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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Nicholson

Cultivating DEI Through Co-Conspirators, Justice & Resistance

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

She opened with, "To do the work of justice, resistance is coming."

In October, I was fortunate to catch Kent State University's Anti-Racism Conference Keynote speaker Dr. Bettina Love virtually. Listening to this dynamic keynote encouraged me to finish reading her book, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. As I reflect on my work as an Architect of Purpose and Intention within JEDI, Human Resources, and Executive Coaching, when Dr. Love opened with the statement, "To do the work of justice, resistance is coming,"—I am profoundly encouraged to continue this work.

An article by Korn Ferry entitled Your Chief Diversity Officer Is Likely Leaving highlighted the genuine discourse among many regarding the ability to retain Chief Diversity Officers in today's climate. As I learn more and more about JEDI and transformative solidarity ( from my friend Deepa Iyer, Dr. Love reminded me this work is heart and soul work. It was almost a relief to hear her say that it is elementary to internalize your "fight" to change the organizational status quo and norms without the reality of expecting resistance.

"This is what I call sublime (defined as "elevated and exalted") ignorance. When many Black people hear stories like this, we do not know whether to scream, cry, or laugh. How could you not know that racism is alive and well in America and throughout the world? The truth is that white people are not required to know. As the dominant group, they can go through life with the privilege of never thinking about their race. Many white people still claim not to "see" race. If you do not see it, there is no reason to address it. You can be sublimely ignorant." - Mary-Frances Winters, author, Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit

There is a deep struggle of resistance toward addressing and combatting discrimination. When resistance presents itself within the workplace, specifically regarding race and class, it can present itself explicitly or implicitly as oppression, microaggressions, discrimination, and racism, to name a few. Yet, Dr. Love shared, "We can't have a lens that looks at race and does not look at the class."

Image obtained from Women and Gender Equity - GBA Plus Course | Gov't of Canada

The traditional workplace doesn't often welcome exploring personal values and feelings. Even the employment attorney at my 9-5 reminded me that it is not a requirement of the job for a person to share how they feel. She is right. But how do we engage and encourage individuals to be authentic while cultivating a work environment (i.e., culture) anchored to specific values that employees may not share? Exposure to those who genuinely do not believe in anti-blackness is real and challenging. So many people are comfortable doing just enough. But doing "just enough" isn't enough.

The workplace is an extension of our life. These organizations we give space to on an average of 40 hours a week are microcosms of the larger macrocosm of life and our experiences. Individuals bring their passions, talent, and time to work, yet these spaces and places ask some to conform while others are freely allowed to perform. The Great Resignation revealed how work and life were unbalanced and disconnected from how individuals wanted and needed to excel. And many exited workplaces and workspaces where pay and opportunities for advancement were low, but experiences of feeling disrespected were high. Dr. Love exemplifies the evidence of this point of belonging and mattering by stating, "My life is integral to the system that it won't run without me - that's what it means to matter."

"My life is integral to the system that it won't run without me - that's what it means to matter." - Dr. Bettina Love

By embracing JEDI principles authentically, our workplaces can experience the radical change necessary for our world to remain innovative and prosperous. Chief Diversity Officers are walking away from these roles because, as Dr. Love later stated in her keynote, "Everybody is talking about change, but your values haven't changed. If your values don't change, the structure stays the same." She continues, "Before you ask me for a strategy, look at yourself, your values, and your home." The exhaustion is the one person that leads the charge with limited funds and support, despite tons of resistance, helps no one move the needle. Fewer allies are needed, and more co-conspirators like James Ian Tyson, who assisted with the awareness and confidence of his privilege to help Bree Newsome remove the Confederate battle flag outside Columbia, South Carolina's State Capitol, in 2015.

"Justice work is not meant to make everyone happy" - Dr. Bettina Love

CEOs and companies are getting employees involved and to agree that they were hired to "do a job." No, let's be honest. The talent was hired to impact the world and support the business's bottom line. How does it manifest itself if people must conform, hide, or experience mistreatment because it is uncomfortable? How does this manifest itself if we know specific individuals are not paid the same wages for the same "job?" Dr. Love reminds us, "Justice work is not meant to make everyone happy." The world around you includes right here and right now. Employees at all levels must reflectively assess what kind of human beings they are to their co-workers, stakeholders, and clients.

Change and justice are necessary to spark colleagues' innovation, authentic engagement, and holistic well-being. This requires...

  • Radical change.

  • Mindset change.

  • An awakening.

  • Acknowledgment.

  • Ownership.

Dr. Love closed her keynote by articulating, "We are not striving for perfection. We will stumble and fumble to the fundamental ideas that produce justice and equity." And, therefore, unfortunately, resistance. It's natural. We ask folks to push past what's natural for true transformation and equity to emerge. As an Architect of Purpose and Intention, I always try to leave people whole when I work with clients and organizations. This work isn't perfect. This work is not easy. This work is not without reflection. Instead, it is seeking, doing, repeating, and doing it all over again. We've experienced enough resistance. Join me at the table--let us work together and create a better world.

"We are not striving for perfection. We will stumble and fumble to the fundamental ideas that produce justice and equity." - Dr. Bettina Love

APHR Can Help

AllProfitHR helps organizations experience transformational people and culture systems to create a culture of belonging for all. We are a 100% independent, minority, woman-owned HROD firm specializing in the following:

  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy,

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  • Leadership Development & Executive Coaching, and

  • HR Advisory Services.

With so much to execute, assess, and strategize for your critical goals, schedule your complimentary discovery call with AllProfitHR, your Human Resources, and Organizational Development Architects today.

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We have enough allies. In what ways have you witnessed profound co-conspiracy in work or generally?

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