Plaza Voices: Equity in a Diverse Space

By Breanne Vailes

Anyone connected to the Plaza program knows that the staff and customers who participate are diverse, originally from different countries and speaking a variety of languages. In such an environment, there is an opportunity to promote equity or to uphold the status quo of “inequitable practices, structures and policies, and attitudes.” When faced with the idea of harming people or helping them to thrive, most people would say they want their community to thrive, as is included in DPL’s value statement on equity. But how does a program and its participants squash inequity and bolster a thriving community? Below are some ways to start, especially in a diverse setting such as Plaza.

Identify Bias - Everyone has bias. Everyone has preconceived ideas about someone -- good or bad -- based on ingrained beliefs about someone’s identity. The first step in correcting bias and helping to promote equity is to identify when bias is occurring -- whether in one’s own mind or in established policies and structures.

Listen - Listening can be two-fold. Actually listening with one’s ears to what someone has to say is a necessary first step. Yet even when someone does not offer their perspective initially, getting curious can foster an attitude of listening through empathy. Asking a question or thinking about what someone’s situation must be like -- these are ways to be in-tune with others’ reality and to gather their perspective. Inequitable practices and policies cannot be changed if people only attend to their own point of view. Listening that prompts action is the hard work that builds a thriving community.

Foster Accessibility - Whether in relation to language or cultural practices, people from different cultural backgrounds have a variety of needs. They may need access to services or materials in their own language. They may be available for programming during certain times of day because of roles they play in their household. They may have certain religious beliefs that restrict them from eating particular foods. In these cases, equity means that services and programs are accessible no matter someone’s needs and cultural practices.

Practice Cultural Humility - Cultural humility involves the dichotomy of introspective critique of one’s beliefs and outward receptivity of others’ perspectives. The Society of Hospital Medicine created a tool for practicing these concepts through the 5 Rs of Cultural Humility. 

1. Reflection - learning from each person encountered

2. Respect - treating all people with respect

3. Regard - identifying bias that might inhibit treating someone with the highest regard

4. Relevance - expecting cultural humility to be relevant and applying it to every encounter

5. Resiliency - building one’s resiliency and compassion through practicing humility

One blog post is not going to cover this deep subject. The library has great resources on equity and anti-racism. Check out our colleague J. Allen’s blog post, The Privilege of Learning About Racism: Anti-Racism Resources for a list of books recommended by staff. 

The Denver Public Library's Cultural Inclusivity department collaborates with Denver's multicultural community to create equitable opportunities for learning, discovery, and connection.

We offer Plazas, an open community space where people from all over the world connect with information and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice English, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help!

Written by Plaza Voices on August 10, 2021