Understanding Inclusion - Why Names Matter

Imagine relationships if we used names; Removing the Stumbling Block

“Inclusion is first and foremost a philosophy. It is a mindset and a belief that everyone has value and something to contribute.” ~ American Camping Association

This is so entirely in line with my own philosophy that I feel compelled to repeat it often. And I am not alone. In a piece he wrote for the SFGate in August of 2013, Russ Ewell states, “Successful inclusion begins and ends with our capacity for valuing others. We cannot include those we do not value.” Amen! Even better, Russ continues by saying that, fortunately, we can learn to value others. 

I agree. But how?

I believe that names are intrinsically linked to the way we value one another. In a powerful piece by Rabbi Evan Moffic called Do You Remember My Name, he tells us that, “Names convey identity. When someone knows our name, they know us as a unique individual.”
I am immediately reminded of the following cartoon:

Names Matter, Removing the Stumbling Block

Rabbi Moffic’s words emphasize this concept when he states, “God uses names to teach values and character,” and he shares a story of the origin the name of Pharaoh’s daughter: “Jewish commentary, however, gives her the name Batya. This is an especially beautiful choice, as Batya means “daughter of God.” Even though she is biologically the daughter of a wicked Pharaoh, her actions show that she is a true daughter of God, a person willing to do right and care for a helpless Hebrew child.”

We are reminded that our actions consistently have the power to speak louder than our words. 

Here's another example: In Naming Students in Positive Ways we read, "Enticing names and descriptions help children form visions of themselves achieving and behaving in the ways your words describe." This article goes on to offer a chart that demonstrates exceptional alternatives to gender-specific, teacher-centric and "too cute" names that are frequently used.

Imagine what our relationships could become if we intentionally and deliberately learned and used the name of each person with whom we interact. Every time. I’m not just talking about the people we work with or those that we see regularly. I’m suggesting that we learn and use the names of every person we encounter. “Thank you, Susan, for checking me out at Shop Rite today.” Or at your favorite coffee shop, “Thank you. Have a great day, Paul.” 

Names matter.

This is why I teach; Removing the Stumbling BlockBut go back for a moment to that cartoon above. See anything wrong with it? It seems as though it perfectly illustrates my point about names, right? I like this cartoon. I use it in inclusion training and classes I lead. But I recently had a student point out to me that the text at the bottom should read, "The most appropriate label is usually the one someone has chosen." What a great point. There are many who are seeking to discover and/or establish identities separate from those they were given at birth or those associated with the gender they were assigned at birth. This is why I teach, because in doing so I continue to learn.

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