I recently read an article about Diversity and Inclusion Fatigue. It suggests that efforts to diversify the high-tech workforce have largely been unsuccessful, the proverbial needle has not shifted – especially for Black and Hispanic people – and fatigue has set in. The unspoken subtext to the theme is that White women have benefited significantly from these efforts and now – people are tired of it all. We will continue to press for Black and Hispanic people later on, after a break.
I am not tired.
In my view, the battle for diversity and inclusion in the tech sector is a proxy for the battle for diversity and inclusion in modern American life. The declaration of fatigue is a privilege of those who are already included. For the rest of us, the battle for inclusion is a battle for existence in an increasingly digitalized world. The ability to participate in the workforce – from culture curation to software engineering – to be present and accounted for across all sectors of modern life is increasingly determined by some measure of technical skills. To declare fatigue and suggest we wait, is to project a future without us – a future without significant populations of Black and Hispanic people in the modern American metropolis.
If Black and Brown young people do not acquire the skills they need to be able to enter the workforce in meaningful ways, they will not be able to afford to live in the cities marketed to the imagination of America’s future. That means that the future of America is being imagined without them. To claim fatigue in the face of that is to surrender in the battle for our existence.
Black and Hispanic people have already been purged from major American cities like San Francisco. The purge is speeding along in Washington DC, New York, and Atlanta. The emergence of tech-hubs and the dislocation and disappearance of Black and Brown communities are coincident. The effort to diversify and include, however trite the term may have become, is a real battle with real consequences. Claiming fatigue is not an option.
This theme is old. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are those… who want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. …Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” – Frederick Douglas (1857).
The question in front of us now, is now what?
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent. Innumerable pictures of smiling Black and Brown children engaged in some signature program have been taken. Everyone has gone through unconscious bias training. The hands of outreach programs are calloused and suffering from repetitive stress disorder. Diversity and Inclusion is now its own industry, but yet – the data haunt us like ghosts. They are a damning indictment of reality. The number of Black and Brown people at elite levels of U.S. higher education declined in recent decades and they have barely budged in the high-tech sector.
The fight for diversity and inclusion in the tech space is up against the reality of race in America. That leads to the idea that White women are relatively well represented and trending positively, now we can rest. It is not acceptable to leave Black and Brown people languishing in the slim part of the diversity pie chart and wave the fatigue flag.
Being up against the great wall of race in America does not mean that we wait for a great American enlightenment. It does mean that we double down and recommit. It means that we have to be courageous in addressing the root causes of the problem and the people and American attitudes that fuel them.
Indefatigable is also a word. It means I ain’ no ways tired.