Increasing numbers of studies show that we all benefit from the gifts of diverse thinking, teamwork and community fabric. Similar to how specific types of infrastructure support people with a diverse range of abilities to get where they need to go, specific policies and systems support people with diverse backgrounds and histories of being systematically marginalized by other policies and programs to succeed and thrive. This, in turn, helps us all succeed and thrive.
According to an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled The Curb Cut Effect, racially diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform their peers if equity is the norm." Were diverse companies the norm, imagine how much more effective companies would be locally and nationally!
The article also says that simply employing and paying workers of color at the same rates as white workers—would boost the America’s total GDP $2.1 trillion annually.
How ready are we to make the changes which will move us all forward? Edgar Villanueva, author of Decolonizing Wealth, poses a similar question: “Are we and our communities prepared to welcome and accept diverse perspectives?” He points out that:
- The people who decide which TV shows we see are 93% white.
- The people who decide which books we read are 90% white
- The people who decide which news is covered are 85% white
- The people who decide which music is produced are 95% white
- Our P-12 teachers are 83% white
- Full-time college professors are 84% white
What are we doing to help?
Equity Alliance of the North Coast offers tailored trainings for local nonprofits, institutions and businesses. Each organization participates in an assessment to understand the needs and objectives for taking on a long-term change process; a series of workshops (learning about the four dimensions of racism and strategies to understand and identify biased practices; developing solutions to achieve racial equity and inclusion); and coaching and/or peer support to develop and implement racial equity plans.
Tim Miller and Kumi Watanabe-Schock are building a racial equity plan for their institution from behind the stacks of the Humboldt State University Library. Miller, the Digital Media & Learning Librarian, and Watanabe-Schock, the Community Programming & Media Specialist, were both part of a cohort at HSU that took part in the Government Alliance on Racial Equity training in 2016. After a growing number of local leaders asked for help learning about how to address racialized disparities, the training was brought to the area by Humboldt Area Foundation, and included leaders from public and private institutions across the region. Miller and Watanabe-Schock were among the staff who saw a way to directly help students struggling with equity in their community and university.
“That’s when we first started interacting with students [of color about their regular experiences with discriminatory and unwelcoming behavior] and hearing complaints,” said Miller of the steps he took after the GARE training.
The library has had a series of workshops, presentations and films on issues around racial equity. Miller has hosted trainings on for students on the concept on whiteness and white fragility. They are also arranging to get more training for different workshops.
“We have people doing good work,” says Watanabe-Schock. They know that the work is ongoing, part of a continuum, not a box that can be checked off and done with. Watanabe-Schock also regularly attends Roundtables with Equity Alliance of the North Coast.
“Sometimes you have to be engaged with it more than once,” says Miller. “Some people push back hard. What’s important for me is getting the whole campus to be part of it. We’ve made goals with students and developed a shared language.” That shared language helps everyone work together and focus on solutions that students can feel.
They have also become equity advocates in the hiring process for new staff and faculty, and interviewers now run questions by them to make sure they’re meeting best practices for hiring procedures that don’t inadvertently discriminate or bias the outcomes.
Library staff continue to work to make their department a welcoming and respectful place for all people. Miller said that they will be hosting dialogues and exhibits where they will gather data from students, staff, faculty and community about how they view the library. To learn more about the library and its exhibits, click here.