Paul Butzi |||

Diversity and Inclusion

I’m still thinking about Dan Romanchik KB6NUs post about inclusion and amateur radio regarding one club having a chaplain and starting meetings with an invocation.

In the comments there Dan complains that I don’t have comments here on my blog. That’s because I don’t want to engage in the sort of short term point scoring dialog that I see in comment threads, including the semi-fisking Dan attempts in his response to me. You’ll note that Dan is engaging in arguments about what I can know (but not what he can know) but fails to actually engage with the argument I advanced in my post. I’m not interested in that sort of rapid back and forth short form dialog. I’m interested in extended thoughtful dialog. If you want to discuss this stuff with me, send me email and I’ll be delighted to correspond. Or, if you prefer, make a post on your own blog, let me know about it by email, and I’ll add a link to your post to the end of this one.

Anyway I’m still interested in the issue but I’m more interested in an in depth look, not in point scoring.

Let’s start the discussion with a premise: we are all interested in making the world of amateur radio accessible to everyone, because that’s the way to grow the ranks of amateur radio participants and ensure that amateur radio will be around in the future.

When I say everyone’ I mean everyone. Men, women, children. People of all faiths, people of no particular faith, atheists. People of all political leanings, left, right, and center. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, people who experience sexuality and gender in ways differing from my experience. People in the USA, and people in other countries. Rich people, poor people, people in between. Famous people, celebrities, and the ordinary folks. People with lots of amateur radio experience or expertise, and people with nothing more than a suspicion that they might want to try it out.

I don’t think this should be controversial. Amateur radio is based on the allocation of precious radio spectrum to the use of everyone.

If the terms diversity’ and inclusion’ mean anything, then they must mean that everyone should feel included and welcome and encouraged to participate.

So now we can examine the invocation at the start of the meeting’ club through that particular lens.

Suppose potential hams show up at a club meeting that starts with an invocation, which makes them uncomfortable. Some of them might well just decide to never become a ham. But each of those who are uncomfortable with the invocation have choices - they can find a different club, one without invocations, and join that club. They can just ignore the invocation. Because there is no limit on the number of amateur radio clubs that can exist, they can start their own club.

And now look at it from the perspective of the club members who want meetings to start with an invocation. If we go and insist that club meetings must not start with an invocation, what choices are left to them? They cannot move to another club because all clubs are now barred from having invocations. They cannot even start another club, because invocations will be barred in that new club, too. They have been excluded.

I can draw an analogy that I think is useful.

We have a very nice amateur radio club. Meetings are conducted in, say, the English language. At least some of the members speak only English. Suppose potential members show up who speak only Spanish? They will find it difficult or even impossible to participate. If we want to pursue diversity and inclusion, what should we do?

If we force the club to conduct meetings in Spanish, what have we accomplished? We’ve made the meetings more accessible and welcoming to the potential members who speak only Spanish, but at the cost of excluding current members who speak only English.

What’s to be done? We can’t find one language that will satisfy everyone.

The solution is to have more clubs. Have clubs where English is spoken. Have clubs where the meetings are conducted in Spanish, and some clubs in French, and so on… whatever language seems suitable to the club members. And if someone shows up and doesn’t speak that language, direct them to a club that speaks the language they speak, or help them set up a new club using their language of preference.

Is this a perfect solution? No, but there can be no perfect solution, and this one is the best we can do. In particular, insisting that English cannot be spoken, and Spanish cannot be spoken, and French cannot be spoken… That just leads to an edict that all amateur radio club meetings must be utterly silent, and that serves the interests of no one.

An amateur radio club does not need to be and has no obligation to be all things to all people. There is no good reason to make every club cater only to the common denominator, and a lot of good reasons to not do so.

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