Special Message from PRSA-NY President
Monday, February 26, 2018
Examining My Commitment to Diversity
Sharon D. Fenster
Black History Month seemed like the perfect time for me to take an inventory of the range of my relationships. Doing this type of self-assessment may not be for everyone but considering my personal and professional commitment to diversity and inclusion, it was important for me to see how my life measured up with my beliefs. I took account of my friends and the people who surrounded me, their magnitude of influence and my influence on them.
Looking at my close friends, I observed the mixture. The results were not as reassuring as I had hoped, which drove me to question the reason. It wasn’t on purpose and I hadn’t realized it until I took a step back to reflect and confront myself. I knew that I could do better, and I resolved to take steps to do so.
It was during this personal evaluation that I saw one very unattractive and embarrassing relationship with a friend that I had held onto for several years now. We were on opposite sides of the political spectrum and our views on race and diversity were diametrically opposed, but I granted these allowances.
He had been saying reprehensible things for years - racist, sexist, anti-Semitic. Even though he was fully aware of my point of view, it didn’t stop him from continuing his slew of hatred. His negativity was wearing on me and for a long time I had been feeling that I did not value his input or advice - still I didn’t start the uncomfortable conversation. I didn’t hold him accountable for his toxic words and I felt very guilty about it because I wasn’t being authentic to my beliefs or my values.
It was clear that it was time for me to break out of my comfort zone and bring this relationship to a close. Although it was difficult, I knew it was the right thing to do and was relieved by the end.
Not wanting to stop there, I continued the appraisal. I have been reaching out broadly to diverse people on my social media channels, using common interests or experiences to bring us together. I have already set up several meetings and made some wonderful connections. Although it is still very early in the process, I’m determined to remain open to possibility!
I am telling you all this because for most of us, having a diverse life is not about getting it right all the time. It is a process. Let’s face it, it is more comfortable to surround ourselves with the familiar. Making a change like this one takes courage and commitment. But I encourage each of you to take similar steps because the rewards are great.
Once you are willing to change your perspective and the way you do things, a more honest and inclusive existence will open within your own life and community. It is simply a matter of questioning ourselves and being open to new experiences.
We live in a very diverse and multicultural city - taking advantage of it is within your reach. So, what are you doing to lead a more inclusive life?