The holiday season is upon us and many of us are getting ready to wish each other a “Happy Holiday”. In recent years we have learned that this is the politically correct way to wish each other seasons greetings. It is designed to ensure that we offend no one. In a season where we will be offered lots of tasty morsels to whet our appetite and please our palate, I would like to offer another perspective for your consideration. Political correctness is not the answer or the end point; it is a step on the journey. Using politically correct statements may be a step in the right direction, but it can also leave people feeling inauthentic, empty and incomplete. It is a bandaid solution; it solves very little and merely mirrors the problem of treating the symptom rather than the cause.
If you believe in the concept of embedding inclusion and creating a diversity sensitive work place, then logically you would agree that you need to honor all differences. That means not invalidating one culture in favor of others; it means ensuring that all of our differences can be fully present in a respectful and caring manner. If we are really striving for inclusion and respect for each others differences, then the Christmas tree should be able to peacefully coexist right along side the Menorah and the Kwanzaa candles. When Chinese New Year, Ramadam, Diwali or any other religious or cultural celebration comes along, we should do the work that it takes to educate ourselves and be suitably knowledgeable and appropriate in our greetings and respect.
Yes, it takes work; it means we need to cut each other some slack; we have to educate ourselves not only about other people, but about other people’s beliefs, religions and cultures. We need to know what the difference is between Rosh Hoshanah, Yom Kippur and Hannukah; we need to know what is involved in Ramadan and why it does not fall on the same date every year; we need to learn why 2010 will be the Year of the Tiger and what is involved in the Festival of Lights for Diwali. If we became comfortable with all of these differences, it would be a natural and easy next step to be respectful and greet each other with the religiously or culturally appropriate greeting and not act as if there were no differences. Happy holidays is a symbolic first step towards blandness; it is not representative of the salad bowl, the fruit salad, the vase of flowers, or whatever metaphor you care to use to espouse support for the celebration of our differences.
Food for thought (or indigestion) and another example of how much we still have to talk about on this complex journey towards Diversity and Inclusion. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010. Oh, that’s right; we did not discuss New Year traditions, but being from Scotland I have lots of canny stories to tell. Most of them involve whisky, coal and salt, and celebrating from midnight on December 31st till January 25th (Rabbie Burns night). Like I said, so much to learn. Happy Hogmanay. Lang may yer lum reek.