Toronto Relationship Clinic

A Therapist's Journal

reflections and meditations

from along the way…

Diversity Training is White Supremacy

Conversations that Matter.JPG

My recent Instagram posts about white supremacy, anti-racism, and decolonization were prompted by a “diversity training” I attended a couple months ago. My thoughts about it all aren’t new or recent. I felt similarly disheartened a couple years ago in my MAMFT program’s course on culture and diversity, but I was only starting to develop the language then to talk about it. The language around it, for me, is a work in progress. I have a lot to learn, but not talking about it isn’t an option. I know that putting my thoughts out there in this way is a risk—both personally and professionally—but maybe it’s also an opportunity where we can learn together?

Here’s the thing: I left said “diversity training” feeling angry. So. Fucking. Angry. I’m starting to see plainly why these “conversations” never achieve anything remarkable. I put “conversations” in quotes because, ultimately, I don’t think we’re having conversations. We’re talking vaguely in circles, skirting the issue without ever hitting the mark. We’re afraid to ask the hard questions that should naturally follow. We cower away from stating the obvious. Instead it becomes a game of how many “safe” and inane things can we say before we pat ourselves on the back because we participated.

Maybe let’s start by looking at the phrase “diversity training”. What does it even mean? How did those two words get put into a phrase that does more to maintain status quo than actually moving the conversation forward? How does one “train” in “diversity”?

How about we call it “training colonizers on how to sit with discomfort and own their legacy” or “training white people on how to not make everything about themselves” or “how to challenge non-black people on their anti-black racism” or “how to be less ignorant about the history of the world and what it means for us today”?

Let’s get one thing straight, you cannot dismantle white supremacy by “learning about other cultures”. You dismantle white supremacy by deconstructing whiteness. Diversity training upholds white supremacy because it continues to center whiteness while subjecting every other culture to the white gaze.

Diversity training should not be about other cultures. Diversity training needs to be about whiteness, what it means to be a white person in the world today, what it has meant historically, how whiteness has impacted and continues to impact the lives of people of colour, what being white/fair-skinned means in the context of power and privilege. And within those conversations, people who are white and white-passing need to step up and own their privilege and sit with the discomfort of facing the sobering reality of their history and legacy. Recalling the atrocities of whiteness and confronting the devastation it brought upon the world is literally the work that white people need to do. That and holding each other accountable in present day. This is also the work that people of colour who have internalized colonization’s hegemonic narrative need to do. Yes, people of colour do also uphold white supremacy when we (and I include myself here) refuse to acknowledge that whiteness is the status quo. We must do better. Otherwise, what is even the point of “cultural humility”? Cultural humility must be borne of honest self-reflection and not a buzzword for virtue signalling.

Cultural humility must be borne of honest self-reflection and not a buzzword for virtue signalling.
— Benita Joy

TAKE ACTION: Next time you’re attending a course, seminar, or workshop on diversity, inclusion, privilege, cultural humility, or whatever-they’re-calling-it-these-days, please do not shrink into the background. Your voice and your experience matters. So, if you feel safe enough (and sometimes even if you don’t), I encourage you to take up space and make your case and let your voice be heard. Yes, I’m asking you to take a risk and be vulnerable.

Here’s to starting and participating in conversations that truly matter. Here’s to making every opportunity count. Let’s do better.

Grace and peace,