I can’t remember how many times I’ve said, “Everything’s Connected,” these past few years.
I’m currently building a curriculum for working with White leaders to approach Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as an opportunity to Improve Business Performance by engaging in the dismantling of Personal, Organizational/Institutional and Structural Racism. As part of my research, I’m reading Heather McGee’s The Sum of All of Us,” which immediately filled my head with new ideas…
In 1956, 65% of White people believed that the government should provide them with a job and minimum standard of living. At that time, 31% of White people believed Blacks to be inferior - Biological Racism. When Blacks marched on Washington in 1963 for the same “White-Popular” ideas of a jobs guarantee and a raised minimum raise, along with the end of discrimination, the foundation of White racism began shifting from Biological Racism to one of “Racial Resentment.”
As Heather McGee stated, “The most dominant story most white Americans believe about race adapted to the Civil Rights movement’s success, and a new form of racial disdain took over: racism based not on biology but on perceived culture and behavior.” The data showed that, although, “White support for the principles of racial equality and integration have increased majestically over the past four decades, their backing for policies designed to bring equality and integration about has scarcely increased at all. Indeed in some cases White support has actually declined.”
When the people who hold the reigns of power in society, financially and otherwise, harbor resentment toward a people - framing them as undeserving and inferior, consciously or unconsciously, their perception of the “Other” as undeserving affects their self-perception of being the deserving ones. So much so that they’ll, “Tear apart the web that supports everyone, including them. Their definition of the public becomes conditional.”
Racism, sexism, ageism, sexual orientation discrimination etc., are all at their core, “Othering.” And this is where the opportunity exists - to assist white people to realize that othering bites both ways. White culture’s adoption of the idea that if “they” win something, “we” lose something, hurts all parties - it’s a glaring example of our need to focus on our collective well-being, or we all lose. This interconnectedness shows up everywhere.
For example, when White people try to convince themselves and others that they are Colorblind.
Sure, they’ll explain that what they mean is that a person’s color doesn’t mean anything to them. But when they don’t see the ways that POC experience the world differently than a white person - not seeing the differential experiences… they leave it to POC to convince them that race continually matters in their lives. It’s like saying, “Race doesn’t matter to me, so it shouldn’t matter to you.” Aligning with the “Colorblind Strategy” protects us from considering how lingering, unconscious prejudices might play out.
Again, it’s all connected. Along with offending POC by denying and dismissing their Color - it also negatively impacts White people. Being Colorblind truly keeps us blind to ourselves. Our whiteness, which is already nebulous, moves from being uncomfortable, to blurry, to being purposefully hidden away.
"When we refuse to see color in someone else’s life, we refuse to see the whiteness in our own."
As mentioned above, I see this knowledge as an opportunity as I develop my curriculum. Although the economic and statistical data I’m accumulating around DEI=ROI is compelling - it doesn’t pack the emotional punch that comes with realizing that personal and organizational racism punishes everyone… including White leaders themselves. It’s powerful to realize that what you’re doing to others, consciously or not, is also damaging to you.