“Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression.” – Audre Lorde 

DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is deeply personal for me. As a Black woman navigating predominantly white spaces, I've faced the harsh realities of bias, racism, and sexism both in America and abroad. I understand firsthand the daily struggles and traumas people of color endure and my lived experience continues to drive my passion as a DE&I practitioner.  

Holidays like Juneteenth are a sobering reminder of the critical need for liberation and how far we still have to go to achieve it. I have vivid memories of when Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the US in 2021. America was at a critical inflection point. At that time, there was a lingering heaviness from the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. People were angry and exhausted, yearning for justice, liberation, and a sense of normalcy.  

There have always been people fighting for social justice but, at that time, there was a groundswell of corporate and political conversations about equality leading to many new DE&I programs and initiatives intended to help people to meet the moment. The problem was many of these efforts were largely symbolic and performative, and thus unsustainable.  

Fast forward to now, and the recent four-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. We are all working to navigate the way forward in a changing DE&I landscape. In the face of economic pressures and a range of challenging issues on the global landscape, an overwhelming number of companies have quickly strayed from mostly supportive commitments to “do better” to now divestment and silence from former “allies”. In a very short time, politicians have gone from kneeling in kente cloth to actively using historic civil rights laws against Black people.  

The recent example of the Fearless Fund, a venture capital fund built by Black women for Black women founders, is a telling reflection of where we are now. It has been sued for alleged bias in its funding approach using the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a law intended to create justice that was passed a year before the enslaved people in Galveston were freed on the first Juneteenth. This move and others – like various legislative efforts that aim to ban books on Black history, penalize advocacy initiatives seeking equity, or mischaracterize the nature of DE&I organizational programs – are a stark reversal on the commitments made in 2020 and erode the progress we’ve seen in the years following. They also erode stakeholder trust. 

As we prepare to celebrate Juneteenth, it is important for us to acknowledge our collective responsibility in not just supporting the principles of DE&I but actually seeing them through. Performative allyship is no longer on the table. We must be focused towards genuine allyship which requires sustained, long-term commitment to change. Performative allyship, on the other hand, will only push us further into a false sense of progress and accomplishment undermining the need for us to achieve real, lasting change. 

At G&S, we are holding fast to our commitment to DE&I to build a more inclusive future for our workforce, clients and industry. We recognize that there is still much more work to do, and that the path forward requires us all to stand together in support of those whose voices have been marginalized.  

Audre Lorde once said, “Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression.” In the spirit of Juneteenth this year, our charge is to continue building community and fully investing in advancing equity wherever we are and wherever we can in the pursuit of freedom. 

 

 

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