Beth’s Corner: The DEI Backlash – It’s Time to Be Courageous
Back in October, I wrote about how recent challenges against affirmative action have created a sense of trepidation and fear amongst organizations who want to pursue DEI work and resulted in reduced emphasis on the inclusion commitments many companies made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Conservative activists have branded “DEI” as a bad word, leading many to believe that efforts to create more inclusive environments are pointless, discriminatory, or even illegal. This was demonstrated most recently with the forced resignation of Dr. Claudine Gay, Harvard’s first Black female president. I shared more of my thoughts on that in a statement last week.
Chances are, if you are reading this letter, I don’t have to tell you how frustrating the DEI backlash has been and how easy it is to feel helpless in these situations. However, it’s important to acknowledge that, even if you believe that DEI work is essential and the right thing to do, it is understandable to feel fearful in the face of the inflammatory rhetoric being passed around in the media, especially as we see that rhetoric influencing national legislation.
So, what do you do now? How can you move beyond this fear and get back on track? Some may say that you need to be fearless, but that implies the absence of fear. Instead, I call on you to be courageous. I love this definition of the word “courage” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
mental or moral strength to venture persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
What does courage look like in the context of DEI work? It means intentionally confronting biases, challenging the status quo, advocating for inclusivity, and actively working to dismantle systemic inequalities, even when faced with internal and external resistance.
Doing this work can feel daunting or even scary on your own, but it’s easier to be courageous when you are part of a greater movement. That’s why, over the next year, YW Boston will be providing resources to help you learn how to be courageous and remain committed to dismantling structures that perpetuate inequity. Please keep an eye out for articles, webinars, and events designed to help you challenge your fears around DEI and build the courage to do better. We can do this!
Beth Chandler is President & CEO of YW Boston. Learn more about Beth here.