The thing about diversity work is that it’s almost completely an uphill battle. The people in power don’t want to give it up. The people without power don’t know how to make them, and everyone in both camps is tired of dealing with the entire issue.
So, I say we all take an emotional rest. Then we’ll reinvest that emotional capital where it will serve us best.
The people who have power can do whatever they like. Perpetuate the status quo, shore up crumbling structures that perpetuate bias and other burdensome systems that promote mistreatment and other lifestyle-affecting cruelty. Please knock yourselves out.
The people who don’t have enough power, on the other hand — women, minorities, women who are minorities, people with disabilities, veterans, the LGBT community — we’re going to keep pushing and prodding and writing and making speeches advocating for change. But we’re going to stop caring why the people who have the power won’t change.
We’re going to move forward with vim and vigor, with conviction because we know that with enough time and effort, enough strategy and execution, enough changes in how and on who or what we spend our money and other valuable resources on, we can make things happen. We’ve seen the evidence. We’ve heard the stories. We’ve taken advantage of changing legislation and other milestones. We know that things can change if we are unrelenting in our efforts to create more change.
Unless we believe it is truly worth our time, we’re going to stop trying to explain why we won’t just sit down somewhere and be quiet, why we won’t be content to accept 77 cents on the dollar, or whatever ridiculous amount women have to deal with on their paychecks for doing the same work as men. We’re going to stop trying to explain that showing emotion or speaking up for ourselves does not mean we’re angry, or that we’re acting in some typical and arbitrary ethnic fashion, but that we have working brains and voices that are as good as anyone else’s at making decisions. We’re going to stop trying to conform to someone else’s — some nebulous, ever-critical, condescending, short-sighted and old-fashioned someone — idea of how we should look, behave, speak, dress, talk and act.
We’re going to stop explaining why we are the way we are because let’s face it, we don’t have to. We choose to. And we’re going to be OK with not doing all of these things because we are prepared to pay the price for this emotional and physical freedom.
We understand that we might not get the promotions or the raises that we are entitled to because we don’t have power — yet — but we’re OK with that because we’re going to use our energy to create our own extremely profitable businesses and side hustles that will ultimately enable us to leave antiquated, change-resistant traditional office/work environments forever. If we do not possess entrepreneurial spirits, we will take our talent to other organizations that will appreciate them. We understand that in a talent economy, it is our right to not accept what’s grudgingly given. That we are right to seek out those organizations that value diversity and inclusion and appreciate that every individual has their own gifts and skills to offer the collective. We understand that we have the right and we will exercise that right to call out people and entities that are unfair — thank you social media, Glassdoor, etc. — because we choose not to be afraid.
We will stop giving our energy and emotion to lost causes. Instead, we will refocus that energy like beams of red-hot, unfiltered sunlight on areas that will enable us to shine, to advance and to make our voices heard. We are prepared to forgo the dubious, often soul-, attitude-, body- and mind-destroying comfort of steady employment at organizations we can’t believe in because they don’t believe in us.
We are prepared to pay the price for this freedom of choice because we will be disciplined with our time and money. We will make sacrifices. We will retrain our consumerist tendencies and spend time instead of money on our loved ones so we can invest in revenue-generating, self-directed education and businesses. We will recruit our peers for help and treat them the way we have not been treated, so they are glad to give their all to a new cause, a new business, a new project where they can reap an equal percentage of the spoils.
It won’t be easy. There’s a lot to learn. We will make mistakes. We might have to stay up late more nights than we’d like and forgo the simple and often unnecessary pleasures that steady employment provides. We understand that we may have to take short-term salary cuts to join organizations that are better for us physically, emotionally and careerwise. But we will do it because we believe there’s something better out there, and we’re no longer interested in convincing someone to give us what we can go out and get for ourselves.
We are prepared to fail over and over again because we know that failure equals learning, and because we believe that eventually we’ll win. We’re prepared to make sandwiches, bake cakes, babysit, wash hair or cars or whatever we have to do to make the cash to fuel our dreams and keep body and soul together. We’re prepared to do this because we are no longer interested in having our voices, opinions and talents stifled, in just doing what we’re told.
We’re no longer willing to accept dry crumbs and watch others eat thickly frosted pieces of red velvet cake with no reasonable justification for this disparity. So, we will withhold our emotional energy. We will keep our initiative and discretionary energy for ourselves because we deserve it more than bosses, companies and industries who thumb their noses at the freedoms, ethics, law — at least in the U.S. — and perks they would deny us based on race, religion, sexual orientation or any other dimension of diversity.
Now pass this blog along to anyone you know who’s being mistreated on a job and has a dream they’ve put on the back burner just to make money, or to — out of some sense of loyalty that would be better redirected toward their own well-being — help some ungrateful employer further their interests and plump up their coffers.
Maybe it will encourage them to take that first step toward emotional — and financial — freedom from companies who refuse to be inclusive.