There’s an ominous paradox in the Canadian and American workplaces. As organizations look to procure the benefits of a multi-cultural, multi-connected, multi-everything landscapes, the countervailing force of bias, prejudice and racism often undermine that effort, creating challenges that companies are responsible for overcoming.
Much has been said and written about the importance of diversity – in schools, in companies, and institutions in Canada, the U.S., and in the world at large. Diversity – the word itself has become almost ambiguous; loaded even; that makes some uncomfortable, some proud and some confused. To navigate through this seemingly apparent incoherence, the word “inclusive” has now entered the chat. Like Cheech and Chong, or Penn and Teller, diversity and inclusivity have become a dynamic duo. Perhaps it was paired for depth, or substance, or more confusion. Who knows?
My experience with diversity in the workplace has been a double-edged sword. Diversity was like being “invited to the party”, but not “invited to dance”. I couldn’t “make any moves”. In a perfect world, it would bring a great purpose to live and work in a diverse setting with diverse people who share a common goal. A bonus would be a meritocracy. Sadly, most of the time it only looked good in theory. In application, it looked like diverse people who have the same thoughts. Those same thoughts were echoed from the top, which were leadership committees. The top? Predominately white.
This is where the inclusion part comes in. Inclusion was placing these diverse people into boxes that already exist. The very same box likely created by the aforementioned “top”. As defined by Global Diversity Practice inclusion is “an organisational effort and practices in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed, and equally treated”. Inclusion is supposed to promote a sense of belonging. But is it a sense of belonging, or does inclusion just mean being validated from non-minorities? I honestly think most of these people are well-intentioned albeit misguided.
After George Floyd’s death at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in May, protests against police brutality and systemic racism sparked up again prompting companies to speak out in support of racial justice. We saw statements about Black Lives Matter to staff and the public, commitments to pledging funds to charitable organizations, leaders and celebrities stepping down and apologizing for the problematic company and industry culture. These were all admirable well-intentioned looks. For some, that’s all they were – optics.
Practice what you preach.
Many of these industries are lily-white and liberal. From film and television production, publishing, media, marketing, arts & music, talent agencies, and many more. Many of the subordinates in these industries, though are people of colour. So, we know that the talent pool is there. The juxtaposition is eerily similar to apartheid. Do “Black Lives Matter” as long as we’re not trying to compete for the same jobs? I saw a tweet and an article which highlighted this same predicament; the message was clear and ironic, many if not most of these individuals claim to promote, support and endorse the premise of BLM, and even marched at the protests but when it came a time for the redistribution of resources it became the biblical wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Let’s be clear here: I am not a victim.
This isn’t a matter of needing your sympathy or pity. In fact, it never was. To quote Frank Sinatra I’m always going to do it my way. At the same time to quote Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges – Move b**** get out the way. The point is if you care, you should share or stop with the posturing.
Just be honest with yourself.
Are you doing it for the culture or your conscience?
Leave your thoughts below in the comments.