Contemplating Indifference about Diversity and Inclusion
Now that the topic of diversity and inclusion has become more “mainstream”, I find myself feeling oddly…indifferent. Those who know me may be surprised. Indeed, I was very perplexed to find myself bored during an International Women’s Day panel presentation around this time last year. It was the first time in over 15 years of passionate engagement and advocacy on the subject that I failed to find even a shred of inspiration in the dialogue taking place. I attended a few more such events and discussions over the year, and it was the same. I even brushed off a journalist’s request for me to comment on the rise of racism against Asian Canadians. What was wrong with me? Have I lost hope? Am I getting too old? Am I a masochist who only enjoys discussions that involve more heated debate or arguments?
After much serious reflection about the reason for my uncomfortable attitude, I am relieved to say that it is not because of caring less about the issues. On the contrary, my sense of justice has never been stronger. Whereas before, I only had a vague idea of what the problems were and how and who should be held accountable, I now feel more confident in the observations I made years ago only around the security of my closest friends and allies. Many of the issues that I had previously ranted about are now being espoused by respected leaders and intellectuals from academia, big corporations, government, Hollywood, etc. In Canada, we even have a Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. What a long way we have come from the time I was told by my executives that diversity “is not a priority” for them.
But when a friend asked me whether I still wanted to make a career in D&I, I was surprised by my sudden hesitation. I realized then the irony of making D&I a career. If you search Google, a career is defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress” (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/career). On Dictionary.com, a career is “an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/career).
In my opinion, there is a serious problem with making D&I a career choice given the assumption of a long-standing “area of specialization” and/or “opportunities for progress” as an occupation. Simply put, if one is successful in one’s efforts in D&I, why should we even need to have it as a separate discipline? Should the principles of inclusivity not just become an integral part of everyday living? Therefore, to be successful as a D&I professional, I should put myself out of a job!
Personally, I had never had a problem with that eventual outcome. If I accomplish my objectives, I will happily move on to do something else.
“How can we expect our “opponents” to engage with us if we simultaneously need them to stay as they are so we can make a “career” of fighting them?”
However, while it is nice to see that the issues around inequality, discrimination and other types of ‘isms” are now being more openly discussed, I am disappointed to see that the focus of the conversations seems more digressive than progressive. Rather than talking about solutions or actions that we can take to move forward together, we are still just going around in circles blaming and pointing fingers, and just generally feeling sorry for ourselves.
I am sorry if I offended anyone with this post. I know that some have suffered immensely, and such injustice deserves to be acknowledged. I am definitely a supporter of efforts to review history and consider the perspectives that were previously marginalized or overlooked.
Trust me; I get it. Life is unfair. But we are adults – at least most of us are. We cannot look to or wait for others to save us from our “victimhood”; we must save ourselves. Come on, what do we actually want to see as reparation? Do we really want to see our antagonists suffer and fall? What good would that be if only to replace the existing problem with another one? How can we expect our “opponents” to engage with us if we simultaneously need them to stay as they are so we can make a “career” of fighting them?
“…to be successful as a D&I professional, I should put myself out of a job!”
I think we could ALL do better if we stopped entrenching ourselves in labels – gender, race, culture, religion, etc. – and start thinking more in terms of our collective story as a human society. The wrongs we have committed against one another are not just from one group against another. These were crimes against all humanity – against the concept of being a whole human family – and we each need to take responsibility for the consequences of our common history and look to finding solutions together.