Who Sits at the Table?

June 3, 2022
An important factor in healing some of the deep divides we’re experiencing in society today, is to examine who sits at the table. Who do we invite to provide information about issues? Who do we invite to participate in making decisions about the best course of action? If we only invite those who look, think, and act as we do, we leave out large swaths of society. Addressing who sits at the table is a significant step in striving for a more inclusive, healthy, and holistic society.

I met author Russ Smith on an Ancestry.com cruise a few years ago when he was speaking about one of his books. He has recently published The Pointe System. I liked the premise of the book and invited him to write this guest blog about it. Thank you Russ for your book and this blog.

The Pointe System

What actions do we as individuals and a society take to include or exclude people? How do we make people feel either welcome or unwelcome? I began to ask myself these questions when I did research for my recently published murder mystery, The Pointe System. In some cases, actions to include or exclude people are taken by the community or even the state or nation, while in other cases, actions are taken by individuals or small groups of people.

The Pointe System is not only the title of my book, but also the name of the system that was used for over thirty years to keep certain people for moving to Grosse Pointe, the suburb of Detroit where I grew up. I knew Grosse Pointe had a history of not embracing diversity, but it was a revelation to me of how systematic the efforts were to keep it restricted to a very limited number of ethnic groups. When the pointe system was in place, the local property owners association partnered with Realtors to investigate home buyers before the sale of a home was allowed to progress. They used a scoring system to assign points for various characteristics of potential residents.

Deciding Who’s Allowed In

Points were given for lack of a foreign accent, lightness of skin color, occupation, religion, club memberships, profession, and various other traits. People with Western European heritage needed fewer points than people whose ancestors came from Southern or Eastern Europe. Jewish people needed an even higher score and were rarely allowed to buy a house. African Americans or people with Asian heritage were always rejected. The system, which was once upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court, was finally eliminated by federal civil rights legislation in the late 1960s.

The Pointe System is an example of how a community or state can support division and exclusion. Since it can take years for demonstrations, lawsuits, and lobbying of legislators to drive change at the community, state, or nation level, what can we do today, as individuals, to include or exclude people? How can we make people feel welcome? What actions do we and others take to exclude people?

Gossip Kills Reputations

Gossip is one of the tools often used to damage the reputation of others and exclude them. I create characters who gossip in all of my murder mysteries to spread fear, hatred, and anxiety. Personally, I become concerned when I hear someone start a sentence with something like “I’m not one to gossip, but did you hear…?” People who tell tales about other people don’t always realize the damage they may be causing. They won’t stop, unless they are challenged and told that such behavior is not acceptable.

Gossip has taken on a whole new dimension with the emergence of social media on the Internet. We no longer just have one on one discussions with individuals but now make comments that can go global and instantly destroy the reputation of an individual, an organization, or a business. Comments on blogs can create fear, distrust, and divide people. Websites thrive and make millions of dollars by providing forums for gossip and disinformation. We can decide to stop reading or posting hurtful material on such sites.

Less Talking, More Listening

Other than challenging people who gossip and being selective using social media, what else can we as individuals do to promote inclusion and acceptance? Actively and genuinely listening is a tool to make another person feel welcome and respected. The less you talk when having a conversation with someone who has something to share, the more you hear. After listening, asking clarifying and intelligent questions shows that you want to understand their point of view.

Another way to improve your ability to understand people and include them is to find opportunities to meet and work with people from different backgrounds than your own. When you do so, you may be invited to be included in their group and you might be inclined to invite them into your social or work group. I’ve been lucky to have had jobs with work assignments in many different countries, each with a different culture and ways of doing business. I was only successful in those assignments when I learned to work in those cultures and adapt to them.

Look for Opportunities

You could volunteer. I seek out opportunities to work with people with different life experiences than my own. In the past few years, I’ve helped people recently released from prison write resumes, refugees from Syria settle into their new homes, recent immigrants learn English, and students from low-income families prepare for college exams and apply to universities. Each person I’ve worked with has had different perspectives than mine. Working with them helped me to understand them and helped them to understand me and where I come from.

Many of the legal barriers to inclusivity have been eliminated over the past fifty or sixty years, but are we more inclusive? Do we listen to other people? Do we actively engage with people who are different than ourselves and make efforts to include them, or do we just tolerate people who are different and actively try to avoid them and stay with people who make us comfortable? Ask yourself these questions?

Russ Smith is the author of 4 murder mysteries. The Pointe System, Murder at Beulah Crest, The Carinthia Secret, and Table 29. Examples of inclusion and exclusion are found in all of his books. You can learn about his books at www.crimemysteryauthor.com.

Thanks for stopping by. When have you felt included? Excluded? How would you advocate for someone who’s been excluded?  If you got this from a friend, sign up for your own free subscription to my weekly articles and/or monthly newsletter at HowWiseThen. I focus on good people doing great things in our global village.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and much more of the interaction between them and the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio.
Bookshop.org (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Autographed copies available from BlueWillowBookShop.com/book/

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