I recently saw this image on Twitter (via @hatcra, originating from @nlastuka and learningneverstops.wordpress.com. Thank you both for sharing it!). It’s an amazing schematic of the outcomes of exclusion, segregation, integration and inclusion. Of course, “inclusion” is the goal we should be trying to achieve in our community and in society. Yet, I kept returning to the observation that the City of Lethbridge – and I mean the Corporation, the community and individuals - can be every one of these circles, simultaneously.
Whom do we exclude? Primarily, it’s individuals who identify as part of the FNMI communities. Prejudice, stereotypes, generational learning and fear have kept exclusion alive here.
Whom do we segregate? Primarily, it’s social status or class. In which part of the city do you live and what is your perception of the other two ‘sides’ of the city?
Whom do we integrate? Primarily, it is the individuals and groups who we “tolerate” as long as they generally conform to public norms. This is the “feel good” space. This is the place where you can “help” an individual who is different, or “support” a group that you cannot (or don’t want to) join.
Whom do we include? Primarily, we include those who share the dominant appearance, attitude, faith or thought. It’s the conformers.
I have lived here since 1987 and Lethbridge is undoubtedly my home. But these circles represent a side of Lethbridge that challenges me, because I tend to find myself wandering – seldom by choice – regularly through the bottom three circles. This explains why I advocate for so many individuals and groups in my work on City Council. It also supports my vision for Lethbridge.
I want a Lethbridge where everyone lives and thrives in the top circle. Achieving this vision is not difficult; in fact, it’s quite easy: we can stop excluding, segregating, and integrating each other. Instead, we can open our hearts, our minds and ourselves to otherness: other cultures, other experiences, other conditions and other viewpoints.
In her seminal work, The Decline and Rise of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote, "Cities have the capability to provide something for everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everyone." When we can all contribute our unique talents, diversity, insights and learned wisdom, and do so in an inclusive and open manner, we begin to feel like we belong. That’s a truly inclusive community. That could be our community.