Engagement and accountability in diversity, equity and inclusion work are unlike other work in organizations. Typically in an organization something can be done for you, you receive it, you're told it, and you and the organization can follow suit. File that report, run those data, have that meeting - much work is transactional. Diversity, equity, and inclusion work implicates our entire lives and our lived experiences; it’s transformational. If we leave out an individual’s set of life experiences, this person is not going to be engaged, and the work will lack staying power. Engagement seeks to have community members as full participants in the process. As they immerse themselves in this work, their own understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion grows. Engaged community members can help shape what this work looks like and help the entire organization move forward. This kind of organizational work really does take on a life of its own because it lives within each of us.
And this work requires accountability at an organizational, interpersonal, and individual level. If we're actually making an organization, making a school more inclusive, it requires contributions from everyone. So, to make a place more inclusive and anti-racist, people have to be held accountable at the individual level. In other words, everyone has to be “all in.” And while we all may be in different places in our thinking, we all must move in the same direction. That's when accountability becomes really key. The question that usually comes up is: “What are you holding people accountable to? I’m holding people accountable to the work that they need to do to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.”
Certain norms and behaviors are necessary to be an inclusive and anti-racist place. But the dilemma is, how can we address behaviors we do not see (e.g., interactions between students, between faculty and students, and between colleagues)? One way to help folks understand and move closer to more inclusive behaviors is talking about what this work looks like in action. An example is microaggressions. The question “Where are you from?” can be perceived as a microaggression. Questioners earnestly say, “I ask because I'm just curious.” What they didn't know is that question always situates people who are not American and not White as the perpetual outsider. The questioner assumes that you aren't from here. But, this new perspective can be hard for folks to understand until you talk it through.
The bottom line is that to move the organization forward, everyone must engage in the work and be held accountable.