BidVertiser ClickADu HilltopAds

The backlash against diversity, equity, and inclusion – in Florida and elsewhere – has at times reached such a crescendo that all the good DEI work that’s still happening each and every day gets lost in the clamor.

Reasons behind the backlash may be many. Sometimes it’s political, as evidenced by much of what we see in the news and on social media.  

Sometimes it may be that certain people have such entrenched views opposed to DEI that there is no reaching them and no point in trying. It’s wasted effort and energy best spent in other directions.  

But in some cases the criticisms come from a lack of understanding about DEI, what it entails, who it affects, and how it works. In those cases, it may be possible to sway the thinking.

Part of the problem is that when many people hear DEI, they think almost exclusively in terms of race. Perhaps secondarily, they think about women trying to break the glass ceiling and make inroads in corporate boardrooms. To a lesser extent, they may think about the LGBTQ community.

But regardless of which of those areas come first to mind, so many people think that DEI has nothing to offer them; that it’s just something that will help other people make gains at their expense.

That’s where the opportunity and the need for education come in, because DEI encompasses everyone, no matter their background. It includes people with varying degrees of physical ability, neurodivergence, illness, sexual preference, economics, trauma, and more. Review that list and you will realize that each and every one of us falls in there somewhere.

Yes, it’s true that race and the effects of systemic racism remain at the center of DEI conversations – and rightfully so. If we can’t fix that we won’t be able to fix anything else. But race isn’t the beginning, middle, and end when it comes to DEI. There is so much more.

Also, it’s important to note that DEI is not a zero-sum game; it isn’t about creating winners and losers, knocking one person down so that another can be picked up. Quite the contrary: A strong DEI program helps improve conditions for everyone, making the workplace more inclusive, more welcoming, and more positive for all.

Discovering Our Shared Humanity

Along those lines, one of the most important aspects of DEI efforts is helping to create within each of us a sense of empathy, a sense of understanding, about others; how they differ from us, how we differ from them– and how we are all entitled to humanity and dignity.  

We know we don’t always treat each other all that well, though. Think of your own experiences.  

At some point in your life you have felt rejected, exploited, or completely invisible. Some people have been fortunate that those experiences have been few and far between. Others, though, have felt the sting of those slights too many times due to historic systems of oppression in employment, healthcare, and social structures. DEI helps us recognize this and encourages us to treat each other in a more compassionate and sympathetic manner.  

Here is something else we share no matter our backgrounds: We all have biases that can rule our thoughts and our actions if we let them. This is true regardless of our race, regardless of our gender, regardless of our sexual preferences, and regardless of any other characteristic that is connected to us. Bias is universal.  

That bias is common, though, doesn’t mean we need to surrender and accept it, and it certainly doesn’t make it an excuse for us to engage in prejudice, discrimination, or racism. An effective DEI program should help us see that and inspire us to work to conquer our biases.  

Sometimes critics of DEI say the point of the entire effort is simply to make white people feel guilty about their biases, or to imply that white people don’t have significant problems and therefore have nothing to complain about. Once again, this is not the case. DEI work does not suggest that white people have never suffered burdens or hardships. Clearly they have and continue to do so. It’s just that those burdens or hardships were not caused by skin color.  

In my work as a DEI consultant, when I bring new groups together, one of the first things I do is have everyone involved – leaders, stakeholders, and team members – share their DEI stories.  

And everyone has such a story, even if they don’t realize it at first. Even people who aren’t members of historically marginalized groups have a DEI story. This is because diversity is about how things differ, and when you think about how people differ – in age, race, gender, sexual preference, physical abilities, neurodivergence, and much more – no one is left out.

Dr. Nika White, the author of “Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI,” is president and CEO of Nika White Consulting (