Are we still making New Year’s Resolutions after 2020, or is it tempting fate to plan to improve yourself? Hopefully not, because I will be making some new year’s resolutions around Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I), and I’d encourage you to do so as well! I wanted to pick a few things that I could improve on throughout the year, but hopefully wouldn’t be so overwhelming I’d forget about them by mid-February. These are also great because they aren’t specific to me; anyone can do them. Check them out below, along with a booklist, and consider adding them to your New Year’s Resolutions as well.
1. Learn when to step up, and when to step back
Stepping up is the idea of doing or sharing more than you normally would, and it can mean a variety of things from sharing more personal experiences to stepping up to defend others against discrimination. It encourages you to voice your opinion or experiences when you wouldn’t normally. It also can sometimes mean being the one to call someone out for inappropriate or discriminatory behavior. Minorities and oppressed groups often have to defend their existence to those around them, and stepping up to address discrimination when you see it can help ease the burden on those groups as well as redefine what is acceptable behavior.
Stepping back is the idea of not necessarily sharing your opinions and input and suggestions when you would normally dominate the conversation, and giving others the room to do their own stepping up. If you are normally the one to share your opinions and make decisions, consider when others might have relevant experience or ideas to share and give them the chance to step up. A key component here is listening to others, especially those that are less likely to have a seat at the table like minorities and oppressed communities. These groups are historically (and still today) more likely to be ignored and forced into the step back role, so look for ways you can step back and create an environment where people you might not normally get input from feel they have a chance to be heard.
I tend to speak up when I’m nervous out of fear that I don’t speak up enough, and instead accidentally talk over people. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on already, but I’ll specifically be working on it in terms of stepping back to create space for others that aren’t sharing as much. I think framing it in this way will make it easier to remind myself and actually create change.
2. Decolonize your bookshelf
In the same vein of listening to minorities and oppressed groups that are least likely to have a seat at the table, read books by authors that have historically been (and even still currently are) excluded from the mainstream publishing industry and literary canon. From the classics we read in school to the New York Times bestseller list, most of our books are written by able-bodied, white, cisgender authors, and we can diversify or decolonize what we read by intentionally seeking out authors and books that don’t fit this mold. This can mean authors of color, disabled authors, trans authors, indigenous authors, authors that don’t write their minority characters as victims or lessons to be learned, and authors that write in languages other than English, among many others. It also doesn’t literally have to be your bookshelf – it can be the podcasts you listen to, the social media pages you follow, or your shelf in digital reading apps like Libby.
I already read a lot of young adult fiction that meets these criteria, but this year I want to focus on expanding the genres I read with diverse representation. I plan to read more memoirs and sci-fi, seek out more independently published comics and podcasts, and read more books that were originally written in other languages. If you want to decolonize or diversify your reading list for the upcoming year like me, check out this list!
3. Commit to long-term change
I think, most importantly, planning for these goals to be long-term is really valuable, past the first month or two of the year, and past 2021 as well. Being more intentionally inclusive and bringing more diversity into your life, whether by listening to new opinions and people or reading more unfamiliar authors, can’t just be a box to check when completed for the year, then forgotten about. Similar to our other long-term resolutions like drinking less or learning how to budget, it only works if we commit to it, create measurable goals, and remember the reason we chose those goals in the first place. Making changes you value make it easier to accomplish them, and stick with it until it just comes naturally. This year, I’ll be working toward making inclusivity second nature, and I hope that’s something we can all strive for.