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Putting those DEI Statements To Work

When the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action came out, my Director of Communications messaged me to ask if I wanted to put out an immediate statement. I chose not to. I chose to take some time to listen first. Here is what I heard:

  • This decision is deeply felt by the people it impacts most. The day after the ruling, I had a coaching session scheduled with a Black woman who, in part, was struggling to focus as she processed this news. She elected to reschedule the session so that she could focus on her self-care.

  • Many who benefitted from affirmative action also share the targeted harassment they received and unsubstantiated assumptions that they were not qualified for college admission despite often being more qualified than many of their peers.

  • There is willful cognitive dissonance present in the debate. For example, the Court carved out an exception for military academies in the name of national security because it is critical for troops to have leaders that look like them yet insist that is not relevant in any other sector such as education, STEM, finance, or medicine. We are ok with ensuring racial equality when we are asking them to die for our country but not when they might cure cancer or build wealth.

The one thing affirmative action didn't do is solve the root issue. Which is, of course, racism. It attempted to correct some of the impacts of racism. The impact, such as disproportionately White college admissions, is symptom of racism. Affirmative action is symptomatic solution. It was an important solution. It was an impactful solution. Yet the systemic issues that remain from birth to college applications remained then as they do now.

So what now? If you are a leader of an organization you double down. Instead of reacting with fear for what this means for your organization you define what it means for your organization. Instead of reacting with fear, you expand your DEI programs to intentionally be anti-racist. Don't water down, build an irrigation system so that your employees thrive and grow - even when others are trying to cut off the water supply.

Put those DEI statements on your website to work. Now, more than ever, is time to honor the worth and value of every person in your organization.

-M

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