Saturday, August 12, 2017

Your Equity Committee Ain't Shit

I've had two events occur this week that compelled me to write this blog post.  A phone call and a radio interview.  First some background.  I was invited to speak as an expert on a local radio show about maternal mortality.  Here is a link to said interview:  http://kcur.org/post/maternal-death-rate   Fine. There were three of us.  One was a reporter who had written nationally published articles on the topic.  Her name is Nina Martin and I thought her contributions to the conversation were stellar.   The other guest was a local physician.  Like many of her ilk, she seemed clueless about the realities of daily life of the women she 'serves'.  She actually mentions 12 week maternity leaves!  Maybe that's what she gets but not the women I serve at Uzazi Village.  If they get 2 weeks off (even after a cesarean) they can consider themselves lucky.  So that was the interview.  I only spoke the last 20 minutes, which wasn't near enough time to make my points, but I did my best.  Next, the phone call.
I received a call from someone who was a board member for a national professional organization. I represent many professions and nearly all of them have a professional organization.  While I have vowed, on this very blog, not to sit on any more professional national boards, I will take calls from them.  This call came from a board member who had read some of my work and basically asked me to speak to her sister board members.  Now it just so happens, that this board commissioned a report in 2014 to study how they were doing on equity and diversity issues.  They were doing terribly.  The report was scathing and embarrassing to the organization. So what did the organization do?  They buried it.  I asked the caller to give an account of which recommendations were followed so far.  Of course she could not.  I told her, if they didn't listen to their own report- which they had commissioned- then why would they listen to me?
Okay, that was the preamble.  Here is the message to all White led professional organizations out there: (bold letters because I'm yelling at the top of my lungs)
STOP FORMING YOUR SHITTY LITTLE COMMITTEES.  STOP MAKING EQUITY AND DIVERSITY PANELS.  STOP FORMING TASKFORCES.  STOP COMMISSIONING REPORTS. NONE OF THAT IS THE WORK- THOSE ARE ALL WAYS TO LOOK LIKE YOU ARE DOING THE WORK WHEN YOU AREN'T DOING JACK SHIT.  WORSE- ITS A WAY TO MAKE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR IN YOUR ORGANIZATIONS DO THE WORK YOU SHOULD BE DOING AND WHEN THEY AREN'T SUCCESSFUL, YOU CAN SAY ITS THEIR FAULT.  THESE EQUITY COMMITTEES ARE JUST ANOTHER EXPRESSION OF WHITE SUPREMACY. STOP THIS SHIT NOW AND START TO MAKE SOME ACTUAL CHANGE IN YOUR ORGANIZATIONS.
The caller asked me what I would do if I could make change happen- make the boards more diverse? I said, fuck no, I'd make them ALL diverse.  I'd fire everyone white and replace them with a person of color.  That would start some culture change.  One token black or brown wont' do anything but keep white people in their comfort zone while making them think they have done something noteworthy.  THAT SHIT AIN'T NOTEWORTHY.  These fucking committees don't change organizational culture- they keep organizational change from happening by sealing up all the change makers in a bureaucratic little bundle that has little clout and even less power. Diversity is a smokescreen that in and of itself insures nothing. Equity committees are some serious bullshit.  When organizations are serious about change- we'll all know it, because white people will be shitting their pants from the discomfort. Until that happens, its business as usual. If you think this essay does not pertain to you- rest assured, it does.  There is not one organization that I am aware of that I don't find wanting. None of you is actually doing the work.  Some of you talk a good game, but your shit still stinks. Don't complain to me that you are TRYING.  Well my people are TRYING not to fucking die.  Black women die in childbirth in these shitty hospitals, Black babies die from preventable causes, and Black men die like dogs in the streets or rot in the white man's prisons.  This whole fucking country isn't TRYING hard enough. These organizations could change, but they don't actually want to.  Heaven forbid that these good ol' (white) girls clubs give up any fucking power.  Therefore, here's what needs to happen.  Black and Brown people, start your own organizations.  Leave en masse (like what happened at MANA) and let them work on equity without any Black or Brown people to hold their hands and reassure them that their token efforts are good enough. That's what I'm doing.  Rather than squander one more moment of my precious and valuable time on the local breastfeeding committee that never listens to a damn thing I say, I'm starting the MOKAN Black Breastfeeding Collaborative here in my city.  Instead of Black infant mortality being used to legitimize funding streams that never quite make it to our community, we will make it a true priority and actually promote and protect breastfeeding in our Black and Brown communities.  Instead of pimping Black death for organizational profit, we will work within our own communities to create solutions that improve the lives of families that live among us.  That's what I'm gonna do.  Join me, or get the fuck out of my way.

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