Perhaps it’s just me, but do you ever feel like you are drowning in a sea of acronyms? It seems like we’ve added the practice of abbreviation to everything in our lives. The overuse of acronyms fits right along with technology-driven ways to squeeze more work into our days at the expense of faith, family, and health.
The world we live in wants things right now, even if what we end up with at the end of the day is some diluted version of that which we were searching for in the first place. The economy of words does not necessarily equate to a more clear-cut understanding. Sometimes we must spell things out for folks in order that they truly get where we are coming from. Not doing so risks taking away the human factor from life’s precious interactions.
Look, I get that many names and titles can be a mouthful to say in their entirety. Heck, my title, Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President of Corporate & Community Engagement is one of them! However, in some cases people we try to have a dialogue with may not fully grasp the meaning of what a given acronym stands for.
Overuse of acronyms can also make people new to our little abbreviation clubs feel like an outsider. Cutting to the chase often means losing the gist of who and what we are as individuals and companies. This is true in opinion of the acronym DEI. Diversity, equity, and inclusion to be more precise. I submit that being lazy about saying these three words together, in full, dilutes their meaning and power. Either as a standalone or when used in tandem.
I further posit that the overuse of simply “DEI” might be another symptom of the misguided pushback coming from people who think that encouraging a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of some “left-wing woke” conspiracy. Oh yeah, “woke” is a colloquialism with a positive meaning that has been co-opted by fearmongers who are trying to make it stand for something it is not, purely for political gain. Most of the jokers who misuse that word don’t even know or care what the intended meaning is. “Woke” is a word that ought to be reclaimed by those who originally, and for good reason, coined it. But I digress. The reclamation of the word “woke” is a subject for a future blog. Back to the overuse of acronyms.
When you spell words out, they tend to make people more inclined to think about what those words mean, rather than a lazy method of defining what it is not. DEI means far more than just three random letters. Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. In all fairness, the individual definitions for each word may differ to some degree across different individuals. For our part, the Greater Cleveland Film Commission offers the following:
Diversity is the meaningful participation of myriad groups in the cultural and economic development driven by the efforts of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, including but not limited to race, age, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, ethnicity, perspective, and geography.
Equity is the development of policies and practices that help all communities gain access to the resources, opportunities, and networks required to reach their full potential.
Inclusion is authentic engagement of diverse groups in real personal and professional development, leading to an enhanced sense of belonging.
Each of these words indeed has power by itself. They can be done a disservice when reduced to the utilization of the initials alone when used out of context. The overuse of DEI assumes that anyone hearing or reading the short form of the collective knows exactly what the initials stand for, much less what they mean.
Another pet peeve is the continuing addition of words lining up behind the initial identifier, diversity. It may certainly be a well-intentioned way of making sure that people not so well-versed in this battle for justice and equal rights have a better understanding of the issue(s). However, can it also reduce the actual knowledge being absorbed when the individual components get lost in an alphabet soup?
I heard someone in a diversity, equity, and inclusion presentation not long ago suggest we are too busy adding more letters/words behind diversity before we have even gotten the diversity part itself right! Can’t say I really disagree with the basis of that logic.
We can’t be too willing to rush joining the acronym arms race unless that acronym truly defines what the person, organization, or issue stands for. It is a disservice to us, and the next generation when we exercise intellectual laziness and pretend as if we don’t have just a few seconds more to spell out what we really mean and who we are.
I can’t speak for other organizations and causes, but please think about it the next time you are about to utter the acronym DEI. It is diversity, equity, and inclusion. Not only that. Think about what each word means, and how as human beings, we can better be ambassadors for embracing the no-brainer that we are better off when we welcome diverse thoughts and talents under our tents. That we fight to ensure every person has an equitable opportunity to be active participants in the pursuit of the so-called American Dream.
Lastly, that we do our part in encouraging society to move ever closer towards a collective culture of inclusiveness, and thus a more perfect union.