Letting go of White Comfort in Your DEI Program

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I hear it usually first in your voice.

And then, you can see it physically in your body language.

The SHIFT.

We’re on a call to discuss your new found interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion work as an organization, as a leader, and the second I shift from the word inclusion to the words anti-racism, there is a visible shift. And maybe you don’t notice it, but I do because it happens so much that I’m prepared to expect it. You didn’t reach out to me because you want to talk about race, you don’t want to unpack what is white dominant culture, you aren’t focused on equity because isn’t everyone equal and shouldn’t we just make sure everyone feels like they belong at the organization?

Sure. But what you’re really asking for? Is for me to continue prioritizing white comfort over the real work and change that your organization needs to face. These two things are not the same.

When I started doing diversity, equity, and inclusion work, I admittedly began in a place of where you were. Even as a Black woman who had experienced so much harm, I too was prioritizing your white comfort and holding onto my internalized oppression in order to make you happy. I felt that as long as I got the business and became your consultant, your “ partner” in this work that I could shift and change the conversation once I was working with the organization. Oh, how naive I was as it turned into me, your trusted “ partner” being gaslit, tokenized, and disrespected in the same way you were doing your Black and other POC employees. I was not the solution, I was a part of the problem. And it’s because I heard you when you said we can’t talk about race, we can’t upset your Board, your CEO isn’t quite on board yet so tread lightly. I prioritized your comfort over the real change that would help your BIPOC employees get liberated. I look back at those times with such shame and also the recognition that once you know better, you do better.

And so here I am, telling you to do better.

It’s not ok to continue to prioritizing your white comfort in your diversity, equity, and inclusion program so that you can make sure everyone is ok. You know what that really is? What we’ve been doing all along in workplaces from all industries, making sure that one group of people are ok and stay comfortable while those who are non-white go to work everyday and suffer. We prioritize your comfort in a world where you already have more privilege and power and allow for you to even try and make comfortable what it means to have meaningful change with a diversity, equity, and inclusion program. And let’s be honest: we keep letting you call it a diversity and inclusion program and completely take equity off of the table for discussion, much less opening up the door for understanding what it means to have an anti-racist program instead of a DEI program.

Do better.

Stop asking consultants to come in and make it “ comfortable” for those who are uncomfortable with talking about race.

Stop pretending that equity and equality are the same.

Stop replacing the word equity with the word belonging.

Stop avoiding trainings on anti-racism, anti-Blackness, inferiority and superiority, and dominant culture.

Stop pretending that quick trainings and roundtable discussions without someone pushing you and holding you accountable is all you need.

Listen, some of y’all need to even stop pretending you know what you need.

And y’all:

Stop showing up asking me to prioritize your comfort in you want to really do this work. My mission is to make sure that BIPOC at all workplaces feel safe, heard, valued, and respected equally. And if this means you have to get uncomfortable for awhile in a world that was designed for your comfort, so be it.

Because the reality is for BIPOC:

Uncomfortable is all we’ve ever known.

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