One of the consistent arguments against progressive legislation, from both some conservatives and
some radicals is that you can't legislate changes in attitude, and that changes in attitude will drive better, more equitable practices and policies. Policy alone fails to address inequity, and can create a backlash when it seems to require accommodations or changes that some people perceive to be unnecessary or that threaten people's status or ideas.
I don't get why attitude/policy is an "or" question. I believe that you can both
create (and enforce) policies, such as equitable hiring policies, that address injustice and
educate and communicate to change attitudes. Furthermore, if you really want anything to change, you need to do both, at the same time. You need to craft policies, such as accessibility policies, or diversity policies, or harassment-free workplace policies, that address inequities. You need to enforce these policies. But you also need to provide the people responsible for enforcement with the training and support they need to understand what the policies are supposed to accomplish and the issues that drove the creation of the policies. In addition, and most importantly, institutional support for the policies and the philosophies driving them needs to come from the top. If the powers in charge of an organization do not fully and intelligently support a policy, then the people responsible for implementing it will, at best, not have access to the resources they need, and at worst, wittingly or unwittingly undermine it. The problem is not whether you should use policy or education to change the status quo. It's how you should use each to reinforce and promote the other. You have to do both.
Over at FWD/Forward, Abby Jean succinctly and intelligently explains why it's not enough to make policies that encode principles based in social justice
For an easy example, imagine a company with a policy that required that all newly hired employees be informed about their right to workplace accommodations for mental or physical disabilities. The company works with disability rights groups to create a pamphlet outlining who is eligible for accommodations, what potential accommodations may be available, and the procedure for requesting accommodations and documenting a need for them. The disability rights groups make sure all the information is correct, that the pamphlet is available in alternative formats so it’s accessible, and that it emphasizes that accommodations are an employee’s right, rather than a bonus provided by the company. It is, in short, the perfect pamphlet.
Now imagine how much depends on the person who hands that pamphlet to the new employee. Take one scenario: the employee goes through a complete orientation and then is asked to wait in the lobby. When the employee asks why, the receptionist sighs “oh, it’s some stupid thing required by company policy. Just wait.” After 15 minutes, the designated human resources staffer comes out and thrusts the pamphlet at the employee, saying “Here, take this. It’s something I have to give you for policy. You have to sign here to show that I gave it to you.” When the employee asks what the pamphlet is about, the staffer replies “Oh something we have to do for disability, or whatever. Nobody is ever stupid enough to ask for any of these things, believe me.”
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