Diversity is about quantity. Inclusion is about quality.
We used to think that diversity was a goal in itself until we discovered that unless the environment, the friendship, the neighborhood, and the workplace are inviting, fair, and respectful, diversity is not going to thrive.
How many times have successful black people heard a white person say either cheerfully or in an absentminded fashion, “I don’t think of you as black person.” Gay folks and women hear the same type of comments: To a gay person, “When I look at you, I don’t see a lesbian.” Or to a woman, “You are more of a man than I am.” Even when such a comment is meant as a compliment, embedded in it is a revealing negative stereotype. Most people don’t appreciate being considered the exception; they want to be regarded as good as anyone else and/or regarded only as individuals, not representatives of any group.
I imagine that if you are a black person reading this or if you are picturing a certain black person, many of my descriptions of black culture or issues encountered by blacks will resonate with you. However, it also may be true that the racial identification and life experiences put forth are very different than you have known or seen. I think this underscores the heterogeneity that exists among blacks. For white readers, remembering to regard each black person as an individual, not just as a member of a racial group, will be extremely important to keep in mind as you seek to be more proactive in creating inclusion across racial lines.
Also, for white readers who may be accustomed to seeing themselves and being regarded by others as individuals, the challenge will be to explore your identity as a member of a racial group that shares some common experiences, cultural patterns, and issues. You may find descriptions of white people that you cannot relate to personally. There will be other times when you will see yourself or the white people you know right in the center of these pages.
All people—black, white, and individuals of all races and ethnicities—get to define for themselves the group or groups to which they belong and whether race or ethnicity is relevant to how they identify at all.