November 20, 2020 | WONDERINGS & CURIOSITIES

ten things we hate about “you” — a series on what not to do (part one)

Mark Konig

“We become what we practice, and we are always practicing something. Is what you are practicing aligned with healing and equity?”

— Staci K. Haines, How to Nourish Your Resilience in a Time of Trauma

 Our advice this week is a list of ten things we hate about — okay, it’s not you, unless you fit the bill. It’s actually ten things we hate about how “diversity work” is described and (sometimes) actualized. These are our pet peeves, work rage, eye rolls, WTF texts, and angry emoji faces.

Consider this a series on “what not to do” — seriously, don’t do these. So here we go:

ONE. Calling any form of racial injustice and violence against BIPOC — “race relations.” Nope. Delete that from your vocab cause there are no “relations” here. None at all in bigotry, hatred, and white supremacy so stop it with the diplomatic politeness, which is really just white supremacy in disguise. What does “race relations” even mean? Relations typically involve balanced power dynamics, mutual aid, trust, and repair. Oh, you meant to say “racism” — not race relations. So just say that.

TWO. Playing oppression olympics, especially with people most impacted by racism. This is another way of centering the space, energy, and attention on yourself. #rude

THREE. Using “diversity” as a catchall bucket for…yeah, what? Be clear about your terms and call a thing a thing. How you define the work matters. Language matters. Diversity actually means something, and that something is distinct from equity, from inclusion, from community, from belonging, from accessibility. We see right through this trick of vague’ry — you either don’t actually care about the work or you have no idea what you’re doing, in which case, seek (and compensate for) help.

FOUR. Asking us to make “it” safe and accessible. Okay Karen and Chad, safe for who?

FIVE. Asking us to find common ground. Okay Karen and Chad, common ground for who?

SIX. Asking us to soften the language. Okay Karen and Chad, soften for who? Cause we already experience and live what’s unsafe, inaccessible, on your grounds, and all the hard truths for as long as we can remember. Again, for who?

SEVEN. Inquiring for the mediocre White dudes who are not even in the room — like why? “What do you do about, you know, White men who are resistant or see this as reverse racism? Asking for a friend.” WHO CARES. Stop centering this work around White folks, especially if they are not in the room. Do a comparison. Do you also center BIPOC folks not in the room? “What do you do to ensure that BIPOC feel safe and affirmed in this work, especially around their White colleagues? Asking for myself.”

EIGHT. Tasking us with “convincing” and “persuading” White people and non-Black POCs that Black Lives Matter. So let us get this right — you want us to get on stage and into the hot seat under that spotlight and engage in a “conversation” with your Karen-Chad-friends-and-families-and-staff and convince them that our lives matter. Oh, did you forget that one of us is Black?

NINE. And then conveniently inviting us to your next diversity event so you can cash in on your Black friend/staff/partner/acquaintance/LinkedIn connection. The complete caucasity. N-O-P-E.

TEN. Failing to get started. It’s been six months after George Floyd’s murder by state sanctioned violence backed by white supremacist systems. For all those black squares, BLM solidarity statements, allyship pins, conversations about launching DEI — where are you now?

Look, we get that DEI is a steep, nonlinear, and unending learning curve that we’re all running through. We are practitioners committed to facilitating and holding your (un)learnings, questions, anxieties, stumblings, mistakes, and discoveries.

We’re also human (surprise). And as humans, we get worked up and angry from little pet peeves that build up over time. But, we’re also here to cheer you on with some tough love. To tell you to keep (un)learning, trying, tripping, flying, and tying your loose laces. Eventually you’ll trip yourself and others up less and less.

Our true advice here is to build a habit of being humble learners and listeners. As a starting place, it’s that simple. Seek advice, coaching, and guidance from experts, practitioners, and people you trust. Then begin by humbly changing your behaviors — one thing at a time.

A quote we live by from Sister Judy Vaughn: “You don’t think your way into a different way of acting; you act your way into a different way of thinking.” Or as we like to say, stop intellectualizing why or how racism and oppression manifests in your life. Start acting to dismantle them instead.

Oh, and just in case you were all up in your feelings — we were speaking to a generic “you” cause you’d never do any of these. And even if you oops’d, as the famous movie line goes, “But mostly [we] hate the way [we] don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”

So keep at this. You’re doing your best.

P.S. Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 and 4 and 5…

and, now