D.E.I. And The Continued Evolution Of White Supremacy
Individuals charged with the responsibility of implementing AUTHENTIC, ANTI-RACIST EDUCATION (as opposed to so-called D.E.I.), the latter of which is often utilized as a buffer to deflect and/or avoid seriously dealing with the real underlying, fundamental issue and problem, namely individual, institutional and structural RACISM, potentially can be very powerful.
And, I know of no one more suited to hold such positions than strong, knowledgeable, experienced (with RACISM), Black and other men and women of color.
A problem is, in many cases, such positions and the people in them function in ways that actually help prop up, reinforce, perpetuate and maintain the Tripartite Beast and Illness of individual, institutional and structural racism; while at the same time, producing a grand illusion of change and improvement. The latter of which is seemingly, always right around the corner, but never arrives.
Frequently, part of the illusion is so-called DEI positions and sometimes ‘ghost’ “departments.” Of course the critical, bottom-line question is — do individuals in such positions actually have the necessary authority and decision-making power to do what they are supposedly hired to do, e.g., help change racist policies, practices., procedures, rules, regulations and laws that literally represent the life blood of RACISM?
As it relates to the vital question, no matter how much people might pretend, we all know what the answer usually is. Naturally, if the answer was anything other than ‘no’ __ by now many D.E.I. operatives would have (long ago) worked themselves out of a job.
I have often wondered if anyone else noticed how so-called D.E.I., and it’s most recent, logical extension, so-called “anti-racism training” suddenly bursts (pervasively) back onto the institutional/employment scene seemingly out of nowhere? So-called workplace “diversity training” programs have been around since the 1960’s. Prior to the relatively new, jingoistic craze and mantra of D.E.I.(over the past 10 years or so), “diversity training” had morphed and was generally cloaked under so-called multicultural education programs during the 1980’s and 90’s. So, D.E.I is the newest rendition.
When examined closely, what we find is that all of these programs, dating all the way back to their inception, have been born of protest and struggle via Modern Civil Rights; Women’s; Black Power; Me too; and Black Lives Matter Movements, etc… . However, in spite of commendable, progressive efforts, each respective movement has ultimately failed to effectively thwart formulation of counter, systemic-adjustment-mechanisms that have allowed white supremacy to remake itself and continue thriving, as opposed to fundamentally interrupting it (other than temporarily), and actually ending the racist status-quo (once and for all).
One tactic that has been strategically utilized is the hiring of token diversity, multicultural, D.E.I., and finally so-called anti-racist “trainers.” By and large, these have been individuals who usually lack the necessary authority, power, resources, or even the will to undertake the kinds of actions that are going to be necessary in order to move major institutions (both public and private) to a position that even remotely resembles true, authentic, anti-racist, so-called “equity and inclusion.”
It seems, based on recent literature, including an article entitled ‘I’m Black, But I Don’t Want To Be Your Head Of Diversity,’ which actually spurred me to write this, (see a link below), some Black professionals are choosing not to support white-supremacist-inspired, status-quo trickery. That’s good — I think, but then there are caveats, with one of the most outstanding being that there are still plenty among us who will NOT pass up such, so-called “good opportunities,” and will (in many cases) rationalize that they are doing the best they can to help produce the change that we need and deserve. Hiding behind the centuries-old mantra that ‘we didn’t get here overnight, and it’s gonna take time’. This always makes me think about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (crying into the wilderness, almost 57 years ago) — “HOW LONG?!!!”
Considering the millions, and no doubt billions of dollars that have been spent in this particular realm — the gross lack of significant, measurable permanent anti-racist change and/or improvement, particularly over the past 50 years and especially in the public domain, is straight-up criminal. That is to say, public resources have been given, and are being given to folks (by the millions and billions of dollars), for the specific purpose of producing anti-racist change and improvement. Yet, we can easily make a credible argument that, in some respects, overall conditions, relative to racism, are worse than ever, which has no doubt been, and is being greatly exacerbated by the deadliest pandemic in all of American history.
Another caveat is that if WE (Black and other men and women of color), who in most cases, are most knowledgeable, most qualified, and actually have the most at stake, don’t accept these “good” jobs, someone will. In any case, the larger point is that whoever is in such positions, need to be held accountable by the broader community, and of course, those of us who have the most to lose, need to take the lead. If we don’t, then who do we imagine will?
The County we live in represents a perfect example of the need to hold folks accountable. Many around the nation will recall that when fires were burning throughout the land during the long-hot-summer of 2020, via the ‘final-straw’ protests against the murderous atrocity that was heaped upon Mr. George Floyd, the nation discovered that a similar situation had occurred by way of a case that many consider as being a police murder of Mr. Daniel Prude in Rochester, NY.
Rochester is located in Monroe County, the latter of which, jointly, along with the City, assembled a so-called “Commission on Racial And Structural Equity” (at a price tag of $200,000 dollars), which was charged with “reviewing local city and county laws, policies and ordinances to identify areas of structural inequity and recommend ways to change those laws to achieve fair application for all citizens.”
That was well over a year-and-a-half ago (approaching two years). What’s changed? For the most part, the question is purely rhetorical. One so-called “change” that did occur (you guessed it), the County Executive, who was accused by Black and Asian members of the County’s Legislative body of being racist, appointed (drum roll) — a “Chief Diversity Officer” who became head of a newly created “Department of Diversity.”
It was noted in the February 2021 press release, in which this big “change” was announced (see a copy at a link below) __ that __ “as Chief Diversity Officer and head of the new Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Deanna Kimbrel will be the County’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer” (as if, in 2021 that was something to be boasting about). It was also noted that “It is long past time for our county to challenge the status quo and take committed steps toward dismantling systemic and institutional racism.
In my humble, but staunch and informed view, one of Ms. Kimbrel’s first statements (in her new role) was potentially problematic in the sense that she seemed to be pretending that she was just now realizing how bad things really are regarding racism. Her statement was as follows: “Many of us are experiencing some of the most difficult times of our lives, but these hard times will not be in vain as many of the inequities and injustices that exist in our society have been exposed for all to see. We can no longer turn a blind eye.”
What, just now “exposed for all to see???” It’s even more problematic that, more than one year since the time of her appointment, no one that we have talked to in the local, anti-racist community has heard a single word from her, or about her work. One would think it’s about time that she shares with the community of Monroe, especially and particularly those who are most directly and most devastatingly impacted by the Beast And Illness __ ways in which the racist “status quo [has been, and/or is being] challenged and the committed steps being taken toward dismantling systemic and institutional racism???”
~Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.