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HR exec and minority admits he is confused about Diversity

Diversity Confusion

As a minority, how do I have conversations on diversity?

As an HR executive and minority, I am confused and hopeful about the topic of diversity. I have worked in HR all of my career. I will admit I have learned more about Diversity in the last 12 months in the last 20 years. Yes, I am confused.

I am not confused on why there are differences of opinion on Black Lives Matter, Asian Hate crimes, or children being separated from their parents.

Personal ethnicity and experience

I am a third-generation Japanese American born and raised in the United States. My father was a second-generation Japanese American who was born and raised in America and my mother was born and raised in Japan.  I attended inner-city schools which were predominantly Black. I have experienced bias on a regular basis, and I went to a college that had a minority population of less than 1%. That is all minorities, not just Asians.

I am confused about how I am supposed to feel and respond in discussions about diversity and inclusion. I am confused about my understanding of what bias is and is not.

As an HR Pro/Am and a participant on diversity committees for Fortune companies (prior to 2020), I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the topic of diversity. I also thought I had a unique perspective.

As an Asian, I am perceived in 3 ways. I am:

  • Seen as a minority
  • Perceived as a member of the majority and not seen as a minority
  • Not seen at all, I am invisible or ignored

Not being viewed as a minority has given me a unique opportunity to see and hear how some in the majority think and act. An example of this would be when I have presented the resume of a minority with a non-American name to a hiring manager and the response before meeting the candidate in person was:

“Do I really need another person on my team who doesn’t speak English?”

Categories of bias

I rack the above comment to “unconscious bias” and will post about how I have learned to accept and differentiate between “bias”, “unconscious bias”, and “racism”. 

I am confused on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Maybe there are others in both the majority and the minority that are confused. In an effort to sort out my personal confusion, I put my thoughts on paper. I soon had 10 pages and then more. The more I put down on paper, the more I discovered I NEEDED to write. My intent was that these essays would be personal and private. I didn’t intend to post on HRNasty.com. These essays were written to help ME try to understand:

Just a few confusing topics

  • I have learned more from my White friends in the last 12 months on this topic than from personal learnings in the last 40 years.
  • How do I learn more about diversity, Black Lives Matter, Asian Hate?
  • What is the difference between racism and unconscious bias?
  • How do I respond to people who ask me about diversity but don’t like what I have to say?
  • Thoughts on my own confusion as a “model minority” (A term that I have learned is derogatory.)
  • There are folks who are more aware of bias and are speaking up. There is also a demographic that is more emboldened to commit acts of racism and hate.
  • This is the first time in my career that I have had hope for change. What should I do as a HR leader on the topic of diversity and inclusion?
  • We are all different. What I appreciate as a minority can be offensive to another.

I have been purposeful about avoiding the topic of diversity and inclusion on HRNasty.com.

Historically, I have blogged about how to increase your chances of landing a job if you are a minority.

I have never come out and addressed bias.

Prior to 2020 and George Floyd, I saw minorities talk about diversity and inclusion. For the most part, people didn’t want to hear the message. When I facilitated classes, the majority of the folks attended with a negative attitude. I heard it over and over in class, “I don’t need this class” or “bias doesn’t exist anymore.” With so many deliberate acts of racism in the media, the majority is recognizing that there is a need and bias exists. People are realizing the degrees to which bias exists. Society is realizing the impact on individuals, families, and communities. 

The above are just a few of the topics I have been trying to make sense of. As a minority and an HR exec, these questions have been heavy on my mind. Maybe these same thoughts weigh heavy on others as well. Essays will not just help me clear my mind. I hope to give others comfort that they are not alone.

Japanese people don’t usually talk about feelings (good or bad)

I was raised to work under the radar. Just fit in and turn in great work. I was raised to believe that I am not going to be chosen for just doing decent work. To overcome bias, you need to be significantly better than everyone else. Don’t raise a fuss and don’t cause trouble. I learned to defend myself through martial arts. This training teaches that if I fight, I have lost. Learning martial arts was for discipline, not for fighting. This mentality reinforces the cultural value of “not fighting back”.

I learned to turn the other cheek, to represent the race, and be the “model minority” 

Like everything I do, I try to figure out what is my goal. This helps me keep focused. A topic like diversity and inclusion can become irrational and emotional. I knew I needed to set a few ground rules for myself. There were just too many thoughts, too many opinions, and too many topics.

Guiding principles of these essays

I don’t want to insult, harm, or put down any group of people. My intent is to be agnostic on politics and race. 

I am not here to shame anyone or any group. 

It’s hard to change hearts and minds when your audience is attacked.

I do not want to be preachy or bitchy. I want these posts to be helpful and lower the barrier to transparent conversations. 

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts alone based on my personal experience. I am not speaking for all minorities any anyone else except myself. Everyone has differing opinions on diversity just as there are different opinions within sports teams, cars, and food.

I know very little

These past 12 months have shown me I know very little about this topic. Despite the personal experience, professional experience, and training, I have come to a realization. I don’t know what I don’t know and have a long way to go. Hopefully, a minority sharing their personal experience will help others on their own journey.

See you at the after-party,

HRNasty

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative, but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”

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