Last year, a dedicated group of Mississippi Market employees spent time developing an organizational-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Statement. The group consisted of floor staff, administrators, and managers from each of our three stores. The final statement expresses a commitment to ensuring everyone who enters our doors knows they are a valued part of our co-op community. It states:
“At Mississippi Market Co-op, we support and celebrate everyone’s unique identities, perspectives, and abilities. We believe that our diversity adds value and makes our co-op stronger. For this reason, we continually work to foster a diverse, inclusive, and accessible environment where everyone is able to be their authentic selves. This empowers co-op staff to contribute their best efforts toward creating a shopping experience and organizational culture where all shoppers, vendors, and staff feel welcomed, represented, and respected.
We hold diversity, equity, and inclusion as intrinsic co-op values and strive to ensure they are reflected in every aspect of how we operate. This is imperative to upholding our cooperative mission of empowering our diverse communities. By acting together in solidarity, we continually pursue our goals of creating a more just food system and a more equitable society.”
An area of recent focus surrounding these efforts has been celebrating gender diversity and inclusion at the co-op. As part of this commitment, you may see staff members wearing green or rainbow-colored gender pronoun buttons on their nametags (i.e. He/Him, She/Her, They/Them, Ze/Zir). This optional call-out is one way that staff can share their gender pronoun with others, raise awareness of gender affirmative language with shoppers and other staff, or show their support as an ally of LGBTQ and non-binary individuals.
When visiting Mississippi Market, you can take part in this commitment to celebrating gender diversity and inclusion by using non-gendered language. For example, instead of addressing people as “sir” or “ma’am”, try “friend”. In place of “ladies” and “gentlemen” or “guys” and “gals”, “folks” can be just as descriptive. When in doubt, simply ask and use someone’s name. By addressing people with gender-inclusive language, you’ll help us create safe spaces where people of all genders feel valued.
As part of this effort, you’ll also see new signs at the co-op that read, “If you are unsure of someone’s pronouns, please use gender-neutral language and/or a person’s name when talking to them. We appreciate you!” Whether intentional or not, making assumptions about someone’s pronoun can come across as disrespectful and hurtful. Looking beyond the binary is one way we can all show respect and avoid making assumptions about someone’s gender identity. If you make a mistake and misgender someone, simply apologize and respectfully ask them to share which pronoun they use. Thank you for joining us in ensuring that everyone feels comfortable being their authentic selves at the co-op.