Since 2008, the New York Police Department has sponsored a cricket league for teens. According to the NYPD, this new offering is part of the department’s recognition that its outreach efforts, which have traditionally included softball, soccer and basketball youth leagues, need to reflect the interests of an increasingly diverse population. (Cricket is a national pastime and popular sport in many South Asian and Caribbean communities.)
Kudos to the NYPD for figuring out that if they actually want to connect with kids, they need to connect through the kids’ interests—not
just their own tradition or sense of how to connect. This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for well-intentioned groups that want to be inclusive: seeing the limits of their hospitality and recognizing that what’s inviting and friendly to them is perhaps off-putting or even exclusive to the very groups they’re trying to engage. This is not to say that the NYPD’s previous outreach was bad or inadequate. It was everything the NYPD intended—just for a very limited demographic, as opposed to the general public with whom they intend to connect.
The NYPD’s example asks educators to consider: when we offer “an open door” to students, parents and colleagues, for whom is the door obviously wide open? For whom is the door perhaps ajar, but certainly not an invitation to enter? And how else can we invite engagement and connection for all of the people with whom we work, staying true to our values while diversifying our methods?