Diversity Demands Accountability

Diversity demands rejecting the status quo

The fallen icons of the #metoo movement and the firings of leaders from Corporate America to the NFL has prompted some timely discussions about accountability.  Polarization of political beliefs and even DEI in the forefront on school board debates has driven a wedge in our communities.  It is hard to see eye to eye with someone of a different perspective and it is hard to forgive people that make mistakes.

Accountability, not cancel culture

Accountability is not the same as cancel culture.  Cancel culture is about not agreeing with someone or something and completely disregarding it, thus cancelling it from your news feed and who you likely spend time with.  This happened on the heels of the US Presidential election – if you did not agree with someone’s choice, you may have unfollowed them or avoided spending time with them.

Rather than cancel people that you do not agree with, consider the art of the paradox.  Embracing people as imperfect, and accepting them for who they are while holding them accountable.  Someone could be a good person and also make mistakes.  Allies bumble and stumble all the time.  To get it right, you have to make mistakes.

Now, repeated bad behavior must be met with accountability.  It is one thing to make one mistake, it is another to make that same mistake more than once.  Once someone understands the negative impact of their behavior, it is on them to get better.  If they are unaware of the behavior or the impact, step one is education.  Step two is accountability with repercussions.  People do not change for change’s sake, they need pain to change.

Call in bad behavior

Allies keep up their radars for bad behavior.  If you see something, say something.  If you do not say something it is the same as saying it is okay.  While it may feel uncomfortable calling people into the conversation, it is critical that you signal with your behaviors what is acceptable.

Keep your ally radar up for these harmful behaviors:

  • Interruptions (far more likely to happen to women and people of color)
  • Making a generalization about a person based on a stereotype (gender, race, disability, LGBTQ+, etc.)
  • Disrespect of any kind towards someone based on a dimension of difference (jokes, side comments, private communications, etc.)

The challenge is finding the courage to speak up when it is hard.  And, it is always hard to blow the whistle especially if everyone else is going along with it.  Being brave means doing hard things.  It actually does not have to be hard though.

Seize the moment as an opportunity to help someone be better with some key ally phrases:

  • “What did you mean by that?”
  • “Help me understand where you were coming from”
  • “I feel uncomfortable”
  • “I don’t think that is (fair, kind, funny, etc.)”
  • “Ouch” (personal fave from The Good Guys)

Now is the time for curiosity

Instead of writing off people you do not agree with, or who have a different perspective than you, invite them into the discussion.  Look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, even if you disagree.  Being with people just like you only reinforces what you likely already know.  Being with those different than you, although at times painful, you will likely learn something new, even if you do not agree.

Asking “what would help you be more open to other perspectives” or “what evidence would you need to see to change your mind?”  These questions are curious.  They invite people to share their perspective and honors their thinking, while prompting them to also extend curiosity.

With curiosity, self-protection is key.  Be mindful of the following:

  • Spending too much time with people that do not get, or do not want to get it, can harm your mental health and take a toll on you.  After repeated attempts, if the person does not get it or want to get your perspective, and there is no middle ground, take a break.  Your time and energy are finite.  Spend it with those that are capable and willing to learn.
  • If you invested time and energy in your own personal growth, it is not your job to educate others.  If you have lived experiences of marginalization, it is not on you to help other people understand those experiences.  It is on others to educate themselves as a part of their own ally journey.  It is not on underrepresented folks to do the education for the majority group.
  • If someone is infringing on your values and there is zero chance of them being open to your perspective, it’s best to walk away.  We cannot want people to change.  People have to want change for themselves.

 What’s next

Want to do better, and not sure where to start?  That is why we developed the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced training program, perfect for organizations struggling with accountability for diversity.  If you want to be intentional with diversity, try this program out today.