As an applied social psychologist specializing in intergroup relations and social justice, I’ve read the recent letters regarding the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Resolution [passed last month by the Door County Board of Supervisors] with great interest, and it seems that there have been a variety of opinions and concerns expressed.
Due to our nation’s history, we’ve all been socialized to view diversity and equality in various ways, depending on our own group membership. In myriad conscious and unconscious ways, we’ve learned to perceive the social world as “us versus them” instead of “we.”
Social policy has always been at the heart of social justice – as well as injustice. Underserved groups have been systematically disenfranchised for generations by laws and sanctions that have prohibited or undermined the economic, educational and personal well-being afforded to overserved groups. When policies shift in favor of equity, members of overserved groups often feel threatened and push back because the status quo they’ve come to expect is shifting.
In terms of racism being labeled as a public-health crisis, I’d go one step further to argue that prejudice and discrimination of every kind are a threat to public safety and well-being. Racism, sexism, heterocentrism, ageism – all the “isms” – are fodder for the fires of social conflict, hatred, fear and violence – all of which undermine public safety.
To declare that racism is a threat to our social well-being is not synonymous with all white people being racists. If anything, it’s evidence to the contrary – when proclaimed by members of the white community. We mustn’t fear proactive measures that support social unity. It’s simply not enough to “know the road” – we must also be willing to “walk the road.”
In a community such as ours, which invites and encourages tourism and growth, the DEI Resolution lends concrete substance to the social unity of Door County – and beyond.
Dr. Linda Steiner
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin