Defining and Practicing Diversity

“Diversity,” has become a safe and convenient word in the 21st century, it is being misused and abused, is now marketable, and being used to blanket issues of discrimination across institutions in the workforce as well as higher education. Diversity has been defined in regards to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and multiple other forms of discrimination that make up the diversity wheel (see below).

The diversity wheel, while it is still missing components, and does have some gaps regarding diversity, breaks our dimensions into layers (internal = the permanent/visible and the outside = dimensions that change over time). We have started to take it so as to define diversity in the context of professional experience, fashion etc. While these things are components of diversity, they should not be used as excuses to discuss our inner and outer components of diversity, the topics which create a broader level of being uncomfortable.  I have found myself in conversations where such components are being used and equated or used to overshadow the inner layers of diversity such as race, sexual orientation, gender, citizenship status, language etc.  Depending on perception created by experience some components maybe seen as more important than others.

To adequately define diversity an examination of the inner components of the diversity wheel in accordance with professional and personal environments requires a collaboration of diversity and inclusion perspectives. To embrace diversity calls for the recognition and respect of multiple layers of identity and experiential knowledge as legitimate in the workplace, and must be clearly defined into practices (hiring and retention practices) and policies in professional cultures. The learning mechanism and strategic visions that are meant to embrace diversity are plagued with conventional wisdom and reek of a White privileged ambiguity towards the internal layers of diversity. The indestructible permanence of racism exists in our institutions exists  because there is a passive ignoring presence of the frequent occurrences of discrimination, there are blind eyes and the eyes that have been shut, the wool has been pulled over to prevent exposure, and the inability of recognition to confront discriminatory acts.

The reality of internal and outside diverse components being discriminated against exists in our institutions.  The certainty of proof exists in departments that track data such as the retention of people of Color (in professional and educational spaces) vs Whites, and the comparison in wages between genders especially in professional spaces along with components such as promotion etc. The denial or exclusion of our internal diverse components in diversity conversations and practices is discrimination and it perpetuates White privilege.  A reformation of policies and practices to ensure equity for all and the meaning of diversity in our institutions requires but are not limited to the following:

  • The strategic visions designed by the leadership of your institution usually outlined strategies to recruit a more diverse workforce. Recruitment of these populations is not enough you need to focus on practices for retention. However you decide to recruit promote, and retain a diverse workforce, make sure that they are a representation of the populations you serve and the ones you intend to recruit. It is honestly simple math! You must redefine and implement diversity and inclusion goals to obtain and promote awareness, change and implement practices, consistently revisit the qualitative and quantitative data through more professional entities than just trainings alone, this will help to create more diversity friendly spaces.
  • Overcoming the racialized practices on the institutional level requires a substantial amount of professional and educational resources. Therefore, leadership’s energy must appropriate specific funding to recruit more Populations of Color as well as staff and the development of diversity and inclusion programs. The development of such programs and recruiting a workforce of Color gives you the opportunity to advance your diversity and inclusion practices and reassess the current ones. Your strategic visions are just blueprints for this process, now you must break ground to start construction.
  • Embrace internal and external communities of Color in all disciplines. This includes consciously including the funds of experiential knowledge found within the populations that you serve. These communities must be accounted for per the data presented that examines such populations in your workplace and external communities. Your pamphlets and marketing cannot show a slight representation of diversity, but diversity alone is not just a representation of race.

Accomplishing diversity and inclusion will not be an easy task, but it is possible. It will take time to develop and even more time to assess. We all have to be willing to commit to the solutions, and not just talking about them in spaces that clear our conscience.

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