DEI – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion – vs. Uniformity, Inequity, Exclusion – We’ve got work to do

Martin Luther King, LetterWe know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.


(Note from Randy:  there are so many groups that have been left out.  This post is not meant to include an exhaustive list; just a representative list).

DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging in the workplace.


In case you have not heard, there are still plenty of ripple effects from the decades…the centuries… of racism in this country. (Not to imply that it has come close to fully going away).

And, the exclusion has not just been of Black people; it has been of every group that is a group of “the other.”  And, “the other” has been every group that was not the “white male group” for so very long.

Consider the descriptive words, and their antonyms:

Diversity vs. Uniformity
Equity vs. Inequity; Imbalance
Inclusion vs. Exclusion

In fact, for way too long — in work, in communities; in education – groups have for so very long been groups that were best described by the words Uniformity and Inequity and Exclusion.

Whenever one group experiences a hint of rejection by another group – a rejection of  “the other” – we have a failure of inclusion.

Whenever one group keeps out voices from their team discussions by building uniform teams of “all the same” people, then they lose the breadth and the creativity of the more diverse team that could be available; that would have so much to offer.

Whenever one group has to “fight” to get into THE group, then there is not equity.

We are clearly paying better attention to these concerns than we used to. In companies and organizations. And in our country overall.

But I wonder…as we give more attention o this, do we need to take a step back, and better learn from our history.

History provides a full accounting of the rigid hierarchies of who is in and who is out; who gets a chance, and who does not.

The groups that were kept out are many:  Native Americans; Black people, different groups of immigrants, all treated very differently.  Every step forward, by women, by people of color, by people form different countries, by LGBTQ people…by every member of an “out” group; by every group that was “the other” – had to work for and fight for every step forward.

Here’s a suggestion for your own DEI efforts.  Start with some history lessons.  Only when we see what we were like can we see what we could, and should, become.

I have presented synopses of numerous books that do a good and through job of presenting such history.  Contact me, and let’s talk about a few synopses of such books to add to your DEI initiatives.

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Click on image for full, printable view

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