The exploitation of one group of people by another is an issue that has continued to plague humanity. It is a widespread problem across every industry and community that we have not yet conquered and maybe never will. Given that we are still struggling with this issue in 2019, it proves that this practice is rooted so deeply in our history that we might just have to be okay with the little “wins” as they occur.
Unfortunately, we continue to celebrate every time a person of color (especially a woman of color) receives a promotion to public office, an administrative role in academe or even an executive-level position, because it is still considered rare when such an event occurs. I call these “the firsts.” I was the recipient of such an honor when I was elected into office as the first African American County Board Supervisor in Ozaukee County since its inception more than 182 years ago. Sadly, we are still celebrating firsts in the 21st century.
Some might say this is a good thing and that we’ve come a long way. I still ask the question, “Have we?” However, I do feel that we can continue to tackle this issue little by little and one step at a time, as we have done for so many years. On a positive note, we have made progress and are at least moving in the right direction having elected and sworn-in 102 women into the U.S. House of Representatives this year. We also now seem to have many more people who are willing to stand up for equality and fight for justice. Social media is now a means to reverberate the voices of so many who were once unheard. Personally, I am even making more of an effort to educate others on how to make diversity a personal choice. However, note that I’ve always embraced diversity and have made it a priority throughout my life. My cover photo includes diverse leaders I’ve connected with over the years, some of which I’ve known since grade school.
Given the tumultuous state of our government, I’ve recently also been having even more courageous discussions with others about a greater need for diversity and inclusion, encouraging them to be more open to it, and explaining what they can do to help lead the charge. You see, this is a movement! Whether you’re Caucasian or a person of color, it truly doesn’t matter. My thoughts are that the pursuit of diversity has to begin with each individual’s innate passion to seek opportunities to integrate themselves into cultures that are not their own. They must then propagate their personal experience across their family, friends, employees and colleagues, until it becomes contagious.
Embracing diversity is a personal choice. Some simply choose to either not make it a priority or to ignore it, which hinders opportunities for integration. When leaders make this choice, it is also contagious, and others follow. The results are evident across every industry, including government. This is my personal experience and what seems to be our reality. I pray that every time there is an opportunity for someone to make this personal choice, they will do so. As a matter of fact, I hope that they will also take the initiative to create opportunities to share their journeys and influence others to embrace diversity. It has been proven time and again that these individual choices that may seem small, can actually cause transformation to occur that can impact not only a family or group, but the world.