We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.Maya Angelou
I want to grow. I want to be better. You grow. We all grow. We’re made to grow. You either evolve or you disappear.Tupac Shakur
Update September 29, 2021: The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Merit Badge will be released as Citizenship in Society in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates regarding the requirements and if this will join the other Citizenships as an Eagle Required badge.
Update January 7, 2021: Per Scouting.org, the introduction of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Merit Badge has been postponed while Scouts BSA considers and evaluates feedback received regarding the proposed requirements.
In my years in Scouting, I’ve only ever encountered one leader who felt that this was a program for straight white youth. By all accounts he was a wonderful leader that was deeply respected… until he just couldn’t handle another moment of excitedly and eagerly welcoming youth of all walks of life. It sucked the air right out of the program and caused a lot of hurt. Eventually he excused himself entirely and moved on to another program that better suited his ideals and values. In the years that passed, our unit flourished and, with the full support of our chartered organization, became a wide-open door. This is in no small part why I’ve enjoyed my tenure in leadership so much, or why I value the BSA’s stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It’s an understatement to say that our country is growing right before our very eyes. I quote Tupac often in my life (truly, I could write a thesis on Tupac as America’s most under-appreciated poet) because I feel, deeply, that he understood the divide in a way that was far beyond his years. His honest personal experience is so beautifully recorded through his lyrics, and it’s as important now as it was when he put pen to paper. When I think about what’s happening in the streets of America right this very moment, I can’t help but consider what Tupac meant when he said, “you have to grow through what you go through.” We’re actively growing through what we’re going through, and it’s encouraging to see real legislation being passed and hearts being changed.
Somehow, this is just the beginning, and we’re 400 years in. We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m proud of the steps being made, especially by the BSA. On June 15, 2020, they released a statement entitled “BSA’s Commitment to Act Against Racial Injustice,” in which they admitted their failures as a youth-serving organization to provide a solid foundation for inclusion. The responses from fellow Scouters have been all over the map, but it’s encouraging to read the messages of support and excitement from the majority who feel this statement is long, long overdue.
Part of their statement is as follows:
The twelve points of the Scout Law that define a Scout are all important, but at this moment, we are called on to be brave. Brave means taking action because it is the right thing to do and being an upstander even when it may prompt criticism from some. We realize we have not been as brave as we should have been because, as Scouts, we must always stand for what is right and take action when the situation demands it.
The statement also announced their commitment to develop a new Eagle-required Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion merit badge, which will pull from existing American Cultures, and Citizenship in the Community merit badges, to promote the understanding of all of the cultures and walks of life right here in America.
I look forward to seeing the merit badge requirements, then signing myself up to lead it. As soon as this information is shared, I will update this post accordingly!
I’m a big fan of seeking out the best possible information and sharing it, as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Therefore, I suggest adding Bryan On Scouting’s post entitled “Answering common questions about the BSA’s commitment to act against racial injustice” (published June 24, 2020) to your reading list. He answers some of the most commonly-asked questions, including how the BSA is balancing their support of BLM as well as their support of the incredible men and women who serve in law enforcement. (Yes, you can do both!)
If you’re like me and you’re interested in going a few steps further to help our youth understand how important this time in American history is, consider a few of these resources:
- Diverse Books for Tweens and Teens Written by Own Voices Authors, by Charnaie Gordon
A list of books for teenagers about diversity.
- The Boy Scout Movement in Black America
An eye-opening historical review of the Boy Scouts through desegregation and the Civil Rights movement, and reminder of how far we have left to go.
- About the World Scout Jamboree
A wonderful celebration of cultures from around the World.
I’m proud to wear the tan and green, now more than ever. It’s an encouraging time that I hope leads to real change and a national commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Yours in Scouting,