This is a recording of our live webinar with our host Nubianna and speakers DeRay Mckesson, Brittany J. Harris, and Katrina Jones. They take a deep dive into the concept of about decolonizing D&I on this episode of The Group Chat.
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SPEAKER 1 0:10
For those of you that are joining us for the first time, my name is Mariana. I’m from Houston, Texas. And thanks for checking us out. Live in corporate is a platform that has candid conversations to amplify historically underrepresented voices at work through engaging a spectrum of leaders from various walks of life. And with the group chat, we’re simply designating a space and time to continue to build our culture of candor, through dialogue with you. In doing so is our hope that through these conversations, we become a gathering place that equips people with actionable insights to fully represent themselves and be allies to others. In which each conversation that we have, we have an opportunity to listen deeply and learn from each other. And today is no different with our discussion on decolonizing, diversity and inclusion. So before we get into introducing our panels, of course, we’ll go over a few housekeeping rules. If you didn’t know, these letter, incorporate webinars are recorded. So if you do not consent to being recorded, please watch our replay on living corporate.com. Add your name, so update your username on this platform, so that we can call you by your name that you are given or the name that you prefer. And then also use the chat. So get into the chat. We like to know what your reactions are. We like to know what your questions are. So at the bottom of the platform, you’ll see a couple of options. One is chat. And that’s where you can just you know, respond, react. And then there’s a specific button for ask a question. And this is where you can raise questions, put them in there. We’ll be addressing them throughout the conversation. Our teammate Aaron is in the chat helping to moderate and making sure that we can answer questions as appropriate, but the time that we have now, that all that is said and done. Let’s get into introducing our panellists. Okay, so our first panellist is an activist are there and community organizer focused primarily on issues of innovation, equity and justice. As a leading voice and the Black Lives Matter movement, and a co-founder of campaign zero. He has work to connect individuals with knowledge and tools and continues to provide capacity to citizens, policymakers, activists, organizers, and influencers to make impact and ensure equity. He is also the host of the award winning weekly podcasts pod save the people, which creates space for conversations about the most important issues of the week related to justice, equity and identity DeRay McKesson Welcome.
SPEAKER 2 3:13
Good to be here.
SPEAKER 1 3:16
Our next panellist is a speaker as a speaker, facilitator, creative strategist, consultant, thought leader, black mother to newly four year old Braxton, a caretaker and an active disrupter as the VP of learning and innovation at the winters Group, a Global Diversity and Inclusion consulting firm she is responsible for facilitating and designing high impact learning experiences that shift perspectives, build capacity and empower actions in service of equity, justice and inclusion on a mission to change the world, one interaction and one mind shift at a time discussing with us today how we can reimagine a more just and a disruptive D colonial approach to the UN I Brittany J. Harris. Glad to have you. Yang Good to be here. Thank you. And our final panellist for today is a diversity and inclusion leader, champion and Pioneer that works to develop solutions that improve organizational health, boost employee engagement and foster a more equitable and inclusive workplace. As an expert in this space, she has created diversity and inclusion strategies that disrupt bias across the talent lifecycle for large organizations and start-ups alike. She believes that diversity and inclusion has to be a part of everyday conversations and actions. Excited to have you here with us. Katrina Jones, welcome.
SPEAKER 3 4:59
Thank you for really excited to be here.
SPEAKER 1 5:02
Glad to have you all glad to have you all in really excited about this discussion that we are about to get into. So just so that, you know, we all established a foundation for the conversation. This question is open to everyone on the panel. And it is how would you define diversity and inclusion? And we can start with Katrina, since we just introduced you last.
SPEAKER 2 5:32
Yeah, thank you. Diversity is simply the easiest explanation I have for it is the identities, the cross sections of identities of the butts in the seats around the table. It is who is in the room, and who has power within that room. Inclusion, when you think about inclusion, it is does everyone feel safe, and feel empowered to use their voice to weigh in to disrupt, to challenge within this environment and to bring forward their best ideas?
SPEAKER 1 6:11
Does anyone have anything to add to that?
SPEAKER 1 6:16
The way I’ve always thought about it is that the diversity is about bodies and inclusions about culture, right? So there are a lot of places that do the body work really well, like they hire more gay people, they hire more black people, they hire more. And then, you know, people come into the workplace. And it’s like a nightmare. It’s like transphobic, it’s homophobic, it’s racist, and sexist, that like people have sort of doubled down on the diversity work, like they have changed sort of the sort of physical or identity markers, and have not done anything about the culture. And inclusion is the culture piece. And I think that that they are similar, but not the same. But I think that people do a lot of interesting work in diversity in almost no work around inclusion.
SPEAKER 1 6:58
I think that’s definitely something that we see as a follow up conversation to our definition of diversity and inclusion. How would you all describe the state of diversity and inclusion today? So delving a little bit deeper into conversation of like, what may be missing? Right?
SPEAKER 4 7:16
Oh, child, where do you
SPEAKER 1 7:20
Start with the basics?
SPEAKER 4 7:27
SPEAKER 1 7:29
No, no, no. So and if y’all see me, um, I do want to say that it is because of you. Oh, can you hear me? Yeah, we can hear you.
SPEAKER 2 7:39
Yeah, we can hear you.
SPEAKER 4 7:40
SPEAKER 3 7:41
No, she don’t I think she’s talking I can’t hear.
SPEAKER 1 7:44
Oh, sorry. I don’t know what’s happening. We can hear.
SPEAKER 3 7:47
Oh, I can’t hear.
SPEAKER 4 7:49
Oh, folks, if y’all see me what aside, I heard my four year old is alive and well until I’m present, but then also, like actively mothering in this moment. Um, I love this question, the state of diversity and inclusion, I was talking to one of my girlfriends about this. And I kind of characterize it as like identity crisis. Like, I feel like our industry and this is my perspective, as like a practitioner consultant is going through some sort of like, identity crisis. And this moment in time, I think about how our broader socio political environment is calling for like, a new, like school of thought around the Ei work. And it is like, certainly, like, it’s become even more like top of mind. It’s called, like, new skills, I think, for the most part D is traditionally been seen through this, like corporate lens, you know, this lens that’s grounded in this proverbial like business case, would we got to do a Why should we be doing this work? Bottom line? You know, how do we get to innovation kind of like this school of thought that has always been grounded in the AI is only value if it brings us to money, and less about is less it has been less about so just like humanity in justice, and to be honest, probably even less about equity, up into this point. And so it’s, I characterize it as an identity crisis because as practitioners we’re needing to do a little bit more work. As practitioners, our toolkits are needing to evolve. Corporate DDI has a Pamela Newkirk did a whole book and is interviewed her for live in corporate a whole book on how it ultimately has failed, right? Billion dollar industry but it’s failed us. And I think a lot of it has to do with us evolving too far away from our roots. Our roots being grounded in justice, I roots me and grounded in humanity, our roots being grounded in the work and thought leadership the lived experiences of black people calling for not just a seat at the table, right? But just too just be and live. And, and right. And so I characterize this as an identity crisis because I feel like we’re at this moment in time where business as usual or DNI, as usual, is not enough. And now we’re like grappling with that as practitioners.
SPEAKER 2 10:25
Yeah, I would plus one, to everything. If you see my side I appear, it’s because I have no poker face. When it when it comes to this. You know, I think we’ve gotten stuck in the drain of the business case. And to Brittany’s point, not focusing on the moral case for the work and the values. And I think part of the tension here is that when we are calling out the moral case, we are perceived as attacking an organization or a company’s values, and that fragility, that ego comes out. And it’s really hard for people to say, well, to accept that perhaps their values might be incorrect, or perhaps their values are rooted in white supremacy. Right. And so I think, you know, when I look back over the last six months, eight months, what I see is that anytime we really tried to push and, and people who have been pushing, for example, around racial justice and equity, have been shut down, and they’ve been silenced. And that, you know, around the moment of the murder of George Floyd and protests, all of a sudden, everybody was like, oh, wow. Now we do need to talk about race. And where was all of this energy when people were actively trying to engage you in conversations and actions to address racial inequality? You know, and so I, I think we do have to interrogate for ourselves. What does it really mean to do this work? And what are the ultimate outcomes that we’re striving for? Is it just to change? Again, I think to the raise point, where are we just looking to change the faces of the seats around the table? Are we making doing this work to ensure that people have power and have a voice? And perhaps that we are dismantling the systems through which we do that?
SPEAKER 1 12:37
Absolutely. Andre, to give you a recap, because I know you were having a
SPEAKER 2 12:41
Really good year.
SPEAKER 1 12:43
So Brittany’s Brittany was saying that really, she feels as though currently the state of diversity. And inclusion is going through a sort of an identity crisis, and trying to really shift the focus on what’s really been more so the business case, instead of having it be truly centered around like the human aspect of human equity, bringing that I capture that correctly. Yeah. Okay, so I think we will definitely go deeper into the question that you raise Katrina Valley, what does this really look like? And what, what are we really trying to accomplish? As we go out there? As we go through the rest of the conversation, I want to switch us to our next question, which is around
SPEAKER 3 13:33
Can I just offer? The only thing I’d say is that, you know, I used to be the chibi recapitalised school system in Baltimore. And I managed staffing in Minneapolis. And one of the things I saw with the diversity and inclusion field, I saw two things. One is that I saw sort of manager say, well, changing culture is really hard, right? So like, we can hire the people, but like, culture is hard culture just happens. Like we don’t you know, that, like it would be this thing that like, they didn’t really have influence over culture cut the school culture just is what it was. The Office culture just is what it is. And like, you know, people come into that culture, and they can influence it. But like, as a leader, I don’t you know, we I heard that excuse a ton. The second thing, though, is that, you know, we had all these consultants and in Baltimore 150 schools and many obviously 70 schools, is that we would get all these like equity consultants, because Minneapolis had one of the has one of the biggest achievement gaps in the US. So black kids are doing really poorly and white kids, the highest performing kids in the state of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. But it was all very so like, we would get our managers to be like, yes, help me figure it out. And then we get these theorists who come in, like, have you thought about and the principal is like, I got all these kids and all these parents, all these teachers and you have your talk, you want me to like put sticky notes up and did it and they’re like, we need to figure out how to actually do this. And that’s what I that’s what I saw being a huge disconnect. There were a lot of people who could like tell him what was wrong. There were a lot of people who could like map out the like, theoretical framework. From a book they read, but when the teacher was like, oh, and the principal’s like, Well, how do I actually, what can I do to make the school feel that it was like that actually, just, that’s when it all crumbled in. And I and I still feel like this space is like a lot of theory. And then when people try to translate that it’s sort of like, not much there.
SPEAKER 1 15:22
And I think a part of that is what we talked about, like that culture, right? And how we have these things that are our norms or more mores that aren’t necessarily inclusive, right? And so trying to deconstruct that, and trying to figure out, how do we, I’m getting into the next question, but how do we shift our values? Right, what are some of the things that we mentioned before? So I want to get into the next question, so that we can just keep clicking deeper and deeper and deeper into this dialogue? So just so that we’re all on the same page? Brittany, I’m going to ask you to start off answering this question. What does colonization mean? And as everyone chime is everyone on the panel chimes in really interested in seeing if there are examples that you can provide, as well. So just what is colonization, me?
SPEAKER 4 16:24
I think briefly on that, and so I’m, so I’m actually really hesitant. So I want to honour the fact that when we talk about colonization in its purest form, like it’s, it’s, it’s the humanization it’s the actual like stealing of land. It’s referring to, like, the harm that was caused, is directly towards, you know, indigenous people. And so I’m always hesitant because that’s, that’s such a heavy term I’m so I’m always hesitant, even think use it in the context of like, a metaphor. A metaphor, specifically as we think about this work, especially because, broadly, one of the downfalls of dei is that we tend to like sanitize language. And so when I think about in the context of what’s like in the literal sense, when I think about what we mean, in the context of this work, like how we might or how I’ve observed the I kind of take on a colonial lens, I think about how profit is prioritized over people, I think about how, you know, individualism shows up in how we, or the lack of individual shows up, even if even in how we like, build or don’t build coalitions. There’s not much this work is oftentimes like siloed, within organizations, and even the practitioner space, you just got a bunch of folks kind of like doing their own thing. I think about how, in this work, white voices continue to be amplified. And, and, you know, practically, sometimes it looks like so the winner is a black woman on firm piku that sometimes looks like, folks and oh, we would much rather, you know, hear this coming from, you know, a white person, right? I think about how this industry, you know, folks are making a killing off of this industry. And there’s not much synergy between the folks on the ground who are actually doing the work at a grassroots level, or actually, even within organizations, there’s not as much connection between those most impacted by policy, it’s kind of just like a bunch of leaders who assume that they know what’s going on. All of those are kind of like grounded in like, colonial practices. I think about I was reading an article, I was reading an article I was actually triggered by this I think I tweeted about it shortly after that executive order came out around like anti-racist training, which I thought was like a huge opportunity for like practitioners more broadly to say I don’t care we still long you know, like this is a non-factor you don’t I mean, I kind of like long just sort of their laws aren’t just I read an article we’re someone who is white identifying and in this work said I don’t even know what critical race theory is. Or that has nothing to do with my work. And I thought it was a really good example of like as a white person in this work we get a killing you can be mediocre but you cannot know that. Know that what critical race theory is and think that you came up with something on your own. You don’t want me on my on my bro. My bro but like, Yo, I thought this came on like you’re doing this work and you just think you just get it with it. And so that that to me was like a really good practical example of how this work again, built off of the lived experiences of black people, brown people thought leadership, I like is, has been just kind of like taken from and just turned into something that they are not think that is not it just becomes sanitized. It is not as effective, we miss opportunity to I think really have the impact that we have, where we could have and so those are my Those are my initial thoughts around that right, like getting away from what we’ve moved away from the root of this work the heart of this work. Yeah. Because we don’t even know, I tend to lean toward like the language of Okay, what would it be? What would it look like for us to reimagine that the colonial approach? Or, you know, rather than like, I’m using that language as a country in this way, it does have a deep history, it means something way more than just this theory or metaphor.
SPEAKER 1 21:15
Right? Right. I really appreciate how not only are you saying like, we need to get into the root of what this word really is. But in defining colonialism in the context of diversity and inclusion, how its profit over people and be the having experiences taken away, having voices taken away, it’s like this thing of really like possessing something that isn’t truly yours, right and interested to know if anyone else wants to contribute to their, the meaning of colonialization in the context of this conversation, before we shift into what does colonialization look like in the context of America today?
SPEAKER 2 22:05
I just want to add, I mean, Brittany said, set it all up, I just want to add, I think how it shows up in our standards in the workplace. Right. And so when we talk about the work that’s required, and part of the work that’s required or large part of it is dismantling, disrupting those standards about for example, what is professionalism mean? Professionalism? What does it look like? Our standards around dress code, even, like those are all steeped in, in whiteness. And when you are, when you pull on that metaphor of colonization, they’re steeped in that. Right? So what does it look like to say? Well, we need to, we need to dismantle the concepts around dress code around what is appropriate dress, whom is this appropriate for knowing that our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and hair textures, and all of this in our standards about what it looks like, for example, to voice disagreement in the workplace. And I often when I bring this up, people have a strong reaction because they feel like I’m telling them that, quote, unquote, professionalism is bad. And that professionalism is white. And that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m asking is for a deeper inspection of these so called norms around what professionalism is, and how we got to define professionalism as x or as y. So I think that’s, that’s part of the work is for us to really be unpacking and looking at the roots of how did we get to, for example, how do we get to our notions around time and around timeliness, etc.? Who does that matter for? Who gets penalized when people quote unquote, are two minutes late? Five minutes late? Right? Um, so I’ll pause there because I, I know we have a lot to get into.
SPEAKER 3 24:20
Here, the only thing I’d add is, you know, bell reminds us to like, what is the ethics of domination, and very simply this idea that people with more power and lord it over people with less power, but in this in the moments like this, where it’s a conversation about protests in the police, I’m always mindful that the reason why we talk about policing is not only because we’re trying to disrupt the institution of policing, but we are also trying to disrupt the logic of policing, right? The logic of policing says that there are a set of people who set the norms and standards and then we actually enforce those norms and standards on everybody. And that is at like at its core like that is a colonial project. It is like because we all didn’t craft the norms together, like somebody else grabbed the norms. And then it forced all of them on us in the way that you like keep the norms as norms is because there’s a penalty and a consequence, and a punishment when they’re not met. And like the police actually just function is that so the reason why moments like this, we talked about identity is because like, what is homophobia but a set of norms that have been violated and like enforced on people, right, what is transphobia, but a set of norms that had been violated and enforced on people, which is how we make the link between moments around policing. And when we think about the workplace, you know, I worked with I worked in schools, and I’ll never forget, I went to this one score Minneapolis, you know, I taught I taught in New York and East New York, Brooklyn, like in the Far East, and all black, East Brooklyn, and then New York. And then I worked in Baltimore, another black place. And I’ll never forget being in Minneapolis or like, almost all the kids are white, but there’s like a very small pocket of black kids. And I went to this one school that was black. And people had always said these negative things. And I had seen the wildest stuff in school, so forth. I’m like, if the Minneapolis school is wild, and I will, I’m shocked. Because I’ve seen some, some special things happen in school before. And I go to this school ready, like I’m like ready to be Mr. McKesson like, we’re going to central office at this time. So if I go to like your interview observations, I walk into this warm room. And these kids are definitely not paying attention to the teacher like at all like in no capacity, but they are all seated. Nobody’s doing anything, I guess the teachers fault. It’s not the kids. And I’ll never get the way they talked about the kids. And I’m like, Yeah, the kids were loud. But they probably everybody in the family loud. The whole house, the neighbourhood is loud, right? Like, they’re not being defiant. They just allow, you know, like the black people, we, like, everybody in my house was loud, right? But you But for you, the only way to show up in like learn is to be silent. And it’s like, that actually is like a colonial construct like that is that comes from enforcing a set of norms that are not culturally relevant to these kids, and like, the kids aren’t being bad. Another thing we had is that we were disproportionately suspending our kindergarteners of color. And I’m like, well, what did the five year old do to get kicked out of school, I mean, he’s fine. Like that’s like, like he’s in school to learn, right. But like, again, this is the way the project actually works is like we need to remove you from the space, because like, you are violating a set of norms that you actually never agreed to in the first place. And like that, I’m interested in the way that causation shows up. The last thing I’ll say is, in the in the adult workplace, you know, one of the things that we would do is like map out who talks first and how often they talk. And in room after room, you’d see like, the white man is like just talking and talking and talking. Whereas people of color, you know, all of you know, is that we are always super mindful of like how much we talk especially at work, we’re super mindful of like, how many words we use? Do we talk three times or two? Like three? Why people just talk you like that is your 35th comment. And it meant it like, it meant nothing like what are you saying, but like we are so used to not being heard and seen that we are super mindful when we are heard and seen, which is also something that like, is dangerous in the workplace? Because we don’t, we don’t offer our thoughts and just be like, okay,
SPEAKER 2 28:12
But that that’s also because of the spaces because we might be the only one sitting around the table. Right? And so we’re aware of that representation. And that we are not just representing our voice for ourselves in the way that same white guy who’s talking like 40 times who, who’s like, just hard to read. It is oh my gosh, if I say something I am saying something in these folks minds like to represent all black people everywhere. So I can’t mess this up. But I mean, that is part of it. I as you were talking to Ray, I put into the chat that you know what colonization means in terms of these norms. It doesn’t take into account how differently folks are situated and what they even might need to meet that norm. I come back to like, what does it take for a kindergartner to sit quietly in a class? Right.
SPEAKER 3 29:12
And Katrina it also made me think of like to sometimes you just get tired you’re like okay, I am I’ve already noted that 30 things wrong. You’re like I just don’t even have the 30
SPEAKER 2 29:29
Let me just let me let me be quiet before I get fired because I’m with Yeah. No, I
SPEAKER 1 29:36
Definitely feel that these things are relatable. I know Karina and Julia are in the chat saying like, how relatable these things are to and they’re a as you were talking about, does how we show up. I think another part of that is and I am just gonna speak personally from me because I’ve had these conversations about being in corporate space. Is and not speaking up in meetings? And is that a learning of my upbringing that I have to do? Right? Where it’s, you know, you’re seeing or you’re not heard, there’s a lot of asking for permission before you do anything. And we can’t take that into the corporate space with us. But like, where does that come from? That comes from oppressive systems where, you know, our parents, our grandparents, great grandparents have had to operate in a certain way around certain pupil. And so I think there, there’s a lot of layering and a lot of unlearning that really needs to happen. For all of us.
SPEAKER 3 30:40
I would say like, in learning about different ways that we can pray. When I was early in my career, I thought that like the pointed way, was like the way like, that’s how you gave feedback when people didn’t think you’re like, that was unacceptable then and like their moments are, that’s actually really powerful. But I would find that I get up and I saw somebody put in the chat, like being the only person to and being asked for feedback is that and one of my last jobs and when I was in a senior role, what I could do that would be more powerful would be like, ask a question and be like, yeah, are there other options? Like, is this the best way that we, you know, like, stuff like that, that would just like, introduce doubt, or something where I didn’t have to be like, yeah, that is crazy and racist, because then we just get in the fight about, they’re like, I’m not racist. I’m like, okay, I can’t I don’t have the energy to do that today. But I could be like, well, let’s just map out like the next four options and see if this really works in this space, or like, does this really like I had to learn different ways that I could not lose my integrity and sort of challenge without always having to like, fight. And in Baltimore, all the time fighting was what we did in this in Baltimore school. In Minneapolis, it was not what we did. And I’ll never forget the first meeting I had, in this new role. Somebody else in another department, she was like, we have to redo the plan. The woman before me, it just didn’t make sense. And she and I’m in a meeting with everybody. She goes Dre just because you just because you got here doesn’t mean we’re doing anything new in the meeting. And I was like, in Baltimore, we just started screaming like, it would have been a fight. But I was new to this job. And I just looked at her really quietly, and I was like, you will never speak to me like that again. And we just sat there. I had no say, but that and the whole room is nervous people, I can feel people sweating, right? And it was one of those things that was like, I you want me to be sassy? You want me to yell? You want me to cuss you out? And that is what I want to do. But I’m not going to you just won’t talk to me like that. And then she’s like, I’m sorry. I know. You know, like it was one of those like, we’re not gonna do this. Yeah.
SPEAKER 1 32:40
That’s, that’s crazy. Yes. Katrina setting those boundaries? DeRay. What an excellent way to, to do that and let everybody know, like, this is not what’s about to happen in your interactions with me. You let me switch to some more questions. So during you did answer a lot of the questions, or one of the questions that I had about, particularly for you, what does Columbia colonialization look like in America today? And let me slow down, because it’s talking kind of fast. And so we’re gonna switch to some more conversation. And we’re really not a question of who are the colonizers? Right. So we’ve already talked about colonization. And then in that conversation, we talked about how that connected to diversity and inclusion. But what we haven’t talked about what isn’t on the screen right now is, well, who are the colonizers in this space?
SPEAKER 2 33:36
You want names? Or
SPEAKER 1 33:48
Like, what are the roles right? Like, who are the people in these environments that perpetuate these systems of colonization,
SPEAKER 2 33:59
I’ll say one name, and then HR, HR is, and that’s not a conversation that we are having broadly enough about the way that HR upholds the system’s upholds the standards for the sake of being quote unquote, objective, and really being on the side of the business, more so than the employee. And so when you are going to HR, it’s not about justice. It’s not about you know, a moral compass or anything, it is about managing risk for business.
SPEAKER 4 34:42
I wouldn’t even I’m planning on one HR and my role more often than not working directly with the internal diversity and equity, like officer or lead sometimes HR and so I have found that Chief Diversity officers, depending on their orientation towards this work in the bn, I guess for lack of better terms, like, you know, the columns, you know, colonizers, this sometimes looks like this, like scrutinizing, you know, like content, we can’t say this, you know, we don’t want to ruffle feathers. Sometimes this looks like how they manage like resistance. And this may be because the, I think, still has like a strong human capital or human resources lens. And so I think about some of the internal resistance many organizations are experiencing from their black employees, whether it’s by way of employee resource groups, or, you know, some of the internal organizing that’s going on, Chief Diversity Officer shouldn’t be trying to undermine or manage that resistance. If anything, you should be capitalizing using that as a way to sort of like support your role is like a disrupter. And in my experience, some chief diversity officers take on the lens of, you know, let me you know, don’t need to wait on you, I need to you need to chill at the end, this is for the folks who are into this in turn, I’m going to wait give me more time you’re doing the most right. Sometimes this even shows up and Chief Diversity officers taking it like a very broad approach to diversity, a very, like broad approach that really doesn’t get to, you know, race equity. I mean, even until now, or justice, I think about even this notion of like, amplifying like the right, kind of the right but the thought so a lot of Chief Diversity Officer, this is very anecdotal. In my experience, usually white women, black women, um, and it’s not lost on me that sometimes it’s like the right kind of black and so like proximity to, like, you know, white names, corporate cultural norms, oftentimes plays into how some individuals are chosen or selected for this work. And so it ends up playing out in how they like, show up in the work very program centered, you know, very human capital or compliance focused very much. So, you know, again, caused them to the comfort of executive leaders and not being as actively disruptive. And it’s also not lost on me that there’s a risk associated with, you know, being internal. So I get in. So that’s why I actually think that when we talk about solutions, we got to come up with a way to like, actually begin to share risk, and figure out what that looks like. But more often than not, and my see, some of the struggle is just getting chief Equity and Diversity artists to distrust this, like, actually, let us own some of that risk so that we can support you in moving the needle forward. Right. And I know, it’s nuanced, right? I don’t want it, I don’t want to, I certainly recognize that even as someone who’s external, that there’s a certain degree of privilege you experienced by being able to just like, say certain things and challenge certain things. And like, there’s got to be a better way, right? There’s got to be a better way, especially in the context, the context that we’re in now.
SPEAKER 3 38:20
I’d echo some of those sentiments about the chief diversity people. And I’d say what I’ve seen is a couple things. I’ve seen that diversity people be defenders of the organization, not protectors of people, right. So like, anytime something racist happens, they get they come in to have the Town Hall, which you do. The second thing, and I and I can’t say this enough, but like, I really it worries as somebody who suddenly complete HR, in big places, is people who don’t know the content aren’t very helpful, right? So like, you know, something would happen, and they’d be like, Dre, can we like to host a conversation with it, and I’m like, those people want to fire the principal. They don’t want. They don’t want. Like, if you can’t help me figure out how to, like, ease the tension, then, like, I don’t really need you to come like I can talk about race, you know, like, but they don’t want to talk anymore. They want solutions. So I found a lot of that I found a lot of these roles, they sort of tend to be the problem finders, not the problem solvers. Right. So like, what would be dope would be people come in and they’re like, did you know that this so like, to give you an example, Baltimore, principals were hounding me because they didn’t have janitors. And I’m like, we don’t have janitorial candidates. I know its Baltimore. I know people are unemployed. Maybe they don’t want to be dinner custodians. I don’t. So we’re getting this whole thing about like, principals are killing me superintendents mad at me. And so I like it gets to me, and I personally am hunting down what’s going on with the janitors. Like why do we not have janitors in it come to find out we had this obscure rule that was like janitors had to turn in a like hard copy of their diploma from high school. And if they didn’t have a high school to play We can hire wild magic where the school system so like we have all the departments, right like I can, I can just call records again if I want because we are the school system. And like it was that was it that was a thing that was literally why we weren’t hiring black people was because like, we required a hard copy of the diploma, right. And it’s that sort of stuff that like, I would love for people to help us figure out these like things in systems that are like that they are like racist and in effect, right. And like, that was one of the things that like, Who knew, you know, or like, there were all these other rules in the district that like were weird and crazy, but like it only came up one or two times that people just, you know, people are like, well, this is always the rule and they don’t even know it can be changed. And like, I would love for people to help us do that. Because I’ve just seen the D I see like, a million more conversations. And I’m like, these people are the people who are experiencing racist workplaces. They are they are not, they don’t want another fishbowl. They are like we have talked this to death, they want something…
SPEAKER 2 40:58
I want to say one thing about this also DeRay that is super wild. Like, I just I didn’t even get my birth certificate till I was 30 years old. Cuz my mama had it. I mean, I think part of the challenge is, and I do think us and of course we should we should hold CTOs heads of HR heads of D AI accountable. And we also need to be applying the same pressure to CEOs, and CEOs and boards because a lot of the reason that people cannot move that they cannot do the deep work they want to do is because they don’t have any power. Right? When you report to a head of HR, your head of HR, if you say, hey, we need to do something about our recruiting process, right? We are having people, for example, come in and asking them to whiteboard. And there’s a better way to do this. Without putting people through that mechanism. You will have to fight recruiting, you will have to fight HR, they don’t want to make these changes. And so I know that yes, it is on the CTOs. And the reason why we get to a lot of Oh, we’re going to have another conversation we’re going to do this is because people just fundamentally don’t have the power to architect and to make these changes. They are forced to lead through quote, unquote, influence, as opposed to saying, this is what we have to do. Let’s go do it. And it is the way when you talk about how does colonization connect with DNI. This is what it looks like. It looks like hiring someone to be ahead of Dei, who doesn’t have any real power, who doesn’t have budget who doesn’t have resources? Who doesn’t have headcount? Who’s not, for example, over HR versus HR being over Dei, like why have we not flipped that to say, No, actually DDI should be over HR, it should be about dismantling the and disrupting bias within our HR processes.
SPEAKER 4 43:11
So one thing I want to one thing that I want to I want to plus one, I can’t believe I can’t remember it was the ray or Katrina who said it about the chief diversity officer, oftentimes one wants to align themselves to organization versus the people. Um, one of the things that I think is inherent to this work and so I’m this is not a come for, like CEOs, right? Cuz I think one thing we can, especially for, I’m standing for the black women who are like, in these roles, like, this work is like, deeply rooted, I get it, but there’s this passion. I have tracked that when we go into these organization, I just think like, when I was internal, we go into these organizations with high intentions to do the work. In, in sometimes, like, internalize, like, because we’re like doing the work. We’re like grand and we’re like dealing with the resistance and conflict. When people come for us, like comfort organization, we think they come in for us because we’ve like internalized this, like professional identity as like, like who we are. But we’ve internalized like this organization. And because, you know, like we’re putting in, you know, time putting the word out there. We’ve in some ways, like conflated the organization and its work with like who we are. And so when we’re in a position where the community that we’re serving, is trying to hold the organization accountable. We think that people are coming for us and that’s just something that’s the case and that’s why I think a lot of this like colonial stuff is also very much so intra personal. I have to tell myself often and I remember when I was in Florida, I tell myself often like I am at this organization and as much as I care in the past About this work, I would not this work on me like my sense of who I am, my self-worth, my humanity is not indicative of how this system turns out. It’s not indicative of how people respond to how this system plays out. And so I think a lot of the conflict that was really you know, a lot of like the, this this, this colonialism is internalized once we are in the systems for so long, and we don’t set aside the necessary time to really do like the interpersonal work, to where we can like BMD systems without necessarily like, internalizing all this jacked up about them. And like, and when I think about the role of the chief diversity officer, you should actually be like, anticipating conflict, but you should actually be like, you know, what, every time someone stands up, or is disruptive or comes for the system, I’m using that as more and more weight, but I’m using as more and more influence, I’m tapping into the power of the collective so that this risk doesn’t all have to be on me, that is difficult to do, when you can get organization that’s difficult to do when you think that like, you know, the outcomes of the organization are like inherent to you or, and this goes back to like colonial school of thought they like your working work. Like No, it’s not like it is absolutely not. I actually affirm that for myself, even as a consultant. Often I am that my work? Yeah, people may not like, I am not my work, I care about the work, but I’m not my work. And I feel like if you don’t have that boundary, you said it could mean that it can be toxic until you detriment. And, you know, we end up the encounter, you know, counter to our work, right?
SPEAKER 2 46:47
I mean, look, it’s a very anti-capitalist point of view to say, I am not my labour. And, yes, I care about the work. And yes, I’m passionate. And yes, I want change for the people. And I am not my labour, I am not the sum total of my efforts across decades across organizations, etc. Last one thing I’ll say about this, because I, I agree that there are folks who are internalizing the effort and also internalizing the brand as part of themselves is that I think this work can come in phases. We just don’t often see it evolving enough. But we talked about those first heads of Dei, those first CTOs, right, and those being the perfect first, because they offer a level of comfort to folks in the room, that they’re not too loud and proud with their blackness, right? Which is a whole other conversation, but then we need to evolve to that next level. And I don’t think that we often enough get to that evolution to say, Okay, I was a good first right, but how am I put putting people in the room? Who will actively challenge how am I challenging? How am I continuing to evolve? And how do I make space for that next person who needs to come in and push us forward?
SPEAKER 1 48:20
I think that’s absolute perfect segue into the question of how do we or how do we decolonize DNI what does that mean? So we’ve talked a lot about who’s responsible for that work, right. And even in previous conversations, we’ve come to realize that really people that are in though, not all, some people that are in the roles that they are in, they’re not really qualified to be in those roles. And we talked about that earlier in this conversation as well. People not being aware of really just behavioural science be like social context, things of that nature. And they’re being put into these roles where they are intended to help shape the culture or change the culture to be more inclusive. So I know Brittany, you talked about, you know, tapping into the power of the collective. But what does that really look like for someone to be able to start to decolonize diversity and inclusion.
SPEAKER 4 49:30
So one thing that I’ve so one thing, so one, I think active way to sort of like just disrupt, break practically like strategy development. And so, for the most part, a lot of decisions that are made within organizations that affect employees, but more specifically, like employees are made by the individuals around the leadership table. This notion again, that they sort of know what’s best because they have, whether it’s degrees experienced these things that we have seemingly ascribed or maybe like even overvalued, I think one practical way that organizations di practitioners can begin to just take a more like decolonial approach to this work is to be very like this equity centered and how they strategy develop. And so actually going to employees, right, actually going to the employees who are not like at the table in and engaging them in strategy development. And so, I am not I’m not pro employee resource groups, but I recognize them as like a medium and it’s something that companies have access to. But so actually leveraging your communities of black employees to come to the table paying them for it, obviously, because we don’t want to perpetuate emotional labour, but centering them in strategy development, shred strategy design. When they’re y’all whoa, hold on, hold on really quick. Y’all hold on really quick because I’m Brexit coffin hold on really quick.
SPEAKER 1 51:13
Wait, y’all, we got to see a cameo and Braxton earlier. Anyone else want to contribute to this in four minutes that we have going on? What are some active ways? Also, like a question that I know that I was getting from previous conversations, as well? What role does social activism even play in this space? And so the rave you want to provide your perspective on that?
SPEAKER 3 51:41
Yes, I think that, you know, the big goal should be that the people in these roles actually already come with an equity mind-set. So we don’t have to like siphoned off roles to do this, right. Like that, I think would be like, one of the real sort of the head of HR, the head of programming that like already comes in with this understanding so that we don’t have to, like split it off. But because Britney’s back, I’ll stop because I wanted to hear with us. Yes, no,
SPEAKER 2 52:15
SPEAKER 3 52:21
How old is he?
SPEAKER 2 52:22
SPEAKER 3 52:23
SPEAKER 4 52:28
So um, geez, I don’t even know y’all forgive me. I forgot where we was, where I was going with this. I’m actually centering strategy development around employees who are most impact the right, so I think a lot of times, our even how we might understand data in the DI space has been largely like quantitative, like, what do the numbers say? And not enough around? Like, what are the experiences of the people who are here? So I think the more that we can tap into the, the perspectives of the people within our organizations are impacted by our policies, bringing them around the table, even the ones that are disruptive. And so actually forming a committee of folks who, you know, are going to challenge every policy or practice that you put out. A lot of times these councils or task groups are made up of folks who for lack of better terms are going to be on board, and not the folks who are disruptive within the organization. And so imagine company knows, know, imagine, imagine if, as it relates to strategy development, we were actually forming like disruptive committees, like the folks who we know are going to challenge every policy, or practice that we come up with, versus kind of like trying to, like, minimize that perspective, right. Like, just minimize that perspective, like manage, and manage that perspective. I think another thing that I think about when it comes to taking more like the colonial approach, and it is mostly top of mind, because of the election, but like, what is it like to now let’s start to embed healing and like well-being like institutionalized is the institutionalize like this even like rest and boundaries, right? I don’t know exactly what that looks like. But I am very concerned that like, not enough organizations are thinking about what the how this is impacting, like, less of the head work, but like how our bodies our health are being impacted, like by this climate, like, I’m wondering if any organizations have thought about level Casanova before, no matter how it goes, like, what are we doing to make sure that we are well, like them? Our employees are well, you know, I mean, yeah. I’m gonna be myself.
SPEAKER 1 54:53
And I think that is something that’s top of mind for most people is this component Bonus Ray. I know, Katrina, you and I, we talked about that in our discussion that we had, I want to be mindful that we are at 11 o’clock. And I try to make sure that we end things on time. And so clearly, this is a conversation that was too good. We didn’t even do our rapid fire today, but definitely want to thank everyone for joining the conversation, if anyone has any last minute words that they want to say, our last minute thoughts that they want to leave the audience with, please do so. And then we’ll close out the conversation.
SPEAKER 1 55:43
I would, my last thought is one to continually interrogate your biases around all different dimensions of identity, continually interrogate your perspectives, to ensure that you’re not routing your work, that your work is not rooted and not shaped by this colonization, by systems of white supremacy, there is a work that we need to do and your identity, your background doesn’t automatically exclude you or give you a pass. We continually have to do this work.
SPEAKER 2 56:35
I just say we can win. That’s it. I think we can win in this lifetime. I don’t think that it is. This is like a 200 year thing. I think that we can win, like in our lifetime. I believe that little Braxton right there. It’s gonna be like, Well, that sounds so crazy. Crazy.
SPEAKER 3 56:50
You don’t even know.
SPEAKER 1 56:54
No, absolutely. Thank you, everyone for your conversation. Thank each of you, the panellists for providing their perspective, thank the audience for being engaged and contributing to the conversation. I just I just wanted to say thank you for your time and perspective. This conversation feels really on done, which means that there is so much more for us to talk about. I’ll be sending a follow up email to everyone with some highlights for today. I just really want to say thank you and until next time, wishing you all some grace. Thank you.
SPEAKER 2 57:34
SPEAKER 3 57:35
Thanks, everybody an honour.
SPEAKER 1 57:41
I hope Braxton feels better.
SPEAKER 4 57:45
Thank you so much. Thank you.
SPEAKER 1 57:51
Have a wonderful Saturday.