In this four-part blog series, thought leaders Rita Bailey, Elaine Biech, and Tonya Wilson offer advice on driving DE&I initiatives forward at your organization. Read the first blog post on getting buy-in on DE&I initiatives here and the second post on helping leaders define their commitment to DE&I here.
Each of us has a unique way of looking at the world. We have diverse perspectives and viewpoints. Diversity can be defined as the presence of differences in race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, disability or ability, age, religious commitment, even, to some extent, political perspective. By definition, we are all diverse in our own unique ways.
Even though we are all unique, that uniqueness is not necessarily associated with being underrepresented or marginalized. Just because we have differences and bring differences, it doesn’t mean that those differences have in the past caused an individual to be treated differently based on whether that perceived difference was greater than, less than, or equal to another person’s differences. We’re all different, but for some of us, those differences have been used historically to create a disadvantage, limitation, or marginalization.
In the past 12 months, many of the conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion have been focused on race. That’s because of the many things that have happened within our country that didn’t begin in 2020—but 2020 was an inflection point. That inflection point brought us to a place where we have to have real conversations and look at opportunities to positively influence things that have not worked for a long time. Many DE&I initiatives were formulated as a result of, or influenced by, institutional racism.
There are also differences between aspects of identity that can be changed and ones that can’t. For example, immigration is a very politically charged issue, but citizenship status is an aspect of diversity that is more status oriented than about who someone is as a person. Even after an immigrant becomes a US citizen, they may still be treated differently or singled out because of their race, ethnicity, or culture. It’s important to distinguish between diversity as it relates to things that cannot be changed, like race and culture, versus things that could be change, such as immigration status.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” Regardless of whether you were mistreated or diminished in some way because of the color of your skin or for any other reason, that’s important to address. Diversity covers so many areas.