This past week I have been thinking a lot about resistance, and how it manifests itself in both overt and covert ways.
Often when we are afraid, we resist. It’s a defence mechanism designed to keep us safe. But the result is that we can miss opportunities for learning, growth and change.
Dealing with diversity is no exception.
It’s a fact that human beings gravitate towards people that we even think we have something in common with. The result is that we therefore gravitate away from those we don’t. Take a peek in any school cafeteria or workplace lunchroon for evidence of that.
And change is hard.
So when you combine these two things, resistance can come up despite welcoming diversity onto a team, into an organization, or around a boardroom table.
Resistance can be overt.
Sometimes resistance is forceful and purposeful against something, as was the case at a Toronto Town Hall meeting that Shree Paradkar wrote about this past week. In that case, resistance can get ugly. But even here, there are subtleties to resistance that are covert – and that we can miss if we are not paying attention.
Resistance can be covert.
Resistance can come in the form of not reacting, of not addressing issues.
It can manifest as not listening to particular voices, not acknowledging or making room for those voices. It can look like “this is the way it’s always been” or “we don’t do it like that”.
It can look like holding fast to what we know, without making room to see what else there is, and what we might be missing.
Resistance can be tricky, and slick, and look like support – like in the case of the folks suggesting that White people not go to see Black Panther because “it’s a Black thing, and to given Black people their moment.”
It can look like a good idea: “Let’s wait a bit before we introduce that idea so that there will be uptake.”
It can feel like support: “What do you think.” And then talking over, interrupting or discounting what was said.
Sometimes resistance is intentional, like at the Town Hall meeting Shree Paradkar wrote about. It’s goal is to deflect, to take attention away from, to undermine.
But often, I suspect, resistance is unintentional, and unconscious – due to fear (of change, of the unknown), a product of exercising privilege we don’t realize we have, the result of a society that does not value people and their experiences equally, and because there are not enough lights shone on it when it happens, so we can see it for what it is.
Regardless, resistance is painful.
But regardless, it is painful, disrespectful and discounts. It renders people invisible – or reminds us that we are. And it is effective in it’s blocking of positive change, as well as it’s blocking of equity and inclusion.
See if you can notice resistance when it occurs, in the many ways it manifests itself.
And when you do notice it, what can you do to shine a light on it or interrupt it.