Your policies suck, that’s why we have a problem

Your policies suck, that's why we have this problem | Sedruola Maruska

We moved a lot when we were young. My immigrant father was focused on getting an education, and providing for his family. So, wherever the opportunities were, that’s where we went.

Which is why in the summer of 1977 we moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. My dad was accepted into the University of Utah’s doctorate program so we moved into family student housing. I was 9 years old.

When my brother and I started school we were the only two Black children in a school of over 200 students. We stood out at a time when I didn’t want to stand out.

Salt Lake City

During our time in Salt Lake City I remember wondering a lot about the way I looked. I asked my mom why I couldn’t wear my hair down instead of in braids. I’d stand in front of the bathroom mirror and pull up my nose to be more “pointy” like my friends. At nine years old we’re formulating our perceptions of ourselves. We’re figuring out where we fit in the world and I didn’t fit.

One day (and this is relayed to me by a friend I found on Facebook years later) while in class a boy was teasing me about my color. He started talking about how I looked like poop, laughing and carrying on. As I’m enduring this abuse, I begin to cry and complain. Instead of the boy being disciplined, the teacher told me “If you can’t stop disrupting class, you’ll need to go out in the hall.” I’m nine years old and I have to control my reaction to the abuse being inflicted on me by a white child.

I was sent to the hall.

Personally, I don’t remember that moment. I remember others with the same theme. I’m the problem so I need to suck it up. Endure what’s happening. Be strong. Be the bigger person, the better person. While those who are inflicting the pain, go unpunished. Because they’re white and so therefore they must be right.

Your policies suck, that's why we have this problem | Sedruola Maruska

Ignoring The Signs

As I look around the country right now, I’m reminded of that ignorance. We watched as armed white people storm the capital building with no repercussion. We watched as police officers looked the other way to allow these terrorists to cross barricades, take selfies with the perpetrators and claim overwhelm, while the lawmakers inside had to cower for their lives.

All over social media parallels are being drawn on the different responses to acts of terrorism when the perpetrators are white vs. when people of color and Black people are protesting policies that threaten their lives.

Just like in my fourth grade classroom where I became the problem and I was disciplined, Black and Brown people are always dealt with harsher than white people. Here’s the kicker, it happens all across the country in every discipline and industry.

It starts with students and goes through the workforce. It’s easier to punish the victims than it is to confront a system that benefits you and demand that system change.

White terrorism

What’s the consequence? The consequence is white terrorists running around the country killing with impunity and being treated as human. While those they are terrorizing are treated like the problem.

White people are allowed to do as they please when they have a “bad day” while the rest of us must swallow our pain.

White people are allowed to have mental health issues while the rest of us are “too sensitive” or “genetically prone to violence.”

White people are allowed to be angry, protest, lash out maim and kill while their vegan, vacation and huger needs are taken care of. The rest of us better be happy we didn’t die at the scene.

The consequence, as I wrote in this article is a country where everything and everyone suffers because of tolerance rather than justice. We, all of us, are left reeling and wondering what’s the next logical step to take? What part can we play in creating change?

Proof in Policy

Companies are creating products to placate when we know it’s changes in their policies that create real change. Yes, we appreciate removing “Aunt Jemima” from your products, but what does your C-Suite look like? Thanks for putting out that statement, but are your employees of color comfortable in your culture?

Corporations have the power to push governments to make real policy changes needed to move the needle. Yet, in Georgia, and across the country, where these giants with power are headquartered, voter suppression laws are running rampant. The wording is more nuanced and vague, but we know, we ALL know they’re intentionally directed at people of color, especially Black people.

It’s time to stop pretending we don’t know what do to, and do what we do know. Do the hard things. Corporations are made up of people. Those people need to stop hiding and do better. Say NO. Look to the future and make the hard decisions in the present. Invest in your people, your policies and revamping your cultures.

We the people appreciate the surface stuff, but we’d all, including yourselves, be better served with real policy changes and more bravery.


Diversity Training, Is It a Waste of Money?

Diversity Training, Is It A Waste of Money | Sedruola Maruska

If you’re planning to spend money on diversity training, WAIT!

If you haven’t done any foundation building, you may be wasting your money. If diversity and inclusion aren’t an integral part of your business strategy, you won’t get much for your money by holding one or two day training workshops. Don’t make the same mistake that many businesses, in all industries make.

If you want to leverage the diversity you already enjoy, increase diversity in your business, or prevent cultural misunderstandings, you’ll need to create a culture that’s inclusive at all levels, in every system, and in all processes.

Without having diversity and inclusion baked into your culture, you’ll get people trained by a great trainer, with a great program, but when they leave your organization they take what they learned with them (if they still remember it) and your organization stays the same.

Plus, reaching those people who resist diversity efforts isn’t likely only with training. It’ll take a more multi-faceted approach to help those individuals see the value of diversity in the organization and to bring more people on board to the initiative.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Antiracist community

Steps Toward Diversity Training

Here are some steps you can take to create an inclusive business / company:

Start at the top. The CEO and other executive team members must be fully on board and leading the charge. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, leadership of the initiative or changing the culture cannot be delegated. Others can help drive change, but it must be seen as coming from the top. That means it needs to be included in conversations, discussions, newsletters and e-mails.

Figure out what your company strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement and employee satisfaction ratings are as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion by running surveys, focus groups and interviews.

Diversity Training, Is It A Waste of Money | Sedruola Maruska

Once the assessments are done, create a vision and strategy that members of the executive leadership team have agreed is the best course of action.

Engage senior management so they can help lead the change. They need to be part of the vision and have a clear understanding of concepts, roles, business case and benefits.

Create a communication and information sharing process to share the vision throughout the company. Send messages that will create middle manager and employee buy-in to the new culture. Help everyone understand how the diversity, equity and inclusion culture change will benefit each employee personally, professionally and organizationally. That’ll require internal marketing at all levels.

Educate to Elevate Racial Sensitivity Workshop

Remember the surveys? Use their results to tackle specific areas for improvement, the most common being; recruitment, interviewing, hiring, retention, promotion and performance evaluation. Look at your present company culture, and find ways where as a company you can create a more inclusive environment.

Define skills and behaviors that managers need to have to make the culture change successful and to successfully lead a diverse workforce.

Once you’ve put those initiatives into motion, now you can conduct training for all levels of your organization in areas related to diversity and inclusion.

Make sure to set up a process for accountability at all levels, that relates progress to compensation and evaluations.

Measure results, create the buzz and make it exciting (if its not fun, it wont be done)

What Does It All Mean?

The amount of time it’ll take, the order and the steps needed depend on your company goals. If you want to go beyond compliance, hear new ideas, learn best practices, reduce cultural misunderstanding and miscommunication, hire and retain the best of the best from everywhere, training alone wont do it.

Before you spend money on diversity training, decide what you want. Do you want your people to have a good day, learn then forget a few bits of information or do you want ongoing change that will make your company one where people are excited to apply to work? The choice is yours.

White Mom’s Guide to “The Talk”