Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can be both enlightening and challenging. In this reflection, I delve into the complexities of conflicts arising from my involvement in discrimination claims, DEI programs, and Title IX and EEO investigations. Join me on this exploration of the Seven Choices and Five Actions outlined in my book, DIY Conflict Resolution, as we seek a path to understanding and unity.
Prepare for the Emotional Journey
No one ever promised DEI would be easy. You will hear shocking stories that hurt and embarrass you. Discussions will often be uncomfortable. To prepare, make the Seven Choices–as often as you need to:
- Forgive yourself. There are always times you could have done more or better. Make amends, if you need to. Then, focus on doing your best going forward.
- Acknowledge yourself. Just as there were times you erred, there are others in which you made a difference.
- Forgive the world. The world’s complexities will always create challenges. Most of them can be resolved and will help us grow into better versions of ourselves, both at the individual and global levels.
- Free the emotions. Whenever you feel yourself getting angry, worried, or frustrated, find a private place and let whatever comes up flow. Contrary to popular belief, holding emotions in is not a sign of strength. Have a safe process for releasing them.
- Clear your mind. Put aside all your thoughts and feelings about what should have happened. Try not to worry about what might. Be open to solutions appearing in places and forms you didn’t expect.
- Assume you know nothing. Your knowledge and experience as a person of your race, gender identity, physical or mental abilities, etc. will only give you one perspective in a world of billions. Harness a beginner’s mind to ensure you are not cutting off possible solutions.
- Listen with your third ear. People can tell when you’re not fully present with them. They know when you are listening to them only to demand they adopt your view. Try listening for what isn’t being said–the hurts that they carry with them and the ones you can heal, not as a savior but as a guide.
Once you can listen calmly and introspectively, you will be in the best position to make the difference you want. Again, remove yourself as often as necessary to not cause additional harm.
Action One: Define the Conflict
Differing perspectives within DEI programs all have some validity, but I disagree with those who demand that I remain silent while being unfairly criticized. This seems especially harmful when the basis for dismissing me is my race or age. It might not be unlawful discrimination, but it certainly seems to be the same mentality that gets us into these harmful conflicts.
Action Two: Identify the Interests
I believe it is essential to open a dialogue rather than shutting it down. I want to foster an environment where genuine understanding can take root.
Amidst the chaos, I think it’s crucial to identify common interests that bind us together. Most of us seek love, peace, unity, and equality, even if the path may seem obscured at times. Recognizing the complexity of individuals wanting to rectify past wrongs, we need to extend empathy and understanding.
Action Three: Play with the Possibilities
Envisioning an ideal resolution, I yearn for a nation embodying the principles of Liberty and Justice for All. Our ancestors failed miserably in delivering on these promises, but there’s still hope for us if we:
- Communicate respectfully
- Accept hurt and anger without misplacing blame
- Take mindful, strategic action towards positive change
We must become role models, peacemakers, and architects of a harmonious future. Celebrating the richness of our diversity, we can become what we have long claimed to be.
Action Four: Create the Future
Focusing on the future is a powerful way to pull ourselves out of dark times. Here are four practical steps I’m taking:
- Social Media Detox. To preserve my well-being, I frequently step away from platforms fostering hostility and misinformation.
- Observation without Comment. I practice listening and witnessing without contributing to negativity.
- Detachment from Toxic Influences. Sometimes, I have to remove myself from allies when they perpetuate negativity.
- Cultivating Positivity. I surround myself with individuals who embody goodness and seek peace.
Action Five: Stay on PARR
This will not be an easy journey. There will be many times we want to quit. For this reason, Action Five is an action of acceptance that we must:
- Repeat (until we get the results we want)
This may take a diligent self-care routine, which will likely pay dividends in additional ways. Join me on this journey of self-reflection and proactive change in the pursuit of a more harmonious and united future.