The Obsession with Faux Diversity

Diversity, (equity, and inclusion) are among the latest buzz words in the C-suite, nonprofit board rooms, behind government doors, and among the noise of the inter webs. Every conference, blog, workshop, event, or meeting is laced with agendas filled with these words. Ad nauseam we meet to meet about the meeting where we will meet about how to talk about these words. 

We do all those meetings, but the work, the actual get your hands dirty, make mistakes, let’s get started, become really uncomfortable work is often dismissed as not ready yet. This isn’t a hot pocket in the microwave, this is people’s lives, their existence, the desire to be acknowledged as a contributor to society. What do you mean we’re not ready yet? Oh, you mean you’re not ready yet to change the laws, policies, language, and the constitutions of your beliefs?

Diversity is only a talking point. Got it.

I’ve heard my fair share of “we were unable to implement the plan because of funding,” “our board or team just isn’t ready to continue with this topic,” *head against the wall*, “we would like to continue the conversation to see how we can fit it in,” or even more frustratingly, “ we are making great strides, see, we hired a woman or a gay person.”  

How convenient. 

What this resistance to real, deep change has shown me is that there is a lack of commitment and overall awareness about how “bad” things really are. We are economically, politically, and socially in one of the most racially charged times of this decade, and the most racially diverse. There is no better time than now to discuss the issue of diversity. 

What’s most unfortunate is that instead of constantly working towards greater knowledge and discomfort regarding race, ethnicity, culture, community, and varied other intersectional complexities, most are interested in faux diversity.

You know what I’m talking about.

Faux diversity is when you call several meetings to begin outlining solutions before you have background information.

Faux diversity is when you refuse to acknowledge the sins of the past but develop a plan for the future under the auspice of “let’s vision towards a new day.”

Faux diversity is when you host a diversity event or workshop externally but have not required all of your staff and board to attend diversity or anti-racism training.

Faux diversity is when you launch a new program that benefits many people, mostly people who are culturally or racially different than you, but you have not communicated with them to gather historical context or understand the impact of said program.

Faux diversity is when you are unwilling to acknowledge your own individual privilege or power and how you hold it close, even if you don’t see if that way.

Faux diversity is hiring a person of color but not placing assurances in place that there is no othering, that they don’t become tokenized, or bastardized for their beliefs.

Faux diversity is when you only want to include certain types of diverse communities often overlooking ethnic minorities. (Look out for my next piece on the Invisibility of Diversity.)

I could go on and on for days, right? There are so many examples that we see and experience daily.

What this trend of faux care calls to our attention is that those who have the privilege to make a change, should, and should call out those that exhibit faux diversity; those who are a part of a diverse community should continue to honor their own story of success and challenges, should set agendas for growth and strategize how to catalyze around those endeavors; and those who aren’t interested in changing, should move out of the way and remain quiet. Truthfully, most people would rather you just admit that you are an outward racist than to eventually find out that you are a faux ally.  

about Kia Jarmon
Kia Jarmon is not an expert on diversity, equity, and inclusion, instead she works at the intersection of culture, community, crisis, and communications and those inevitably require extensive background knowledge on people, history, and how to rectify the unjust systems of power and privilege that make any of her work challenging. With that, don’t be shocked if she uses words and discusses topics that are not often talked about among traditional communicators, she’s an entrepreneur and a business owner looking to re-engineer what excellence looks like.