Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is basically one of the number one (if not the number one) trending topics, professionally and in mainstream media. Is it in light of the blatant disproportionate circumstances that everyone has always been aware of but are just now acknowledging? It’s also not just trending amongst tech companies, but amongst pretty much every single school, company or organization. There are commercials and prime time television shows making sure to include more forward-facing people of color or same-sex family units. Overall, there are copious amounts of very public and private initiatives being implemented in-house or being outsourced to push the narrative of inclusivity and trust.
While the acknowledgement of what is wrong is notable, it’s clearly not enough based on the history of the systemic racist pillars resisting to crumble right before our eyes. Let’s be real about it: Historically, people who are of a white background or who look close enough to the Eurocentric standard, have been granted grace or preference in just about every single facet of life; therefore they will need to do the work to unravel the years and years of inequity and extend the same grace and preference to people who do not mirror their aesthetic physically, financially or culturally. This then trickles down to the inequities between men and women, immigrants, the LGBTQIA community and beyond. I’d like to also add that just because someone may claim to have never personally witnessed these disproportionate circumstances first hand or have intentionally perpetrated the narrative, does not mean that they do not exist. This also does not mean that if you have friends or family that identify with any of these groups (when you do not), that you know exactly what it is either. Additionally, this does not mean that there have never been white people who have not assisted in the perseverance of this systemic injustice. My point is that it’s going to take everyone who has not been affected disproportionately, especially those in positions of real power, to get onboard with where the world needs to go, period.
Now, what is the purpose of DEI? Google’s answer is that it is a committee created to develop and promote strategies and best practices within the realms of racial, social, sexual and gender diversity. Google also states that it should further serve as an opportunity and a place for non-committee members to provide suggestions and challenges for DEI.
Now are companies, schools and other institutions ready to have an actual transparent “Come-to-Jesus” conversation regarding how we got here and why there is even a need for DEI committees and resources? It however does not need to be a continuous conversation. It needs to be a clear acknowledgement of:
1. This is how things were built wrong
2. This is how we’ve just been going along with it
3. Now we are willing to dismantle everything and rebuild it properly.
Ally-ship is also great; however, ally-ship mostly turns into the non-affected group asking questions to educate themselves about the plights of the affected groups and that’s not the correct forum. Even if ample context and detail are given, a full comprehension cannot be reached, solely on the magnitude of the ripple effect throughout the years. Now despite it not needing to be a continuous conversation, it is a marathon versus the sprint these DEI initiatives seem to mirror. As you can see (or maybe not) not everyone is really on board and Rome was not built in a day.
I turn 30 later this year and I remember the conversation of “making sure I am twice as good as them” as early as elementary. Also, the line of “This is why all white folks think all black folks act this way”. We can even take it as far as the ideology that straight hair or extremely clean-cut or low-cut haircuts for school photos or job interviews are synonymous with being professional. People with textured hair do not choose how their hair grows out of their head, what color skin they’re born with, their economical background, let alone a choice to be here. I could even mention the note of making sure to “sound white” on the phone to ensure you receive decent customer service, appear straight to prevent blowing an opportunity or the fact that many people across cultures try to name their children “acceptable” names or provide an alternate name that would be unobjectionable to the system. Colorism is also a big theme across cultures as well, but everything I’ve just highlighted attests to the age-old idea that the nearer your proximity to being white and a cisgender person, the better or if there is an attempt to create your own lane, it would eventually be taken from you.
This should have never been the standard and for years we have been trying to convince everyone how this belief has infiltrated every single part of society. A few examples would be the previous communities of black professionals whose land, or public retreats were taken from them in Manhattan Beach, California (previously Bruce’s Beach) and Santa Monica (previously Bay Street Beach). Also, more famously, the Greenwood District Tulsa Massacre of 1921 and the Stonewall Riots of 1969 are other instances.
Sure, there are disparities between all of us, but this is not about all of us. This is about the people who are disproportionately affected due to the rules put in place by people who STILL believe they should have a leg up on everyone else. While I wasn’t alive for the uproar from the post-Civil War era stretching into the 1960s with segregation, Stonewall or catalysts alike, we have our own version going on right in our backyards currently, which further solidifies that fact that nothing has really changed. The more recent hashtags of #BlackLivesMatter, #StopAsianHate and #FreePalestine, prove my point. Things were repackaged to placate the masses, so things could go on as they always have behind the scenes. Overall, DEI absolutely matters, but until we fix the root cause of the need for these strategies and resources, they won’t be effective.