D.E.I is the New P.R.

We, in the United States, are urgently working to be anti-racist, or are we just focusing on people who are identified as white and their harmful relations within a system of power? “The U.S needs to embrace its diversity” we say. But, it feels like we are looking at the deficits Black and Brown people are experiencing which come from centuries of marginalization, abuse, and systemic violence. The celebration of who marginalized individuals are and the intersectionality they hold is being traded in. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D.E.I) work has started to focus on how not to be racist, how not to engage in microaggressions, how not to make us look bad. In my opinion, the implementation of D.E.I work is fractured, untenable and not contributing to the abolitionist future we deserve. It is rather being manipulated into a new version of a Personal Representative.

These are thoughts I have as I reflect on my almost decade-long work as a K-8th teacher. There has been consistent and incredibly obvious systemic oppression, yet suddenly there is a deep interest in D.E.I work that comes with the expectation of delivering immediate or near immediate results. As a Black woman and career educator, I have witnessed changes based on altering or assimilating the students to the needs of the school. The approach was a deficit mindset that ignores the reality that students do come with a great wealth of knowledge. The time I have spent in institutions of learning, which should serve as citadels of growth, has led me to doubt the efficacy of woke folx actions. I just reflect on my own varied experiences as an educator. The abrupt revelation that we do not live in a post racist society and that these violent practices have harmed BIPOC as well as white folx speaks to years of a cancerous acceptance of inequitable practices.

The demand for D.E.I has erupted. According to CNBC via Glassdoor, in the U.K, D.E.I hires surged 106% in 2019 while in the United States, they grew by 30%. The Society for Human Resource Development has found that Executive and Leadership positions in D.E.I have more than doubled since last June 2020. It sounds like there was a loud enough cry that Black and Brown lives matter. But haven’t they always mattered? Perhaps people were not forced to show care in public because it did not serve their interest…a little interest convergence.

So, what am I to make of all this? What are we to make of all this? Did the proverbial come to Jesus moment happen? I scoff at that naïve idea and at the same time have to carry some gratefulness for these positions. I suppose we must start somewhere. But these positions become dangerous when they remain PERFORMATIVE. Do the corporations, academic institutions, and nonprofits that are hiring people truly intend to change, or do they want Public Relations staff that makes them look welcoming to the outside world? Do they simply want someone to say, “Hey boss be careful, that’s racist.” Or “Hey boss we should address our hiring practices and how we market positions.” The worry is those memos will be sitting under a pile of other papers, collecting dust! The job description of a P.R. person is to help maintain the public image of the organization by developing its credibility and increasing its consumer patronage. Why do I compare D.E.I positions to P.R ones? Well, the relationship is illustrated in the job description for a D.E.I. position of a national education corporation:

· Work proactively to enhance and protect (company’s) reputations related to DE&I and Sustainability issues and corporate initiatives.

· Anticipate and track reputation issue related to DE&I, social impact, or sustainability.

· Lead issue and reputation management in these areas, in close coordination with the corporate media relations teams.

This is exemplifying the potential a D.E.I position can take. Shielding the company’s reputation. It is a precarious space to be in.

Systemic racism, economic disenfranchisement and marginalization has been obvious for way too long. It has also been utilized to benefit certain groups for way too long. These tables that have seated positions of authority have been exclusively white. Those in positions of authority, especially in education, have been satisfied with the status quo until the same made them look bad. So, I can’t help but be concerned that these D.E.I hires are potentially only a P.R. move and not a move to challenge the status quo. I do hope for authentic change and so I encourage us to not to be satisfied with a D.E.I hire, but to seek true systemic change.

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Critical Thinker - Abolitionist Educator - Morrisonian - Afro/Indigenous Futurist - I am dreaming of world where the Othered are the Always

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TheGriot

TheGriot

Critical Thinker - Abolitionist Educator - Morrisonian - Afro/Indigenous Futurist - I am dreaming of world where the Othered are the Always

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