Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee: “A Mission of Heart”

Advocacy, Staff Perspectives

Melody Johnson is the co-chair The Arc’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

As Black History Month comes to a close, I reflect on the year that we have experienced and the way in which America has been educated on the experiences of those from marginalized groups. While this “awakening” has been important to the evolution of our life, the work of growth has truly just begun. This work and growth can be uncomfortable. It can be hard to accept that life has not been equitable to others, or that some have experienced privilege. I have found that many people get hung up on the term “privilege.” Privilege is often invisible to those that have it, making it difficult to recognize.

Many people are quick to respond that they too have experienced hardships and difficulties – and while that may be true, we need to realize that true “privilege” is based on advantages given to all people of a particular group.  Being “privileged” does not mean that you haven’t had to work hard, it simply means you haven’t had to face the same daily disadvantages of others. For example, if I were to swim a mile in a pool, it’s commendable and it’s tough work. I would have worked hard to achieve that accomplishment. Now imagine comparing it to someone who swam a mile in an ocean running against the current. While we both swam a mile, the experience of that mile is not the same. One is truly tougher than the other despite the outcome being the same. Having swam in the pool, that was a privilege. And if I had never swam in an ocean, I wouldn’t begin to understand the advantage that pool swimming provided me. I am hopeful this gives perspective to the term “privilege” and how it applies to our lives.

I am pleased to co-chair the Arc’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. We have a great deal of work to do, and I am grateful that the agency has recognized the need to embark upon this journey. As the mom of bi-racial children and the sister of a gay man, it is a mission of heart to help the world see the bigger picture and not just through the eyes of those that may have unknowingly experienced privilege. I hope we can all lean into the discomfort we may feel while learning about DEI. Remember: growth and learning begins where our own comfort ends.

Stay well and shine on.

Melody Johnson is the co-chair The Arc of Monroe’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.