Belonging isn’t enough

I have several thoughts about this post in the Times about the shift from “inclusive” to “belonging” in the context of diversity work. The first is that language around this work is, and always will be, changing. As words proliferate, they can easily become coopted, subverted, or merely stale, and often a word change is a way of shifting the conversation in order to bring some movement back to the work. This is normal, and very likely inevitable, and we’ve already seen it happen with past moves from diversity to equity to inclusion and justice and so on. But noting that the language is changing opens up space to ask what a particular change is moving toward, and what becomes more or less possible with that movement. As the article notes, the shift to “belonging” creates an opportunity to engage with people from privileged backgrounds while also potentially excusing the system (or those people) from needing to change. I’m not convinced that tradeoff is the right one. Personally, I try to avoid the shorthands and talk more openly about how this work is about dismantling white supremacy, or ending oppression. Will increased belonging help us achieve those ends? Maybe. But not on it’s own.