MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington. Neal Conan is away. Earlier this month, the New York Times released to its employees the results of a 10-month study of diversity in its workplace. It described the Times as a newspaper at risk. Minorities and women are underrepresented, particularly among the management ranks, and newsstories of concern to minority groups are given short shrift.
What was striking was how little attention the report received, given that it was about one the nation's flagship newspapers. Perhaps because for too many workers in companies, it was old news. For decades, workplaces in America have struggled to catch up with the country's diversity of races, genders, and more recently, sexual orientation and religion.
Companies have been plunking down big bucks for workshops and other training, sometimes lasting a couple of hours, sometimes all day, where workers discuss differences and commonalities, play roles, and analyze their behavior. Many employers have also beefed up their recruiting efforts to attract a more representative cross-section of America.
But when all is said and done, many believe that little has changed. Minorities and women are not moving up the ladder quickly. They're proving difficult to retain, and many minorities will tell you that those efforts do not change the underlying culture of their work environments, and some managers will even admit to a malaise. It's called diversity fatigue.
Later in the program, a group of new studies show that African-American men are struggling far more than it would appear in the commonly sited employment and education statistics, and that comes despite the gains experienced by black women and other groups during the recent economic boom.
But first, diversity fatigue. We want to hear what your workplace is like. Have efforts to promote diversity in your workplace succeeded? Are you suffering from diversity fatigue? What works, and what doesn't? Join the conversation. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And joining us now is Sharon Rosenhause. She's the chair of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Diversity Committee, and managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She joins us by phone from her office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Welcome.
SHARON ROSENHAUSE: Well, thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: Thank you for coming to talk about this.
ROSENHAUSE: My pleasure.
MARTIN: Is the New York Times story unusual for a newspaper?
ROSENHAUSE: No. I think what's unusual is that the New York Times told us about it. I mean, I think it happens in many companies, but nobody makes it public, so I think that they were, I give them credit for going public. I do have to wonder as an editor, as somebody in the business, why the most powerful newspaper company in the world, with vast resources, hasn't been able to do better.
MARTIN: What do you, that's a good question. Why do you think?
ROSENHAUSE: I don't know. I don't know all of the internal facts about the New York Times, and I think it's very easy to throw rocks when you live in a glass house, and all of us do in this case. But they certainly have the power and the resources to make a difference, and I think I would expect that people within the New York Times, and in a larger journalism community, are asking why not?
I mean, I know other newspapers, my own included, that have done much better because we take it seriously and we work very, very hard, and we have a commitment from the top down that everyone believes it.
MARTIN: Well, as I sit here freezing in Washington, I'm thinking, you know what, Fort Lauderdale sounds pretty good. Maybe that has something to do with it, but...
ROSENHAUSE: Yeah, nice in the 80s today, sunny, yeah, very lovely day.
MARTIN: Hey, thanks for rubbing it in.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: But the ASNE, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, has been deliberating addressing the issue within newsrooms ever since 1978, but the goal was supposed to be reached, there was a goal that's been set for the industry. It's supposed to be reached in the 2000, but then it was pushed to 2025...
MARTIN: ...I mean, that speaks to your earlier point that just, the progress doesn't seem to be there, at least by the industry's own standards. You know, what is that about?
ROSENHAUSE: The goal that you're referring to is the, is that, the American Society of Newspaper Editors is committed to the fact that our newspapers should represent our communities. So, if you live in a diverse community, if you cover a diverse community, your newspaper, your newsroom should reflect that in hiring practices, in promotion practices, and it certainly should reflect it in content.
I mean, it's silly to think that people don't want to see themselves in the newspaper. They do. They're part of a community. The ASNE goal of reaching parity by 2000 was not going to be achieved. The goal was advanced to 2025, and I think that it's, the math is pretty easy to do. We're probably not gonna get there, either.
I think that in the last census, we do a census every year, a newsroom census. It's being conducted right now by our diversity director Bobby Bowman(ph), and will be released in April at the convention in Seattle. Last year's census showed that the percentage, the number of minority journalists working in American newsrooms was 13.42 percent.
MARTIN: And that contrasts to what percentage of the population?
ROSENHAUSE: Population probably about 30 percent.
MARTIN: Do, have you ever been able to...
ROSENHAUSE: That's why figures don't...
ROSENHAUSE: ...you just, you can't make sense out of them.
MARTIN: Yeah, well, have you ever been able to identify a particular stumbling block? Is it that the, is it kind of like that self-perpetuating cycle that people don't see themselves in these institutions, or they don't see the kinds of stories they want, so they're not interested in going into journalism?
ROSENHAUSE: I think that there are couple of things. I think that you can no longer say in America that there are not qualified minority staffers. I mean, nobody ever asks if there are qualified white staffers, but the number of minority journalists who have been trained in good programs at good journalism schools who want to be journalists, there are enough so that we could all hire people if we wanted to.
It's hard work, and I think that many newspapers have had, have gone through severe cuts in the last year or two. We've lost jobs, and a lot of newspapers aren't hiring. But I think that really what it comes down to in the end is commitment.
You know, if you are committed, if your a publisher, your editor, your managing editor, the senior editors of your newspaper, I'm talking about a top-down commitment, believe that diversity is the right thing to do, is good business, and helps your newspaper be more accurate and more credible in the community, then you will practice it.
ROSENHAUSE: You will do everything you can to have a diverse newsroom and diverse content.
MARTIN: Nobody likes being reduced to a number, but can you just give us a sense of what your newsroom looks like?
ROSENHAUSE: Our newsroom, when I came here five years ago, was about 15 percent diverse, and we're about 30 percent now. It's very hard work, and I don't take credit for it alone. Everybody here has got a commitment. We go through a hiring pool, and every hiring pool is diverse. That means we have a serious, credible candidate for every job who is diverse.
MARTIN: But stop. You keep saying it's hard work. Why is it so hard?
ROSENHAUSE: It's hard because we're competing against every good newspaper in the country who wants to hire people that we want to hire, and many of them are in bigger cities, and many of them can pay a lot more money. But I think that when diverse candidates come into our newsroom and see people who look like themselves, and see excellent work being done by people like themselves, they have a reason for wanting to be here.
MARTIN: So you don't have diversity fatigue?
ROSENHAUSE: We do have diversity, yes, we do.
MARTIN: No, I'm saying you don't have diversity fatigue...
ROSENHAUSE: Oh, I'm sorry. No, I...
MARTIN: ...in your newsroom. You don't think you do.
ROSENHAUSE: ...well, I don't think so, no. I don't have diversity fatigue, no. I'm as committed today as I was when I got here.
MARTIN: Why is it, though, that one, when one does an Nexus search or search of the newspaper articles that are written about this issue, the term diversity fatigue so often comes up in connection with media companies. People say they're just burned out on it, they can't make progress, and they just don't see what to do. They've hit some sort of a wall. Why do you think that is?
ROSENHAUSE: Well, I think it's easy to give up. It's like, I mean, I, you always want the reporter who's gonna make that extra telephone call.
ROSENHAUSE: Who'll go out and knock on somebody's door. Well, I want, I want the hiring manager or the department head who will keep looking for the right candidate. I want somebody who values language skills. You know, we cover a community, here, where you really have to, oh, just about everybody we hire on our staff ought to be bilingual, is a Spanish speaker, and increasingly, ought to be able to speak Creole. Otherwise, we can't cover our community.
MARTIN: Oh, I guess I won't be applying for a job down there. But thank you. Thank you for joining us, Sharon Rosenhause. She holds the Chair of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Diversity Committee, and she joined us by phone from her office in Fort Lauderdale.
And joining us now is Stephen Young. He is the founder and senior partner of Insight Education Systems, a management consulting firm specializing in diversity training. I'm sorry, diversity leadership and organization development services. He joins us from member station KUOW in Seattle, Washington. Welcome Mr. Young.
STEPHEN YOUNG: Thank you. Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: Do you have diversity fatigue?
YOUNG: Well, I actually think I suffer the diversity fatigue death some years ago. It's something that affects all of us, although I am an African- American. And certainly, it's believed that a lot of the diversity efforts that have been formed over the years have targeted with their benefits, at least, focused on people like me. Managing that process in corporations has caused me to feel that fatigue as well. It is a very serious malaise.
MARTIN: And it really exists in your view? People just, what, seem to hit a wall on their efforts? They just can't seem to make any progress, and they do what? Throw up their hands, walk away from it, get angry? What are their symptoms?
YOUNG: I don't it's that. I don't think it's the hitting the wall. I think that the diversity malaise that we're feeling is really, I would maybe describe it as just a waning of enthusiasm, focus, and importance. People don't see, you know, the classical, olf WIIFM, what's in it for me? And besides, look at all the progress, so-called, that's been made. Look around the, you know, the government and we see people like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and we see the Stan O'Neals on Wall Street and the Add Fudges of the world. So, hey, there's no more racism. So, everything's fine, let's just let it go.
MARTIN: But what was there ever in it for you if you were not part of the, if you were already part of the status quo? If you were already doing fine, what was ever in it for you? So, by that standard, why would there ever have been any effort made in this area except to avoid, perhaps, some sort of legal challenge?
YOUNG: The original driver really had to do with legal issues, certainly, and also an element of guilt and being made to feel obligated. You know, you walk down the street, and you have the privilege of raising your hand, and the taxi rolls up to the curb, knowing that there are people standing behind you that can't get the taxi unless they lay down in front of the intersection with their bodies prone. You feel some responsibility, an obligation to try and change the conditions of the world.
We all want to do that--probably the reason that at least some who focus on the issues in Iraq are doing what they're doing--that a lot of our drive has to do with trying to things that change and better the condition of the human existence, those sorts of things. But after a while, that runs its course, and unless I really do see something in it for me, especially when I think there's been significant progress, it's time for me to step aside and just let the natural process flow.
MARTIN: We're talking about diversity campaigns in the workplace, and whether or not people are losing their enthusiasm. What's happening where you work? Give us a call at 1-800-989-TALK. You can send us e-mail, the address is
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington. We're talking about a phenomenon called diversity fatigue. It's a term that's been bouncing around for a few years now, and describes a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of hope that diversity programs really work or are worth the effort.
Do you see signs of this in your workplace? Give us a call at 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is TALK@NPR.org.
Stephen Young is our guest. He is the founder and senior partner of Insight Education Systems, a management consulting firm specializing in diversity leadership and organizational development services.
Now, you were a diversity officer at a major corporation. How did you get diversity fatigue and what did you do about it?
YOUNG: You know, it hit me one day when someone compared it to--I have to laugh when I think back--they compared the diversity effort to recycling. Gee, it's a nice thing to do, it helps everybody, but nobody gets too excited about putting those cans in the blue bin. It's just one of those things we've got to do. And that's when it hit me that this is in a different camp than the way people view other elements of the business, which is terribly unfortunate.
And some of the things that contribute to it, this recent program that was on, "Black. White.," where a black family is made up to look white, and the white family is made up to look black, and they go into different communities and experience what it's like to be the other race. I think one of the original purposes was to have the white family see what it's like to experience racism, and what, unfortunately, came out of that was that the white father made it very clear that he didn't feel racism being black. No one called him the "n" word, he said. No one told him he couldn't come in the store. No one didn't service him. And what the producers of the show, I think, did, and were terribly irresponsible in doing, was that they made him a white man with black makeup. They didn't have him experience what it's like, because the real issue here is that people don't believe it exists, when, in fact, it does exist.
And he experienced the world as a white man walking around with, in effect, a suntan. And they believed he may have been black in race, but when he walked he behaved like a white man, he was light skinned, his hair was short, he was dressed in his polo shirt, but what they needed to do was to have that man be much darker, to have his hair in cornrows, maybe to have a satchel on his sack and a FUBU T-shirt on or a sweatshirt, and come in with three or four other black men. Then, and also not act, of course, as congenial as he might normally, see what the experience would be under those conditions, and I'm certain he would have felt something quite different.
MARTIN: You know, you're bringing in a whole lot of issues here, and one thing that comes to mind is that you're talking more about class and culture than about race. So, and I'm not sure I want to go down that complicated road, because also I've had to challenge the assumption that because you're, you know, light-skinned and because you wear a business suit that you don't experience racism. I mean, I just feel that I have to say that, given my own experience and given reporting that I think that it's been well attested to. You wear a business suit, don't you?
YOUNG: Yes, I do.
MARTIN: And you don't wear cornrows.
YOUNG: I don't, and, you know, I will tell you and maybe it's a path that we should reserve for later, but I will tell you that my colleagues who don't, who do wear cornrows, who do wear sweatshirts, experience racism to a larger degree than I.
MARTIN: Okay, but I think that that begs the question of they could, you know, change their shirt.
But let's bring in another guest. Let's bring in Julianne Malveaux. She joins us now in Studio 3A. She's an economist and president and CEO of Last Word Productions, a multimedia production company. Welcome.
JULIANNE MALVEAUX: Good to be here.
MARTIN: Julianne, do you think there is such a thing as diversity fatigue?
MALVEAUX: I hear about it, but I also think it's like saying you have sun fatigue, Michel. I mean, the sun goes up, the sun comes down. There's still going to be a sun. You're tired of that? Too bad. The fact is that our nation is changing. Demographic shifts are a reality. In some corporations, people are talking about fatigue, but you know in other places there is enormous passion for shifts.
Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, who is the President of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the third year in a week, is holding the chief diversity officer's conference--and I have participated in the conference last year, and will again this year--gets a critical mass of, you know, maybe three, 400 people who come to talk about how to make diversity work better, how it's working in their corporations. CEOs, Chief Executive Officers, from places like Food Lion, last year from McDonald's, come and they participate because they understand that this is, literally, the future of our nation.
When you look at some of the studies about the labor market, and they're mixed studies, but there's one that says we will experience labor shortages by 2030 if we don't deal with the two most rapidly growing segments of our population, which are Latinos and African-Americans. And so, at a time when we're talking about labor shortages, which really means our economic futures. I mean, you have people talking about diversity fatigue? I mean, that's sort of, that to me is sort of like self-serving at some level, or at least kind of trivial.
MARTIN: the cab doesn't stop. You know, Africa-American men who are light-skinned and work in corporate America often find themselves with their business suits on, going to their offices after hours and being challenged about their right to go upstairs.
MARTIN: 00 p.m., which professors do from time to time, beat up by campus police, you know, and arrested for resisting arrest when he simply said, what are you doing here? I'm a professor. Now, I don't know if the brother was wearing cornrows or not, because I didn't see his picture, this was something that people were talking about in the Bay Area. But, you know, I don't think it's about--you know, there's class and there's culture, but there's also this real resistance to diversity.
So, you've got the resistance, you've got embracing, and where's the fatigue? I guess the fatigue is that folks were tired, but how can you be tired of the fact that our nation is changing? And we need everybody to participate if we don't end up with what I call the end of eminence for the United States.
MARTIN: Well, you wanted to focus on the economic issues, and I think that that's a good place to focus, because we also want to talk about the workplace and diversity issues in the workplace, which is, after all, where most of us interact, because we obviously choose where we work, but we also, you know, neighborhoods, where we go to church, those are different. But the workplace is the one place as particularly--as you pointed out--in a changing economy where people are likely to encounter people of a different background.
But let's go to some callers. Let's go to Tom in Berkeley, California. Tom what's on your mind?
TOM: Thank you. I love the show overall, and thank you for having this discussion. I am a small business owner. A partner is a science-fiction bookstore. We were founded by, basically, a Jew, an Asian-American, and a WASP. And I'm wondering, how much diversity is enough? We've never had anyone who's black work for us, but we've had people of all sexual preferences, various and sundry different races and various and sundry different approaches to the world. When do we know when we're diverse enough?
MARTIN: Interesting question.
MALVEAUX: That is an interesting question. My answer, do you look like America? You say you've never had an African-American work there. The question I would encourage you to ask yourself is why? I mean, is it deliberate, is it accidental? You're a small bookstore, so maybe you have three people working there, and, you know, they look like, as you say, all kinds of whatever, whatever, whatever. But, you know, I don't think there's ever too much diversity, and the question of how much is enough is an amorphous kind of question. Why have you never had any black people there?
MARTIN: Tom, that's an interesting question. Stephen you wanted to get into this conversation, but Tom, would you be talking about this, were it not for our conversation today? Or is this something that has come up among your colleagues or customers, for example?
TOM: Yeah, we've talked about diversity on a whole lot of levels. In a very real way, it's a great part of what we deal with. I tailor what I recommend to people by how they represent themselves--whether they're black, whether they're white, whether they're looking, you know, what they're looking for. I react slightly differently to different people depending on who they are. We haven't had anyone who's black who has actually asked to work for us.
MARTIN: Do you have any women working there?
TOM: Absolutely. We have, you know, one of our founders is a woman. One of our founders has been a fat activist for many years, and we've got both straight and gay women who've worked for us. You know, it's very clear that we want people who know the field, and that's the primary consideration we use.
YOUNG: Could I ask Tom a question?
YOUNG: Tom, if you were to look at a business with, say, oh just arbitrarily, 100 people...
YOUNG: ...in the center of Harlem in New York, and in that business of 100 people, the business owner said that we are quite diverse, because 90 percent of our population of employees represent Asians, Jews, this, that, the other, but we have two black employees. I would say that that's not a diverse business. However, if that business were in Steamboat Springs in Colorado in the mountains, you look at availability, and you might say if you had one black employee, you would be relatively diverse.
So, a lot of this hinges on what the availability is in your local community. That's what I would say to answer your question. How do you determine whether you're diverse? I would say use as a yardstick your community. That availability tells you what the balance might be to identify that.
MARTIN: Well, Berkeley, California's a pretty diverse place.
TOM: Absolutely. The science fiction world is a less diverse place than Berkeley.
MARTIN: Have you ever had--Tom, I'm going to let you go, because I'm sure you have books to sell, but I wanted to ask, did you ever have an author event with an African-American author like Octavia Butler, who sadly passed away?
TOM: Absolutely. Octavia Butler, Steve Barnes, we'd love to have Tannarive Due, we...
MARTIN: And when they do come, and when they do come, what do you notice about the customers who come to see them? Do you notice your customer-base looking a little different?
TOM: The people who come into our store looking for Octavia Butler tend to be more black than white. They tend to be more female than male. Yeah, you know, there is a difference in the customer base.
MARTIN: Interesting. Well, thank you for calling.
MALVEAUX: A cash flow issue for Tom might well be, or he might want to think about how he increases his customer base by having diverse folk working there, as well as coming in there for readings. Because I would posit, Octavia Butler got her start because a non-African-American writer basically took an interest in her career. Imagine bringing some young African-American men and women in there, getting them started in science fiction, and seeing how your customer base expanded.
MARTIN: Interesting. Well, Tom, thank you for calling us.
TOM: Glad to. Thank you.
MARTIN: Stephen Young, what is it that you think people are sick of? Is it the topic of diversity or the means of achieving it or talking about it?
YOUNG: I think it's a general feeling by the majority that we're there now. That's what I think it is. I think it has to do with what you--if you don't see it as a problem, then it doesn't exist for you. When in fact, the problem is real and is active. And the only way we believe that we're going to change this malaise, I mean, I want to look at sort of the, you know, the repair side for just a moment, is to get the people who really drive change in an organization to get involved. They can't have that malaise.
You'll find that certainly many women, of course, and people of color and people with disabilities and others who tend to be directly affected by some of the diversity efforts don't have that malaise to the same degree. They may be frustrated, but they still are passionate about wanting to see that change. But the people who tend to run the majority of our businesses, at least today, are white men. Until you can get them bought into this, it's going to be a difficult, difficult battle.
MARTIN: I need to take a short break just to say, you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
Stephen Young, you've come up with an alternative approach that you think opens the conversation up, that kind of breaks us out of the same sort of cycle of kind of blame, you know, I'll blame you, you can take responsibility, you can be the victim, that sort of thing, and it opens up the conversation. It's called micro-inequities. Would you talk about that briefly?
YOUNG: Sure. The actual term itself was actually coined by Mary Rowe at M.I.T. And this work really centers around the fact that the majority of what we're experiencing in the world of racism today is not the blatant, it is the subtle. And because it's so subtle, people tend not to see it.
Once we make them see it, then they accept it, and then we do get the buy in that I was alluding to earlier, that now when white men feel that the subtle messages they send are tremendously powerful in terms of keeping other people from getting in the inner circle, then they understand what it is they're doing and they begin to do it differently.
MARTIN: Still a workshopped, though. I mean, give me some of the things that you--what do you do? I mean, how do you get people to break out of the box?
YOUNG: Oh, in our workshop, we have a lot of fun with this, actually, and people walk in with that, not only malaise, they walk in with their arms crossed, and sitting back in their chairs saying, oh god, I've got to sit here for another three hours and deal with more of this diversity crap, is their attitude. They walk out as enthusiastic as you can ever imagine, because they feel it happening to them.
I'll put them in a situation, for example, where your basic ten men, ten white men walk into a meeting, and I ask them, can you tell if those men are in there ten minutes before the meeting begins with a little chat that goes on before the meeting actually formally starts, who's on the inside and who's on the outside. And every one of them says of course I can. Who's really close with someone? Who really trusts someone else?
If you sit and observe that interplay, can you identify what those relationships are all about? And in most cases, you certainly can. Those subtle interactions tell you a great deal about who's in and who's out. And I can walk in, and someone can shake my hand as the black man in the room and say all the right things. Welcome Steve, great to see you here.
But there's something that's very different that reveals the nature of a real relationship of trust, confidence, connection, support when I communicate with someone slightly differently that reveals the real connection in that relationship.
MARTIN: And pointing up those little nuances of interpersonal relationships in your view really opens up the discussion?
YOUNG: Oh, tremendously. I'll give you an example that was actually humorous. I was doing...
MARTIN: Actually. Okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry Steve. I want to bring in a caller now, because people are clamoring to get in this conversation. I want to go to Ishmael in Cameron Park, California. Ishmael?
ISHMAEL: Yeah, hi. I had a, well, a couple of comments I guess, but more specifically, a question. I'm wondering if it's much more important to have a diversity of ideas within the workplace, as opposed to diversity of, you know, skin color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, so on and so forth. I'll go ahead and take my response off the air.
MARTIN: Okay, thank you. Thank you, Ishmael. What do you say, Julianne Malveaux?
MALVEAUX: I think it's important to have both. I mean, this diversity of ideas thing I think often comes from the right, when they sort of say we don't just want to look at skin color, we want to look at other things. But, in fact, I think we have to look at both things.
Again, the point that I would constantly make in this conversation is that the demographics are changing. Diversity in the work place is really a bridge to the marketplace, and it's a different marketplace then it used to be 20 years ago. When you talk about the Latino population, for example, and what people buy. The African-American population and the whole line of urban products, it's important to have folks represented in that way. But it is also important to have ideas, different ideas represented.
So, I'd like to see us combine both. I would not like to see us--what you see is a lot of ducking of race and gender, because those things are fundamental. When the gentleman from Berkeley called, and he talked about the fat activists, for example, I had a bunch of thoughts that--I know you're wrapping so, maybe we can get back to those, but I had a bunch of those about fat activism versus civil rights activism.
MARTIN: I'm talking with Julianne Malveaux, economist and President and CEO of Last Word Productions. Also, Stephen Young, President of Insight Education Systems. When we come back from a short break, more on diversity fatigue. Plus, studies show that young black men are faring worse and worse. I'm Michel Martin, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington. And I'm speaking with Julianne Malveaux, economist and President and CEO of Last Word Productions. Also, Stephen Young, President of Insight Education Systems about diversity fatigue.
When-Julianne, how do you rejuvenate a topic that's been around for decades? I mean, Stephen Young's talked about trying to sort of change the conversation to those, what he calls the micro-inequities. These nuanced interactions that let some of us know we're welcome, and some of us know that we're not. And try to educate people about that.
And that, in his view, creates a sense of a buy in. If you can say, well, if I feel this way, then maybe somebody else feels this way, it enlarges the empathy, and in this sense, you know, the ripples of goodwill will go further and further. Do you buy that?
MALVEAUX: See, I guess I'm more of a cynic than that, quite frankly. I mean, I would love to sit in on one of his workshops. It sounds very fascinating. I just think these micro-inequities--Mary Rowe was a friend back in the day when I was a student at M.I.T. and I loved her work, so I understand what's being said there. But I think that there are people, you know, we've missed a group of people when we talk about just the malaise and the--there are people actually hostile to diversity right now.
You have organizations like the Center for Individual Rights, the Center for Equal Opportunity that are actually going in, and for example, forcing universities to give scholarships that were set aside for people of color to white students. This is what their thing is now.
MARTIN: Well, they say that they're not hostile to diversity. They say they're hostile to coercion or undue coercion that unfairly disadvantages other people.
MALVEAUX: Well, but they're doing coercion Michel.
MARTIN: That's what they would say.
MALVEAUX: Yeah. Well, they're doing coercion when they go to a small campus and say, if you don't do what we say, we're going to bring a seven-figure law suit down on your head. And you're talking about an itty-bitty campus that can't afford to do that. And so you see people rolling.
No one has gone after the scholarships for the Daughters of the American Revolution, for the Polish scholarships, anything else. Only the ones for the people of color, for the Legacy Scholarships. So, there is an element of people who I think, Steve Young said it earlier, they think we're already there, I'm tired of doing this. But it's also, it's not just tired, it's hostility.
MARTIN: It's curious, though, that CEO's are making the business case now for diversity.
MARTIN: They're saying that you've got--we talked about with the newspaper publisher earlier, the newspaper editor earlier, that you have an increasingly diverse population of customers, a customer base, and they would like to interact with people who understand their needs, their culture, which isn't to say that people can't understand the needs of persons who are different from them, but that this is something that is good business. So, the question that I would have, Steve Young, is why is that not a persuasive argument?
YOUNG: Well, to some degree, it is. I think the real argument is, for most people--in fact, let me just go back for just a brief moment on something that Julianne said, and that's that people really are cynical in some ways. There is that hostility. I agree with you. There is no doubt.
What I'm looking at from at least my lens is what happens in corporations? And in your average Fortune 500 Corporation, we don't have organizations who are aggressively opposing this. We just have people who just don't give a damn, quite frankly. Those are the people that I want to target, because they represent the majority of the winds for change.
MARTIN: Let's bring in another caller. Let's talk to David in Lakewood, Ohio. David what's on your mind?
DAVID: Hi. Well, I think there's another cause for diversity fatigue, and that is that there are a certain number of us who have been in the choir for years and years and years, and we're always the ones that are getting preached to, and you see the problem out there, but the people who need to get the message aren't even tuned in. They're not even in the back pew, you know.
MALVEAUX: That's a great point. You know, I did diversity training about four years ago for a Fortune 50 company, and our task was to--I worked with an Anglo colleague to put together a curriculum, and then the task was to get people in to do this training, which I happened to think was quite exciting. But in any case, what was interesting was who didn't come. You know, we needed volunteers to test it before, and who volunteered?
Women. People of color. Very few white men volunteered. So, they had to actually be made to come in, and they came in, as Stephen Young said, with their arms folded, and it's like why am I here, this is a day of my life, I don't want to be here. So, the folks who get it get it, and they're excited about it, and there are other folks who just don't get it. And so, then the folks who get it get tired of being the only ones. It's like going to church and the minister says father, and you're like look I'm here, I'm tithing. Go talk to the heathens, you know.
MARTIN: Hold on. David, may I ask you, did you volunteer for this training that you were involved in, and what made you go?
DAVID: Well, I've always been willing to try to learn about other cultures. I made a big deal when I was in high school, and this is, you know, back in the dark ages, to send me as the high school's representative to the National Conference of Christians and Jews, because I didn't know any Jews. I actually had black people going to my high school, and they all thought I was kind of weird for wanting to do that. So, since the 1960s and early '70s, I've tried to participate in all sorts of cross-cultural activities so that I learn about other people.
But what I found was that, you know, it kind of puts me on the outside of straight white male culture, to a large extent. And so I'm here in this club and I'm a cheerleader, but it's the same group. You know, let's you and me get together every day this week and talk about diversity. Well, gee, you know, maybe I'd like to talk about sports. I don't know. Something else.
MARTIN: I hear you. Thank you, David. Stephen Young, what about that, very briefly? We only have a couple of seconds left. But how would you, what about people like David? How would you encourage his colleagues, people who aren't as motivated as he is to renew their interest or rejuvenate his interest in this topic, for that matter?
YOUNG: I would say they have to just read Mary Roe's work, go on our website. Just getting more information about this micro messages and micro inequities, they'll understand what's going on every day, they don't need to sit down and talk about anything other than themselves and figure out what it is they're doing.
I mean, classically, one quick example. I was being introduced just last week. And they're introducing me, reading my bio, and they said, Stephen Young is a very articulate, and I hear the laughter. You know exactly what's going on.
MARTIN: Explain that now, because some people wouldn't find it a problem to be considered articulate. So explain why everybody in here is laughing.
YOUNG: Everyone here is laughing, exactly.
MALVEAUX: All the black folks are laughing, anyway.
YOUNG: All the black folks are laughing, exactly, because the word articulate is something that's never used when you describe a white person. When I've been in corporations and someone brings me a candidate and says, Steve, I've got this got great guy. You're going to love him. He's bright. He's this, he's that. He's so on. And they never say, and he's articulate. Just like they never say he dresses appropriately, because it's assumed that if he's a white guy he dresses appropriately. It's assumed that anybody who's going to be interviewed dresses appropriately.
But it's not assumed that the black person is going to speak well. So I have to innately say, and he speaks well, isn't that a surprise? That's what that really comes off as. When someone introduces me that way with this very nice bio that they feel that they're reading and they use that word, it then immediately says, And guess what? He doesn't talk like the black folks.
MALVEAUX: I'm laughing because you know what? I have actually been paid big money to go somewhere and speak. And then the person, okay, if I could not talk, why would you pay me to speak? But then I am introduced as articulate.
It just never fails to crack me up.
MARTIN: Well, you are very articulate, Julianne Malveaux, economist and president and CEO of Last Word Productions, that has to be the last word, a multimedia production company. And Stephen Young, founder and senior partner of Insight Education Systems, a management consulting firm specializing in diversity leadership and organizational development services.
Thank you both for coming in.
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
YOUNG: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.