“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Estimated time to read: 7 minutes
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is such a sensitive, hot topic in the current climate of the world – from Corporate to education. And it is not going anywhere any time soon. It’s buzzing because in a world that tells us, “We are being diverse,” you’ll only see one face of color among the very present majority – White America. And while it is wonderful and necessary to learn and be among people of all races, it’s important to note when we are not being truly diverse and inclusive.
For years, it has been a struggle to see representation of people of other races in leadership roles and places where voting matters. Within higher education and the job market especially, it was more commonly referred to as Affirmative Action, where people who were more commonly discriminated against were favored by policy or instructions. It’s been argued time and time again, however, that such policies do not need to favor people of color because, regardless of race, people of color could match up to do the job or fill the allocated freshman class seat just as any of their equally competent White counterparts. The opportunity to succeed just needed to be present. And while opportunities seemed to be far and few in between in times past, it (lack of opportunity, that is) unfortunately seems to rear its ugly head of non-existence nowadays, as well.
It still happens today, where there’ll be one man or woman of, speak less of the entire race as a whole, represented in a place of power, influence, or intelligence among White affluence. I know because I have been that sole representative more often than not. It begs one to wonder: how did they get there, was the opportunity widely presented to others, is she or he truly qualified to be there? While this could be an intrinsic evaluation, it makes one wonder if those in leadership and position of power also ask these questions of themselves to understand where the system may be broken.
But here’s the thing: you don’t know what you don’t know. And so, to solve a problem you don’t understand (or heck, don’t honestly desire to understand), you can never get the answer or be fully accepting of the result. All this to say, a person cannot understand the pitfalls of the lack of diversity and inclusion if they themselves have not experienced the side of the minority. You can only be aware of the opposite if it has been exposed or revealed to you. While it’s cool to have White people who are woke and up on the latest information impacting Blacks, Latinos, Asians and everyone else with pigmented skin, there is a fine line with being knowledgeable and accepting versus culturally insensitivity.
In order for businesses, companies, and educational institutions to better position themselves to be more diverse and inclusive in times to come, there simply (and honestly) needs to be one baseline rule: place people of diverse ethnic backgrounds in leadership to cultivate a more diverse atmosphere. As simplistic as it may sound, but the phrase it takes one to know one is seemingly applicable in this case. The struggle being real is not translatable to another, if one person for instance hasn’t struggled, but instead had everything handed to him or her. This is not to push up against the grain or to take away from White America (or maybe it is…), but a CDO (Chief Diversity Officer) needs, truly, to have one fundamental understanding and that is diversity. Because you see, being diverse and inclusive, is not merely recruiting the top black students from the local HBCU (Historically Black College and University) or seeking to meet a quota of how much each race is represented without adequately training the next generation to be the best versions of themselves.
Diversity is having people of all walks of life (from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds) present and readily available [to work, be educated, etc.] on an equal playing field and inclusion is creating the place and space for all these people to be nurtured to thrive in their respective roles. D&I is where a CXO or department lead who is someone of color doesn’t remain unnoticeably the only person of color in a leadership role for years on end because he or she has become the “token child,” the sole representation of diversity and inclusion. It is recruiting someone for the job because he or she is knowledgeable and capable of fulfilling the duties it entails, investing into younger people so that they can be groomed and positioned to grow within their careers.
To lead such an effort, CDOs should be people who have come from this place of rising to the top against the odds, someone who has experienced it and succeeded within their field. It should be someone who understands the need to code switch, and the burden of being the only person of your race represented in a room and having to be that representative for the entire race. In order for diversity to be more inclusive, there needs to be more inclusiveness of diverse peoples.
What has been your experience with diversity and inclusion on the job, in school, wherever? Was the diversity truly inclusive? Let me know in the comments below.
I am wearing a white tank from Walmart with my favorite tye and dye Ankara pants Mrs. Kate made for me. I topped it off with this clean and smooth Calvin Klein fur bomber jacket. An outfit inclusive of [semi] high-end to very low-end prices.