Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds
I was thinking recently about Intentionally Equitable Hospitality, and the role of awareness and action in how it all plays out. And as my thinking tends to benefit from quadrants, I came up with this diagram, which, while useful as is, would benefit from some nuance and context related to invisible dimensions such as authenticity. Let’s look at the diagram first.
The concept behind Interpreting this matrix is inspired by an Arab saying about ignorance and knowledge. The Arab saying (see it in Arabic here, attributed to Ali Ibn Abi Taleb) is goes something like this, roughly translated:
- There are those who know, and they know they know. They are knowers/scientists, so learn from them;
- There are those who know, but they don’t know that they know. They are asleep so alert them (help them realize the value of what they know);
- There are those who don’t know, and they know they don’t know, and those are ignorant, so teach them;
- There are those who don’t know, and they don’t know that they don’t know, and those are hopeless/stupid, so avoid/ignore them
OK, now back to the matrix. If we think about Intentionally Equitable Hospitality, which really boils down to awareness about inequity and acting upon this awareness to redress injustice, then it makes sense that two major things need to happen for IEH to happen: awareness and action. But also, looking at this in a matrix format allows us to figure out how to enhance someone’s IEH, right? So here goes my initial thinking around this matrix:
- High awareness/high action = Role models for Intentionally Equitable Hospitality. These are people who know and act, and we can learn from them
- Low awareness/high action = Potential allies, unitentionally equitable people who do good things that are inclusive of diverse people but they aren’t really aware of inequity, or their intentions are different, like good pedagogy, rather than redressing injustice per se. For example, giving students choices in order to enhance engagement not to address diverse strengths. This is the kind of person who would be amazing (move up to high awareness and high action) if we work on increasing their awareness about inequity and how what they already do fulfills multiple goals.
- Low awareness/low action = newbies, unintentionally Inequitable people who aren’t aware and aren’t doing anything. These are people we need to teach, and we Need to work on two fronts: enhancing their awareness about inequity AND teaching them strategies to redress injustice.
- High awareness/low action = <resistant? I am thinking of a name here that is not offensive> intentionally inequitable people who are aware of inequity but choose not to act to redress it. This is the most difficult group to work with. They are people who may get an accommodation letter and choose not to change anything in their pedagogy to support a student with a disability to succeed. I will diverge from the Arab saying here, because I don’t think we should ignore of avoid this person, much as we may want to. This person, I think, may have different reasons why they don’t take action. It may be technical: they don’t know HOW to act, so maybe we teach them strategies. But if they have strategies and choose NOT to act, it may be a motivational issue, and we may need to work on intrinsic motivation (figure out what already matters to them, and see how to insert equity considerations into that) or extrinsic motivation (create policies that reward or require more equitable behavior).
What I think is interesting here is the implications for institutional action and professional development. When and with whom do we need to focus on spreading awareness versus teaching concrete strategies? And most importantly, how do we deal with that last group, that are resistant? Are they resistant because they do not care or is there something else, like believing it is beyond their capabilities, or thinking they do not have time, or believing that supporting those furthest from justice is “unfair” to the rest?
Another thing to consider is a couple of layers of nuance here. Someone can be really good at understanding certain marginalized groups but not others. For example, someone may notice gender inequality and prioritize it, but be less careful about race. Someone may be better at supporting blind students but less able to support students with ADHD. These are just some ways in which someone can vary in their capacity to be Intentionally Equitable. Moreover, there is an element of general care “about” versus care “for” and care “with” (Tronto’s work). One can generally care about gender inequality or disability justice. But it becomes different when it affects your own child or a close friend. You care for them. And it becomes something even more different if you start to recognize that you need to work with the person you’re caring for in order to support them the way THEY wish to be cared for, rather than assume what they need or prefer. In all of this, my main point is that generic care is different from care for a particular individual we know, and how close we are to them. As such, we may be selective in our care towards a particular individual or marginalized group over others.
I know this is the worst time to publish a blogpost like this, just before Christmas!! Many people on holiday, and people within my institution finalizing grades! But this is what happens when I submit grades. I get some excess energy.
If you end up reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts!