Death to diversity
Death to Diversity! Yes, as a black woman, married to a white man, with biracial children and years of dedication to diversity and inclusion work—that is what I am calling for.
Because “diversity” as we know it is officially a good word gone bad. Much like “feminist” and “liberal”, it is a word that has been overused, misconstrued, and it is now a pejorative with the often underlying interpretation of “us vs. them” i.e. straight white males against everyone else, or to be fair, vice versa.
Regardless of who is on what side of the interpretation, we have traversed into a territory where we are now doing more harm than good and we are alienating ourselves from one another.
I am far from alone in this way of thinking. Superstar television show-runner Shonda Rhimes and film director Ava DuVarney have both acknowledged their disdain for the word. While I can only speak for myself, I feel confident in explaining that using the word “diversity” as terminology for increasing positive all-encompassing relations, be they in an academic or professional setting, now has the exact opposite effect of the intent of those behind it.
However, none of this should come as a surprise—“diversity” has the same root as the words divide and division. So why are we shocked and not fully recognizing that its implementation is polarizing?
Probably because we have all been duped into thinking that if you make something mandatory and you force feed it to people that will make a difference. That is the futile premise behind what traditional diversity training programs have been about so far.
A fantastic article in the Harvard Business Review—“Why Diversity Programs Fail”—hits the nail on the head addressing why traditional diversity programs are not only miserably inadequate but have had counterproductive results. I am in no way saying there is no longer a need for diversity training; nothing could be further from the truth given the current climate. But there is a need for a major overhaul in how we teach each other about one another. We need a way that it is truly effective.
Let me address it in simpler terms. Have you ever tried to make someone eat something they weren’t comfortable or familiar with? As the mother of small children, I can tell you what trying to force-feed my kids a food they aren’t ready for or not in the mood for does. It does not end well. Can we say tantrums, resentment, and a hot mess on the floor that now needs to be cleaned up?! Well, the same goes for adolescents and adults when we try to ram thoughts and ideas onto them.
It does not matter how well-intentioned or good it might be. When we do this we are taking away an individual’s rights and freedom to come to conclusions on their own. We are not treating one another with respect, nor acknowledging that we are all thinking, feeling human beings capable of processing right from wrong or good from bad; we are certainly not supporting the cause when we’re condemning one group or victimizing another.
That is exactly why I created the program Stereotyped 101™. I combined my years of corporate HR experience, with my stand-up comedy career and over a decade of speaking and performing on college campuses across America to address issues of unconscious bias in a unique way that infuses humor with heartfelt reality and experiences. My goal is for people to C.A.R.E. This acronym stands for Conscious empathy, Active listening, Responsible reactions and Environmental awareness.
Since we are all a collection of our personal experiences and our reality is our truth, this approach gives my audience the freedom to come to grips with their reality while being able to honor the reality of others. My focus isn’t about “diversity”—what makes us different—but rather inversity™.
I coined the term inversity™ because we need another word to start new ideas flowing; to remove the stigma and inherent idea of separation. This word is the perfect combination of diversity and inclusion; and it encompasses the ideology that to change anything and create a path for progress we must flip the switch and the dialogue; and most importantly we must first look inside.
Inversity™ is about celebrating the individual for their worth, value, and what they bring to the table. It’s not about shaming anyone because of the life they created for themselves or the life they were born into—good or bad. This is about recognizing that each of us has worth and the need to be valued and respected based solely on our humanity.
Inversity™ is not about ignoring what make us different; we cannot do that without invalidating someone else’s personal experience. It is about seeing others, their differences, and embracing our one commonality—our humanity.
In a perfect world, we would all agree that we cannot change the state of things without changing how we think. It’s a natural algorithm. Thoughts lead to words. Words lead to actions. Actions lead to change. So anything socially monumental has to begin inside with how we think about ourselves.
For more information on Karith Foster or if you are interested in bringing her to your institution, please visit www.karith.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @KarithFoster.