The Seven Sins of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

Join Keith Martin-Smith as we question whether DEI initiatives are achieving their intended goals of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, or whether they may be perpetuating any number of unseen biases that take us further away from those shared goals. Are we oversimplifying the narrative around privilege and diversity? How do factors like poverty impact issues like police violence? How might we rethink and reshape the DEI discourse, moving towards more skillful (and more integral) approaches?

Tune in to watch this sensitive but incredibly important conversation, as we aim to foster a more holistic and nuanced perspective on DEI — one that embraces a broad spectrum of experiences and viewpoints. This is a unique opportunity to expand your understanding and participate in a dialogue that could redefine how we approach equality and inclusion in our society. Don’t miss this chance to be part of a transformative discussion that not only embraces multiple perspectives, but also seeks to integrate them into a more holistic, inclusive understanding of human diversity and potential. This is your chance to contribute to a dialogue that transcends and includes, moving us towards a future that honors the integral nature of our society.

Having noticed in practice at least some of the issues raised in this presentation, but also working in an environment entirely committed to racial equity (however one might define that), I’ve been mashing up a lot of social theories and them streamlining the results for very general application. The current version of this process is not labelled “integral” (or anything else) because of the streamlining, but it seems integral-informed:

  1. everyone gets to own his/her/their life experience.

  2. everyone gets to self-interpret that life experience however he/she/they wish.

  3. when that interpretation shades into propositional knowledge about society and history, it enters the public sphere.

  4. anyone entering the public sphere needs to understand different interpretations and different propositions will be at play there.

  5. for the public sphere to even exist, we need to agree on dialogic practices of mutual respect and attentiveness.

  6. given such practices, I hypothesis expansion of horizon from all experiential centers, resulting ultimately in at least modus vivendi mutual understandings at the public level.

When it comes to life experience, current DEI programming is pretty compelling (for example, I have learned one of our faculty members has been pulled over like 16 times for “driving while black”). The sociology and policy initiatives that flow from such experiences are not always things I can sign on to however. Nor do I accept “privilege” and “unconscious bias” as the only reasons one might have policy quarrels with this or that DEI initiative. Things like empirical research, critical thinking, or different (but equally valid) sorts of experience can also come into play.

Lately I’m in some creative tension with a person of color over a professional initiative we are both working on. Another colleague offered a few counter arguments I could use to knock down the oppositional position. I replied, yes but, my goal is not to win the argument - it’s to win over the person. For that job, empathetic communication is the better tool. More than one line of development. Ability to pick your spots. Sounds kind of integral.

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An intelligent analysis, firmly and kindly differentiating an Integral take on the issue from our pre-integral (pluralistic, green stage/pomo influenced) friends’ take on it. Much appreciated.

Yes, our pre-integral friends often do ‘miss the mark’ (the original meaning of “sin”), as does so much of the world in so many areas. Lacking in both the penetrative, zoom-in kind of consciousness as well as the expansive zoom-out consciousness we might desire or covet, they simply don’t see enough. And yet, their somewhat amorphous grand intuitive awareness leads them to an assertion of humanity, humaneness, as limited or imperfect as it may be, and that is a step in the right direction, in my opinion, and that applies to DEI, as limited and imperfect as it may currently be.

Personally, I find it encouraging (given that 50-60% of people in the US are at the amber stage or below) that half or more of both men and women say that focusing on increasing DEI at work is a “good thing” (Pew Research, May 2023). More women (61%) say this than men (50%), which reflects polls and data showing there is a widening gap between men and women when it comes to liberalism. (Incidentally, according to Pew, men are more than twice as likely as women to say it’s a “bad thing.” Obviously, there are lots of reasons for this.)

Predictably, people of color are more favorable towards DEI than white people. Younger workers (68% of the under age 30) are quite favorable towards it, and the more educated the person, the more favorably DEI is viewed. And of course, there are the partisan divides: 78% of Democrats and D-leaning folks view it positively, as compared to 30% of Republicans or the R-leaning. Only 4% of Dems or D-leaning view it as a “bad thing” as compared to 30% of Republics or R-leaning people.

Of the people who view DEI unfavorably or think it’s a bad thing, some of that is undoubtedly due to one or more of these “seven sins.” And given the current socio-political culture, what we see with our own eyes, I think it’s hard to deny that the usual “isms” play a role here too, and would point out and reiterate that we do after all have a white nationalism movement in our midst, and a presidential candidate found liable for sexual assault (with some two dozen other women having alleged sexual abuse or inappropriate non-consensual by him). So we are definitely not done with race or sex/gender lessons.

Pew focused on gender, race, sexual orientation, age, and physical disability in its research. I agree that there are more DEI elements that need to be brought to the table: religion for one, as well as other influential factors Keith mentioned–e.g. class, education, perspective–if we want a more holistic framing. Salary transparency might be another one. DEI itself though follows a long line of workplace policies and practices and labor initiatives in general that, in my opinion, have had a positive influence in the world, everything from child labor laws (now being dismantled in numerous states, often to take advantage of the cheap labor of teen undocumented migrants), workers’ compensation insurance, labor unions, and sexual harassment laws and training in the workplace, to name a few.

And again, none of what I’m saying is to refute or disagree with the 7 sins outlined here; I don’t disagree. But as far as oppression goes, I do think there is a spectrum of oppression, that has to do with such things as stages of both individual and cultural development, how a culture (or workplace) organizes itself, and many other things. I think of how many in Western culture celebrated or positively acknowledged such things as the Chinese protests at Tiananmen Square, or the Arab Spring protests, or Hong Kong, or women resisting/protesting head coverings in Iran, or Israelis protesting the stripping of power from the judiciary. It seemed clear to many of us that these were uprisings against oppression by dictatorial states, many of them at orange-ish/amber or below stages of development.

Here in the US, I think that while the outcry against it can be quite loud, oppression itself is more subtle, less obvious to the casual on-looker, whether that be forms of oppression in the workplace or oppression of a collective in society (e.g. unaffordable housing costs, child poverty, etc.). I think of a scene from the pink visual extravaganza that was “Barbie” in which the wannabe patriarch Ken in the Real World asks a suited man “where’s the patriarchy?” The man replies “oh we got rid of that.” Ken was obviously disappointed. The man smiled and said, “well we still have it but we just hide it better.”

I feel similarly towards DEI as-is as I did the Barbie movie. Both are heavy on message and somewhat overbearing, but I am really glad that younger people are being exposed to such thinking. And it’s heartening to think that there are Integralists raising their children to be integral thinkers. The future could be good.