Improving DEAI in a Divided World – American Alliance of Museums

Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) initiatives can be met with political resistance, making it challenging for non-profit organizations and government entities to maintain their non-partisan boundaries while standing strong on their values. To help cultural institutions like public media and museums stay committed to DEAI, a values-based approach to communications is recommended. This approach, inspired by Doctors Without Borders, involves following the 4 Ds of non-partisan DEAI: Invite Difference, Reject Dehumanization, Combat Disinformation, and Defend Democracy.

The first D, Invite Difference, means committing to inviting people with different ideas and lived experiences into your organization and helping to build bridges across this difference. This requires embracing differences in perspective and highlighting how values intersect, even if they are not prioritized in the same way.

The second D, Reject Dehumanization, involves avoiding the process by which certain individuals or groups are portrayed as less-human “others.” This cycle of dehumanization can manifest itself in everyday ways, like how employers treat their workers or how people refer to those experiencing addiction or mental illness. Working to stop this cycle of dehumanization should be at the core of DEAI commitments, and leaders should be able to articulate how old language is dehumanizing and inaccurate while new language is more humanizing and accurate.

The third D, Combat Disinformation, is particularly relevant for non-profit organizations and museums. These institutions are often seen as significantly more trustworthy sources of information than media outlets, giving them the responsibility to tell the truth even if it upsets some people. To convey that their DEAI initiatives are not politically motivated, museums should draw the line from the social advocacy they’re engaging in to their work as a museum.

Defending Democracy is the final D and is particularly important in polarized times. It means remaining committed to non-partisanship while taking a stand on DEAI issues, even when facing criticism or potential backlash. It also means advocating for policies and practices that promote equity and inclusion, such as promoting voter participation and opposing gerrymandering.

Overall, cultural institutions can maintain their non-partisan boundaries while advancing DEAI initiatives by following the 4 Ds framework and emphasizing a values-based approach. By committing to invite difference, reject dehumanization, combat disinformation, and defend democracy, these institutions can maintain their commitment to DEAI while also staying true to their non-partisan values.

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