In the Summer of 2009, our Human Resources Leadership Team was stuck… Let me set the context. Our HR Director and another key member of the team returned from a Diversity Boot Camp, led by Steve Robbins—a self-proclaimed “powerful storyteller with a powerful story to tell”. They wanted to facilitate a dialogue and critically examine different perspectives. Interestingly, the white men—about a third of our leadership team—shut down and became silent while the conversation continued.
Following the retreat, I visited with our HR Director, and we agreed a different approach was needed to make sure the full team remained engaged. I committed to helping engage my fellow white men. Fortunately, we had benchmarked with a few industry leaders in D&I, who both used a consulting company: White Men as Full Diversity Partners. I contacted the co-founder of the company, Bill Proudman.
Proudman heard my story and explained that he generally asked clients to attend a learning lab—either the White Men’s Caucus (where white men discuss D&I issues in a “safe” environment) or the White Men & Allies Learning Lab. Turns out the next Caucus was scheduled in January—during my anniversary. I wisely figured that it would not be a good choice to spend my wedding anniversary with a group of white men! So, my HR Director and I attended the White Men & Allies Learning Lab. It was a great experience, learning about White Male Culture—the predominant culture of U.S. business and impact on diversity & inclusion efforts.
Following the Learning Lab, I dug deeper, wanting to learn more about the concept of “White Privilege”—which was new to me. I read a variety of books by leaders in the field like Tim Wise (White Like Me; Between Barack & A Hard Place; Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority); Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. (Beyond Race & Gender; Building on the Promise of Diversity); Frances Kendall (Understanding White Privilege); and Paul Kivel (Uprooting Racism: How White People can work for Racial Justice).
In 2011, I joined the Center for the Healing of Racism in Houston, Texas and attended their 2-day “Dialogue: Racism”. Later that year, I attended the White Privilege Conference. Following the conference, I was a co-speaker for the Center for the Healing of Racism at University of Houston-Clear Lake on “Racism in a Post-Racial America.”
Meanwhile, our organization brought Dr. Steve Robbins in for an extensive education strategy with our Executives, Managers, and Supervisors. As his website notes, Dr. Robbins’ unique concept of “Unintentional Intolerance does NOT blame or point fingers but challenges individuals and organizations to be more open-minded, mindful and intentional about inclusion and valuing people for their unique gifts, abilities and experiences.” Our organization’s leadership—with the help of Dr. Robbins—illustrated the link from inclusion to innovation.
After acquiring new knowledge on my own, I sought to share it with my team and with my peers. I began to set up one-on-one discussions with my fellow Deputy Directors from across the organization. I wanted to talk about “Building Diversity & Inclusion Competency”. When my assistant scheduled the first meeting, she unintentionally entitled it, “Brady’s Diversity & Inclusion Incompetency”. I thought that was a fitting way to describe it, so I latched on to that title…and shared my “incompetency” (becoming aware of what I didn’t know) in a variety of forums, including HR Lab with our HR team and one-on-ones with Executive Leaders.
Later, I initiated specific sessions on “White Privilege”, again starting with HR Labs but also with our organization’s top leaders. Those experiences were later incorporated into a session about “White Privilege” at my church in September 2013. For that session, we discussed a H.E.A.R.T. for our Neighbors:
- Educate Ourselves (about White Privilege & other cultures)
- Ask Questions & Seek to Understand
- Reach Out to Neighbors (especially people of other races & cultures)
- Throne (Keep the end in mind…from Revelation 7:9-10 – After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”)
Where are you on your Diversity & Inclusion journey? I encourage you to Be a LEADer in D&I as you shoot for the stars! Click here to learn more.
Brady’s Professional Bio
Brady’s Life Story
Brady’s Family Life