Diversity Means More: The importance of educating yourself

July 6, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

“I was born white, to a white couple. I’ve lived in a white community all my life; white church, white schools, white neighborhood.

The education I received, I realize now, was obviously based on being white. Over the past eight years, I have become aware of the privilege that I have enjoyed without asking for and yet have been given. I continually work to become educated by reading literature and historical stories, watching documentaries and, most of all, talking with friends who are black/brown.

I want to understand what happened in the early stages of racism in our country and work to mend relationships with those whose families or they themselves have endured racism face-to-face. No one should be treated disrespectfully because of the color of their skin. We are all the same; we just come from different cultures and raised by different people.

I want my current (and hopefully new) friends to see me for who I am and know that I see them for who they are without judgment or disrespect.”

Submission from an anonymous employee at Michigan Medicine 

This is one of countless submissions the organization has received since launching the “Diversity Means More” campaign last month. The campaign is committed to elevating the authentic experiences, sentiments, thoughts and feelings about racism and discrimination from all who work, learn and receive care at Michigan Medicine.

This submission highlights a common theme among employees: the interest in educating oneself about history and the current issues facing many of their colleagues.

Another submission in which a community member explains what the word “diversity” means to them.

Take action

Ever since the murder of George Floyd, which galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement and expanded the anti-racism debate onto the global stage, people around the world are asking, “How can I help?” “How do I become an ally?”

The answer from many activists: “It is not enough to call yourself an ally. White people must take an active role. It takes all of us to turn the tide of racism in this country.”

The first step is to become informed. Take advantage of U-M Organizational Learning’s online program, “Anti-Racism Crash Course: What Can I Do?” 

It’s also important to read, watch and listen.  

READ

  • “How to be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America. Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. 
  • “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo, explains the dynamics of White Fragility and how we might build our capacity in the on-going work towards racial justice.
  • In “So You Want to Talk About Race,” author Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make honest conversations about race and racism possible.
  • “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander, challenges all of us to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

WATCH

  • For a U-M connection, watch student-produced “Walking the Line of Blackness,” in which 16 Ford School of Public Policy masters students speak about their experiences around race and racism.
  • In the documentary “13th,” director Ava DuVernay argues that mass incarceration, Jim Crow and slavery are “the three major racialized systems of control adopted in the United States to date.”
  • Narrated by the words of James Baldwin with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson, “I Am Not Your Negro connects the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter.
  • The 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo. was one of the deaths that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. “Whose Streets? documents how locals felt about police in riot gear filling their neighborhoods with tear gas.

LISTEN

  • Floodlines, an audio documentary from The Atlantic about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, feels especially relevant  today as COVID-19 disproportionately infects and kills Americans of color.
  • 1619, an audio seriesfrom The New York Times, chronicles how slavery began in the U.S. and how black people have been central to building American democracy, music, wealth and more.

Diversity Means More will continue to share the stories of you and your colleagues. You are encouraged to submit your own experiences.

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