seems to be more and more elusive for a nation founded on equal opportunity and freedom. The term has evolved over time to mean something is over and complete. It got its meaning from the popularity of music legend Elvis Pressley. At the end of many of his concerts, his rabid fans would not depart the venue. Promoters would have to encourage them to leave by proclaiming that “Elvis has indeed left the building.”

Inclusion seems to have vacated the building as well. We zealous fans of it are left wondering if like Elvis, if it will ever return.

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