Op/Ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn –
As I write this article this week I am feeling like a radical person. The reason for that is because of the subject and what I want to share.
In our culture of inclusion and diversity there has been a tremendous push (even to the point of forcing) for everyone to be the same. However the very nature of diversity is to not conform to what everyone believes is the right way to do things. In the name of diversity and inclusion we have started to push out those would dare step up and be different.
This is most obvious seen in the current political climate regarding supporters of President Donald Trump and those that do not support him. Those that do not support him do their best to shut down, belittle, dishonor, humiliate, ostracize, etc., those that support the President. However, the very nature of diversity and inclusion tolerates (doesn’t have to agree or even support) someone with a different viewpoint. As an African-American, I recommend that we be non-conformists.
In the corporate world there is pressure on African-Americans to conform to the actions and look of corporate America. However, if that means that we lose our individuality we need to push back against it. I always tell folks that you can be professional in your expression and that is Ok.
African-Americans are more expressive, typically, than their Caucasian counterparts. Because of this there is a tendency to throttle the expression of African-Americans in the workplace. Some would think that when we are expressing ourselves we are upset about something when it is just that we are passionate about our opinion and are expressing it just like others. We mustn’t bow to the pressure to become someone that we are not. I have seen this multiple times in the workplace and it harms the individual and the corporation.
There are uniquenesses that African-Americans have that will help organizations present themselves in a manner that can differentiate them from other organizations. However, if African-Americans become conformists, the uniqueness that we bring will be lost and that is not good for anyone!
God has made each one of us with unique talents and abilities and when we bring those talents to the table, in their full measure an organization will be able to prosper in ways that it may not have even been able to even imagine. It is Ok to be an African-American professional; one who expresses who they are in the workplace in a manner that is consistent with professionalism, modesty and respect for fellow colleagues.
Even in our communication and deportment as we are looking for other roles within an organization. If our Caucasian colleagues are use to negotiating salary for new positions that they desire, African-Americans do not need to be afraid to do the same! We should not just “accept” what is being offered. Knowing who we are and what we bring to the table is important and if you believe that the salary is not adequate, let the negotiations begin! It is time to be a non-conformist. I am not saying to be belligerent and not “workwithable” but I am saying that we should express ourselves, desires, ideas, thoughts, etc., in a manner consistent with who we are without fear of retaliation.
I have seen that African-American children even learn differently and if we try to force the square peg in the round hole we get broken, frustrated and incomplete results. This is an example of what we see in the Rochester City School District. Instead of spending millions of dollars with programs that deal only with the symptoms, we need programs that deal with the cause; and maybe that cause is that African-American young people learn differently. It does not mean that they are slow; it does not mean that they are dumb; it does not mean that they are hard to work with; it just means they are different! Understanding the differences and building programs addressing those differences would be money well spent and truly get at the desire of diversity and inclusion!
Let’s be a non-conformist and change our city, state, country and world. There are enough people that are the same, we are called to be different and therefore have a real impact!
Rev. Michael Vaughn currently serves as senior pastor at New Wineskin Church in Rochester. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)