We’re in that magical time of year, between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the beginning of March, when a plethora of diversity conversations are held and initiatives launched.
We trot out our favorite set of diverse Charlotteans and ask the same questions: 1) Why is diversity important? 2) Do you feel like we’re making progress? 3) How can we fix the system?
While likely well-intentioned, most times, it’s the wrong approach toward anything meaningful. Why? Let’s examine.
Lack of intentionality
These conversations often are very broad. Event organizers typically lump as many people in the diverse bucket as possible and spread the conversation among several groups. This strategy masks the lack of results and outcomes. Progress is achieved when we’re intentional about who we’re targeting.
Progress is not a feeling
With all the data collection tools at our disposal, it’s easy to quantify how Charlotte is doing when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Focusing on how a few people feel about its progress is overly subjective.
Malcolm X once shared thoughts about our country’s progress. He said, in part, “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made.”
Some organizations raise millions of dollars on the quantification of progress, yet we lack a system of accountability as it relates to achieving real outcomes.
The affected group is expected to correct the mistake
Community leaders have opinions on how the system can be changed, but we have to stop looking at marginalized groups to fix the issue. It deflects the responsibility of those who perpetuate the system and typically benefit from inequity.
Therefore, what does a serious focus on inclusion look like?
It’s finding root causes and overhauling processes rather than a whack-a-mole approach batting down small issues. Change comes through consistent focus and intentional actions, not a periodical topic in a speaker series.
The challenge: Charlotte finds too much comfort in conversation.
Let’s move beyond discussing the problem. Now is the time to do the work. Action doesn’t look like another task force or report. Action looks like:
- intentional hiring processes
- deploying capital to organizations with boots on the ground that are making a difference
- removing barriers, whether people or processes, that hinder progress
- calling out the lack of inclusion and then doing something about it
- not taking a single ounce of pride in being the first or the only person of color in an industry or position
- going beyond having a seat at the table toward having the power to change the situation
Moving forward, let’s stop having these surface conversations on diversity that make us feel good. Instead, let’s hold each other accountable by defining and achieving real outcomes. Consistency is key. I hope to see “diversity initiatives” go away and replaced with inclusion baked into our standard operating processes. The dream isn’t that a few of us make it, but rather that we’re all experiencing the full fruits of our labor.
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