The Devil’s Advocate vs. Personhood

Recently, I have been participating in a workshop on race, gender, ability, ethnicity, and other diversity, equity, and inclusion topics. It has been a very rewarding, albiet heavy, series of interactions just due to the nature and the framing of the topics that we have discussed. It also doesn’t help the world around us has been in chaos on this very same set of issues almost every day for the last decade.

Everyone in this class has seemed to make space for each other to share their concerns grow and learn from each other. We all want to make sure that people’s voices are heard and that people can share how they are feeling around certain subjects.

I know that I have previously shared my feelings on these topics #onhere and I know that I have also very deeply discussed the issues and feelings that I have had in our workshop meetings as well.

We’ve had people share about their coming out stories and experiances in class. People have shared what it has been like for them to immigrate to America. Others have shared about their growing up as First Generation Americans and what it was like the first time they moved out of their hometown. So, so much has been shared and celebrated and explained.

It has been a very nice and interesting time. Unfortunately, there is one person in our group that insists on playing the devil’s advocate in every situation and conversation. They want to call out why people need access to medical equipment when they are disabled. They want to tease out if companies have really had enough time, after so many years of existence, to learn how to be inclusive in their hiring and advertisements. They want to explore if … against the perspective of lot of some of us in the cohort … people truly do deserve to be treated as people. Every time this person talks I can see everyone in the room hold their breath and it upsets me because to me their constant needling is them essentially calling into question people’s personhood.

I have always wondered, and maybe someone out there reading this can help me, why someone must prove their personhood to you before you can even begin to emphasize with their plight? Why do some people refuse to consider others and their everyday trauma? Am I missing something? What is solved, or what do you intend to solve, when playing devil’s advocate in a conversation on the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion?

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