Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Colonizer's New Clothes: Who BETTER to Lead Diversity Initiatives, than...

...white guys.


Basically, the following WSJ article (courtesy of a poster on the AA Drama list) shows how crazy the diversity/outreach landscape is. The gist of this latest "development" is that some companies have adopted the strategy of installing white guys as heads of their diversity programs.

Yeah. If, like me, you scratch your head, roll yer eyes, furrow your brow or raise an eyebrow at that logic, stay with me.

I sent this out to my list and got some interesting replies; here're a couple...

"It's amazing how these guys are all about me, me, me. And yes they should feel defensive. The whole basis of diversity is to disrupt the 63% status quo, right? That is so bass ackwards."

"As the Who so aptly put it in "Won't Get Fooled Again" - meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Abe Lincoln had it right. You can fool some of the people all of the time. Some of those people? Apparently us, people of color, if we're fool enough to fall for this one."

Rather than spend the next half hour picking apart the article, let me just add on to the last comment by my down brotha, Paris; I find it absurd that us mud peeps get our lather all up about Imus when the very foundations of our society are crumbling beneath our feet. The laundry list is too large but anyone who knows me has had an earful for the past few years so I'll spare you.

But here's an important distinction; do I blame the mud peeps who get all worked up over Imus (or Michael Richards)? Not really.

The state of media relations in this country is appalling, specifically, understanding things like the structural relationships of mass media by the plebiscite, "structural relationships" constituting such things as vertical alignment (ergo, Sony buys the rights to "Spiderman," produces the movie, develops the game for its gaming platform, and then throws up its spam onto Columbia - a Sony owned-corporation - produced TV show time slots) . Someone once brought up to me that counter information's there, it's just that people, particularly us mud peeps, are just plain lazy. And I understand that - but is it the "laziness" that's the by-product of hopelessness? After all, Said, Herman, Zinn, Ehrenreich, Chomsky... have been around for decades chasing the devil.

Check out the Eddie Bernays quote to the right along my wall of quotes. His take on the 4th estate is right on.

All of this is to say that while I think for us mud peoples of the world to make big stinks about sensationalist stuff while the devil is running buck wild is just as crazy as white guys running diversity outreach programs. At the same time, I don't blame the mud peeps who go this way because they've been conditioned and trained very, very well.

On a final note, I was playing tennis with Dave yesterday and we commented on how gas was now marching inexorably toward the $4 a gallon mark. I told him exactly how I felt; that we deserve it, and how, in the 2000 election I even scared myself when I told anyone who'd listen: "You watch what happens when you put two oil men in charge." But I never, NEVER in my wildest dreams, imagined it'd be like this. And now we've reached the sad, tragic and utterly pathetic state as a country where we need to get some freezing cold water thrown on us, because at this point that's what it's going to take - and that I hope gas goes to $7 a gallon if that will get us to wake the fuck up. And so it goes with race relations. Somewhere out there in infinity, there is a critical point, a threshold, where things will change. It isn't theoretical, it's real - we just haven't crossed it yet. Evidently.

Meanwhile, put it this way: Cesar fiddled while Rome burned.

But at least Cesar had a Rome to begin with.


The Wall Street Journal

Diversity Programs
Look to Involve
White Males as Leaders
Goal Is to Get Efforts
More Into Mainstream,
Create 'Sustainability'
May 7, 2007; Page B4

As a white male, tax partner Keith Ruth was surprised last year when he was asked to help lead PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's diversity efforts. Some employees questioned his qualifications. But Chris Simmons, PwC's chief diversity officer, insisted. "A lot of the people we want to hear the message are white males," Mr. Simmons says.

The unusual tactic -- enlisting white males to foster diversity efforts -- is gaining currency at U.S. companies. White men run the diversity programs at big employers such as Coca-Cola Co. and Southern Co.'s Georgia Power unit. Coke last fall brought in a consultant to talk to employees about "engaging white men in diversity efforts." PwC and others have given white male managers part-time assignments to promote diversity alongside their regular jobs.

It's part of an effort to get diversity programs off the sidelines and into the mainstream of the business. Having a white man champion diversity efforts -- particularly one who works in operations rather than human resources -- can help bring other white males on board, the theory goes.

Too many diversity initiatives make white men feel defensive, says Frank McCloskey, a white male operations veteran named Georgia Power's first head of diversity in 2000 after the company was sued for allegedly discriminating against blacks in hiring and promotion. He believes firms must engage white men to change the company culture.

When Mr. McCloskey was appointed, 63% of Georgia Power's employees were white men. "How can we ever create sustainability if you don't have 63% of your work force feeling that there's something in it for them?" he asks.

[the preceding paragraph has to be one of the craziest I've come across in a while... -jp]

At PwC, Mr. Simmons, who is black, heads a diversity program that includes mentoring, conferences, and one-on-one talks between partners and staffers who are women or minorities. Mr. Simmons comes from operations rather than human resources. Most recently he oversaw PwC's mergers and acquisitions. In July he will become managing partner for the region around Washington, D.C. The firm's new diversity chief will
be tax partner Roy Weathers, who is also black.

Mr. Simmons became diversity chief in 2004 with a directive from PwC U.S. Chairman Dennis Nally to shift diversity concerns from a "side topic" to an integral part of operations. About the same time, the firm named diversity leaders for each of its four business units. These are senior executives with other jobs, who also are charged with integrating diversity concerns into routine business decisions, such
as client assignments and promotions.

None of the diversity leaders was a white man. But Mr. Simmons believed that white men might pay more heed to diversity concerns if they hear them from a white man. "We really have to get away from this model of it just being white women and minority people," he says.

Mr. Simmons approached Mr. Ruth, an enthusiastic supporter of a tax group employee-diversity council. Mr. Ruth, who grew up in rural Georgia, was running PwC's tax practice for the southeast U.S. Mr. Ruth spent three weeks reading books Mr. Simmons recommended, including "It's the Little Things: Everyday Interactions That Anger, Annoy, and Divide the Races," by Lena Williams.

After the appointment was announced, Mr. Simmons says a few employees asked why he had placed a white male in the role. "I said it sends the message that we think all kinds of people can be committed to diversity," he says.

Early on, Mr. Ruth asked the tax practice's regional leaders to periodically review client assignments to make sure projects were being distributed equitably. He also ordered a review of performance evaluations to make sure women and minorities received sufficient feedback and career advice. He asked the other regional leaders in the tax practice to form employee-diversity councils like the one he had helped run in the southeast. And he is organizing a conference focused on career issues for women.

Mr. Ruth says he has learned from the job, too. Through one-on-one talks with younger accountants, he realized that minorities sometimes lack the alumni network that can help advance careers. "It's little things like that which I don't think most partners knew," he says.

For his part, Mr. Simmons says Mr. Ruth has been "bringing some people into the fold that I probably would have a harder time" reaching.

Write to Erin White at erin.white@wsj.com1
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