May 15, 2019
What is authentic engagement with diversity? Researchers at the University of Michigan define it as a combination of two components: 1) prioritizing numeric diversity and 2) creating an inclusive climate. Their study measured how authentic engagement with diversity at higher education institutions impacts faculty of color psychologically. Some of the psychological measures included levels of “stress and dissatisfaction with co-workers” and invisible labor, or “a feeling of having to work harder to be perceived as a legitimate scholar.” The study found that at authentically engaged schools—versus schools with low numeric diversity and poor climate—faculty of color reported fewer psychological disparities than their white colleagues.
It’s important to note that although there were fewer disparities at the authentically engaged institutions, faculty of color at those schools still reported “significantly more stress from discrimination and invisible labor than their white peers.” This finding indicates that meaningful engagement with diversity isn’t a one-time initiative, but rather an ongoing and ever-evolving process.
Is your workplace or institution authentically engaged with diversity? Do you prioritize diversity in your hiring initiatives and work to foster an inclusive and respectful environment? If you conducted a similar study at your institution, do you think professionals of color might report more stress, dissatisfaction, and invisible labor compared to their white counterparts?
The National Park Service (NPS) ensures that most parks offer “at least one accessible campsite and restroom,” that “brochures, audio elements, and websites are accessible,” and that staff and volunteers are trained “to better assist all visitors.” But there is still work to be done. Park visitors with disabilities point out that park pathways and doorways are often too narrow for wheelchairs, and that the more accessible paths tend to be only a few miles long or fail to pass through the more intriguing sites. As one visitor put it: “Just because a trail is accessible doesn’t mean it has to be lackluster.” Another visitor explains, “I’m not expecting them to pave and grade the wilderness to make it wheelchair-accessible,” but that “there are a lot of instances where a trail would be ‘accessible’ to a visitor with a mobility limitation simply by using the right equipment.”
One traveler with disabilities reflects, “It’s not impossible to travel while being disabled. It may take extra effort, but it’s always worth it.” We think the same spirit can be applied to prioritizing accessibility in all public spaces and workplaces.
There are almost 40 million Americans living with a disability, and the NPS Accessibility Task Force estimates that “lack of access for visitors with disabilities could result in $3.6 billion annually in lost revenue.” Consider the financial cost of not prioritizing accessibility at your company or institution—and beyond the financials, consider the loss of unique insights, innovations, and perspectives from thinkers with disabilities who don’t feel welcome due to accessibility issues.
This week, the season-22 premiere of the children’s TV show Arthur made headlines for revealing that Mr. Ratburn, Arthur’s elementary-school teacher, is both gay and now married to a man. Writers Ashley Fetters and Natalie Escobar point out that the episode “marks a poignant moment in children’s TV history: In an episode where a male teacher gets married to another man, the behavior that the other characters consider most worrisome is his dorky dancing.” This isn’t the first time PBS has portrayed a same-gender relationship on a children’s show; in 2005, the Arthur spin-off Postcards from Buster “featured a pair of lesbian moms in Vermont,” only to receive immediate backlash from parents and then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. According to Fetters and Escobar, the largely positive public response to the 2019 Arthur premiere highlights how “mainstream attitudes toward same-sex relationships have changed” in the past 14 years, and “how far both TV and TV audiences have come.”
As Fetters and Escobar mention, the benefits of representation in this case not only include empowering LGBTQ+ people and their families, but also “normaliz[ing] the presence of LGBTQ individuals in everyday life for the rest of the population.” This normalization is especially important for children, who continue to be profoundly impacted by homophobic and transphobic attitudes.
Much like the characters in the Arthur premiere partook in a joyful celebration of Mr. Ratburn’s marriage, this is an opportunity to celebrate positive, normalized LGBTQ+ representation in children’s television. Consider watching the Arthur episode with any children in your life, or sharing news of it with other adults who may be interested in supporting the show.