As a kid growing up, I always longed for the day when at Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner I could sit at the big table. As most of you know, the big table was reserved for adults. For the kids at the little table, we knew the food was hotter and tasted better at the big table. We knew the drinks were more thirst quenching at the big table and the desserts were even sweeter at the big table. We all wanted to be at the big table – the Adult Table – where things were nicer.
The current mantra for equity and inclusion is to have a seat at the table so you can voice your opinions and have a role in decision making and outcomes. While this mantra is great and can yield positive results, it can also lead to the reality that no positive change will occur because you are at the wrong table. Your equity and inclusion invite may be to the kid’s table. When invited to be at the table, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions before you accept the invitation:
1. Am I being invited to the table because of who I am (my character, knowledge and experience) or am I being invited to the table solely because of the group of people I am perceived to represent? Am I seated at what has been designated as the black spot, the gay spot, the disabled person spot or am I allowed to bring more to the table? Will my voice be heard on all decisions or am I only heard when someone thinks it is a Diversity Equity or Inclusion issue?
2. Has my place at the table already been set for me and has the meal already been ordered for me by someone else? Can I have my own plate and make my own decision about what I want to eat? Am I being given only the portions of the meal that someone else wants me to have or can I look at the table and see what I want and like and then DECIDE what to order for me and others. Can I bring other things to the table that are not traditionally there (additional seasoning, hot sauce, herbal blends, non traditional meals)? If I bring new things to the table will other people eat them with me or just force me to eat by myself?
3. Does the table actually serve real food or is it serving plastic fruits and vegetables that they have on display and you can’t really eat. Have you been invited to a table for appearances sake? After the meal is complete are you still just as hungry as you were when you sat down? Is the only thing that is different is that people have the IMPRESSION that you are actually eating? Is there any nutritional value for you or others?
4. Did the table change the name and purpose right after you got the invite? Remember when IHOP (International House of Pancakes) briefly changed its name to IHOB (International House of Burgers). A place known for serving one type of speciality food was now marketing itself as being an expert in making a completely different type of food and expected the world to believe it. Did the table you were invited to change the focus right before you arrived? Is the table still serving the intended purpose or has it been watered down and no longer serves the quality of work or services it was doing before you arrived?
5. After you have finished your meal and the last drink and bite has been taken, is the table still inviting people to it who look like you? Were you the only special person in your group that ever gets invited to the table? Are you the only Black friend, gay friend, disabled friend, Asian friend, Latino friend that ever gets invited to the tables? Does the table now realize that there are many people like you that should have been invited and should be invited in the future? If the table is no longer exclusive, it might mean that accepting the table invite was worth it.
Always ask yourself are you at the Adult Table or at the Kid’s Table?