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#BlackBlogsMatter – Week 6 – Defining Inclusion, Equality and Equity

Diversity is important. In our workplaces, it leads to better environments and decision-making and profits.

Yes. Companies with consistent commitment to diversity are more profitable and their employees are more satisfied with their work.  Issa fact. Google it.

In our worldplaces, it leads to people who are more compassionate, intelligent and successful.

Yes. People are better when they are consistently exposed to people and environments that are different from their primary culture group. They have a broader world view that leads to being more open and flexible in their approach to communication and problem-solving. Issa fact, too. Google it.

Diversity fails because inclusion, equality and equity are lacking in our efforts. We put all these different people together without regard for their differences and without providing the proper tools for addressing everyone’s shortcomings. And then we act shocked when misunderstandings, disagreements and problems arise. And even more surprised when our diversity takes a dive.

It is important in our efforts to achieve greater diversity in our workplaces, that we not lose sight of inclusion, equality and equity. We have to understand what these things mean in order to know what to do to have successful diversity in our workplace.

  • Inclusion means “to make something or someone part of something; the state of belonging to a larger group or organization.” Inclusion is about belonging … In the context of diversity efforts in our workplaces, inclusion means making sure people who are different from the majority population being actively made to feel like they belong in the group.  More than just hiring different people, it is making sure they feel like a welcomed, appreciated and valued member both despite and because of their difference.
  • Equality means “the state of regarding or affecting all objects in the same way; having a status the same as another belonging to the same group.” Equality is about fairness and sameness. Equality is also about a feeling of belonging and inclusion … In the context of diversity efforts in our workplaces, equality means making sure people who are different from the majority population are given access to the same resources and opportunities. It also means making sure rules and their impact are applied fairly to people who are different from the majority population. More than just promoting people who are different, it is making sure they have the necessary equipment, funding and compensation as their majority counterparts.
  • Equity means “remedial justice to ensure fairness or override a narrow rigid system of rules.” Equity is about justice. Equity is also about achieving fairness and sameness … In the context of diversity efforts in our workplaces, equity means making sure people who are different from the majority population are given additional resources when necessary to ensure they perform at the same level as their majority counterpart. It also means making sure that the rules which have adverse impact when applied to them are adjusted and interpreted to avoid the negative impact when necessary. Equity is the most difficult because, to the majority population, equity feels like favoritism or discrimination against them. However, this is a logical fallacy that is contrary against the definition of the word. Equity is designed to ultimately achieve freedom from bias and favoritism by assigning resources to level the overall playing field. In the context of diversity efforts in our workplaces, equity has been generally vilified to the point where most organizations hide their attempts at equity or have given up on it altogether. We are willing to hire and promote people who are different; we aren’t willing to provide them with additional resources or dismantle policies to ensure their success for fear of being accused of some kind of reverse discrimination.

Diversity ultimately falls apart because we aren’t willing to do the work necessary to fully level the playing field because we fear being judged. So we allow the bias of our systems to continue and demand people who are different continue to work harder with less to try to achieve the same results.

That’s just messed up, y’all.  Completely and totally messed up.

Diversity is defined as “the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization.”  Inclusion is in the very definition of diversity.  Equality is in the very definition of inclusion. Equity is in the very definition of equality. All of these must be present for people to be and succeed as the best version of themselves. Anything less is doing it wrong than all 4 elements is doing it wrong. If any one of these is missing, diversity cannot survive or thrive and we all lose.

#BlackBlogsMatter – Week 5 – Working Woke vs Woke Work

“Woke” remains a common phrase used to point out discriminatory behavior by people and institutions and to encourage people to be mindful and aware of the lowkey discriminatory behavior.

As I’ve discussed previously in the posts …

What Woke Means To Me

Tao Te Woke

and The 7 Levels of Wokeness

… once you are Woke, there is rarely a day that goes by when you won’t notice discriminatory behaviors at work thru our systems of supremacy and privilege.

It is admittedly difficult not to allow that to impact how you operate. All around you, you’re seeing people who are mistreated, overlooked and left out for factors outside of their control. All around you, you’re seeing problematic systems of selection and promotion that are setup to maintain status quo, not diversity or inclusion. All around you, every day. Within the organization you serve and in the general world. All around you. Every single day.

Sometimes, you’re a victim of these systems yourself.  You’re a Black person. Or a Woman. Or a Person of Color. Or a Person with a Physical Disability. Or a Person with outspoken Religious Beliefs. Or a Person who is not Heterosexual or who does not identify as the Gender of their birth … You work to advance organizations built on systems designed to limit your own success.

Let that sink in.

“Working while Woke” means operating for 8+ hours every day for at least 5 days of your week within organizations built on systems either actively or subliminally designed to prevent you from achieving at your highest level.

If you are part of a majority group within the power structures of such systems, can you imagine for a moment how difficult that is? Imagine how you would feel spending 40+ hours per week for 40+ weeks per year for 40+ years in that kind of system while at work. If you’re fortunate enough to work in an environment where this somehow isn’t the case, imagine spending every hour of every day of every week of every year for your whole life in that system when you’re not working.

Tired. Frustrated. Disappointed. Angry. Hopeless. Invisible … Those are the words that come to my mind as I cross the halfway threshold of my own career and look ahead to the next half in these systems.

It is hard to accept this as the only available reality for me. It is hard to accept this will be the only available reality for my children, who will be entering the world of work themselves in a few short years and are at ages/stages in their development where they start to see the systems.

How do I fix this? What is the cure for Working while Woke?

Woke Work.

“Woke Work” are the active efforts put forth to dismantle systems of supremacy and privilege. Woke Work is activism on behalf of yourself and communities of disenfranchised people.

If you’re in HR, like me, Woke Work starts by advocating within the organization you serve for  inclusion in your hiring and promotion practices along with your policies as well as fair wages and equal pay for equal work and comprehensive benefits and appropriate paid time off for people to rest, recuperate and achieve balance in their work and home lives. Woke Work is the work of our profession when you’re doing HR right.

If you cannot do this work in the place where you are, you have some difficult choices and major moves to make. What is not a choice is staying put, doing nothing and continuing to let the reputation of our great profession suffer. This is not an option. People depend on us to ensure workplaces are fair and good. HR must step up.

Beyond your chosen profession, whatever it is, this means speaking out and taking action. Share the stories. Do the research. Support the causes. Show up then show out.  Raise your voice against the systems of division and oppression. Give your time and money to the causes and the people who are lacking resources and opportunity. Create space for people who are so often cast aside with the power of your privilege.

Working while Woke is hard, heavy and hurtful.

Woke Work is freeing, filling and fruitful.

Our world needs both. Our world needs you to do both.

#BlackBlogsMatter Bonus: 365 Days of Diversity

While Black History Month has ended, the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge has not. The Weekly Flavor of the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge will continue for 11 more weeks.

In addition to my own writings, I will be incorporating some guest posts and round-ups on topics into the lineup to continue efforts to center the voices of Women and People of Color. 

Today’s post is from Dr. Kimya Dennis. Her bio below speaks for itself. She is a long-time friend, Soror and strong, unrelenting voice for diversity and inclusion. 


Most often, diversity, inclusivity, and multiculturalism are catch words for “kumbaya”

Many people pretend life is a 1970s Coca-Cola commercial in which everyone’s common denominator is “buy the world a Coke”

An item on society’s “to do list” is racial diversity/inclusivity training/workshop

This training/workshop puts people in a room and expects most people to be soft spoken, cordial, polite, and well behaved. People are essentially told to play the Diversity Game and to pretend minds will be changed and it will not be “business as usual” for most people after they complete the training/workshop.

That is how white people (the power dominant group which  includes all cultures and ethnicities around the world that racially identify as “white”) are told to be polite and non-offensive to non-whites. Even avoid those “hilariously fun” race jokes.

Through this, whites learn to wait until there is a racial threat—which happens routinely and especially during social shifts, economic shifts, and political shifts. Whites learn to wait until their power, privilege, and status are threatened.

Whites learn to focus on covert, less obvious expressions of prejudice and discrimination. Covert is encouraged until overt is allowed in certain environments (e.g., “you will not replace us” in Charlottesville, VA was just a result of lovingly polite white men who innocently appreciate freedom of speech).

Robert K. Merton’s typology of prejudice and discrimination illustrates how people can be prejudiced (or unprejudiced) and be discriminatory (or nondiscriminatory). This is important because it addresses variance across contexts, power dynamics, and decision making.

Grasping context, power dynamics, and decision making is important. It also explains why I am not in favor of most racial diversity/inclusivity training/workshop in which people (perhaps most of whom have, at the minimum, high school education) tend to be told to get in a room and do the following:

  1. Pretend they do not know anything about racial and ethnic identity, racial and ethnic relationships, and need to be taught (in one training/workshop) everything
  2. Pretend they do not have daily Internet access (Internet has existed for a few days (sarcasm)) and have no idea to access (factual) information about racial and ethnic identities and racial and ethnic relations
  3. Pretend they do not normally use the Internet to find stuff when they care enough to find it
  4. Pretend they do not exist in environments in which they could have almost daily discussions about social issues and tough topics. This includes ruffling feathers, disagreements and debates, and sometimes people being angry with each other. That’s the purpose of challenging ourselves and challenging each other to learn new things, and learn what we previously believed is incorrect, rather than waiting to be summoned into a diversity/inclusivity training/workshop

Here’s an example of how I engage in almost daily discussions and debates to give people fewer excuses for lazily waiting for a diversity/inclusivity training/workshop:

I discuss the creation and continuation of “colorblind racism” (Racism without Racists). For instance, some whites will swear up and down that they saw a diverse representation at Parkland, Florida shooting protests. These whites will claim not to have a way to use Internet search engines to learn Parkland, Florida is middle-upper-socioeconomic status and more than 70% white including white Hispanic.

Being held to a high standard and challenged to learn is shocking to many whites. Racial power dominance allows many whites (both liberals and conservatives) to claim colorblindness, racial objectivity, and racial neutrality. Pretending to be colorblind, objective, and neutral helps whites to accuse non-whites, particularly African-Americans, of “blacksplaining” and making every topic about race. This is furthered when whites claim non-whites, particularly African-Americans, are “the real racists” and “the real reason” for racism.

I believe in 365 Days of Diversity. The same way Black history is 365 days, more than a month, diversity is a daily process not relegated to training/workshop. We have 365 days to dialogue, learn and challenge ourselves and each other.


Dr. Kimya N. Dennis does multidisciplinary community outreach, teaching, research, and consulting to address mental health, suicide and suicidal self-harm, criminal justice processes, childfree-by-choice, and reproductive freedom. This work reaches general population with emphasis on disadvantaged and under-serviced populations. Contact Kimya at

#BlackBlogsMatter – Week 4: Opporcoonities

Black people began being caricatured during slavery. Slave masters characterized Black people as slow, lazy and  stupid. They made fun of them and dehumanized them further by comparing them to animals and depicting them with exaggerated, unattractive features.

The raccoon was one such animal. The comparison is believed to have began because, in the night, darker Black people could only be seen by their big eyes. This evolved into Black Face and Minstrel Show performances, which were well-attended and very lucrative well into the 1900s.

Raccoon was shortened to “coon” and  became one of the most insulting words you could use to describe a Black person. Being called a “coon” is just as bad and, in some ways worse, than being called the N-word.

Today, it has become less common for Whites and others to use this word as an insult hurled toward Black people. It is much more commonly a word that Blacks use to insult each other.

Although the word started out meaning something else, it has come to be an insult Black people use to describe Black people who knowingly allow themselves to be used in narrow, stereotypical ways for the entertainment or appeasement of White people. It is also used by Black people to describe Black people who show no sense of Black consciousness or interest in supporting efforts to achieve equality for Black people. “Opporcoonists” are people who knowingly accept and arguably seek to make a “coon” of themselves.

“Opporcoonities”, therefore, are the moments seized by opporcoonists to behave according to stereotype or to ignore obvious injustice to appease White people.

Substitute “White people” for any majority influence and the definition expands.

Anyone can be an opporcoonist. Anyone can seize an opporcoonity.

Black people. Women. People of color. Politicians. Organizational leaders. Even HR.

Especially HR.

The horror stories that we’re hearing surrounding #MeToo and #TimesUp shows HR has been seizing opporcoonities for quite some time. We’ve been playing ourselves and abandoning our principles for that coveted seat at the table. Our reason for existing it to protect the business by advocating for people thru fair pay and fair practices.

We’ve allowed that to be compromised by ignoring injustices to get and keep power.  We are letting ourselves be used in narrow, stereotypical ways. We show no sense of consciousness or desire to work real, lasting for improvements. We are catering to bad leaders who lack vision and decency and refuse to move the organization and its people forward.

It needs to stop.

Coon is an ugly, hateful word that should not be used to describe anyone ever. So is opporcoonist. So is opporcoonity. I’m not encouraging the use of these words or the continuation of these trends.

I want it all to stop.

I want HR professionals to constantly and continuously step up and advocate for what’s right in the organization’s they serve. If they are unwilling or unable do that, I want them to leave the HR profession altogether. If they are willing and able but the organization will not allow it, I want them to leave that organization.

I want all people to step up and advocate for fairness and inclusion and equity in our world. If people are unwilling or unable to do that, I want them to sit down and be quiet to allow those who are willing and able to bring about change. If people find other people and organizations are unwilling or unable to do that, I want them to stop supporting and engaging with those people and organizations.

I want love, light and goodness to prevail.

I want opporcoonity to die so true opportunity can live and thrive.

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