Life After DEI

by Dr. Kerriann M. Peart

Hello friends,

Today, I have a special treat - an article from Dr. Kerriann Peart considering what’s been happening in the DEI space, why she left it, and what’s next…

Life After DEI

I am sure many of you have seen or maybe even just heard the various pockets of uproar when it comes to the blatant affronts DEI initiatives and so-called “diversity hires” have endured over the past few months in the United States. From the resignation of the President of Harvard University, Dr. Claudine Gay, the untimely death of the VP of Student Affairs of Lincoln University, Dr. Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey and the layoffs of numerous Chief Diversity Officers; primarily women of colour across the various sectors of corporate, the violations of integrity against African Americans and people of colour persist.

For many, DEI was a pipedream. The thought that a collective steeped in systemic and systematic prejudice, marginalization, and minimization would somehow in unison, be supported by those that established such systems; and be willing to work toward greater equity and collaborative empowerment …was truly a pipedream within the American context. There is a deeper history with multiple layers, that is not just an American issue that needs to be reconciled, but a more global process of reconciliation that must be considered, when it comes to the longstanding stripping of identity of many groups of people. DEI was positioned very much as a “black and white” issue, at least within the American context, when truly, many of us who have essentially lived DEI our whole lives in varying contexts, knew it to be not just an opportunity but a reframed practice for elevating and honouring humanity.

Neglecting Our Truths

This may sound like a lot of idealist fluff, however, for me as a Caribbean immigrant that lived in the U.S. for over 20 years, I knew the depth and breadth of DEI would not be sustainable, if we were not able to work at the core of the issue and that is at the level of human behaviour. Our behaviours are the greatest indicators of our being human and it is our behaviours that often lead to our demise. Neglecting some very basic truths about human behaviour, such as judgmental practices, our ability to automatically look for “like” versus being curious and embracing difference, and our seeming need for conformity as it allows us to disband our being accountable for the needs of others; all speak to the many ways in which we operate on a daily basis. And these are just some of the very basic norms we have as human beings. We have not added on the layers of social conditioning that have informed degrees of longstanding prejudice and willful ignorance that, many would say, define the status quo.

There is so much to “fight for and fight against” that before real considerations of compassionate curiosity and patient learning could take place, such visions faded against the backdrop of political tyranny, an overburdened and failing health system, high rates of employee turnover and, let us not forget, school shootings. How could DEI, seen by some as a “kumbaya” and “feel good” exercise, while simultaneously calling certain groups to account with any real strategy and consideration for those group behaviours, really have the space to breathe and demonstrate its utility for all people?

Not Just Black And White

At its core, DEI is a practice founded upon the principles of authentic identity, intersectionality, compassion, emotional intelligence, introspection and equity. It was never just a “black and white” issue and it will never be. In my observations as an Organizations and Systems Psychologist, operating across cultural contexts, the benefits of DEI are lost on many, as it has been simultaneously conflated with and reduced to the unrecognized plight of people of colour and the denial of the use of privilege by white people. This divisive perception has truly cost us many an opportunity to recognize the exploration of intersectionality as an essential pathway to understanding how to elevate, and respect overall identity.

With the below, I find it helpful for individuals to pause and be provided with a guiding frame to help understand that we are all more alike than we could ever imagine, yet still unique.

Credit: Peart Consulting, LLC

Why I Left DEI

I recently announced my farewell to DEI, having spent the last 8 years of my career being burnt out multiple times, micromanaged, gas lit in the most obvious and insulting ways and feeling the worst in my 20 plus year career of behavioural health efforts. What DEI professionals endure on a daily basis is akin to martyrdom. Hearing how tired they are and how defeated so many of them feel, is not something I wish to claim for myself, especially when there it still so much to do and other avenues to explore. Moving back to my behavioural health core and looking more critically at the “failures” of DEI and the neglect to employ a more strategic approach within companies, particularly through the lens of risk management, is now more than ever, absolutely necessary.

Several companies have already dismissed their DEI programs and have no desire to rekindle anything remotely related to DEI or inclusion or equity practice; especially in the manner employed before that isolated key groups such as allies and those willing to advocate but needing greater insight and tools to do so. Where was the strategy to support such individuals? Where was the strategy that worked with C-Suite individuals to support them in the recognition of their own blind spots, traumas, and curiosities?

C-Suite Cultures

Now, let me say here as I speak about C-Suite. There are different cultures that can appear in the C-Suite. One is the culture of openness and sincere curiosity for the ways things can be learned in service of the greater good but sticking to the mission and vision. There can also be the culture of “do what has always been done” no matter the cost; mission and vision always first. And sometimes there is the “people before mission and vision” type of sensibility. Depending on the type of C-Suite culture, there is an inherent level of associated risk to the behaviour of people and the organization.  

What’s Next?

Life after DEI, in my opinion, needs to happen. Sure, some initiatives have worked well and have managed to develop a level of sustainability. However, many more have not. And many professionals continue to struggle in their workplace and their careers because of it.

So, as we take a collective sigh, with regards to the aftermath of DEI, we can also embrace the learning of the past few years and pursue other approaches and in a manner that is conducive to all. The ignoring of differences and the associated needs based on such will not be the answer. We know too much not to respect each other’s nuances and desire greater understanding and well-being for each other.

In closing, I leave you with a beautiful Chinese proverb a client of mine shared called “The Change”,

“Shall the Goal cannot be Changed
Then Change the Path

Shall the Path cannot be Changed
Then Change the Method

Shall the Method cannot be Changed
Then Change the Environment

Shall the Environment cannot be Changed
Then Change the Point of View

Shall the Point of View cannot be Changed
Then Change the Way of Thinking”

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 About the author

Dr. Kerriann M. Peart is an International Psychologist with a concentration on organizations and systems and specializing in behaviour risk management. Her background in behavioural sciences spans research and development work in Global Public Health, Human Capital and Systems Thinking for Living. She currently provides coaching-consulting services through her firm, Peart Consulting, LLC.

Thanks for reading,


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I am an anti-racism educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2024. All Rights Reserved. This newsletter is published on beehiiv (affiliate link).

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