What’s your DEI why?

I was nicely challenged in a recent interview to share how and why I came to care about diversity, inclusion, and equity.

My short answer is that DEI is simply the right thing to do: that *everyone* deserves to be heard and respected, and the world is better in multiple ways if everyone can contribute: we all know something that no one else does.

But articulating a longer answer, my own ‘how and why’, was a struggle. I realized while trying to answer that no one had ever asked me before. And I’ve been so focused on learning more and finding ways to help that it hadn’t occurred to me to reflect on, or share, my how or why. On the spot, the longer answer felt hard because there are so many things I’ve seen and heard over so many years (more than could fit into the whole interview timeslot!) They generally fall into two clusters:

  1. Public stories of outrageous bigotry and injustices – which I could certainly list and share
  2. Personal stories of disrespect and microaggressions and conscious & unconscious bias that I’ve witnessed and experienced, from and with family and friends – which I mostly don’t have the right to share

On reflection, I have to wonder: if not for those personal experiences, would I have even cared about the big public stories?

  • If I would have cared anyway, then
    (1) the personal stories aren’t my why, and
    (2) it raises the further question of why, clearly, not everyone cares in the absence of personal experiences. If personal experiences aren’t the key differentiator in who cares about DEI and who doesn’t, then what is?
  • If I only cared because my personal experiences primed me to be empathetic to the public stories, then it doesn’t bode well for getting society to address bias, because:
    (1) in order to for society to want to do something about bigotry, more of society will have to first suffer from negative bias (more total harm in the world)
    (2) the most privileged people who control society never will care because they won’t have those negative experiences,
    (3) as more people suffer, care, and act to address bigotry, suffering will decrease, and fewer people will care about addressing bias, and this vicious cycle will repeat ad infinitum.

Why isn’t the short answer enough? [Why] do we humans need to see, hear, or live personal experiences to drive our DEI why? … If it would actually help build empathy among more humans, I’m open to sharing some of my personal stories, although I’m not sure even now if I give a useful, concise answer without violating the confidences and privacy of people I care about. That will need a lot of thought.

And now I’m curious … has anyone ever asked you how and why you care about #DiversityEquityAndInclusion ?