Today (yesterday but I was trying to finish a thing and accidentally worked 13 hours so time is fake) one of our reading items is AWAKE to WOKE to WORK: Building a Race Equity Culture. One of the first sentences includes the definition of race equity as “one’s racial
identity has no influence on how one fares in society.” Which. Yeah. That’s the goal. But even within that definition I think it’s worth unpacking more definitions.
Because wanting race to have no influence can invite just ignoring it as a factor, which is, I think, the opposite of what we want. Raceblind hiring is great, and something more companies should do and design for, but then – is there a support network for the people of color? Is it a hostile environment or a supportive one? End goals need midline goals, or you end up simplifying to “I don’t see color,” which ends up being a failure mode particularly for white liberals.
I think one of the midline things is just – genuinely valuing diverse perspectives? Which seems like a very progressive, liberal thing to say. But now I get to put online the point I’ve made many times in diversity discussions at the Disaster Research Center.
The William Averette Anderson Fund, named after disaster scientist Bill Anderson, promotes minority, particularly Black, participation in disaster science. I never met Bill Anderson, who was active as a sociologist and disaster scientist somewhat before I started, but he contributed immeasurably to the field. In terms of cold, hard data that is callous to diversity and the humanity of the people both gathering and providing data and uncaring of a legacy of mentorship, this is still true. Because Bill Anderson was Black, he was able to get interviews in the 1960s about the civil unrest and riots related to race that no one else would have.
Diversity enriches a field. This isn’t a sentiment, or not just a sentiment. This is a documentable fact. Valuing that diversity means that you get a better field. The reading talks about how diversity has been reduced in many cases to numbers and percentages, and therefore significantly weakened conceptually. But I’m not sure I agree that shifting the focus to the desired end state is necessarily the best solution everywhere? Though one of the ongoing issues is going to be that everything is highly variable based on location and context, which makes moving forward harder. But I think recognizing and valuing diversity is part of moving towards equity. It’s part of what the reading talks about, moving away from a white-dominant culture to one that promotes equity: everyone’s story and identity needs to be valued.