Stop Tokenizing Hires

True diversity in the workplace or continuance of tokenism?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I think one of the things I’m tired of seeing are articles explaining why and how you should consider diversity within your organization. The pieces do a fantastic job of explaining its importance, but I think everyone understands reasoning at this point; Whether or not they choose to pretend not to is a discussion within itself. So instead, I think we should tackle this issue from a different angle.

If your idea of diversity in the workplace is hiring a black person or a person of color to fill a quota, please don’t hire me or those like me. I know you’re wondering,” Why did she separate black people from person of color?” Well, in many ways, organizations have often treated them as though they were synonymous. They are not. I am a black person who is also a person of color. Yes, those identities are separate because the inequalities I face aren’t parallel to someone who is Asian, Latinx, etc. Can they be similar? Absolutely, but they are the same because we not monolithic. The thought that beings would fill the void of a company based on color alone showcases how out of touch, and unprepared the company is for workplace diversification. Though you may be able to hire those people of color, you will not have the skills necessary to retain them.

Looking for someone to speak on aspects of race (for their entire race)? Don’t hire me. I am not here to teach you how not to be a racist. I am also not here to speak on behalf of millions of people just because they look like me. It’s not my job to hold your hand and tell you “Great job at not buying into structural racism today,” you’re an adult you should know better. But I didn’t grow up around people of color What’s your point? You haven’t been under a rock your entire life, so you are aware of what systematic oppression is. Focus less on your feelings about being considered racist and more on treating people as people and not spokespersons. In other words, ask me about other things besides race. Ask me about leadership strategies, media management (but not so you won’t put something you know…racist), or why I love The Sims. I don’t, and I’m sure other people of color don’t, wake up saying, “How can I help my company not be racist today, let me prepare a presentation just in case.” That ain’t it. That ain’t hot.

If you need me to code-switch day to day and only come to work with my half self, don’t hire me. Code-switching is the concept of assimilating to crush the stereotypes constructed by the dominant culture. It is tiring. It is not necessary, and I should be able to bring my full self to work, but if that scares you, then just don’t hire me. It’s plain and simple. But there are certain things you have to do at work to get ahead so why not go with the flow? See, there you go pretending you don’t know what I’m talking about. Code-switching has become a necessary evil, a survival tactic, and sometimes it doesn’t even work. I don’t want to fix my hair, my accent, or my emotions to come off as friendlier, more astute, or refined. Those are your standards created from a representation of continuous rhetoric that I will never be ”good enough” if I don’t meet specific criteria.

Lastly, if you don’t have the capabilities to acquire the resources and necessary training to work with someone who needs specific working environments, DO NOT HIRE THEM. Unless you are going to put in the work it takes to make that person feel like they are a valued member of the team, then keep it pushing. So many times, companies intend to make a statement (to make a company look good) by seeking out individuals that need specialized attention that we end up doing the same thing we do to people of color — treating them like a quota without really putting in the effort to understand what is necessary to create an inclusive environment for them. It is imperative that this does not happen, so before leaping into something, you cant handle just don’t.

Listen, I hope by now you’ve gotten the message and understand that it’s not just about interviews and offer letters. It is essential to define what diversity means to your organization and then follow up with what you need to achieve it. If you are looking to check a box, then just keep the same carbon copies that you’re hiring because no one wants to waste their time. By hiring someone when you are ill-prepared to understand and embrace their differences, you waste not only their time but your team’s time and resources. I’m not saying not to hire those with differences; I’m saying to take the time to prepare for them the right way. People want to feel welcome and devote their time and effort to helping the goals of the company. No one looks for a job to leave them within three months due to issues with diversity. Seriously, nobody has time for that.

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