Over the last few years, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives and programs burned hot, as corporations and small nonprofits alike responded to demands from their staff and stakeholders.

Today, many are attempting to extinguish our flames and leave us out in the cold again.

With the Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action, we find ourselves in a cultural moment.

Some politicians are saying that DEIB divides us, or that DEIB is racist. Many organizational leaders are questioning its value.

But this isn’t about them — it’s about us, the DEIB practitioners on the front lines, fighting day in and day out to make a difference.

For more than 20 years, I have been working to make the workplace more equitable. I do this work because as a Black woman, I want the future version of myself to be able to walk through the same doors I walked through, without the objections, obstacles, and barriers. I want her to feel welcomed and valued.

That requires doubling down at this critical moment.

DEIB has been proven to be good for the bottom line. It drives innovation, attracts talent, reduces employee turnover, and improves customer satisfaction.

Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t hand down a similar decision about hiring or workplace equity programs, you can be sure the same forces behind it will influence the workplace in general and DEIB work specifically.

Do you recognize any of these signs that your work as a DEIB practitioner is being weaponized?

  • The dominant culture uses language like “reverse discrimination,” “we weren’t included,” or “we’re not given the same resources.”

  • Your organization has hired more People of Color but has not committed resources to support or retain them.

  • Micro-aggressions from the dominant culture increase, while People of Color are left vulnerable and unsupported.

  • Employees start to challenge leadership’s commitment or dollars allocated to DEIB.

  • Employees and/or leadership suggest that DEIB detracts from the mission and/or values.

  • Metrics to measure the success of DEIB are weak or challenged.

  • Employees are unsure about how to participate in DEIB, or unrealistic expectations are placed on the DEIB program.

  • There’s a lack of tangible effort or brainpower behind DEIB, and the program is labeled a failure when ambiguous expectations aren’t met.

  • Suggestions arise about a problem within the organization never happening if not for the DEIB program.

  • DEIB is labeled as divisive.

Do any of these sound familiar?

A well-run DEIB program isn’t a program at all, but a way of operating. When an organization operates with an awareness of equity, it can counter any of these arguments and achieve great things.

If you’re increasingly experiencing pushback, ask yourself if your work has failed to create psychological safety for everyone. And by “everyone,” I mean White people as well.

Right now, there’s uncertainty for the dominant culture. There’s a vague sense that their current level of opportunity, power, or privilege may be threatened if DEIB programs are allowed to continue.

An unspoken fear permeates that, perhaps, if the scales were truly balanced, People of Color might get the “upper hand,” and White people would be treated the way that People of Color have been treated for centuries.

Speaking for myself as a Black woman, I don’t wish retribution on any White person for their bad behavior. I do however wish they are held accountable. That’s a world that I want to live in. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I want equity, freedom, and justice for all.

I want people in the dominant culture to become aware, educated, and responsible for changing our current collective reality, but this change must come from within (or be driven by) the dominant culture.

I’m not saying under-represented people or People of Color don’t have a role to play, but if people in the dominant culture truly spoke up and out about inequities and disparities, and used their power, position, and privilege to help and heal instead of controlling and minimizing, this whole thing has the potential to change overnight.

What would become dominant would no longer be “White Supremacy” but equitable systems and inclusivity.

It would be our minds that would connect us, not our color that disconnects us.

Labels of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and sexual orientation wouldn’t carry the weight that they carry today. We’d all just be “humans.”

In my upcoming book, I seek to lay out where we’ve misstepped with DEIB, what’s at the root of the problems we’re facing, and what you as a practitioner and or leader can do to move forward.

If you’re discouraged right now, I hope my book gives you the resources and encouragement you need to keep going.

Because the world needs YOU-US-WE!