You’d have to be living under a rock, or at least off the grid, to have not heard about the uproar created when the legislatures of Indiana and Arkansas passed Religious Freedom Restoration laws in their states, just as the Federal government did in the 1990’s during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and as many other states have since then. Accusations of legalized discrimination started fly by those against the bills/laws, while those defending the legislation decried the attacks by saying the laws defend the rights of those who are devout in their religious beliefs. There has been a great deal of information and misinformation spread by individuals, social media, and media organizations ever since. Conversations and debates about these laws have been nasty and have divided friends, families, and strangers alike.
Years ago, I served a nonprofit agency that provided services to the community in a specific geographical part of the city. Our programs and community center were open to any person within our specific boundaries, and we did not deny access to them, regardless of race, cultural background, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc. During that time, the director persuaded the board to start a new program that served one particular demographic, not the entire community. I spoke out against it, because it singled out specific demographic, but I was outvoted. It bothered me because it went against the mission of the organization to serve all residents of that neighborhood.
There is another organization in my former home of Portland that I greatly admire, and if I should return to the city full time, I would love to work for that organization. The founder has created a great organization that inspires the youth it serves, teaching respect for self and others, personal responsibility, and importance of education and I believe it is something that is universally needed, but not really found in public education these days. The only problem I have with it is, it pretty much serves people a certain racial demographic. I think that is a pity because it could do so much more for so many other people who need those lessons.
Comments directed at Indiana and Arkansas came from many people, including those tied to the nonprofit sector, yet ironically, many nonprofits and their programs are created to serve a single or limited demographic. There are many nonprofit organizations based on race, religion, sexual identity, nationality, etc., that serve only their demographic and not others. Many of those same organizations will hire only people of their “kind” to work at their organizations. I mentioned this in my archived post, “Discrimination in the Nonprofit Sector: It Does Exist”. After I wrote that post, I received a great deal of email from those who acknowledged that, yes, there is a problem in our sector, but I also received some emails from people justifying those discriminatory practices. I wonder why so many people and organizations are willing to complain about discrimination when they do the very same thing?
Take a look at your organization, its mission, and its practices. Do your programs serve all who come through its doors, or only a small demographic based on race, gender, or sexual identity?
If you do, then you should probably think twice about what you say about others that you accuse of discrimination. You are actually guilty of that very sin. Remember not to criticize others for the splinter in their eye when you have a log in your own.