The Capitol Breach is Proof Diversity Training is Needed

White supremacy is not okay and diversity training helps

This week has already been a hard week.  Just days into 2021, with the hope to shed 2020 and its tragedies, we’re already in another racial divide.  With 90%+ of those breaching the Capitol being White males, it is clear that the majority group feels threatened.  On the heels of the Georgia run-off elections and Trump’s upcoming departure, many White males feel alienated, cheated, and less relevant.

This is the White male last stand.  

Diversity is not a zero sum game.  Diversity makes us all better.  Diverse perspectives, better decisions, higher revenues and profitability are all well documented by HBR, McKinsey & Company, and Forbes just to name a few.  Despite growing numbers of diverse groups of people and the forecast for the White majority to be the minority by 2040, it is important for us to bridge these divides before it is too late.  

Diversity fatigue is real.

Diverse groups of people are tired of talking about why diversity is important.  Tired of having to prove the workplace and society is unfair and that there is a business case for diversity.  Tired of watching the news of police brutality and white supremacist terrorism go unpunished.

The All In documentary on Amazon Prime examines the history of voter suppression in the United States.  It is clear that Black and Brown voters have been unfairly gerrymandered, discouraged, and prevented from voting since the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1964 and then the subsequent stripping of its integrity in 2013.  One person can make a difference in a system that is built to keep certain people up and others down.  Enter Stacey Abrams.  She changed Georgia with the help of allies and her unwavering commitment to solve the voter suppression problem.

White Supremacy is on Full Display

White supremacy is simply the belief that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that White people should have control over people of other races.  Seeing the images at the Capitol was white supremacy on display.  Confederate flags, racist and sexist remarks, and a complete disregard for the safety of others.  What’s troubling about these images is that they’re all too common in our media and pop culture.  We accept it to be “normal” far too often.

Flip it to Test It

When in doubt if something is racist or sexist or problematic for diversity, I generally ask myself this question:  if I flipped the race or gender or diversity dimension, would this still be okay?  Kristen Pressner’s Ted Talk Flip It to Test It Is a helpful guide to understand when your bias might be showing up. If you use her tool with what happened this week, it’s very easy to see the differences in how people are treated based on their skin color.  A typical Black Lives Matter peaceful protest is met with rubber bullets, tear gas, large numbers of police and other intimidation techniques.  Officers are rarely prosecuted for wrongful shootings.  Contrast that with the Capitol breach where police were slow to respond, not violent with violent people, and did not use any form of rubber bullets or tear gas to contain the crowd.  The biggest difference between the two events is race.  Skin color.  The difference is the melanin in our skin. 

Diversity Training Best Practices

The challenges of this week have entered the workplace.  It has never been more important to bring your full self to work.  Not talking about something that might be perceived to be political and may feel safer to not speak up about hard issues, but it  does not honor us being our human selves in the workplace.  Diversity is not political.  What happened is problematic for everyone in our democracy.  Even if you think the issue will go away and it’s easier not to talk about it, I promise you are wrong.  People are talking politics and the news in their work groups.

Having a holistic strategy, statement, and a manager toolkit to help leaders understand how to navigate these difficult issues in the workplace is key.  Here are some of the things my clients are doing to proactively discuss diversity. 

  • They are intentional about diversity. They have a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, a plan, goals and are measuring it overtime. 
  • They are consistently talking about diversity.  They do not view diversity training as a check the box one time conversation, but as a series of programs to help people understand diversity and inclusion over time. 
  • Leadership is deeply committed.  Senior leadership and all layers of management are involved in diversity training and encouraged to talk openly about issues of inclusion in the workplace and outside of the workplace on a regular basis in existing team meetings, all employee gatherings,, and in frequent email communications. 

If you liked this post, check out my Next Pivot Point podcast.  We have over 100 interviews with diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders all over the world.  Be an ally and leave a review on Google Podcasts it helps other allies find it.