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Dowayne Peterson – Reminding us that Diversity Makes us Unique

Dowayne Peterson, Business Systems Manager, information technology, is passionate about diversity and inclusion. He said, “It's an absolute honor to be on the inaugural Inclusion Council where we're making sure that everyone in the company feels included, and we're continuing to make USAble Life a more diverse and inclusive company.”

Dowayne feels that when people speak of diversity, they tend to think in terms of race. But he believes that it's much more than that. He said, “It is your culture, your ethnicity, your disabilities, your economic status, your religion, your lifestyle, and your interests.” He sees all of these as being what makes a person unique. He describes inclusion as “accepting all of our differences and respecting each other so that everyone feels comfortable and included, and not ashamed in any way.”

He hopes that he can impart to others that diversity and inclusion allow everyone to feel included and on the same level playing field. He has spent a lot of time on “the playing field,” coaching kids from different races and economic statuses as a youth basketball and football coach. He said that he works to “help mold young men into a team and a brotherhood” despite any differences and has often found himself as both a mentor and second father-figure.

He gets his love of sports from his father, who has also had the most significant influence in his life regarding diversity and inclusion. His father overcame many obstacles, such as low socioeconomic background and a learning disability, to become a football player until an injury ended his career. His father has inspired him with his tenacity and his ability to overcome racial discrimination in his workplace to ultimately become a successful director for several high-profile meat plants, and all with a high school diploma.

If he could bring three people together, he said it would be his mom, who passed away in 2002, former President Barack Obama, and Audre Lorde. Dowayne said that he would love for his mom to have met the first African-American President. He also said he'd like to talk with Obama to understand “the pressures of running our country while at the same time being the face and role model of African-Americans.”

But for Dowayne, diversity goes beyond race. He said that he's a father to a bi-racial daughter who is a lesbian and an activist. He feels that he has so much to learn and that he is working to educate himself. For that reason, he would like Lorde, a self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” to be included in his meeting with his mom and Obama — varying backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, and lifestyles all coming together to learn from one another.