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How Far Should We Take this "Inclusivity" Thing? - Erik Kondo

It is unlikely that Candace Owens was actually interested in an actual discussion of benefits and drawbacks of “the inclusivity thing” in society when she called an advertisement featuring an underwear model sitting in a wheelchair to be “stupid”. Clearly, she feels that the inclusion of people with disabilities in advertising, specifically, wheelchair users, has gone too far for her liking. Unfortunately, based on internet comments, she is not alone in this belief.

I think that the easiest way to defining “Inclusivity” as it is currently being used is by describing its opposite which is “intentional exclusion” due to gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, sexual preference, etc. which is also known as discrimination. If you think that there is too much “inclusion” in society, then you have reached a point where you think that it is ok to start excluding people due to their identity characteristics.

There are people, who because they consider themselves to be in the In-Group, feel that it is acceptable to discriminate against the Out-Group. Maybe they were always part of the In-Group, or maybe they were once “Out” but are now “In”. In either case, they feel that they have nothing personal to gain from further societal Inclusion.

Typically, they are people of tenuous status in the In-Group and/or they have low self-worth. In either case, they need an Out-Group to rally against. To show that they are not one of “them”. By attacking the Out-Group as less than, they are attempting to raise their own relative worth, since they are not “them”.

Given that Out-Groups are by definition people of lower social status and power, their behavior is bullying. And just like the classic school yard bully and their minions, they take on people in marginalized demographics as their victims. They don’t take on powerful people or groups. This tactic has been around for all of human civilization and has lead to many of the worst moments of human history.

Getting back to the specific advertisement Owen’s was referring to. Had the model, Haleigh Rosa, not been seated in her wheelchair, nobody would have known she had a disability. The problem, as Owen’s sees it, is not Rosa’s photographic performance as model. It is her identity as a person with a disability as signified by her wheelchair.

Her thinking is that wheelchair users should not be models because they represent a demographic of society that should not be allowed to participate in an activity that is the domain of people without disabilities (the In-Group). To Owens, the participation of people with disabilities (the Out-Group) in an activity taints or degrades the activity. Therefore, she feels that Inclusion in society has now gone too far.

What we are talking about here is Owen’s (and people like her) desire for having segregation by physical body type. Inclusion is effectively desegregation. Owens wants societal segregation for people with disabilities. She is offended that an advertising company chose to treat a model with a disability in the same manner that they treat their able-bodied models. She is “tired” of seeing this. Presumably, Owen’s feels that models with disabilities should only be allowed to advertise products for the Disability Community, but not be seen by the general public.

As a wheelchair user for over thirty-seven years, I have faced many instances of people who did not want me to participate in their favorite activity. It was pretty clear to me that my presence as a wheelchair user was seen as lessening the prestige of their activity. These people were never the majority, but it only takes of few of them to let you know that you are not wanted.

How far should society take the concept of “Inclusivity”? I think that question is worth some self-reflection. What kind of society do you want to live in? Are you ok with discrimination as long as it is not directed at you? Are you willing to watch vocal members of your In-Group bully others while you stand idly by and say nothing? Are you afraid that you might be pointed at next? Or are you someone who is willing to standup for your beliefs even if you don’t directly benefit from speaking up?

There will always be the Candace Owens’s of the world. They may have come in different shapes, sizes, and colors in the past, but they were always there. They will exist in the future too. They don’t need to be cancelled, but they should be exposed for who they really are – Pathetic bullies who rally and band together to try to deflect from their own shortcomings by demeaning marginalized groups to make themselves feel better.


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