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Navigating & Thriving In a Season of Anti-DEI Backlash

We’ve experienced intense waves of whitelash in the U.S. for centuries – so this latest whitelash against diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives is nothing new. 

Since affirmative action was overturned by the Supreme Court last year, DEI initiatives at colleges, universities, state institutions, and corporations have come under intense scrutiny. While the pressure to give in and back down on progress being made to dismantle White supremacy culture, some steps can still be taken to preserve the integrity of your organization’s DEI programs:

Recognize the Intrinsic Value of DEI

For DEI initiatives to thrive in this climate, we must get out of our heads and into our hearts and hands to recognize the intangible value of creating an equitable and inclusive workspace. To see DEI as more than a figure in a company’s bottom line and more valuable than any optics is the first step in beginning to dismantle the impacts of White supremacy culture on the workplace. 

Resist the Urge to Justify 

Here, I’m reminded of these powerful words from Toni Morrison:

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

In a system that relies on metrics and numbers to quantify and demonstrate the impact of DEI, resist the urge to reduce the field’s importance to an evaluation. Constantly having to justify and rationalize the importance of DEI is a distraction from critical work that could otherwise be done. While the overall vision of creating an anti-Black, just, and equitable workplace is worth fighting for, you can rest knowing that you don’t have to justify the right for women of color to be able to thrive at work. 

Lean Into Community 

It’s okay to acknowledge and celebrate milestones in your progress, no matter what the field of DEI may look like. Recognize individuals and teams for their contributions to creating a more inclusive environment. Offer resources for self-care, mental health support, and coping strategies to DEI practitioners to navigate these challenging times.

Despite recent setbacks, such as the bans on DEI initiatives in Alabama and Kentucky, it's imperative that we not lose sight of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. ShiftED Consulting is ready to support organizations in navigating these challenges and advancing their DEI objectives. Schedule a consultation today!

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