Talking about diversity without addressing anti-Blackness and anti-Black womanhood is not true inclusivity. Waiting to address race because it’s too hard is not diversity. When we fail to acknowledge much less address these issues, we are failing at diversity.
A common mistake I observe in leaders of teams big and small is to aspire for peace as a default. You should be challenging peace as a default. Create an environment where people can withstand a fight and engage in friction as it arises. Rather than passively surf the whims of peoples’ hesitations to take action, bring the conflict to the surface with questions like:
I like how former RISD president and one of my long-time mentors John Maeda once observed: “A good team does a lot of friendly front-stabbing instead of backstabbing. Issues are resolved by knowing what they are.“ Confrontation tends to be most needed when it is most uncomfortable. It’s the truly tough issues, the ones most likely to advance our potential the most, that we avoid. I am still determined to get a sign someday for my office that simply states, “No Elephants.” To eliminate all “elephants in the room” your team must commit to as much front-stabbing as possible.
Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.
The most successful people I know don’t question themselves — but they do question their knowledge. They see asking for advice as a way of testing their ideas, which makes those ideas better and helps them learn.
Niobe Way’s work has given me the piece of the puzzle I was never conscious of. That the love I had felt for George and others, Troy, Jack, David, Bruce, and Kyle was right and good and powerful. Could move mountains. I didn’t realize what they were then. But I do now. That the slow withdrawing of those friendships from my life had not been a killing blow. Not quite. And that I’m back in the game of loving my friends. Fiercely.