My Thoughts on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
As I began to think about what I wanted to say for this article, I thought about the days following the death of George Floyd’s murder, it was a Friday and it was the first time that I cried, Burying my face deep into my husband’s shirt, after finally reaching my breaking point, regarding the outcries for justice. I would even say the magnitude not only George Floyd’s death, but regarding the tirelessness people have reached regarding racism.
You have to understand the last decade of my life having been highly focused on diversity and inclusion with the last several years attuned into equity, particularly racial equity.
I am fully convinced that you cannot have diversity and inclusion or a conversation about diversity and inclusion, without including the critical aspect of equity, it’s like making a BLT sandwich without the bacon.
For those who don’t know exactly what diversity, equity and inclusion is, I’ll just give you a brief definition of each one.
Diversity is about understanding that each person is unique. It’s about recognizing the individual differences of that person. This could be related to dimensions of race, age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, even socioeconomics, etc.
Inclusion is about welcoming all kinds of people, it’s the act of creating involvement, environments, and empowerment, in which, any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate and just be themselves!
Creating a welcoming environment as it relates to accepting and respecting other’s views, whether those are regarding language, thinking styles, or their nationality, their experiences, even their religion, race, and their gender are just a few of these examples.
Equity is about understanding and giving each individual exactly what they need to enjoy a healthy life. Often times you’ll find that people confuse the term equity with equality, which means saying that everyone has had equal access to treatment and even outcomes, when in fact, true equity implies that an individual may need to experience, or have access to something different, but not equal, in order to maintain that fairness and access.
Equity has to do with healthcare, economics, education, food access, it even has to do with gender, culture, community, and experiences, just to name a few.
Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same starting point and needs the same things.
So I’ll give you an example, let’s say that I needed to bring home some apples for my family and my neighbors also needed some apples for their family, where I might need four apples for my family, my neighbor might only need two and so equity is really giving each person what they need, not necessarily making it equal. Equal would be everyone getting four apples, but as you and I both know, everyone doesn’t get four apples, that’s not the way our systems are designed and certainly it’s not way for a lot of individuals of color.
Equity is actually a guarantee that fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for each person is available while at the same time striving to eliminate barriers, that have prevented the participation of some particular groups.
Also, equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations, where fairness has not existed, and disproportionate conditions have not allowed individuals to have the same access to a quality of life that others have had.
When you ask most families, have you talked about race or did you grow up talking about race, they’ll tell you they didn’t. For most individuals, race was learned through interactions in school and unfortunately those interactions were often times, not the best learning experiences.
According to The Children’s Community School, young children notice and think about race. Adults often worry that talking about race will encourage racial bias in children, but the opposite is true. Silence about race reinforces racism by letting children draw their own conclusions based on what they see. Teachers and families can play a powerful role in helping children of all ages develop positive attitudes about race, diversity and skills to promote a more just future—but only if we talk about it!
There are situations where stereotypes have plagued certain individuals and as a result some were disproportionately treated differently. Because of a lack of knowledge, often times you will find a white person calling a person of color lazy, ignorant, or rude when in fact that isn’t the case. Individuals of color quite simply just won’t get a chance, and certainly not a fair chance.
Today statistics are so disproportionate, as it relates to individuals of color being harassed, stopped by the police, arrested, and placed in jail. Once this happens, it begins to create a spiraling and domino effect that negatively impacts that individual and their families, whether that’s ongoing court cost, probation fees, or difficulties finding a job. Long term, it creates economic gaps in wealth for these individuals.
For 400+ years, slavery has plagued our country and harmed people of color. Today, slavery has been replaced by mass incarceration, and lynching’s replaced by police shootings.
Historical, systemic, and institutional policies have perpetuated racism. One such example is redlining. This one discriminatory act alone has created a domino effect on the lives of many African Americans and Blacks.
Fast forward to today, and you will find that there is not only an educational achievement gap, but a wealth gap, a gender wage gap, an unemployment gap, a digital gap, a homework gap, a school discipline gap, a health equity gap, labor market gap, homeownership gap, a healthy food access gap, and a neighborhood mobility gap, just to name a few.
But don’t take my word for it, google these yourself, the data is astounding and very real!
Yet despite the data, many Americans have sat back and done nothing, because they don’t feel it’s ‘their’ problem.
This is very similar to the mentality that allowed good, church going people, to sit by and watch as slavery, lynching’s and disproportionate treatment of African Americans or Blacks occurred during the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century
Today, it’s considered a black problem, it’s crack vs opioid problem, stigmatism’s around angry black men and women, strong black women, welfare scenarios, athleticism, and criminal behavior are stereotypes that continue to propagate the black community.
And while slavery has been abolished, many Americans are sitting by doing nothing, as police shootings of black men and women occur.
As fathers and mothers are ripped away from their children.
As mass incarceration numbers grow exponentially for people of color and the privatization of this creates an incredible impact upon the lives of these individuals and their families.
Meanwhile there are other individuals who are doing crimes (often white-collar crimes) and are getting a slap on the hand.
I’m not suggesting that people who do crimes shouldn’t be punished, but I am suggesting that there is a disproportionate amount of people who are being punished for crimes, which is not fair.
White privilege plagues America and to not see this, is to turn your back and do nothing.
Being nice and polite is not going to end racism, see the YouTube video that features RobinDi’Angelo, author of White Fragility: https://youtu.be/9Jin7ISV85s
One has to take a stand and know that staying silent and doing nothing is not the answer to the problem. It’s critically important to recognize that if you are not part the solution, you are in fact, part of the problem.
Being an antiracist means enabling beliefs, taking actions, joining movements, and adopting and developing policies that opposes and eliminates racism.
In an article, by KQED, titled, “How Ibram X Kendi’s Definition of Antiracist Applies to Schools,” it states:
Conversations about how to address racial injustice and how to create equitable systems are happening in many industries across the country.
Many people wonder: If we talk about race all the time, aren’t we just exacerbating tensions? Wouldn’t it be better to treat everyone equally and move on? Ibram X. Kendi, race theory scholar hears this argument many times. Kendi, who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and has been fighting the disease for the past two years, says when this question comes up, he uses a cancer analogy. As he received treatment, he couldn’t help noticing the commonalities between cancer and racism — they are both metastatic.
“It has literally spread to every part of our body politic,” Professor Kendi said on KQED’s Forum program. Thinking about racism as a cancer makes the argument, “If we don’t talk about it, it will go away,” seems ridiculous.
“In no other capacity is a problem solved by not talking about it,” Kendi said. “And yes, it’s extremely hard to treat racism. It’s extremely painful. Just like it’s extremely hard to treat cancer. “He argues that, like his cancer, racism exists in every part of the American system.
He says the “treatment” for racism is similar to the one he received for cancer. Scan the body to see where the tumors (or racist policies) are, surgically remove them, then flood the whole body with medicine to make sure even the invisible tumors are treated. That systemic treatment prevents a recurrence of the cancer. Then watch the body closely for signs of new tumors and treat quickly if there are signs the cancer is returning. “Americans want to heal America of racism without pain. That’s impossible,” Kendi said. He fought his cancer diagnosis despite feeling despair. Now Americans must fight racism by becoming what he terms “antiracists.”
In How to Be An Antiracist, Kendi writes: “To be antiracist is to think nothing is behaviorally wrong or right — inferior or superior — with any of the racial groups. Whenever the antiracist sees individuals behaving positively or negatively, the antiracist sees exactly that: individuals behaving positively or negatively, not representatives of whole races. To be antiracist is to deracialize behavior, to remove the tattooed stereotype from every racialized body. Behavior is something humans do, not races do.”
Recognizing that understanding one another goes a long way.
We must remember that understanding one another will never be perfect. Yet we can always move it in the direction of this.
Just because someone doesn’t understand you, is no reason to negate or reject another person’s perspective or reasoning. Take it upon yourself to work through the improvement of genuine understanding on both sides.
Try and see both sides of the coin, rather than just one. Try to meet people where they are rather than insisting that they meet or be where you want them to be. You’ll have so much more to gain from understanding than from alienation.
Often what prevents understanding is not necessarily history or status or identity or experience. What prevents understanding is the failure to empathetically listen and communicate in a sincere and respectful way.
Lasting, genuine, and beneficial understanding can never ever be forced. You earn the understanding of others by giving your understanding to them.
At a deep enough level, all people are more alike than different. However, we need to not only celebrate these differences, as once we do this we’ll eventually realize and enable a fluid understanding that continues to grow.
We want to invite our audience to participate in a Webinar — Take Meaningful Action Against Racism — being offered by MiShon Landry, Diversity Champion, owner of Culture Consultants, and member of the Plaid family. Sign up here.
Below are a few other resources from my personal library:
Also sharing a link to my soon to be released podcast, “CRASH Disrupting Equity” Podcast
C.R.A.S.H. is an acronym for Changing Racial Attitudes, Stereotypes and Hierarchies:
Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash