DEI Professionals: Are We Practicing What We Teach?

I recently joined Linkedin. A friend suggested that it would be an excellent way to network. I created a profile, started following anything diversity, DEI related, and I quickly found myself overwhelmed by some of the things my DEI peers were posting. What I am about to suggest is not a judgment; it is an observation and a challenge that I think we all benefit from asking ourselves. Could we be handling this better? Are we as effective as we could be? What is our desired goal? Are we living in fidelity to the values we are attempting to teach others?

As a passionate advocate for Social Unity and IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice), I have had to modify my approach to reflect my goal and my values. We have many challenges in this line of work, and sometimes I fear the most significant challenge is our approach and mindset.

I believe we all want the same thing. We want a world that is fair and just, where everyone is valued equally, and no one has to justify how they show up in the world. I believe that this world is possible. If you are a DEI professional, hopefully, you feel that way too. I am very passionate about being a culture carrier for this world I desire to live in. I am also frustrated when I see that we collectively can do better. To me, it is clear that we are stuck in a cycle of behavior that has not served us well. We need to understand and realize that everyone is equally on a life journey, learning lessons of how to be better and do better for themselves and the people around them. We need to be more understanding and accepting and value their place in that journey. We need to believe that with mindful methods of compassion and awareness, not by shame or force, people can and will come to understand how to step out of a system that does not support or serve everyone fairly and justly.

I think this meme depicts what I am trying to convey perfectly. Here is what is happening. The parent, who is years ahead in their math knowledge journey, is trying to help their child learn basic math. It is a concept that is entirely new to the child, and the child does want to learn but is having a hard time getting the idea. The parent is frustrated that the child isn’t getting it. They want the child to meet their expectations immediately. They feel like this practice is a waste of time because they think the child should know the answer because it is evident to them and so they keep repeating the question over and over. The child doesn’t get it; the child is confused. Hearing nothing new to address the real problem it is having; the child has stopped listening. The parent notices and becomes angry and disrespectful, treating the child as if they are stupid. The child now begins to feel berated and belittled and, yes, stupid. The child is no longer thinking about the lesson; they are trying to find a way out of the situation. The parent continues to grow more and more impatient and frustrated and perceives that the child doesn’t care. The child’s self-esteem is damaged, the lesson has become a traumatic experience, and the relationship is fractured. The parent feels their child is dumb, and the child feels their parent is hostile.

What could have happened differently to achieve a better outcome? The answer for me is clear, empathy, acceptance, and a change in approach from the parent. What if the parent showed more understanding of the child and their feelings. What if they accepted that this is a new challenge for the child and had patience as they worked with them. What if they believed and spoke to the best in that child. What if they kept a mindset that the child was bright and intelligent and capable of learning, they just needed another method to help them understand. What if the parent was mindful of the child’s learning style and catered the lesson to be a more comfortable experience.

Hopefully, you see where I am going with this. Shouldn’t this be our approach with everything, especially DEI work? Shouldn’t we, of all people, understand the diversity in thinking, background, culture, and social conditioning? Shouldn’t we practice empathy, emotional intelligence, acceptance, and adaptability to meet people where they are? Shouldn’t we speak to the best of them with the best of us?

This isn’t selling out; this is how we show we are all in. This is how we model the values that we want others to learn how to develop. This is how we see durable change. This is how we move from power struggle to progress. This is how we practice what we teach.

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.”
― George Washington Carver

More holistic exercises and strategies for DEI are in my newest book, “Healing Our History and Co-Creating a Culture of Oneness” which is available for pre-sale. Click the title to get your copy now.

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