Killing Inclusion through Diversity

Is there another more over exposed word in the federal government than diversity? Over the past week I kept a journal of instances I have seen or heard this “D-word” in my workplace-chief diversity officer, diversity of thought, office of diversity, diversity solutions, diversity of vocabulary, diversity of interests, racial diversity, gender diversity, cultural diversity and generational diversity just to name a few.

I have been thinking about our 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regurgitation of the term “diversity” and the fact that its overexposure is not resulting in inclusion, the so called by-product of diversity.

I think what has happen over the years is we have substituted the word diversity for the word we should be using in this narrative in the first place-race.

We think the only way to deal with diversity is to take race out of the equation rather than facing it head on. We all agree that unequal treatment is wrong. But not seeing race as part of that unequal treatment is equally wrong. You cannot fight racism by pretending it does not exist. Confronting racism requires looking unequal treatment in the eye as well as the unequal conditions that created the unequal treatment in the first place.

Yet diversity is such a polite, positive and hopeful term than the phrase “race.” You ask most people if diversity is a positive thing and they say of course it is. Diversity is right up there with agreeable notions like love, peace and harmony. Things we all like to talk about but do little about. Just mention the term “race” and people become defensive, want to change the subject or defend their indefensible notions of how diverse and inclusive they think they are.

We have focused on recognizing diverse characteristics of people without confronting offensive behavior that fails to embrace those differences. We have built diverse organizations by counting heads while ignoring whether the heads even count. We highlight our diversity numbers without asking is this an inclusive organization. We have added seats to the table but everyone’s voice is still not heard. We are diverse but not inclusive.

We are stuck in the philosophy that diversity and inclusion has to serve our self-interests first before it serves the interests of others. Diversity is that feel good notion that makes us satisfied as an act of mercy but does little to change the status quo. Inclusion goes a step further as an act of justice that changes the current condition. It is the difference in donating items to a food pantry as opposed to changing the economic disparities that cause hunger in the first place.

We have put all our eggs in the diversity basket. Isn’t it time we crack some of them open for inclusion?

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