Opinion | The Commissioner’s Report: Movements are friends, moments are foes
As businesses and local governments take up the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion helm, opinion columnist Tara Yang explains what it all means
By Tara Yang
The buzzword of the year is DEI. But what exactly is it?
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I describe these three words collectively as a continuous movement to improve and create a non-discriminatory culture in any and all environments. Daniel Juday, a world-renowned public speaker and community leader, explains it with a great analogy.
“Diversity is being invited to the party,” Juday said. “Inclusion is being asked to dance. Equity is having the power to be the asker.”
Now that we are acquainted with the DEI acronym, I think it is important to discuss the misconceptions. Although there are no cookie-cutter strategic DEI plans, there are a few rules of thumb to avoid.
For starters, avoid affiliating the acronym with hiring efforts. It takes more than just recruiting and retaining a diverse pool of candidates in an organization. People should feel that they have the ability and chance to have a seat and voice at the decision-making table. I’ll refer back to Juday’s analogy, it is one thing to be invited, but it is another level of respect to have the privilege to be the asker.
Secondly, a small celebrative event or a single training does not replace a long-term strategic plan. It’s great to recognize and acknowledge groups, beliefs, and cultures for a moment, but don’t lose focus on the purpose of the movement. The purpose of DEI should be to advance towards sustainable systematic changes that dissolve discrimination.
The third rule of thumb is understanding that DEI work is not a project. It is vital to invest and designate a group of stakeholders or a role that solely focuses on DEI work because it is a complex web.
DEI is important because it not only promotes a welcoming environment for people with different perspectives and preferences, but it also holds people in power accountable and responsible in their decision-making.
It is especially important for local governments like Green Bay because of the region’s growing diversity. As the city becomes more diverse, it will need to have representatives that reflect the people it serves.
The 2020 United States Census Bureau revealed that communities of color make up one-third of Green Bay’s population. This is a slight increase compared to the previous 2010 census data and it is a clear indicator of the city’s future. And if that doesn’t convince you of the growing diversity in the city, the Green Bay Area Public School District is made up of over 55% students of color.
In the past three years, Green Bay and Brown County have made monumental, historical strides to accommodate this growing diverse population. The City of Green Bay has done a wonderful job taking initiative to create positions and commissions that connect all three DEI pillars.
These initiatives include hiring a diversity and inclusion coordinator, proclaiming and celebrating specific culturally significant days such as Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the creation of the first-ever Equal Rights Commission, which I am the chair of.
Brown County has also played a role in the DEI space and declared racism a public health crisis in February 2021 and created a Brown County Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee to ensure a strategic action plan follows the declaration.
DEI requires a commitment to learn and change from every party involved. The best way to start is to initiate and create conversations around tough topics such as disabilities, gender, race, religion, beliefs, and cultures. It might feel uncomfortable, but the conversations are necessary in order to take a step in the right direction.
So far, from what I see as a commissioner, we are off to a great start, but there is much work to be done.
Tara Yang was born and raised in Green Bay and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has previously written with The Badger Herald, a student newspaper in Madison. Additionally, she has worked in business development for minority-owned small businesses. She is working to transition her family’s 16-year-old Asian specialty grocery store into second-generation ownership. Tara currently serves as the Chair for Green Bay’s Equal Rights Commission and as a Vice Chair of the Economic Development Authority Committee.
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