Dear Potential DEI client,
Thanks for reaching out. I am usually much more prompt in my reply – this week has really thrown me for a tizzy. Well, let me be honest — I don’t feel any worse than I felt when I found out the police officer/killer of Michael Brown was not going to be charged and prosecuted, or Tamir Rice was shot, or when I found out Sandra Bland was dead in her cell. I do, however, feel like I can mourn the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor (who would have been 27 today), and George Floyd more publicly this week.
I apologize for not responding to your email, but I have spent the week walking for miles, sleeping late and taking a lot of naps, watching the memorial service, and vacillating between being very sad and very angry.
It’s an interesting conundrum I find myself in – I have marketed myself as a “DEI consultant, with a particular focus on racial equity”, but just at the time I am most in demand, with people and organizations like yours reaching out this week to inquire about my services, I feel the most unable to be productive, or to want to discuss these topics outside of my close friends and family.
I am doing a lot of soul searching, meaning-making, and feeling – as I know you are. And I realize I have to take care of myself personally, before I can even think about what this may mean for my racial equity work, and my firm. I know that I will have to really review and revamp my offerings – and think about what REALLY makes change inside social good organizations. But, first, I have to be still.
While I think and plan, I am in the midst of formulating some new questions and principles to share with any new DEI client, and wanted to test them with you:
- I have read a number of organizational statements, and been mostly unimpressed and unmoved. Ben and Jerry’s is now my new standard for statements to address the current climate. Can I see yours? What actions are you taking to support racial equity? What does your leadership team and Board of Directors look like? How do you operationalize racial equity in your policies and programs? What donations are you making to organizations making a difference? How are you supporting communities you serve?
- What did you do, specifically, to support your black staff members this week, and what will you continue to do moving forward? Every single one of them is struggling, even if you don’t see it.
- If your leadership team leaves something to be desired in terms of the promotion and retention of black people (as many of your organizations do) – what’s your commitment in the next 6 months to a year to improve representation?
- What is your PERSONAL commitment to racial equity? And I don’t mean attending every protest and rally, posting a black square on your Facebook page, and sending a text to your black friend to ask how they are doing. Who are your friends? Your health care providers? What organizations do you support? Do you subscribe to the “all lives matter” rhetoric?
- I will no longer take on projects that only involve racial equity/DEI training of Board or staff. It feels like I am being part of the problem then – I am making people feel that they are moving work forward, when in reality they are only setting one part of the foundation in which real work can occur. I will, of course, do trainings within a larger scope of work – and I fully plan to use terms like “white dominant culture” and “white supremacy” in my sessions.
- If I think you are not fully committed to increasing the representation of black people in your leadership teams – and to think long and hard and implement policies to improve recruitment and retention of the same – then I respectfully decline to work with your organization.
- I need to get to know you as a person, and to understand your lived experiences, intent and desired impact – this work requires so much emotional labor from me, and I need to understand where you are coming from, as colleagues and as humans.
I understand these questions and principles may turn some of you off, and I think you should know where I stand before you hire me. I want you to understand that I am vetting you, as well.
Thanks for your interest, Janine