“Until public service leadership becomes truly diverse—where the representation and perspectives from communities of color begin to approach the proportion of the overall population— the total capacity of our full efforts will remain unrealized. The potential for contributions to solving social ills is going untapped because the treasure talent within communities of color remains on the margins of leadership.” Diversity Counts: Racial and Ethnic Diversity among Public Service Leadership Report ,May 2012: National Urban Fellows -Public Service Diversity Leadership Initiative. www.nuf.org.
Young women and men of color, whether in low-income local communities or parts of London or Chicago, live under a constant cloud of rejection through attitudes and behaviors considered microagressions or micro-insults. Reflected as an embedded tenet in our current culture and related to my assertions in Part 1 of this blog article, are for some of you a diatribe;
“In essence, there are three significant challenges in the current practice in Indianapolis’ “theory of change”(Including a good portion of Cities throughout the United States), a) planning from a place of cultural tunnel vision, b) cherry-picking of communities and neighborhoods and c) Structural Racism embedded in the process of philanthropic, economic and community development…”
More often than not, every turn is greeted with a distinct microaggression that reminds the black male/female of color that he/she is not welcomed and does not belong. This is even more evident, when he/she embraces his/her authentic self-expression while keeping in line with the status quo. Acceptance is less than marginal; making navigating the world of work like walking through a minefield without a map. Not that a map makes a difference, as witnessed by countless educated black males who have been duped by the illusion of opportunity, only to be smacked in the face with lack of access. It is the silence, the coded language, uninviting posturing that rips any hope of social and professional movement. Bear in mind that these encounters are a constant. Embedded so much within the social fabric, that they go unrecognized by the status quo (those who fail in employing their own sense of self-accountability). Other cases of microaggression or negative encounters are more intentional, only confirming the lack of hope and the possibility of “transformation.”
“Racial microaggressions cause considerable psychological distress among Black Americans and are manifested in nearly all interracial encounters. They set in motion energy-depleting attempts to determine whether incidents were racially motivated. Reactions can be classified into 4 major themes: healthy paranoia, sanity check, empowering and validating self, and rescuing offenders. Microaggressions result in high degrees of stress for Blacks because of denigrating messages: “You do not belong,” “You are abnormal,” “You are intellectually inferior,” “You cannot be trusted,” and “You are all the same.” Feelings of powerlessness, invisibility, forced compliance and loss of integrity, and pressure to represent one’s group are some of the consequences.” Racial Microaggressions in the Life Experience of Black Americans: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice © 2008 American Psychological Association: Derald Wing Sue, Christina M. Capodilupo, and Aisha M. B. Holder -Teachers College, Columbia University
Executive America continues to assume zero responsibility for an ongoing slaughter of the black male and persons of color psyche. Yet, individual responsibility and the lack thereof, are preached as the main stay to why men and women of color cannot succeed. Stereotypes and microaggressions manifest at every interaction, intersection and crossroad: the grocery store, cinema, department store, job searching, hailing a taxi and yes in schools, universities and the work place, seeming only to reinforce the assumptions and facts that low-income males and all males of color are not welcomed in this citizenry.
Understanding the manifestations of these microaggressions lends credibility and confirmation to encounters which are far from being experienced inside out. Those of us who engage in authentic, honest and transparent transformative and restorative work are left with the burden and responsibility to placate Executive America and ensure its comfortability comes first. The reactions from Executive America when issues with microagressions are raised, results in the following categorization and positions (too mention few): a) the angry black man b) playing the race card and c) “Why do we want to go there? That’s not the issue. You have a black President”. All without an iota of responsibility for personal actions and limited worldview.
Before I sound as if I’m making baseless assertions, accusations and uniformed analysis, let me say that I agree with National Urban Fellows, Diversity Counts Report; “The United States of America was founded on the principles of justice, equality, and inclusion. As a nation, we continue to strive for full participation and equality for all citizens, upon whose shoulders rests the responsibility for upholding these principles.”
Although growing in population, people of color remain under-represented in leadership of the public service sector. This is an issue that can and must be resolved if we are to successfully address the nation’s most pressing social issues—from education to health, environment and justice. People of color now make up one-third, or 36 percent, of the U.S. population—a population that is projected to grow to 54 percent by 2042. The public service sector—from government and academic think tanks to foundations and nonprofit organizations—must become more inclusive and representative if we are to develop fair and effective structures to fulfill the intention of our democracy.
As a Negro with a graduate education, one does not need research or data to see and experience that which is readily visible with the naked eye. Lack of representation is in all facets but especially in the non-profits and philanthropic realms, where imperatives are driven to impact change.
“Nonprofit organizations play an extremely important role in our society; helping both the government and the private sector to address many of our nation’s important social issues. Board Source reports that among directors of nonprofit organizations in 2010, 86 percent were people of White, non- Hispanic heritage and 14 percent were people of color”. Specifically, “7 percent were African American, 3 percent Latino/ Latina, and 4 percent other. The leadership and boards of directors for nonprofit agencies tended to be less ethnically and racially diverse than the staff in this segment of the public service sector.
As with boards of directors, there is also little diversity among executives of nonprofit organizations.”The vast majority, 88 percent of nonprofit executives are of White, non-Hispanic heritage. Only 4 percent are African American, 2 percent are Latino/Latina, 0.6 percent are Asian Pacific American, 0.2 percent are Native American and 6 percent have a heritage of two or more racial groups. The lack of diversity among nonprofit leadership is also evident throughout the nonprofit sector. It is estimated that among all nonprofit employees, 82 percent are of White, non-Hispanic heritage and 18 percent are people of color. Specifically, 10 percent are African Americans, 5 percent Latino/Latina, 3 percent other and 1 percent Asian Pacific American” . (Diversity Counts Report p.14)
“The field of Philanthropy is one of the most important segments of our nation’s public service sector. As the financial backbone of programs and services, philanthropy makes it possible for our nation’s nonprofit agencies to address key social issues such as education and healthcare. Philanthropy influnces not only our awareness of important social issues but also our responses to them. Philanthropic boards are often the key decision-making bodies determining which organizations and programs receive funding. Previous research has shown that foundations with diverse boards are more likely to support activities led by and in diverse communities. According to the most recent research presented by the D5, people of color make-up 34 percent of program officers at foundations; however, individuals of White, non-Hispanic heritage represent 92 percent of foundation CEOs and executive leadership. Specifically, recent reports reveal that only 3 percent of CEOs are African American, 3 percent are Latino/Latina, 1 percent are Asian Pacific American, and 0.5 percent are Native American. Similarly, 88 percent of full-time executive staff are of White, non-Hispanic heritage, while only 12 percent are people of color”. (Diversity Counts Report p.14-15) www.nuf.org
Inspire a Generation!,should be a motto for all metropolis, whether London, Rio, Beijing or Indianapolis and should not be relegated to minor community trade-off’s the likes of Legacy Projects and Quality of Life Initiatives. The next generation, the majority of which are minority groups, opportunities rest on “transactional” premises of philanthropic and community development initiatives. It makes one shudder, knowing that current planning imperatives are under the disguise of language like “diversity” and “transformation”, yet are short on inclusion from the onset. This surely serves as reinforcement and a reminder that low-income and communities of color are not reflective of a “rising tide lifts all boats.” In fact, in these communities, there is no tide; only small waves creating an illusion of progress.
If you want to Inspire a Generation, you must start with inclusion in the planning process; equity, validating young voices and opening up the board rooms and staff meetings to more people that do not look like you. Stop engaging in “cosmetic diversity”; embrace and appreciative inquiry as a method to advance your organization, as the external landscape changes. Refocus your attention on the true emerging markets (low-income). The next wave of workforce and economic development has the potential to be a driving force to combat austerity measures. Stop driving personal agendas and imposing cultural tunnel vision regarding expectations that reinforce the status quo. Leave more than just bite sized portions of huge investments, which often take longer in development and redevelopment than it would take to pocket the profits, secure a six figure income and increase stock/shareholders revenue.
Even before the recession/austerity measures it was apparent that traditional education and employment landscapes would not readily take into consideration the myriad of challenges for low-income young adults, as they wrestle their way into the labor market. Through lack of inclusion, “cosmetic diversity” and microagressions; an added ingredient in philanthropic, community and economic develop, it makes me wonder on the real motives of those in leadership. Inspiring a Generation starts with changing your thinking, attitudes and behaviors. Creating real space demonstrated in actions not rhetoric, which at times is condescending at best.
Hosting an Olympic’s or a Super Bowl are great achievements but the true achievement is in how legacy projects present opportunity and access across all communities, especially those the hardest hit by an economic downturn. “Transformation” to form a strong City is grounded in a process of inclusion. Creating a City by erecting buildings is grounded in a process of merely valuing “transactions”. Building a stronger City that has a pulse, a soul, a vibrancy and colorfulness that draws people in, intentionally reflecting leadership of the nation’s increasingly growing population is “transformation” and “community” at its best; especially in City’s the likes of Indianapolis. National Urban Fellows Diversity Counts report:
“While there are segments of public service leadership that have effectively engaged people of color, in too many areas of leadership there is an under representation of people of color. Even in some of our nation’s most diverse communities, people of color are not represented in public service leadership at levels commensurate with their percentage of the population.”
You can not Inspire a Generation when a particular segment of that generation is not seeing or experiencing inclusion. Einstein said it best:
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”