Tag Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

Poems on Diversity, Inclusion and Bias

Poems on Diversity, Inclusion and Bias
By Anita Nahal

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP, is a poet, flash fiction writer, children’s books author, D&I consultant and professor. You can find her recent works in Aberration Labyrinth, Confluence, Better Than Starbucks, aaduna, River Poets Journal, and Colere. She has read her poems at Busboys and Poets, DC, at the 100,000 Poets For Change, Souderton, PA, and the 2017 annual conference of the Society for Diversity, Chicago, IL. She received an Honorable Mention in the Concrete Wolf 2017 chapbook competition. Nahal is working on her first novel.

1. Unconscious Bias
Bias is not what I desire, bias is not what I feel
You see me but my outer skin is what you need to peel
I may have a different color or a different form
And my diversity, may sometimes, in you cause a storm
Tis not my intention as I go about my day, much like you
Not sure what happens that your blood is red, and mine you see as blue.

See, gender is biology
Not something to divide human psychology
And my orientation is not in my hands
Then why do you hide it in coarse sands?
Tis but a game we all play
And each other minutely we slay.

Civility they say is supposed to bind
Then why do you ignore abuse, and to love are unkind?
I may not be able to walk all the way
When glass, stones, daggers and guns you sway
I thought we were all just one species
Yet race biting, smells, all over like feces.

You mock my disability
That reflects your own lack of ability
And the separation of families in an immigrants’ land
Is nothing but the markings of a nasty hand.
My weight, my height, hair and looks
Is beauty hiding in your unwise books?

And then you ignore the brave soldiers who return home
Ignore their hurt, their pain, and let them alone roam
And sometimes, my language, accent and words, you question
As if in your frame my molding is your suggestion
And some of my clothes frighten you
But isn’t that just your narrow view?

You say you don’t carry a bias
Maybe it is not overt and not standing on the dais
When will humanity learn its lesson?
When will we all get together, and press-on?
Quietly, dangerously, in your subconscious
You carry a bias unconscious.

2. Darkie
You pray to Kali (Black) Goddess for criticals, and then you ask your mama to place an advertisement for a “fair” girl…
Years ago, some said,
“She is quite sanvali (dark)…give her lots of milk it might lighten her.
And now they say,
“Oh, you have become so fair… living in cold America…
you are not in the harsh sun all the time…you have become so saaf (clean).”

I did not know I was a dirty girl, and then a dirty woman…
I always bathed.  I always bathed.

3. They say people need to unite
Against what I ask in this modern world so ignited, so crass. Are we not one people, one species? It’s kind of tiring following pundits and gurus, spiraling like dominoes faster than Tour de France. And what could have been my child lay motionless on a beach in Turkey. Who will hear her cries, his cries, your cries, my cries? Tears are cheap as they flow from eyes not banks. The stillness of the sand screams.  The stillness… of the sand… screams. Please be quiet… Can you hear, now

Why tell the heart to be strong when the mind has no heart and the heart has a mind out of control? You push, prod, snatch, beat, kill… lift her dress and sneak in, leaving her shocked soul rambling like roots un-synced from their pod.  Did you listen to her body as you walked away vulgarized? Your core, sick of you?

And then they were just chillin, arms stretched up but you saw only their feet, tired, dark and black.  Your sense chokes and you don’t even apply Heimlich on yourself.  Just look at your arms flaying. No censure. And then the first amendment is called to the stand freely allowing it to plead the fifth.  Irony feels ashamed and my color is aghast, day and night it crumbles like fine wood left out to rot.  Isn’t equality the only color?  Rest struggling for credentials, fake degrees in tow?

4. Moving Diversity, Moving Spaces
The diversity of my living spaces
spread across years, continents, countries, cities and people
brought smiles, and at times, tears…
a friend reminded, “There is no gain without pain.”

Let me tiptoe from the spaces of diverse experiences
to diverse spaces and places
just savoring the diversity of movement
and the movement of diverse people and experiences.
Spaces don’t move, people do,
and yet, people can make
the same space diverse
or make a new place the same

The experience of moving is diverse, and
the diversity of the new space is an experience
spaces can nurture a soul
or, souls can nurture any place.

5. Dyeing-undeying love of…

pigmenting tresses compels
my vanity to respond to you, hair color…
But, wait, my cerebrum is saying something. Are you listening? I am trying to be polite for I agree with Maya Angelou
“…that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did, but people will never forget
how you made them feel.”
Believe me when I say then, hair color, you make me feel, sick…
sick with effort, with nuisance, with thoughts of brain cancer too.
I can’t wait to stop,
get it over with,
and as age grows, the need
seems to be dwindling to
keep you among my decreasing list of “true” friends,
and instead I am being taken over by desire
like some other braves,
to stroke through new, soft pepper mane.
Can’t wait to get over
you running down my cheeks, onto my dress,
the floor, and if I don’t wipe instantly,
you leave telltale aphorisms like tea leaves
in a china cup that some can read, some look askance.
Sometimes, unable to understand your influences
I harness my energy
on the unsuitable follicles, under or over-streaking,
where I could have left alone,
instead discoloring, tarnishing, scorching, fading
the pertinent strokes of wisdom, happy times and
those that love me, for me.
You make my locks feel disrespected, hair color.
I am going to increase my self-reflection so as not to make you feel the same.

6.Single immigrant mom
“Why did you come here? In your forties?
Leaving all behind for what?”
“A dream.”
“What dream?
“To be not abused!

Diversity and Inclusion

Autoethnography—Am I Confirming and Assimilating?

By Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP
Diversity Consultant, ESVB-AAUW

This article is an adaptation of the author’s original article on LinkedIn

In March 2005, I gave a lecture at Howard University as part of a series on Multiculturalism in the Classroom. My particular lecture was on, “A South Asian teaching African American/Indian (comparative) courses at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU),” wherein towards the end of the video you will see that I wore a shawl and bindi and spoke about what might be the effect of my visual appearance if I went to the class like that and spoke about African American Women’s History to a class of predominantly African American students, while dressed like an Indian (I could not change into a saree, however, attempted to replicate an ethnic look). Only the last minute or two of the video are relevant to what I am saying. Please click her for the video: http://www.cetla.howard.edu/new_showcase/lectures/speakers/nahal/index.html

I constantly face my own assumptions on where I stand in the American fabric. Recently, it struck me even more deeply while discussing with a friend about cultural expressions. We both erstwhile South Asians now Americans, talked about how we both don’t wear traditional clothes except on ethnic occasions such as festivals, weddings or funerals. The discussion took me to Dr. Marilynn B. Brewer’s Optimal Distinctiveness Theory and made me question as to where we stood in her various definitions? Were we part of “inclusion” wherein we were treated as insiders while allowed and encouraged to retain our uniqueness? Were we part of “differentiation” wherein we were not considered as insiders but allowed and encouraged to retain our uniqueness. Or were we part of “assimilation” wherein we were treated as insiders only when we confirmed to the cultural norms of the majority. Or finally as per Dr. Brewer’s matrix, were we part of “exclusion or dissatisfaction” wherein we were neither treated as insiders nor our uniqueness valued. (Please see Brewer’s chart below)

Upon pondering, one considers that certain critically labeling words are attached to the above four markers in the matrix such as, “treated” “allowed” “encouraged to retain” and “majority.” Why do immigrant groups have to be treated as such or such, or allowed and not allowed, or encouraged to retain? Why would immigrants not decide for themselves how much they wished to retain and how they wished to portray themselves, or how much they were willing to allow others to make them feel belonged or not? Of course, these are rhetorical questions as a number of research studies have been conducted on the notions of belonging and/or alterity for immigrants. In one study, I found some of the below questions very pertinent to the questioning of my own continuous assumptions about myself:

“… (1) During life, when does belonging to a nation, ethnic group or a culture become important for an individual? (2) How does self-definition impact how one deals with specific experiences, such as being a refugee? (3) What are the impacts of the process of migration on one’s sense of belonging? (4) How do immigrants re-construct their sense of belonging in their host societies? (5) How is the sense of belonging to a collective expressed in different generations in families of immigrants? (6) What is the impact of being a citizen of a country versus being a temporary resident on one’s sense of collective belonging? And (7) How do intergenerational conflicts manifest themselves in terms of identity ownership? (For further on this work, please see, Ethnicity and Belonging: An Overview of a Study of Cuban, Haitian and Guatemalan Immigrants to Florida by Julia Chaitin, J.P. Linstroth & Patrick T. Hiller in, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1363/2856 )”

The opposing need of individuals according to Dr. Brewer has led them into a tug of war between their desires to feel “belonged” yet retaining their “uniqueness.” And yes, I have felt these tugs sometimes living in the West, in relation to me or others. When I wear traditional clothes, the way folks look at me, some admiringly, some wondering, some ignoring and some disdainfully. Some of the same reactions I too have shown towards others in ethnic clothes, and especially towards those from India. Visual representation feeds deeply into our comfort level and since we don’t know the other person as it is, the ethnic clothes become an additional layer of being unknown and thus to be feared. This in turn can lead to any number of biased ways—implicit and unconscious– we might be perceived or perceive others. “The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.” (Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio State University. http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2014-implicit-bias.pdf).

Unconscious bias in particular, of which we all are culprit, can in turn lead to challenges in cultural competency, and in diversity and inclusion in professional spaces in all HR practices from recruiting, hiring to promotion to terminations.

Interestingly the tugs of assimilation/conformity I feel pulling at me in reverse when I go to India for a visit as well. I don’t wear skirts and dresses that come up only till my knees… or shorts, or other too skin revealing clothes. Perhaps no one will say anything (as some of my younger friends strongly argue that times have changed), yet I feel, due to my early upbringing in India, that folks in their fifties and beyond are supposed to dress in a particular way in public. Regardless of what my younger friends say, I still feel the “looks” from strangers, friends or relatives if my clothes are too revealing or not age suitable. My “otherness or alterity” is very apparent to me in India as much as it is in the US. Where do I belong, sometimes I question? Do I belong anywhere I choose and am comfortable? Or do I belong a little here and little there, or nowhere? I am reminded of Nigerian poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poignant poem:

All this is something to think about especially in relation to Dr. Brewer’s four classifications, in relation to unconscious bias, cultural competency and diversity and inclusion. I am still debating whether I am confirming and assimilating to the American fabric, and do the same while on a visit to India. And I have touched upon only visual identification in my auto-ethonographical analysis. There are so many other ways to confirm and assimilate; speech, tone, gestures, body language; marriage, job, education, religion and so forth. In a new study done by neuroscientists (Ryan M. Stolier and Jonathan B, Freeman) at New York University, on the way individuals react to diverse faces, they have shown that, “The stereotypes we hold can influence our brain’s visual system, prompting us to see others’ faces in ways that conform to these stereotypes.” ( http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2016/05/02/neuroscientists-find-evidence-for-visual-stereotyping.html and http://www.nature.com/articles/nn.4296.epdf )

A variation of this article appeared on LinkedIn first. The author’s other posts on LinkedIn can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/0_3f28uu9Qt9H17RnSMhdqZW?trk=prof-sm

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion: What is the Meaning?
Heide Parreño,
Diversity Director, AAUW Empire State Virtual Branch, member of Fairport Area Branch, and former member of National Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, AAUW


Millennials believe that diversity and inclusion are essential to business success. Diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords or boxes to check. In a new study, Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative ( BJKLI) analyzed responses from 62 questions of 3,726 individuals. These individuals are from a variety of backgrounds with representation across gender, race/ ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation, national status, veteran status, disabilities, level within an organization, and tenure with an organization.

Milllennials view diversity as the blending of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives within a team.  This is known as cognitive diversity, a necessary element for innovation that is 71% more likely to focus on teamwork.

To read the full article follow the link-– http:/www.fastcompany.com/3046358/the-newrules-of-work/millenials-have-a-different definition-of-diversity-and-inclusion.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to the tech industry ?

Two groups come to mind: one is a tech industry with people with disability and another is Google.

Melissa “Echo” Greenlee, founder and CEO of deaffriendly.com, a website dedicated to bringing awareness to deaf-friendly businesses and corrective feedback to deaf-challenged businesses through consumer reviews, has this to offer:

“ I own and operate the consumer review website deaffriendly, which allows deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing consumers throughout the United States to rate and review businesses on how accessible and deaf friendly they are. We employ an all-deaf team of designers, writers, trainers with a variety of experiences and communication modalities. “

The biggest story around diversity and inclusion in 2017 is the headline: “Products for people with disabilities created by people with disabilities”.

The implied meaning of diversity and inclusion for Melissa is to make the world more accessible to 70 million deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing people around the globe.

Google:  Google leaders know that diversity on their teams, specifically inclusion from underrepresented groups – is key to having individuals from underrepresented backgrounds apply for its job openings and feel welcome at the company. “We fully acknowledge we have work to do and are committed to this work for the long haul,” says Thygesen, whose own division features a program designed to help grow women and minority-led businesses that are interested in working with Google.

“What diversity and inclusion meant to Google” was put to the test when one of the male engineers wrote a manifesto questioning Google’s diversity training and women’s aptitude for coding.  Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, cut short his vacation to respond to the issue– which resulted in the firing of the engineer.

What does Diversity and Inclusion mean to AAUW? Having the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion is not enough. What actions can Branches, State and National have?  What can we learn from the Millennials, Google and the Deaffriendly  Group?

Diversity, Inclusion, and Unconscious Bias Intersectionality

Diversity, Inclusion, and Unconscious Bias Intersectionality

By Anita Nahal, Phd, CDP, D&I Consultant, ESVB
Heide Parreño, Diversity Director, ESVB

 “Perspectives: Have there been times when you were personally discriminated against?

Crenshaw: I have a story I tell a lot. A member of our study group at Harvard was the first AfricanAmerican member of a previously exclusive white club. He invited the rest of the group—me and another African-American man—to visit him at this club. When we knocked on the door, he opened it, stepped outside, and shut it quickly. He said that he was embarrassed because he had forgotten to tell us something about entering the building. My male friend immediately bristled, saying that if black people couldn’t go through the front door, we weren’t coming in at all. But our friend said, “No, no, no, that’s not it—but women have to go through the back door.” And my friend was totally okay with that.

Perspectives: How did that affect you?

Crenshaw: I understood that we can all stand together as long as we think that we are all equally affected by a particular discrimination, but the moment where a different barrier affects a subset of us, our solidarity often falls apart. I began to look at all the other ways that not only the race and civil rights agenda but the gender agenda are sometimes uninformed by and inattentive to the ways that subgroups experience discrimination.”

 (http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/perspectives_magazine/women_perspectives_Spring2004CrenshawPSP.authcheckdam.pdf )

The term “intersectionality” was first coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, a snippet of whose conversation in an interview appears above. Crenshaw had argued in her research that “…the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include the interactions, which frequently reinforce each other.” This same kind of intersectionality, many individuals feel and go through, though not always due to race or gender.  It could be these two, plus nationality or religion or sexual orientation, or immigrant status. Or it could be any other combination as well.  When individuals find themselves standing at the center of various intersections that can define them within their own understanding, or others can employ to define them, it becomes a challenge for diversity and inclusion.  And since the intersection is not stagnant or set in stone, individuals keeps interacting with so many diversities (their own and those of others), they can lap and overlap causing even more confusion. That is why the DIAL method for understanding our various layers was developed (Nahal). It stands for Diversity and Inclusion Applied in Layers.  Read more here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/layered-applied-diversity-inclusion-ladi-model-nahal-ph-d-cdp  In another write up we shall discuss this more. Indeed the concept of intersectionality is very critical, one that Michelle Rivera-Clonch, PhD, Director of the Omega Women’s Leadership Centerone also noted it in her keynote speech at the 2017 NYS AAUW convention.

We need to remember that individuals are not mono-lithic, and no one race, group, etc. is monolithic either. Thus we need to make sure when interacting with individuals that we don’t type cast them.  We need to reduce the impact of our pre conceived notions, and unconscious bias that our first visual impressions give us. Princeton University psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov conducted research published in the July 2006 issue of Psychological Science, which showed that it only takes seven seconds to form an opinion about others.  However, that is based on simply visual representation.  And individuals are much more than what is apparent to the eye. Next time we will discuss the Iceberg theory related to this.  Cheers!