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On Divesting from DEI Consulting

"They fired me by mentioning my termination in an email that went out to several people. This was three months after I'd complained about being discriminated against. I didn't think this could happen to me." Last week, I'd posted 101 ways white liberal women perpetuate white supremacy on this page and, as a result, was dealing with about 101 irate white women in my inbox. I'd taken a break from deleting that violence to do a consultation with Carol (not her real name) a Black executive director- well, now ex-executive director...- of a nonprofit organization and I listened to her as I've listened to the nearly dozen other Black women now ex-executive directors of nonprofit organizations that were either terminated or fled their employers for the sake of their mental health in 2021 and early 2022. And I became angry at the foul juxtaposition of heartbroken Black women robbed of their livelihoods and indignant white women inflamed about a Facebook post. "I want to share my story, but I don't want to jeopardize my ability to find another job," Carol said, bringing me back to our conversation. As she spoke, I looked at the website for her former employer: the homepage displayed a banner that said something along the lines of "WE STAND AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE". Almost all of the board's recent appointments were Black people. "I want to make a difference," she said as she sighed. "I hear you. And you deserve justice. You won't get it, but you deserve that and so much more," I told her. And then I met with Linda (not her real name), another Black woman executive director, later in the afternoon. Like so many other Black people, she'd been hired into her leadership position in the nonprofit sector during the aftermath of George Floyd's murder. Like so many other Black nonprofit executives, she's been pummeled with white liberal violence at work without recourse ever since. In the spirit of proactivity, she approached her board about the organization undertaking DEI training in the quiet hope that it would make her situation tenable. Their response: "We support you arranging for a training for your staff, but we are not interested in participating, this training will not impact the strategic plan, and you need to focus on inclusion of people with disabilities." I listened as Linda explained all of this to me. And then I replied. "They want the training to focus on disability because they aren't comfortable with it focusing on race. I see it all the time. Frankly, any efforts around DEI are going to trigger this board into terminating you. I see THAT all the time, too." Linda blinked. I stopped talking to give her space to respond. She didn't. "I'm sorry, Linda." "I- I have another meeting. Thank you," she said as she exited. I went back to checking my email. An especially poignant passage from one of them: "Umm, I try to be a good ally, but you make it really hard for me because your standards are so impossible. It just seems hopeless." Here's the thing, though: I left not one, but two jobs last year- because of white liberal violence, but also because it had become obvious to me that real deal justice work will never happen within the legal and social confines of the governmental and/or nonprofit sectors. On the contrary, leaders in both of these spaces make careers for themselves by merely TALKING about doing the work. Folks, you can't shift the paradigm set by the Department of Justice that criminalizes being Black when you are working at an organization that receives funding from... the Department of Justice. So I struck out on my own earlier this year- "impossible" standards and all. And my days have been filled with rejecting requests from nonprofits to secure me as a DEI trainer- or, to be more honest, a mercenary, a trained monkey, really, for their performative pantomiming around anti-racism- and then meeting with Black women who are or have been run through the nonprofit wringer. I realized, after speaking with Linda last week, that I don't wish to participate in this dichotomy, anymore. And, so, I'm out: Effective today, I am no longer working with organizations in a consultant capacity on DEI. I will still do panels, keynotes, webinars, etc for general audiences, but, as it stands, DEI isn’t about making spaces safer for Black people, women, especially- it’s about rewarding the ones that can and are willing to assimilate into a place that, systemically speaking, was never intended to include them. Those that will not- or cannot- assimilate are cast aside- by people not unlike the white women who come to my inbox to berate me for holding up a mirror to allow them to see their reflection. I want no part of any of that.

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