Thursday, April 30, 2015

Diversity Is More Than Black And White

     "We are living in an increasingly multicultural world, and new ethnic groups are quickly gaining consumer power. Our company [nonprofit organizations] needs a demographically more diverse workforce to help us gain access to these differentiated segments" (Thomas & Ely, 2004)

Everyone has heard some version of this golden rule: do not judge someone's life until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
Yet, we tend to let our preconceived notions, assumptions, stereotypes, and fear trump humanness during difficult times. Take, for example, the results of continuous systemic oppression and institutionalized racism that sparked tragedies among Ferguson, Madison, Baltimore, and many more across the nation. We quickly jump to conclusions and start pointing fingers. Members of the dominant culture, particularly leaders of organizations and agencies, have an obligation to understand the ways in which people who are not included in the dominant culture are marginalized. Nonprofit organizations share a common goal of meeting the needs of the communities they serve. As a nonprofit it is likely that you serve a diverse population of people, which puts your agency in a unique position to advocate for diversity in places where people work, play, learn, and pray. Jeanne McNett described diversity as a way of thinking rather than a result of comprising your organization with diverse individuals. To achieve diversity we must value, respect, and appreciate the differences that make people unique.

As we venture into this ever changing world, what can we as emergent leaders or even as social beings do to foster diversity within our communities? First, let us be socially responsible by educating ourselves to be more competent about cultures and experiences that are different from ours. We must recognize that we may never fully understand what the next person is going through, but by respecting their actions, reactions, and justifications we are one step closer to negating the concepts of whiteness and otherness. Next, we must challenge injustices even if it means that we are drifting away from our mission. We can no longer carry out our work when racism and sexism affects the communities that we vow to serve. Lastly, we must seek collaborations with organizations such as other nonprofits, for profits, and government to tackle issues of disparities that make it harder for marginalized groups to prosper. Though the power differences and the biases remain, we can at least put aside our differences and take responsibility for how we engage and include diverse people in our work.

Thomas, David A. & Robin J. Ely (2004) “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity.” Understanding and Managing Diversity: Readings, Cases, and Exercises 3rd ed. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 211-227.
McNett, Jeanne (2004) “Diversity in the Workplace: Ethics, Pragmatism, or Some of Both?” Understanding and Managing Diversity: Readings, Cases, and Exercises 3rd ed. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 241-253.