Illusion of diversity
Since the last entry in January, I had COVID and have lately been diagnosed with a hopefully temporary visual impairment. I also managed to write a small paper about diversity in product teams where I was really going back to my old argument about only a certain type of diversity being accepted: the type that sells more products or attracts employees to sell more products. No one wants to hear about my communism because it slows down product development, nor my personal problems unless they come with a silver lining of — the possibility of selling more products. At the same time, we are getting some diversity training at work, which is all very timely and highlights the differences in the workplaces in which I have received the said training. In short, I am quite lucky to work with the people I work with nowadays and there is safety in feeling accepted, even with your unacceptable diversities.
I am missing the nuance, though, be it about joining NATO, any of the recent tragedies, the trial of Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard or the Finnish Prime Minister’s partying. Maybe it is the social media, or maybe middle age comes with recurring déjà vu. Or maybe social media made the conversation to what it is these days: predefined paths peppered with bytesize trivia.
Predefined paths aside, I want to attempt a bit of nuance related to the diversity training even though it is risky. I was mostly reflecting on the difference between narratives one tells about oneself and the actual lived experience. I felt that we were not being completely honest with ourselves about how woke and sensitive we are but rather wanted to appear very advanced. I am not sure who we wanted to convince: the trainers, our colleagues or ourselves, but there was very little open conversation about privileges or cultural baggage we fail to see because it is transparent. Another observation was that the conversation was dominated by people from minorities. I am not sure whether this was because the conversation was not interesting to the white, CIS male or because they felt uncomfortable speaking from their position of power. Or just because.
Honesty about your own failings and petty thoughts requires a truly safe space and the workplace might always be about managing perceptions. If the word gets around that you were not sensitive to how a Christmas party might offend non-Christians, you might be forever branded as the insensitive bigot. But on the other hand, if we believe we are already advanced, we stop reflecting and boom, it’s [white] fragility.
Honesty also requires that we look at ourselves in how we think and act in the moment rather than after all our sins have been washed away by System 2 or the massive defense and justification mechanisms we employ not to have to face our shortcomings. Why do I miss examples of cultural appropriation and think “global culture”? Why don’t I want to share my pronouns? Why have I internalised misogyny? Why is woke talk sometimes so tiring? Why do birds suddenly appear? The more painful ones are related to behaviours that our cultures did not question 30 years ago, for example. And some of them are not heavily questioned even today.
Our trainers started each session by identifying themselves in the intersections they occupy or identify with: for example queer, neuroatypical CIS-woman from a lower-class family close to the poverty line. This was done to identify the position that colours (heh) our perspectives. They encouraged us to think about this to identify what in our historical bodies impacts how we think about things. I tend to not want to list my intersections and feel unsure about what explains what but I do realise that some of them have been more impactful than others. But are they me? Or can I believe that I am multitudes and can also change?
P.S. And I was in a podcast! Exciting, but awkward.