The Importance of Understanding - Keith R. Wyche

Photo by Zuzana Ruttkay on Unsplash

I was recently featured on The Chicago Defender talking about my new book, ‘Diversity is Not Enough: A Roadmap to Recruit, Develop and Promote Black Leaders in America.’ I discussed how efforts to improve DEI often lack understanding, and with education, people can feel empathy to create real change.

“The overarching element that is hurting diversity initiatives is that people don’t take a lot of time to listen to Black folks. What I mean by this is that too often well-intentioned people have an idea in their mind of what we need without talking to us about it first. Non-Black people create solutions where they try and construct programs to do things for us and to us but not with us.

“First people have to understand how we got here. Too often these efforts of DEI are looked at as charity or a nice thing to do. You have to understand that this cult country was built in a way that disadvantaged people of color. There’s several examples of that, from the land grants where whites were able to get land for a dollar an acre where we couldn’t, to something like the new deal where social security was rolled out to every group except two, agricultural workers and housekeepers, which we were predominantly. Or the GI bill, it was great for buying home ownership, but my father and grandfather couldn’t partake in it. We’re not here because we’re lazy, we’re here because there has been a history of systemic racism.

“I describe systematic racism to people through a monopoly analogy. If the white boys were able to play monopoly for three hours before we’re allowed to get into the game, how successful will we really be when they’ve already bought board walk and park place? It’s kind of to that degree, that’s that 300 year head start. Once people truly understand the plight and how we got here it creates empathy. After education you can enter empathy then this creates action. But, as long as companies look at it as just a nice thing to do, it’s not going to work.

“So we must first start with the understanding of how we got here . Then, the second thing is to be honest about where you stand. Too often companies want to highlight the awards they won and the things they do well, but they don’t want to own where they really are lacking in this space. If you do not tell the truth you can’t get anywhere, a doctor can’t help you if you’re not truthful. Companies must accept and acknowledge the truth and then put a plan in place to address these issues, but they must include the people who are part of this in the decisions.

“Those are three big steps that we can take to improving diversity initiatives from a very high level. From a senior leader perspective, I talk to CEOs and I tell them I’m not telling them not to trust their human resource people, or their chief diversity officer people, but just like one would go through the numbers to prepare for a board meeting or to talk to Wall Street, go through your DEI metrics to see really what’s going on. Dig deeper and deeper.”

Keith Wyche is a change management leader who strives to assist organizations in reaching their potential. With decades of experience managing billion-dollar businesses across several industries, Keith applies a holistic approach to sustainable and efficient change. Keith is an author and leader who advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion in workplace talent and in customers through bridging community gaps. His vast experience and skills allow him to turn around struggling organizations and create strategic solutions for the best results.

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