Diversity and Inclusion – does it divide us or unify us?

As a diversity and career development consultant since forming my business in 2010 after retiring from IBM, I have been publishing 2-4 blogs each month, many of them about a wide range of diversity topics.
• I have discussed that racism still does indeed exist in “Facing the Truth – Racism Stills Persists in the USA.”
• I offered some hard-hitting solutions to addressing gender discrimination and sexual harassment in “Five Provocative Recommendations to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.”
• I had assistance from members of diverse communities to assist with blogs addressing negative stereotypes of Muslims and Hispanics in our country. The blog Five Common Misconceptions of Muslims in the USA introduces the Muslim topic and has links to additional blogs. And then also look up Seven Misconceptions or Stereotypes of Hispanic People.
• The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community continues to be misunderstood and maligned by a huge number of Americans, including legislators, and I have written extensively on this topic.

And there are many other areas of diversity that grab our attention: Veterans, People with Disabilities, Diversity of Thought, and even straight white men are part of our diversity mix that adds valuable perspectives and variety.

But what concerns me are the negative comments and misunderstandings about diversity and inclusion. Last week, I wrote “Economic Diversity and a Sad Tale of Misused Privilege,” addressing the recent scandal that hit the news about affluent Americans using wealth to cheat and bribe their children’s admissions into top colleges they may not qualify for. I normally promote each blog on my business Facebook page, and invariably, several people will post negative reactions, often decrying diversity.

This blog was no exception. One reader wrote, “We need to dump all this “diversity” horse crap, it’s not working and only creates more strife. Focus on unity instead, what do we have in common? You should also quit whining about “privilege”. Life is what it is, and crying because someone else has it easier won’t change a damn thing. Do what you can with what you’ve got and you will be much more content with your life.”

At least he did not call me names, bully me and use four or five expletives like many people do. But I felt compelled to reply.

Appreciating each person’s diversity shouldn’t divide us … it unifies us and makes us stronger!

Like many, he misunderstands the value and intent of diversity and inclusion. Focusing on diversity is not meant to divide us, but instead to raise the awareness that every single person is unique and different, and brings value to our society. Embracing differing views, ways of thinking, creativity and talents will build a stronger, richer entity; whether it be our country, community, or business. Learning to understand the challenges various people face and assisting everyone in overcoming these challenges will make everyone stronger. I shared with this reader one of IBM’s diversity taglines, “None of us is as a strong as all of us.”

I do hope that everyone can stop, take a breath, and open their hearts and minds to understanding that appreciating and leveraging the diversity of each person will enhance our lives as individuals, as communities, as nations, and indeed as all humanity. The diversity and inclusion discussion is not a “we vs. them” but an “all of us together” discussion.

Peace, Shalom, Namaste!

Four Distinguished Black Business Leaders and a Fantastic Book!

NOTE: Some links to related blogs dealing with race and racism at the bottom.

As a diversity and inclusion consultant, even though my deep area of expertise is the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, I know it is critical to educate myself and support other key areas of diversity including race. The struggles of black-owned businesses and professionals are still very real and present and need continued attention.

One wonderful organization I occasionally participate with is the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA – link), conceived in 1970 to help Blacks coming into the corporate sector, largely for the first time, share experiences and insights to help make the journey easier. See my 2014 blog about their “Leaders of Tomorrow” Program.

On February 2, 2018, the Raleigh-Durham chapter of the NBMBAA hosted a panel discussion with four distinguished business leaders:
• James Sills, CEO, M&F Bank
• Michael Lawrence, CEO, NC Mutual Life Insurance Company
• Isaac Green, President & CEO, Piedmont Investment Advisors
• Joseph Sansom, past chairman of M&F bank and on their Raleigh Advisory Board.

Some of the key points made during the panel discussion included:

• Many black-owned businesses like the ones represented on the panel were founded as a necessity when the enterprises of the day would not serve black customers.

• M&F Bank realized the importance of “owning” vs “renting” and provided loans for mortgages in the early 1900s to blacks.

• Supporting community banks, businesses and community is important for the vibrancy of a community.

• With desegregation came a great deal of mergers and acquisitions of these black owned businesses which has been both good and bad for the black community. For example, in 1970 there were 45 black-owned insurance companies and now that is down to under 20.

• One dynamic of leading a black owned business is the opportunity to call the shots instead of being on the outside looking in.
In addition to attending this panel, I recently read a fantastic short (only 108 pages) powerful book titled “Listen In – Crucial Conversations on Race in the Workplace” by Allison Manswell. This unique book is written as a novel, but contains subsections of useful business tools as it follows the journeys of 5 black professionals who are close friends. The book also addresses the intersection of the black community with generational, gender, religious and gay diversity.

The USA will be a stronger country and our economy more robust as we continue to understand the issues of various minorities within our national fabric and take action to support and nurture all businesses and professionals.

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Related Blogs:

In “Sexism, Racism and the Dynamics of Power,” I examine the power dynamic as critical when we discuss the societal and workplace issues of sexism, sexual harassment and racism.

“Divided We Stand – Racism in America from Jamestown to Trump,” reviews and summarizes a fascinating and important book by David R. Morse that chronicles the many forms of racism present within the USA from our founding days up to current times.

• Though a good number of white people believe that the racial discrimination of the past is eradicated, the black community for the most part, as well as statistical realities, would indicate otherwise. See “Facing the Truth – Racism Still Persists in the USA.”)