Jan 22, 2024

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about Adam Grant's "The 12 new idea books to launch 2024." Our conversation halted when they said,

"for a white dude I do appreciate Adam Grant."

They acknowledged the bias (which a lot of people have) that I quickly called out... but it made me wonder... why do some people see it as okay to have these stereotypes and surprised reactions to White people, men, straight people, etc. 

A lot of people are being applauded for doing something or being something that is out of the norm for their demographic. Emotionally aware men, anti-racist White people, philanthropic wealthy people, straight allies... It's an icky pat on the back that is doing exactly what the DEI movement is trying to eradicate for equity deserving/marginalized/minority groups. 

I am not sure what it is exactly about being a "white dude" makes him incapable of being aware.... being educated on equity content... being responsive to equity issues. What I am really hearing is:

"You don't get it because you're White"


"You don't get it because you're a man."

And to me that translates to:

"You can't get it." 


It feels kind of gatekeepy.

People from equity deserving/marginalized/minority groups who use statements like this are belittling people based on their demographics and contributing to the movement away from culture work. These types of beliefs polarize people and can make people close-minded to the work that should be including them. We should be celebrating that people are doing the work, interested in doing the work, or willing to do the work – not patronize them.

I'm not a White man... but I am in a heterosexual relationship and have heard time and time again about how being straight is "lame" or "sucks." Just because we are moving towards inclusion of historically oppressed groups does not means we have to do a 180 and put others down. That is the pendulum swing that a lot of people who oppose equity work are talking about - it swings too far the other way. We don't have to replace one oppressed group with a new one.


Equity isn't finite. Respect isn't finite. Dignity isn't finite. 

A strong message intertwined in leadership and equity work is to bring other people up with you. We have to encourage people, provide them resources, help them along the way, give them tips, discuss topics with an open, and more. We say it for women to other women, BIPOC persons to other BIPOC persons, and 2SLGBTQIA+ persons to other 2SLGBTQIA+ persons. So why aren't we giving the same support and understanding to people who are considered to have "privilege." Tearing them down won't give you respect or dignity and it certainly isn't doing it for them.

Another friend of mine was sharing a personal story with me about coming out. Advice they received when their family member was not receptive was: you've been living this truth and learning about it your whole life... to them it's new... give them time. Equity work takes time. It is asking people to reconsider how they view themselves, how they see themselves in the world, how they see others in the world, and their experiences.

If you really want to be a part of equity work then you need to be willing to engage with everyone and support everyone on this journey. I've written this before in the blog but it is relevant again here: you don't have to agree with them, you just have to be willing to listen. Of course, I am not talking about hate speech and hate crimes. What I'm saying here certainly doesn't apply to all situations. I understand that there are certain things that are known to be harmful and spaces that aren't safe to engage. I am talking about your colleague who doesn't understand why the company logo is in rainbow colours or a family member who doesn't like the new people who moved in down the street. 


Your homework:

  • Think about why you give more lenience to some and why you hold higher standards for others.
  • Watch "The Trust: A Game of Greed" on Netflix

Equity work is in everything we do. It relates to how we talk to people, how we write emails, what social media we engage with, where we shop, where we donate... the list goes on. That's because equity work is about how we think about and see ourselves and others - that's happening all the time.


Equity Deserving Groups: This could include attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation and transgender status, etc.

Gatekeeping: the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something.

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Janelle Abela

Janelle is the Founder and CEO of Diverse Solutions Strategy Firm. She is a former K-12 educator and found value in nurturing identity for student success. She has since expanded her approaches by working with various industry sectors. She believes it is imperative that a realistic means of change is created outside of the progressive education system and that guides the work that she do. Janelle hold a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education, and Master of Education degrees, while currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Windsor. She is currently researching barriers to application of professional development content.