Birder's Guide

MAY 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 33 of 35

32 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2015 Beyond Diversity Shaming get on board. It seemed too easy to accuse the conference organizers without prob- ing deeper into what cannot be seen in the image. And the conversation seemed to be moving backwards into the counterproduc- tive why zone, which predictably caused people to defensively shut down. So I de- cided to call a foul for "diversity shaming". I have defned diversity shaming as be- ing when a person, a group of people, or an organization is publicly shamed for not having what a critic views as an adequate degree of diversity based on appearance alone. Often, criticism is spurred on by a photo or a list of people (e.g., authors in a journal, a leadership team, or participants at a conference). This is counterproductive for three reasons. It sets up a confronta- tional and defensive interaction, even po- tentially demoralizing the people who may have sincerely tried and may be trying to do the very thing the critic wants; it overlooks areas of diversity that are not apparent in a photo or list of names; and it leads to questions of why rather than how. Instead of asking "Why were there not more of a particular group repre- sented in this meeting?" it's more productive to ask "How can this group's participation in future meetings be increased?" Even better, ask "How can I increase its participa- tion?" And don't just talk about it—set out to do it. It's far too easy to sit be- hind a computer screen and criticize others for not satisfactorily addressing diversity when you're not doing anything to help remedy the situation on the ground. In that particular case, I viewed the di- versity shaming as a tactic being used to call out the group organizers because the group did not "present" itself in a certain way. What no one could see in the photo were the group's values, initiatives, and other (non-racial and non-gender) types of diversity. I wondered, "Is it any more wrong for this event to have a demographic that skews toward one racial group given its historic reach and region than it is to host an urban Outdoor Afro event that looks mostly (if not all) black?" In fact, some people have shared with me that they see it as no different. Most of us understand why diversity and inclusion are important, but it is seldom effective to call folks out before getting to know what they are all about, what challenges them, and how they could use support. While we know many groups and or- ganizations are doing the best they know how, there are still others we cannot let off the hook. They can be unwelcoming or, at worst, lack any interest in cultural relevancy or sensitivity. In the case of the latter, a refusal to embrace the shifts in our national population risks losing a base of support badly needed for the future of bird conservation and the very planet we all depend on. Change starts with us. Do you wish there had been more diverse faces on a certain feld trip? Invite some to attend with you next time. Wish there had been more of a particular group represented among the authors in a magazine? Submit one yourself if you're a member of that group, and ask your friends to do the same. By the same token, suggest candidates for leadership positions when they are advertised, and consider stepping up yourself. Change will come more readily by doing. Under the best of circumstances, we still have a long way ago. This is a long game. Lasting change does not come from a single organization, conference, or social media post. Change will land quietly, without cer- emony, after a generation of many hands, pulleys, public relations, and policy efforts toiling together to shift the culture. Over time, we can expect solutions to evolve and surface as long as we give one another the balanced gift of care, creativity, and healthy challenge needed to usher in a future that sustains birds, and the many types of peo- ple who can come to care about them. Outdoor Afro Minnesota hike to Minnehaha Falls. Photo © Josh Garubanda Shoreline hiking and exploration in Richmond, California. Photo © Rue Mapp

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