A recent trend in corporate culture has been an increase in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs meant to increase awareness of these critical issues and support underrepresented groups and minorities in the workplace. But what exactly is DEI, and how should we approach conversations about race and discrimination? On Friday Oct. 30, our Kenan Scholars engaged in a DEI training, led by Antoinetta Mosley of I Follow the Leader LLC, to answer just that.
When engaging in productive conversations about DEI, it is important to set ground rules to create a supportive and respectful environment so that everyone feels comfortable participating. Antoinetta started the session by establishing how the conversation would be facilitated to create an open and encouraging environment for everyone. Our scholars freely jumped in, describing their personal DEI initiatives and explaining how they believe their generation can do better going forward. They explored their awareness and personal experiences with racism and, through everyone’s unique perspectives, how racism has manifested in different forms and the impact it has had on their lives.
Antoinetta then shared a few videos relating to how racism has manifested in the United States. The first video, “P&G: The Look,” portrays the everyday experience of an African American man who deals with racism and judgment from people for simply eating at a restaurant or going to the pool. The video provides a glimpse into the constant otherization African Americans endure in their everyday lives and allows us to understand how one’s race affects the way people treat them.
Another video, “Systemic Racism Explained,” provided historical context for systemic racism in the United States and explained the long-lasting impact that slavery and discrimination has had on the lives of African Americans. Participants saw that from banks denying loans to African American families to employers discriminating against African Americans based on their names, systemic racism is a roadblock to building generational wealth among African Americans. This video also explained the concept of redlining and how two people can have completely different opportunities because of their race and where they live.
Following the videos, the discussion moved to how today systemic racism is impacting African Americans through the COVID-19 pandemic and how minority owned businesses are less likely to receive loans than other businesses. This has ultimately led to minority owned businesses being more likely to shut down because they are bearing the weight of the pandemic without assistance or support from banks.
By the end of the event, our Kenan Scholars had gained a deeper understanding of the terms racism, prejudice, and bigotry, and, further, how privilege has manifested in the United States. Also important, the training allowed our Kenan Scholars to explore how they can apply the values of DEI when searching for jobs and internships. Looking to the future, Kenan Scholars can better prepared inquire about a company’s strategic plan to promote an inclusive work environment and will be better able to identify companies that are genuinely dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Striving for a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment should be the goal of every company, and it is important to have a personal understanding of those concepts as a student as well. Thanks to training sessions like this one, sponsored by our Kenan Scholars Program, we can all educate ourselves more about the issue of bias and discrimination and keep ourselves accountable for helping people facing those issues.
To learn more about I Follow the Leader and resources, please visit their website.