By: Kristianna Smith
I read an article recently which spoke about a technique used by President Obama’s staffers. Whenever a female staffer shared an idea, the other female staffers would repeat this idea and give credit to its author. The technique is called amplification. The rub is that in order for this to work multiple women have to be in the room. In order to amplify different ideas, we need diversity in representation.
We Have To Reprogram What We Define As Representation
Growing up in Bristol, CT I spent a large amount of time being one of the only people of color in my classrooms. Once in middle school, a guidance counselor spoke to us about bullying and for emphasis asked the one boy of Jewish heritage how he would enjoy being called a Jew or how I would enjoy being called the N word. We both cried.
This is an example of how I viewed my race for many years of my life, a target on my back. Something to be weary of, that others could use to assault me.
It wasn’t until my junior and senior years of high school that I noticed the courageous things women of color had accomplished.
Still, I was an only. The only women of color.
That type of singularity can mess with your mind. You begin to think there is only enough space for one person like you. I don’t think I’m alone in looking at a room and deciding where in the overall diversity I fit. After all there’s only enough room for one pretty girl, one funny girl, one blonde, brunette, and red head, at the table of all men.
One of each is how we treat collectibles, not how we should comprise human collectives.
If we strive to see as many perspectives as possible we would not be satisfied with one of each, we would demand to see multiples of all.
True Representation Allows for True Collaboration
Amplification would not work if we stuck to the one of each method of diversity. Successful collaboration requires everyone involved to hear one another so they can build together. One of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes is, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we use when we created them.” Much of the world’s oldest problems have been created and maintained by older wealthy white men. In order to tackle those problems, we need new perspectives. That doesn’t mean kicking out all of those with privilege, but creating groups of true representation of the people at large, beyond ‘one of each’. Diversity is the breeding ground of innovation, because instead of generating the same solutions, each person approaches the work differently, allowing for not only more solutions, but a collective stronger solution to emerge.
We’re Doing It- We Just Need More
My path has been filled with amplification. I’m a business owner constantly straddling the worlds of theatre education and community building. Whether from fellow artists, educators, or female leaders I would not be able to accomplish my work if I did not constantly have people around me listen, share, and credit the work that I do. In recent weeks, I have felt such gratitude for my personal community of amplifiers. To honor their amplification, I work to be the amplifier myself, calling out diverse opinions and ideas- searching for the right mix of diversity in the circles I travel in.
Let’s do it more!
Listen, share, credit.
Hopefully the myriad of voices we hear will help us find solutions we once thought unattainable.