A common question I get during or after an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) presentation: Why do you have so much emphasis on racism, and especially anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism? I have tried to explain that anti-racism and anti-oppression are the foundational frameworks I use in my work because if you can understand how racial inequity operates in a systemic way first, then you will understand how other forms of oppression like sexism, homophobia, ableism, and others operate in an intersectional way. This never seems to satisfy the inquirer because they strongly believe that there should be "equity" in addressing oppressions in EDI.
Here I explain why racial equity needs to be prioritized in EDI work.
In my previous post we discussed that the world operates in hierarchies of oppression. From our historic colonial understanding, we know whiteness to be the most dominant oppressive identity. So when there is an opportunity to prioritize whiteness even in EDI, the policies and structural issues of equity and inclusion will prioritize for example white women, white LGBTQ+, and white people with disabilities. This is most reflective in the current state of progress we have made in social justice where Black, Indigenous and people of color with intersecting identities (e.g. disabled, LGBTQ2S+, women) remain to be the most marginalized in our society. This is because in a society of a majority identity (white), the majority identity will be prioritized.
Those working in EDI within organizations and institutions need to ensure that they are using anti-racism and anti-oppression as foundational to their educational and strategic work. Without racial equity, you cannot achieve equity for all. Whiteness carries with it power and privilege that causes the oppression and exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and their intersecting identities.
Intersectionality coined by Kimberle Crenshaw (1991) was intended to show the imbalance of power differential when gender equity became equity only for white women at the neglect of Black and women of color. The term has been used loosely and coopted to prioritize all intersecting identities for "equity in equity" with disregard for racial equity, its original intent. This is a call to individuals working in EDI especially in the current state of the world that has revealed the harshest forms of systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism that exists within our society, institutions and organizations, to prioritize racial equity so that we can have equity and inclusion for ALL.
Crenshaw KW. Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Rev. 1991;43(6):1241–1299