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Sunday, April 11, 2021

The disinherited … and thoughts on DEI dissonance

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I wrote a poem recently. I do not write poetry much these days, but as Mother Earth continues to moan amidst the trials of humanity, I believe many are being called to live their truth in different ways. In bolder ways. To revel in the splendor of creativity and the expressions of activism through art, song, dance and other creative mediums. 

An Ode to Third Culture Kids

I am a product of plunder

of peoples flowing, living, and seeing vision by way of the sea

I am the daughter of disruption

of resistors to religiosity

in the name of following GOD…not man

I am a culmination of strife and fears

of grief and tears

of those who “pass”

and those who do not

of those who are religious and

those who are radical

I am the mix of

rich Black coffee beans

cocoa Brown and bronzed Taínos

and creamy White conquistadores and peaceful religious resistors

I am café con mucho leche y azúcar

I am God’s treasured daughter

a broken Boricua

that White “culture lady”

who Mother Earth consoles

and Father Sky advises

who falls in surrender to the Holy Spirit every day

because I know

God has made me

for such a time as this.

One of my favorite texts is “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman. In this prolific text (first published in 1949), Thurman writes, “In this world the socially disadvantaged man is constantly given a negative answer to the most important personal questions upon which mental health depends: Who am I? What am I? 

Being a white-passing Latina (my pronouns are she/her/ella) and serving in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training space can create my own internal dissonance at times. I am often at the ridicule and scrutiny of those who are white, Black, and LatinX. This dissonance is not new in my life and I think in humanity we all have areas (in regards to social constructs such as gender identity, race and ethnicity) where we experience this dissonance. The doubt that can be derived from another human’s hatred. Perhaps, hatred of themselves.  

As I open initial conversations with leaders who voice a desire to dive into antiracism work with their teams, they often are unsure why they actually want to engage in work. In fact, in my initial calls with potential partners I ask the question: Will you tell me why antiracism work is so personally important to you? Many leaders cannot articulate this.  

Some common statements as conversation unfolds:  

  • We really just need to hire more Black people. Can you help us with that?  
  • We just cant find any great Hispanic candidates. Will you help do that?  
  • We dont know why our people of color keep leaving.  

I now sit in the dissonance of accepting that many leaders have been programmed into performance mode as opposed to learning mode. But this is the conniving element that is the definition of deception: many people (often White people in America) want to feel better within themselves or be able to share a nice story about how they have “done something” and keep it moving. All too often, that “something” is not about liberation for all humans. It is about putting a small Band-Aid (such as a “diversity hire”) on a gaping, tattered, massive, United States-size wound that has been bleeding for 400-plus years. Specifically, the wounds of Black people in America.  

Deception has the power to mask underlying hatred. America is still at war. And we must all remember that representation or performative allyship is most certainly not equivalent to liberation. Let’s continue naming things for what they are. Precisely. Specifically. Unapologetically. Be alert to those who disguise exploitation of the problems of the oppressed as “activism.” As Thurman prolifically wrote in 1949, “During times of war hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.”  

Justine González is an Indiana native and first-generation college grad having served in both Chicago Public and Indianapolis Public Schools. Her consulting firm, EducatorAide, partners with organizations to help cultivate culturally connected, equitable, and inclusive environments. For experiential learning resources related to culture, equity, and inclusion, subscribe to EducatorAide’s resource kits here

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