The Village

  • The Need for Diversity Experts in a Post-Racial America

    Jun 6, 2013. Written by Cheryl Curtis

    A job description for a position soliciting a diversity and inclusion manager read, “…manager will use expertise and knowledge of best practices in this area to effectively design, develop, and implement initiatives to improve the diversity of the workforce and promote an inclusive culture for all employees.”  The more I read the job description, I wondered if I was puzzled, troubled, or just at a loss of words for my emotions.

    I asked myself a myriad of questions. First, if we, according to some media outlets and some of the information that I have been reading as of late, are living in a post-racial America, why do we need diversity and inclusion managers, directors, specialists, and such?  Then the question I posed to myself (yes, I have to figure this thing out) was, what exactly is a post-racial America?  I mean, being a fairly intelligent person, I deduced that since post means after, then the logical definition of post-racial America means that these United States have moved beyond racism to the place where we can all live together in harmony now that the racism is over.

    Then, a flood of incidents began to rush my mind that would contradict the concept of a post-racial America. You don’t have to look far before you run into the controversy that is surrounding a beloved breakfast cereal and the backlash that has resulted from the advertising executives at the company deciding that a White mother, African-American father, and a biracial child would be okay in a televised commercial.  The bigoted responses that ensued caused the company to disable the comments section of their web site.  Yet, some people found the whole incident a source of disbelief in this post-racial America. So, as I continued to sift through this thing in my head, I am quite convinced that life in these United States, in my opinion, is far from post-racial.

    So, that being the case, maybe there is a need for companies to solicit the support from subject matter experts that would hold the titles of diversity and inclusion managers. But, wouldn’t you believe it, I had more questions—the who, the what, the when, the why.

    I guess it is safe to say that I know the when.  Due to the fact that we are further from a post-racial America than some would like to believe, the time is now.

    Also, the very fact that we are further from a post-racial America than some would like to admit covers the why.

    So, the next questions that I sought to answer in my mind are “the who” and “the what.”  Who is really qualified with “the expertise and the knowledge of best practices” to bring everybody together?  What exactly are the best practices to bring everybody together?  Where did this person obtain his or her knowledge and expertise to bring everybody together?  In other words, what makes this person the authority?  What measures will any company use to know that they have arrived at the place where everyone feels accepted, included, and respected as vital contributor to a company?  And, one of my last questions (it’s a biggie), why do companies want a diversity and inclusion manager anyway?

    You might be thinking that the answer to the last question is obvious.  I thought so to, until I came to the end of a book that I was reading, “How To Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston. In the book, a question was posed that I interpreted as:  do some people, such as companies that are soliciting diversity and inclusion managers, really want to have an understanding of racism so racism can be overcome, or, do these entities want the love of the public (to be deemed politically correct), so they “act” like understanding and acceptance is what they really want?

    As I read the words on the page, I had an epiphany.  As important as the answers are to these questions, I don’t have them.  However, I still strive all the more earnestly to make that which is theoretical a reality.  Maybe, in my lifetime, there might just be a post-racial America.