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Updated: April 4, 2022 Guest Column

Opinion: What Worcester's elite fail to understand about inclusion

In reading Worcester Business Journal’s piece on “Infiltrating Worcester’s Inner Circle” from March 21, one of my first reactions was, why would anyone want to?

A woman stands in front of a white background
Photo | WBJ File
Dani Babineau, CEO of Redemption Rock Brewing Co.

The fact the “elites” of Worcester are eager to present themselves as welcoming and accessible to anyone who just picks up the phone and gives them a call, or reaches across the table for a handshake and an introduction (all while waxing poetic about the origins of the closed-door, invite-only meetings where a group of carefully curated individuals form the actual power structure of the city) demonstrates just how out of touch, complacent, and exclusionary they are.

Here’s the question that needs to be asked:

What are Worcester’s elite doing to step back and share power, especially with people they don’t know yet, people who don’t look like them, who aren’t in the inner circle?

If they truly, genuinely, and actually care about diversity and inclusion, then how are they relinquishing credit and giving others opportunities?

How are they making an effort to dismantle the very real barriers existing for people outside their privileged circles?

Because putting up a sign saying “All Are Welcome” and thinking the work stops there is lazy at best, cynical at worst.

I know this, because I’ve seen it happen in the craft beer industry for decades.

And the truth is most of what’s great about Worcester has happened not because of this group of men, but without or often in spite of them.

The best parts of Worcester have been created by women, Black and Brown people, immigrants, the queer community, and the arts community (many of these communities overlap) making grassroots efforts to get things done, and then having to fight to preserve what they’ve built in the face of Worcester’s encroaching “renaissance”.

People in this city have been showing up for years, only to have their voices and experiences ignored by those people who are in power, those who claim to want them there, and those who claim to welcome everyone, but in the reality of their actions do no such thing.

Not only are these types of old boys clubs by definition exclusive and often toxic, they are scarcely relevant to a newer generation used to figuring it out ourselves, are already a few steps ahead of them, and are not particularly eager to kiss the ring in order to have a seat at their table. There are other tables, after all.

Ostensibly, the only interesting thing about these men is their power. But, again, who cares?

How are they proving they are worthy of our time and attention?

What value are they providing?

Do they fight for real people and their needs, or their own power and relevance?

Maybe it’s on Worcester’s inner circle to do better, rather than putting the onus on the rest of us to come and ask for an invitation.

Dani Babineau is the CEO & co-founder of Redemption Rock Brewing Co. in Worcester.

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April 12, 2022
#inclusion? Not so much. Well said, Dani!
Kevin Mcrell
April 11, 2022

Well said, Dani. It was like a cover story that should've said "Here's why Worcester still hasn't changed! (and won't any time soon)"

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