Equity and Authenticity

“Bring your full self”, “you belong here”, “reach your fullest potential” are all encouragement slogans that are used by people, companies, and organizations in attempts to create an inclusive culture for their teams and co-workers.

And while the sentiments are positive, and even necessary, it communicates one thing: in order to create an equitable and inclusive space, authenticity is encouraged.

And yet, somehow not all of us feel comfortable enough to bring our full selves to the table. Many of us, and speaking from my experience as a woman of colour, feel that we will likely not be met with the same positivity encouraged by those sentiments?

Bringing your authentic self can sometimes have its own repercussions. Whether that’s different treatment from your co-workers, or having to face biases, micro aggressions, and discrimination as a result of being yourself.

In fact, one of the reasons I moved towards entrepreneurship is to not have to look to others for validation. Entrepreneurship in many ways allows you to be your authentic self, while you’re building a business. However, there are times when that’s very hard to accomplish, and in turn creates an inequitable condition for yourself. I’d like to delve into this a bit later, perhaps in a different post.

Equity work requires us all to look deep and reflect into our authentic selves, and see how our actions are matching up with our words. And are we being equitable, and still maintaining our authentic selves.

Sometimes this reflection is not easy, whether it’s someone being called out for actions that they have committed, which resulted in the harming of others, intentionally or unintentionally. Or you yourself have reacted in a way that diverts from your authentic self, and therefore, created an inequitable situation.

A few months ago, the events of the appointment of the Representative to Combat Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby, has caused a stir in politics, and especially in the Quebec region. Politicians have dug up some of her past writings on Islamophobia, and have concluded that the article she co-wrote with Bernie Farber, who is a human-rights Jewish activist, discussing Quebec’s Bill21 is “anti-Quebec”.

But you see, Quebec is refusing to admit that Bill21 which bans the wearing of hijab in public services places, is in fact racist. As a result, they demanded that Ms. Elghawaby be removed from her role, and for her to apologize.

For Ms. Elghawaby to do the real work she was hired for, she needs to go against the very thing she’s hired to do, which is to fight Islamophobia. Having to apologize would fundamentally go against her authentic self, in that Quebec is not a racist province, when their laws are inherently racist.

In many organizations, I often see the attraction to anything that’s quoted as “diverse” or “equitable”. There is a need to be proximate to those people, individuals and organizations. However, as soon as the real work begins, they start to push back, gaslight, silence, and may even work to end the relationship. No one wants to associate with anyone that’s “too woke”. You have to display just the right amount of wokeness.

One thing to remember as individuals is that we always have a choice in how we move forward with these relationships. Are they worth keeping, despite their stifling nature of our identities? Are they there as simply transactional, and when the transaction is complete we can part ways? How much can our reputations as individuals be impacted by being adjacent to people and organizations that are not about being transparent, and authentic in equity work? Can we afford to be choosy?

Those are all questions I constantly ask myself as we continue to do this work. It’s never easy, and to me, life is too short to continue aligning with people, ideas and organizations who do not and are not willing to understand and be about this work in its truest form.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s