Tag Archives: slavery

If I Want to be Inclusive, I Must be Willing to Change

If I Want to be Inclusive, I Must be Willing to Change

When my partner, Paula T. Edgar and I facilitate workshops on workplace inclusion, we discuss all of the incredible benefits of having an inclusive workplace: more successful collaboration, greater efficiency and productivity, improved employee engagement, retention, and more effective communication, to name a few.

We are transparent with participants about the fact that being inclusive requires work. The hardest part of that work is being able to change how we do things. Valuing diversity is easy, by comparison. I can appreciate that someone cooks differently than I do, especially, if I enjoy their style of cooking. But even if I do not want to eat their food, we can still coexist peacefully and in an engaged and supportive way. Inclusion, however, means that I must change my style of cooking if I am going to successfully collaborate with another human being. I love to cook. I especially love to plan an entire menu so that my guests can enjoy a thematic experience. If I am to be inclusive, I must be able to open myself up to a different approach to the menu and any number of stylistic variations; from how much salt one uses, to what type of oil is best to use.

Vive la Resistance!

People really do not like change, hence the great success of chain restaurants. People get to order food that they have eaten before and apparently enjoyed, and in doing so, avoid surprises. I have heard more times than I can (or care to) recount, “But we’ve always done it this way!” There is security in knowing how things are done. This approach makes great sense when it comes to mundane tasks such as opening doors, turning on lights, or mailing a letter. But even these simple-seeming functions have evolved tremendously in the past 100 years, and continue to do so. When I began working full-time, I used an IBM Selectric typewriter with carbon paper to make an original and two copies of everything that I typed for the law firm that employed me. (I am incredibly grateful that when I mistype something these days I can just hit backspace or delete to correct the error!) So, change is a very good thing – sometimes.

It is fairly easy to get people to embrace change that makes their lives easier or simpler, but when it comes to changing the way that we think about society, and ourselves, things get a bit more complicated. The recent launch of ‘The 1619 Project’ by The New York Times is an excellent example of this. The 1619 Project is intended “to correct the record, reframing the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the national narrative.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html  For people who have been excluded from chronicling the history of the United States, this project provides an opportunity to write a more inclusive record. There has been a backlash by some White individuals claiming that essays in the project are either inaccurate, or that the project is not “real history”. These negative reactions (I will not reference any of them here), to this sweeping endeavor to examine the impact of slavery on our systems and institutions, employs the method of questioning the qualifications and efficacy of the messenger to disqualify the content. I can say with confidence as one who studied graduate level history at an Ivy League institution, that change was not something that was embraced in our field, be it a change of perspective or the subject itself. I was challenged when I wrote about the history of Puerto Ricans in New York City for being too close to my subject. So, another way to resist change is to establish that only a small number of people – people who claim to be objective – are truly qualified to research and write about our past. I would posit that no human being is able to be fully objective about our history and so we are all disqualified, according to these criteria.

Not All Change Is Created Equal

We hate being wrong! We especially hate being wrong about racism. As a person who is optically White, I can tell you that racism exists everywhere. For years, I called myself ‘a spy in the house of racism,’ because racists would say racist things to me or in my presence based on two false assumptions: first, they assumed that I was White; second, they assumed that I was a fellow racist. When I would correct people and say that as one of Puerto Rican descent, I am a mixed-race person, they would respond in shock; “You don’t look Puerto Rican!” “When I say Puerto Rican, I don’t mean someone like you!” Ah, you mean that you believe I am a better person because I look White – like you. People become very defensive when they are corrected or ‘called-out’ on their racism. I am not a big advocate of calling people out, but sometimes, I just get tired of this ignorance and bias. As a diversity practitioner, I educate people, with love, and help them to change and open their minds and hearts and reexamine their history books. So, if I am facilitating, I focus on feeling empathy for the person who has been mis-educated about slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and immigrant-phobia. Through my empathy I can begin to try to educate them from a place of love. I explain that our goal to create a more inclusive world is not about making anyone feel bad about our past, but rather to help them to see a personal benefit in being able to have really wonderful relationships with people who are quite different from themselves. This means, that we need to understand the distance that the other person has traveled to get to this space that we are sharing at any specific moment in time. This means that we need to study history, anthropology, and sociology from multiple perspectives – even the parts that make us very uncomfortable. Once we receive this new information, we need to be able to have our minds changed by it. Empathy is an incredibly important and powerful experience. If I can feel empathy for another human being, especially a human being who I do not identify with or necessarily like or respect, then I can begin to bridge the chasm of being exclusive.

There are many anti-racism workshops being facilitated across the country as well as examinations on White fragility when it comes to discussions on race. We regularly facilitate these workshops, as well as sessions on how to be an effective ally. Several organizations have gotten a great deal of publicity by providing their staff with one hour of ‘diversity’ training following racist incidents between their employees and their customers. This is a complicated subject and as such, we need to stop trying to find simple, quick fixes for these problems. One hour? Most people binge-watch five hours of the latest series before coming up for air. The average movie is two hours long. The average seating for a dinner in a restaurant is 90 minutes. How can even the most qualified facilitators be expected to accomplish anything of value in one hour? We are requested to meet these unrealistic expectations on a regular basis. We are told that there is not time within the busy work schedule to pull people out for training. We are told that people will not tolerate a training session that is longer than 90 minutes. We are told that the budget ‘will not allow’ such an expenditure; we are told many things about why employees cannot spend a full day in a workshop to learn how to navigate the impact of racism on the workplace. What we need to hear is how much the time and money it costs to respond to litigation; how much time that organizations spend attempting to resolve conflict between employees; how much is invested by organizations on recruitment and hiring only to see those precious investments run screaming from the building because they have been subjected to micro-aggressions on a daily basis.

This work takes time. Time to gather information about the organization’s culture and history; time to develop workshop agendas that matter to the participants and genuinely help them to learn and grow and change; and time for organizations to shift from being reactive to proactive about being inclusive.

What’s Next?

Helping people to develop meaningful communication and relationships with one another is what this is all about. We are asked regularly to give people a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ or a checklist of things that they should read to help them to be inclusive. We resist providing such lists for multiple reasons, but if giving you a list will help to make change a reality, I will break our rule, just this once.

Studies show that people respond to lists including 5 things more than they do to lists containing any other number so, here goes!:

The 5 things that facilitate inclusion:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Vulnerability
  3. Empathy
  4. Accountability
  5. Willingness to change

These are of course, over-simplifications, especially as we are talking about messy, complicated people trying to cope with the daily onslaught of social media messaging and negative news that seeps through the porous walls of every workplace, but this is the outline of a master course in being inclusive. Let us know if you want to join us, the learning never ends.

Onward!

Wendy Amengual Wark

New York, NY
August 26, 2019

Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
Helping Organizations to Intentionally Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion!

www.InclusionStrategy.com

Wendy@InclusionStrategy.com

 

Diversity Equals …

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Diversity Equals …

The first time that I saw a billboard with the message, “Diversity = White Genocide” I was honestly a bit confused.  After all, what most people call diversity (the inclusion of diverse people), is the opposite of genocide. Groups subjected to genocide historically include: Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Rwandans, and Bosnians. Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. This matters because once we forget what happens when we exclude any group of people, we are destined to repeat the horrors of the holocaust and other shameful episodes of human history. “Genocide” is a combination of the Greek word génos (“race, people”) and the Latin suffix -cide (“act of killing”). The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Genocide conjures up the most horrific images and acts that humans perpetrate against ‘others,’ members of groups other than their own idea of their specific sub-set, whether race, religion, or tribe.

I have since learned that there is an entire movement, a growing movement, of people who claim that Anti-Racists are ‘Anti-White’.  Yes, that is an oxymoronic concept. In my blog post “What’s in a Word,” (December, 2013), http://www.inclusionstrategy.com/blog/?p=11 I wrote about the importance of vocabulary, the power of words to harm and to exclude. I will continue to posit that words and how they are used is a critical element of advancing equity and social justice. I must continue to use words to try to persuade those who are threatened by diversity and inclusion that we are really not so bad, those of us who work to bring humanity together, to find our common ‘touch points’ and share some love. Words are actions and our words can be loud and clear and true.

Truth

I must also continue to use words to state the truth. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and Islamophobia all rely on distortions of the truth. Racists have embraced the false premise that they, based on a concept of what race is, are superior to others, hence the term ‘White-Supremacists’. Obviously, there is no single group or sub-set of human beings that is superior to any other sub-set, yet all we need to do is look at a chronological list of genocidal epochs to know that the lie of superiority over, or the fear of, others has resulted in the murder, rape, mutilation, imprisonment, and ‘bans on’ or exclusion of people for millennia. How do you ban an entire group of people? This is not only a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Charter of the United Nations, it violates several U.S. treaties, most notably the Treaty of Tripoli ratified unanimously in 1797 by the US Senate:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” (Art. 11.)

The truth can be distorted, ignored, and hidden. If it is raining, my saying that it is not raining is meaningless, as the apparent and obvious evidence of the falling rain dismisses my statement.  So, if someone or some group states that ‘diversity equals white genocide’, the absurdity of that statement is blatantly obvious. However, the groups promoting this concept are growing and the current President of the United States has re-tweeted messages by these groups. A search on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) website for ‘white genocide’ brought up 179 results. There have been many billboards since the first one appeared in Harrison, Arkansas in 2014.  These signs are not limited to the American south, but have also been put up in numerous locations from Washington State to Great Britain. People have come to Black Lives Matter rallies with ‘white genocide’ banners and they continue to appear at various events across the country.

Hate

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The Hate Index created by City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism‘s NYCity News Service has documented 318 hate crimes in the United States since January 10, 2017.   https://hateindex.com/  January 10 was only 18 days ago! In other words, we are averaging 17.6 hate crimes per day in the United States. That number includes only crimes that can be confirmed as hate crimes, not those where hatred based on the victims’ protected class status (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or national origin, etc.), is the suspected motive for the act. The SPLC identifies 892 hate groups on its Hate Map: https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map. These numbers are staggering in comparison to 10 years ago.

The Uniform Crime Reporting program (1930), the Hate Crimes Statistics Act (1990), and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 2009 require data be collected on all crimes motivated by hate based on race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and physical and mental disabilities.  The total crimes classified as Hate Crimes in 2009 was 688.3 (including murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and vehicle theft) or 1.88 crimes per day.

Words are actions and words that are hateful incite actions that are dangerous and deadly.  Words matter. It is also vitally important to remember that not only are those who are from certain countries, or members of certain religions being targeted by those who hate, those who appear to be foreign or gay or Muslim or Jewish or different are also being targeted.

Call to Action

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So, why am I sharing this negative information?  My intention is not to add to the already overwhelmingly negative news updates that seem to come at an amazingly rapid rate. Nor is it my intention to provide a political commentary. My arena is inclusion, the inclusion of diverse people in organizations, such as our entire civilization, the quintessential organization of people. When the daily news updates increasingly include decisions, actions, words, and thoughts that exclude, divide, defame, or discriminate against human beings, it is my business.  Literally.

Many people have reached out to me in recent weeks and asked what I plan to do to help people and organizations to cope with so much divisiveness. Yesterday, someone reminded me that I need to be blogging every week and sharing a call to action. So, I will continue to do what it is that I do: to facilitate conversations intended to bring people together across their differences of opinion, to remind people that we all have a responsibility to advance inclusion, that we all have a great deal to lose if we isolate from others, that we all have SO much to gain when we are part of a diverse group of people – people from all parts of the globe, of all faiths, of all races, of all tribes. Diversity does not result in any type of –cide!  Inclusive diversity results in creativity, intellectual growth, innovation, and better health. Lewis Mumford referred to cities as utopias because of their diversity which encourages curiosity! “Urban life in Greece began as an animated conversation and degenerated into a crude agon or physical struggle.” (1961)

So, let’s talk. Let’s talk about fears of the other. Let’s talk about anger resulting from conflicting views and opinions.  Let’s talk about fear of change. Let’s have an animated conversation about our diversity. When we stop talking we resort to our primal or lizard-brained selves. When we stop talking, we lose our sense of connection and belonging to a tribe. We all belong to one tribe – the human tribe. There are hundreds of sub-sets; how can we decide which is better or worse?  All that we can hope to do is learn and grow as a result of our connections. The concept of divide and rule (or conquer) goes back to the Roman invasion of Macedonia. We are not the masters of ourselves if we give in to hate. Hate does not participate or converse or receive or learn – hate blocks information about ‘the other’. Enemies are regularly de-humanized to enable their haters to kill, maim and attack them. Hatred cannot coexist with appreciation of another person’s beauty, brilliance, talent, or generosity. Hatred can only scream “NO”!

To me, you – my fellow human beings – are beautiful and complicated and brilliant and diverse, and that makes life, not death, possible and wonderful.

Onward!

~ Wendy

P.S. If you are in the greater NYC area, let’s meet for a conversation. If not, let’s Skype or talk on the telephone, or at least email.

P.P.S. Next week I will share some other positive steps that we can take to protect human rights and each other from hate.

 

I am Latino in America

“I Am Latino In America”

On Monday evening I had the great pleasure to attend “I Am Latino in America” at El Museo del Barrio here in NYC hosted by Soledad O’Brien. The event is part of an ongoing national tour with performances and conversations about being Latino in America with celebrities, national and local advocates, business leaders, and academics.

Learn More: http://www.iamlatinoinamerica.com/

Monday evening’s panelists included: Rosie Perez, Actor and Activist, Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President, National Education Association, Carmen Fariña, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education, Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of the Girls Scouts of America, and others.

Ms. O’Brien shared statistics on Latino-Americans ranging from voting trends to educational accomplishments. The presentations and conversations illustrated how diverse Latinos in America are and how rapidly we are changing as a constituency. Most of the speakers agreed that there is a general lack of representation of Latino interests even by Latino politicians.  Immigration was #5 on the list of political priorities among Latinos polled, but is the #1 issue discussed regarding Latinos on news/media programs. There seemed to be a general consensus among the speakers that without increased participation in the political process by Latinos, there would not be a change in this trend.

The value of this event is that there is an open dialogue from multiple perspectives and those perspectives, whether agreed with or not, are respected. Ms. Perez made a powerful point when referencing Latinos who, although in a qualified way, agreed to some extent with negative statements made about Mexicans. She cautioned those ready to endorse negative stereotypes that they could be the next target of slurs and insults.

I hope that Ms. O’Brien and Starfish Media Group continue and expand these events as it is vital to have a forum for open, honest dialogue among those who share an identity as complex as Latino in America. I propose that future events include examinations of the impact of the intersectionality of most Latinos. Many of us are Afro-Latino (Blatino), Hispanic-Asian, and White-Hispanic. Then, of course, there are differences with sexual orientation, gender identification, national origin, regional location, generation, class, education, etc.  In other words, our diversity is multi-dimensional, a concept that has been explored and discussed for decades, but can get lost among headlines and trends.

You Don’t Look Puerto Rican!

I certainly fit the title of intersectional as the daughter of a tri-racial Puerto Rican father and a mostly Irish-American mother. A native New Yorker who grew up in a public housing project, I am also a woman in my 50s with a graduate school education who has traveled the world, including spending a summer studying at Cambridge University in England.  So, what peg to fit me in?

Most of my life people respond uniformly when they learn of my ethnic background with: “You don’t look Puerto Rican!” To which I usually respond, “What does a Puerto Rican look like?”  As a descendant of a Caribbean Island populated by Tainos, (an Arawak tribal group) and the Caribs who invaded periodically for more than 800 years before the Spanish arrived; who were followed by other Europeans as well as the African slaves who those Europeans abducted to the Caribbean, I reflect my ancestral history. Based upon that history, what does a Puerto Rican look like?

I share my personal experience and a bit of Puerto Rican history with you because the conversation that is being facilitated by Soledad O’Brien, another half-Latina-Americana, and one who embodies intersectionality, is critical for all who have yet to understand that it is precisely the lack of communication that generates exclusion and reinforces discrimination and hate.

A Multi-Dimensional Conversation

I am in the people business.  My job is to engage people who are resistant to change and difference in conversations about those very subjects.  The most rewarding and affirming work that I do happens during training sessions when participants come up to me during breaks and tell me that they are pleasantly surprised that they are enjoying the experience – having fun, even!  Being able to share that ‘aha’ moment with people of all races and backgrounds when they realize that we all are diverse and can all benefit from inclusion, it is amazing! This is what inspires me to keep doing what I am doing, even on the most challenging of days.

Often, when examining the impact of our perceptions on our relationships at work and elsewhere, we discover that someone may have a Hispanic name, but not be Hispanic, (such as my sister-in-law, Julia Garcia or several of my Filipina friends).  Furthermore, someone might have a name like Wendy Willow Amengual Wark and be culturally more Puerto Rican than she is Irish.

So, what does it mean to be a Latino in America?  For me, it means belonging to a group, like other immigrant groups who were treated with disdain, hatred and abuse in the past and have reached a tipping point where we cannot necessarily be identified by our names or appearance as native born or immigrant, as legal or illegal, as a member of any particular racial group – in other words as very American!

Is your organization looking beyond appearance and listening for more than surnames in your search for inclusion?  If not, isn’t this a great time to begin a multi-dimensional conversation?

Please share your story and opinion on this subject as this blog post is part of that conversation.

Onward!

~ Wendy

Wendy in NOLA 10 2014

 

Comfortable Diversity

Comfortable Diversity

I was once asked (directed) by a boss of mine not to use the words “race” or “gender” while facilitating diversity and inclusion education for the organization’s employees. The main reasons I was given for this approach were:

1. There are all types of diversity: job title, geographic location, marital status, parental status, we don’t have to focus on the obvious differences.

2. According to Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas (the late diversity scholar and author of Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Work Force by Managing Diversity; AMACOM, NY, NY. 1991.), “Employees differ not just on the basis of race, gender, and ethnicity, but also on a variety of other dimensions such as age, functional and educational backgrounds, tenure with the organization, lifestyles, and geographic origins, just to name a few.” Dr. Thomas was absolutely right, but that does not mean that any dimension of diversity should be avoided when trying to create an inclusive environment.

3. If the training focuses on race and gender, it might make our people uncomfortable.

I was also told, in other terms, that we were living in a post-racial society and that there was no reason to dredge-up the past and make people feel guilty about things that they could not control.

Today, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and contemplate his legacy and the history of race in our nation, it is impossible for me to understand the claim that we live in a post-racial society when there are so many racially based challenges that we face every single day.

No Pain No Gain

Many people have begun the New Year by trying to live healthier lives. They have started to exercise, possibly after a long period without doing so. If this is the case, underused muscles will be aching in response to the pressure to participate in this healthy activity. If one is out of shape and overdoes it, then it can become too painful to continue and make progress toward better health. (I will confess that as I write these words, more than a few of my neglected muscles are groaning in response to my recent attempts to include all of my interdependent parts in goal oriented exercising.)

To continue with the exercise metaphor, much of the diversity training of a few decades ago was also a bit painful because of neglect, particularly when trainers would overdo it. So, the tendency might be to cringe at the thought of working out when lingering pain from the last effort reminds us how uncomfortable exercise can be. This certainly makes sense. That is why it is wise to begin a regimen of exercising carefully, mindful of old injuries, weaknesses, and risks. While there is going to be some inevitable discomfort, it does not need to be debilitating.

Beyond Trends and Fads

Just as with zumba, and other forms of exercising, fads and trends come and go, but three basic methods remain at the core of a healthy physiological program: reaching a targeted heart rate for your age and condition (cardio or aerobics), stretching, and strength. Similarly, effective methods for reaching sustainable inclusion goals require energy, stretching one’s ability to communicate and connect, and improving an organization’s cultural strength, or interdependence. These may initially cause participants some discomfort, but with time they will grow and expand their capacity to be truly inclusive. Just as anyone beginning an exercise regimen is advised to see their doctor to make sure that they are not causing themselves any harm and if they can afford it, they should hire a professional trainer to guide them. Likewise, it is recommended that your organization reach out to an experienced guide before embarking on an inclusion campaign.

One Step at a Time

Just as we are advised to begin an exercise plan by walking – simply walking before we start running – I recommend that we begin by talking. Conversations that have the goal of creating empathy in spite of diversity can help us to acknowledge our common history and distinct positions. In other words, let’s not be polite; let’s have genuine conversations that result in real relationships. Conversations that are grounded in mutual respect and the understanding that every one of us has a unique perspective – a unique set of experiences – can result in sustainably inclusive relationships. Conversations that are facilitated in a safe environment where respect is the primary requirement can be the first steps that move our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our cities, and our nation in a direction of healing and sustainable or manageable health.

Setting Realistic Goals

Just as exercising and dieting goals need to be realistic and practical, inclusion goals, if they are to be sustainable, must also reflect our current state and condition regarding diversity and inclusion. That requires an honest assessment and a well thought out plan. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just show up in Selma, Alabama and expect racism or the denial of civil rights to end. He worked with others and developed a well-thought out plan and still met with incredible resistance before he and all of those who fought for our civil rights advanced that goal. That success enables and encourages all of us to continue to walk, to continue to strive to achieve our goals of inclusion, of equity, of humanity.

If you have not begun to advance your goals of inclusion, isn’t today a great time to begin?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think! wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

 

 

Divided We Fall

Divided We Fall

As we watched the protesters make their way up Columbus Avenue, past our building on 95th Street, we realized that they had walked all the way from 14th Street and Union Square and were going to join those already gathered at 125th Street in Harlem. My heart both leaped and sank. My heart sank because the decision by the Grand Jury of Ferguson, MO not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson of any wrong-doing in the matter of his shooting Michael Brown to death on August 9, 2014 had been announced earlier that evening. [For a timeline of events, see the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/09/us/10ferguson-michael-brown-shooting-grand-jury-darren-wilson.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news] You will be also able to find a great deal of legal analysis of this matter through a quick internet search.

So, why did my heart leap? My heart leapt because we have the freedom to protest an act that many people have determined to be an example of injustice based upon the circumstances of Michael Brown’s race. Petitions were distributed within minutes of the announcement and many individuals and organizations have expressed their commitment to continue to work toward improving our systems of justice and law enforcement.  This nation has been founded on the principal that we have certain inalienable rights, and since the passage of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Constitutional Amendments, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html  those rights have belonged to all U.S. Citizens. We have a legacy, in fact a responsibility to defend our rights and the rights of others, which is why we have a jury system, a jury of our peers, who hear arguments from both the prosecutor and defense attorney, is supposed  protect our rights under the law.

Barriers

When the decision was announced at approximately 9:30 EST on Monday, November 24, the internet lit up with millions of comments. People wrote of despair, heartbreak, rage, disappointment, disgust, and sadness. Others wrote hateful things, racists things, dividing things about those who grieved and mourned. Then, images began appearing of violence in Ferguson, MO. Images also appeared of peaceful protests in Ferguson and across the country; however, the predominant images posted by the media were of looting, burning, and violence. Let’s be very clear: violence solves nothing. Looting, burning of shops and destruction of property is worse than an exercise in futility – these actions result in raising barriers to inclusion and reinforcing the stereotypes held by many who do not understand the reasons for riots or even protests.

Individuals who believe that they are not represented by the justice system or their government may stop voting and if their frustration over their inability to effect change or achieve social justice reaches an extreme level, they will react not in a rational, ‘cool-headed’ way, but as a mob, pushed to mindless rage. There is not a specific cause and effect to riots. In other words, rioters or looters do not necessarily attack shops owned by people who treated them rudely or those with contents of the greatest value, there is just a need to vent. I experienced several riots in the 1960s first-hand and will never forget the enormity of the despair that consumed my community. The events of this past week have brought back those memories and feelings.

Haters ‘Gonna Hate

Since last Monday evening the twitter-sphere has been deluged by a steady stream of hate speech. I will not quote any of the comments here. I will state that although I have spent my life fighting hatred and have heard and read more racist comments than I care to count throughout my career and life, the sheer quantity and vitriolic intensity of many of the comments posted during the past eight days has shaken me. We do NOT live in a post-racial society. Racism is as prevalent today as it was in 1865. Yet, most people are fairly polite when they meet other people, in person, who are different from themselves. But if the numbers of comments on the internet in response to the events in Ferguson are any indication, we need to pay close attention to the reality that many people who are not discussing ‘the Ferguson matter’ at work, have very strong thoughts and feelings about this matter, which they are expressing elsewhere.

Some insight is offered by “The Whiteness Project,” being produced by PBS Video. This is “an interactive investigation into how Americans who identify as “white” experience their ethnicity.” http://video.pbs.org/video/2365320408/  The comments made by several of the participants indicate a profound lack of connection with or empathy for African Americans or their experiences. They also exemplify our nation’s deep polarity along racial lines which appears to be increasing rather than diminishing.  [This project certainly warrants an entire blog post, but as it is relevant to this topic it is included here.]

Can We Talk?

We need to address the responses to the reactions to the announcement in Ferguson, MO by creating a forum for productive dialogue. This dialogue needs to be based on the desire to experience empathy. It is only through empathy that we can begin to understand behavior or feelings that seem foreign or unacceptable to us.

It is with this in mind that I am making the following request:  How do you think you would feel if you were an 18 year old African American man living in the United States of America right now, observing all of the news, media and internet commentary regarding the events in Ferguson, MO?

Please, think this through very carefully before responding. As you try to walk in this person’s shoes, remember that the exercise is not based upon fashion or wardrobe choices, vocation, educational status, profession, religion, political affiliation, class, region, whether one was raised in a home with two loving, supporting parents or by a single parent, this has only to do with the circumstances of one’s birth – to be born as an African American male in the United States of America in 1996.  Can you imagine how you might feel during this past week reading all of the headlines on “the Ferguson matter”? [If you are, or ever have been, an 18 year old African American man, please share your comments as well!]

Please send me your comments and – for the love of our country – let’s not be polite! Let’s start to talk about race honestly, openly, respectfully, and with the intent to work on healing a nation that has been poisoned by racism since long before it was a nation.

If you have not asked yourself questions like this before, isn’t this the time to begin?

Onward!

~ Wendy

wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

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You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For! [Part I]

HHC Diverse group of people nationalorigingroupRecently, there have been a plethora of scandals concerning domestic violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the news.  Each of these disturbing events seem to elicit responses by self-proclaimed ‘experts’ purporting to know how to solve problems of inequity and discrimination. This has led me to ask the question:  If you have a tooth ache, do you tie a string around that tooth and tie the other end to a door knob and slam the door?  NO! Do you go to a chiropractor or a cardiologist to have the tooth removed? NO! You go to someone who you are sure is an expert. You go to a licensed dentist. When it comes to EEO or diversity or inclusion (D&I), knowing who is really an expert is not as simple as going to Healthgrades.com and looking up a dentist’s education and licenses before getting that tooth pulled.

D&I/EEO is a multidisciplinary field with a few distinct points of entry such as employment law, human resources, and organizational psychology. The recent trend, however, is that people with degrees and experience in sales, marketing, communication, etc. are jumping on the D&I band wagon as the demand for diversity training increases. This is a perturbing development. In some cases, people are asked to become an organization’s diversity officer based on their being a member of a protected class: they may be people of color or women or members of the LGBT community or be differently-abled. They may be highly competent in the field in which they have spent their careers, but that does not make them experts in the complex field of diversity and inclusion.

Bona Fides

My professional experience in Equal Employment Opportunity began in 1988. In addition to my undergraduate and graduate education, I received formal training at Cornell’s School of International Labor Relations and in courses provided by the City of New York’s Department of Personnel in:

  • conducting investigations of discrimination
  • compiling and interpreting demographic statistics
  • preparing affirmative action reports
  • conflict resolution and mediation
  • developing strategies to overcome historic perpetuation of discriminatory practices
  • developing and facilitating adult education in EEO, Sexual Harassment Prevention, D&I, etc.

It took years of on-the-job experience augmented by this training before I was qualified to call myself an expert in my field.

Fake it ‘til You Make It!

Unfortunately, there are individuals who are willing to ‘stretch the truth’ and claim to have the requisite competencies and skills to create D&I strategies, education and initiatives.  They may even believe that they have those competencies or that their area of expertise is so similar to D&I that they can ‘fake it ‘til they make it.’ Some of this is due to ‘coaches’ and self-help ‘gurus’ who are telling people that faking it is o-k even admirable, as it will advance their careers.  I vehemently disagree!

When Passion Meets Purpose

I have been passionate about creating inclusion for as long as I can remember.  As both a woman and   person of mixed culture (my father was Puerto Rican and my mother was of Northern European descent), I have personally experienced discrimination and sexual harassment.  I have also been defending those unable to defend themselves since the 1960s in the schoolyard of my elementary school in Astoria, NYC.  Individuals with a true passion to end discrimination and increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace should get the specific education and experience that will qualify them as experts in this field. Those who do not bother to get their credentials can cause real damage to the employees who are in need of help and organizations that strive to become inclusive.  I have been asked to repair some of this damage by more than one of my clients, and it is the most challenging work that I do.

To be continued…

Most people do not know what questions to ask potential consultants or employees for D&I engagements. I will address this in Part II.

Have you been asking what makes a D&I expert an expert? If not, isn’t it a great time to begin doing so?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com
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A Brief History of U.S. Women’s Rights

Some friends have asked me to provide a brief history of women’s rights in the United States. I am tempted to reminisce about my own involvement with the women’s movement, but that is not the assignment. This kind of exercise is always a good opportunity to review, remember and assess how far we have come while remaining mindful that we do not have full equity yet. As one trained as a historian, I really should not call this a ‘history’ or even a ‘brief history’ when it is more accurately a timeline. This is certainly not an exhaustive timeline, so I have included links to websites that provide more in-depth information. I am not going to editorialize or share my opinion or feelings about anything listed here – this blog post is strictly an informative entry. Should you learn something new, that would be great. If you have any questions about anything here, please let me know. OK, I think that I have covered all of the disclaimers and explanations, so let’s go!
1776 Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams who represented the Colony of Massachusetts at the Continental Congress on March 31:

 

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/abigail-smith-adams/

1776 United States Declaration of Independence is signed on July 4th. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

1787 US Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the states. Women in all states except New Jersey lose the right to vote. http://www1.cuny.edu/portal_ur/content/voting_cal/the_constitution.html
1807 Women lose the right to vote in New Jersey, the last state to revoke the right.
1848 The acknowledged start of the FIRST WAVE of Feminism.
The first women’s rights convention takes place in Seneca Falls, New York. Participants sign a Declaration of Sentiments that call for equal treatment and voting rights for women. http://www.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/report-of-the-womans-rights-convention.htm
1851 Former slave Sojourner Truth: http://www.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/sojourner-truth.htm Delivers her speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” At the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio:
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

 

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

 

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

 

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

 

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

 

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
1866 Congress passes the 14th Amendment, which grants all citizens the right to vote. It is the first time that “citizens” and “voters” are defined as “male” in the Constitution. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html
1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association, while Lucy Stone and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association. http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/susan-brownell-anthony/
1896 The National Association of Colored Women is formed out of more than 100 black women’s clubs. http://www.nacwc.org/
1916 Margaret Sanger opens the first American birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY. Within ten days, the clinic is shut down and Sanger is arrested. She eventually wins legal support and opens another clinic in 1923. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger
1920 Congress passes the 19th Amendment, granting women suffrage. [Suffrage is the right to vote in a national election.] It passes in the Senate by only two votes. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendment_19.html
1942 The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. http://www.nps.gov/pwro/collection/website/rosie.htm
1945 Millions of working women lose their jobs when servicemen return from World War II, although surveys show that 80 percent want to continue working.
1960 The acknowledged beginning of the SECOND WAVE of feminism.
1963 Betty Friedan writes The Feminine Mystique. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_States
1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race and sex. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is established to investigate discrimination complaints. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-rights-act/
1966 The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded. http://www.now.org/
1968 The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads are illegal, a ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court. http://www1.eeoc.gov//laws/practices/index.cfm?renderforprint=1
Shirley Chisholm is the first black woman elected to Congress. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Chisholm
The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) is founded. http://www.naral.org/
1970 The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution is written by Shulamith Firestone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dialectic_of_Sex
Sisterhood is Powerful, edited by Robin Morgan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisterhood_is_Powerful
Sexual Politics is written by Kate Millett http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_Politics
1972 The ERA is passed by Congress and sent to states for ratification. http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/congress.htm
Title IX bans sex discrimination in schools. http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/cor/coord/titleix.php
The Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy includes an unmarried person’s right to use contraceptives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisenstadt_v._Baird
Ms. Magazine is first published. http://www.msmagazine.com/
1973 In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court legalizes abortion and overturns anti-abortion laws in many states. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
1974 The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in consumer credits practices. http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/housing_ecoa.php
1976 The first marital rape law passes in Nebraska, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.
1978 The Pregnancy Discrimination Act passes, banning employment discrimination against pregnant women. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/pregnancy.cfm
The Female Eunuch is written by Germaine Greer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Female_Eunuch
1981 Sandra Day O’Conner is the first woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsberg joins her in 1993.
1986 The Supreme Court rules that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0477_0057_ZO.html
1990 The acknowledged beginning of the THIRD WAVE of feminism.
1993 The Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect, allowing women workers to take employment leave after giving birth. http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/
1994 The Violence Against Women act increases services for rape and domestic violence victims, as well as federal penalties for sex offenders. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa_factsheet.pdf
2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama eliminating the statute of limitations on claims of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pay equity clause. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/epa_ledbetter.cfm
More Information:
National Women’s History Project http://www.nwhp.org/
New York Times Comparative Timeline US History / Women’s History http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/millennium/m2/wolf-timeline.html
National Parks Service, Women’s Suffrage History http://home.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/womens-suffrage-history-timeline.htm
Onward,
~ Wendy
 

Commemorations

Commemorations

This week commemorates two anniversaries: August 26, 1920 the day that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified granting women suffrage or the right to vote and August 28, 1963 when more than 200,000 people convened the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Commemoration is the act of co-remembering, to publicly share and memorialize some historic event. As a student of history, I love commemorations and the many ways that they influence the present and subsequently, our perceptions of the past.
 

(© 2003 D’Azi Productions)

“You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.”

My mouse pad, a gift that a friend brought me from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, has “History” (1962) written across the top and a photo depicting three doors. The first door has the word “Women” on it, the second door has the word “Men” on it and third door has the word “Colored” on it. Under the photo is the caption: “You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.”
I love this mouse pad! Every day it reminds me why I do the work that I do. Every day it reminds me of Emma Lazarus’ words: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Ms. Lazarus, the poet famous for “The New Colossus” which is etched at the base of the Statue of Liberty was born in New York City but was never able to vote because of her gender.

A Lifetime of Voting
My mother was born eight years after women earned the right to vote in the U.S. and brought me to the voting booth for as far back as I can remember. I remember being in the booth with her, fascinated as she clicked the levers and finally slid the metal bar across that registered her vote and opened the curtain. The Wizard of Oz had nothing on her! I remember entertaining myself while she volunteered at the polls. I remember registering to vote immediately after my eighteenth birthday and counting the months that I had to wait for the first election that I would vote in. It was the 1976 Presidential election and being the nation’s bicentennial made it all even more exciting.

The Women’s Suffrage movement was launched officially in 1848 at a convention in Seneca Falls, NY, where Frederick Douglass, the only African American to attend the event, gave an inspirational pro-vote speech. (There were many women present who were anti-suffrage.) In 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, OH, Sojourner Truth, another former slave delivered her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech which poignantly argues for women’s equality. The women’s suffrage movement had its up and downs over its 72 year span including some deplorably racist tenets held by Susan B. Anthony and others. One might argue that white women competing against African American men for the vote exemplified a successful campaign to ‘divide and conquer’, but it was not and is not that simple. There were some lighter moments as well such as when Alice Duer Miller turned the tables in 1915:
 
Why We Don’t Want Men to Vote
  • Because man’s place is in the army.
  • Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
  • Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.
  • Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms, and drums.
  • Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them unfit for government.
 
 
March On!
Yesterday marked the 50th Anniversary of the Great March on Washington. In 1963 I watched the historic event on television, awe struck by the vast range of humanity out en masse. The words of hope and inspiration from one speaker and performer after another were incredible, even to a little 5 year old girl. I did not understand the significance of the event nor how it would impact our world, but the message – We all deserve to be free and to be able to make a decent living wage – made its way from the Lincoln Memorial to our living room and has been motivating me ever since.
 
 
What is your story?
History – our story – is comprised of people who make a difference every day by marching, walking, talking, sharing, teaching and remembering! How have these historic events affected you and those you love? What is your story? How may we commemorate it?
 
Onward!
 
~ Wendy