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Should White People Be In DEI?

Reposted from March 28, 2022


Occasionally I am asked some version of the following question: Should White people be in DEI? I have learned that this question is typically going one of three places:

  • The questioner has an opinion, that they eventually share;

  • They are looking for my permission to do something or act a certain way;

  • They are earnestly trying to be anti-racist but are worried they will do or say the wrong thing and wants advice.

This is why when, engaging in this conversation, it is both important to practice inclusive behaviors and use coaching and facilitating skills: Get curious about what someone is really asking and understand why it is important to them.


If I immediately respond with an opinion, I may miss really important feedback from the person who has an opinion or feedback they want to share with me. This is especially important if that person is non-White. Have I caused harm? Do I need to learn something?


If I immediately respond with an opinion, I may not understand how they will filter my words and use them to confirm their biases and give them permission to do something or act a certain way that may be harmful.


If I immediately respond with an opinion, I may not understand what someone is struggling with and how they might grow and learn to be a stronger ally or accomplice.


Diversity, equity, and inclusion, by definition, includes all of us. The question isn't whether any one of us should or should not be in DEI. We should all be building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. And, at the same time, as individuals we need to ask ourselves:

  • When and where do I show or not show up?

  • When and where do I claim or not claim space?

  • When and where do I pass on my power?

  • When do I speak and when do I listen?

As a white person working to build diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations, communities, and individuals I know that not every space is mine to do this work. My goal, and our goal at MFR Coaching & Consulting, is to assist you in finding your space and building your capacity to do this work.


-M




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