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8. The Death of DEI
  • Writer's pictureAntonio Da Veiga Rocha

Privilege and Policy

We live in a society where most of us want to do good, have good intentions, but are not always willing to explore ourselves as it relates to the whole of our gains, to study our circumstances, and evaluate our positions, especially, if we’re speaking of equity. It’s hard for today’s minds to understand that many of us hold privileged positions, even more difficult to confront the make-up of that privilege; essentially, getting to know why and how it has come to be.

It is very much a natural inclination to speak of our privilege through the air of self-propulsion, that what I have achieved is due in large part to what I have done. We do acknowledge from time to time that it’s not one hundred percent us/me, that others 'may' have had a hand in our achievements, parents, schools, friends, what I call the 'other influences' column. Yet seldom do we mention the role of the City, the State, the hand of History, the Nation. These are entities that in reality have played a large role in the privileges we hold. Such institutional concepts can be complex to understand, and so it’s easier for us to point to elements that are most often 'seen', our self-propulsions.

Guiding Privilege’s Pertinacious Nuances

So much of this is in the human psyche that it’s hard to blame the individual for not seeing the wider picture of privilege. It is true that privilege is multifaceted and complex, it can hold intricate and pertinacious nuances which make it a contentious space to enter and explore, yet the need couldn’t be greater as we seek to build just societies.

In the workplace, and in much of human’s organized cultures, the way we have assisted the understanding of the complexity of privilege is by enacting policies, those that inform and guide, and that require participation. Because we tend to find it difficult to release our idealistic hold on the privileges we have, we need to be told how it works, and how the benefit of some is the detriment of others.

Equity (read: Equity, Social Justice, and the Apprehension) in and of itself, has been understood for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, but in this grander social project that sees inclusion as a central democratic player, there has been no stronger activator of change than those of policy and laws. As much as we would like to think that it was/is our empathetic and sympathetic minds, our moral reasonings and good will, that have activated such progresses, it’s actually been the power of the state on such requirements that have swung the pendulum towards more equitable societies (influenced, firstly, by individual and group acts). But, we are still far from where we ought to be and further even from where we could be.

What Part Can We Play?

If we want to exact a fairer and more just workplace, a more inclusive and people responsive environment, we need to make sure it’s in our policies. For this to happen we don’t need to wait for national or state specific governances (waiting is often a tool that only benefits the privileged), as many of our constitutional laws already provide us the authority needed to build socially fair practices (view the docuseries Amend for a great example of this). Here are some strategies that work:

  • Review your current policies utilizing a Diversity and Equity lens.

  • Create a policy committee that is informed by D&E practices.

  • Involve your workers, community residents, and clients in focus groups to review and inform your company’s social work space policies.

  • Include, and co-center, the marginalized in your workspaces in such reviews.

  • Research your state’s laws and regulations relative to inclusive work mandates and policies. They are often underpinned by national and state law requirements.

  • Build a policy handbook that is organic and in perpetual progress, that attends to the growing diversity of contemporary societies and the workforce.

A More Equitable Workplace

If we want to create workspaces that take value of people’s complexities and considers their needs, we need to communicate our intentions not only by what we say, but by the regulations that govern what we do. We need regulatory processes that:

  1. seeks fairness

  2. give attention to the complexity that is the human experience

  3. is in the position to inform and guide as much as regulate

  4. is fluent and accessible

  5. seeks to educate the privileged

  6. be diversity responsive

It can be a challenge to create such regulatory needs out of scopes that have often been self-centered, but if we underpin our efforts with the understanding that we all have to be equitable engagers in communal progress, then we can move closer towards worksites that embrace the collective effort as a base thought and not simply and primarily the individual effort.


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