Batter Up

The private and public sectors of this society, on a broad scale, when it comes to “diversity and inclusion” are caught in what I call a “lunacy loop.”

One needs so-called formal institutional experience to be in consideration for better and higher-level organizational positions. Having such “experience” allows you to be “vetted” because you have worked your way up the ranks. But to have a chance to do that, you must have been hired in the first place. Yet you can’t get hired because no one knows you or the nature of your experience because people like you were not historically “there” in the organization.

If you follow the “loop”, you can see it leads to perpetual structural bias and discrimination against historically marginalized groups, whether women or Africans or Latinos or non-Christians or whatever. If you’re “there,” you are vetted and moved up and you gain the capacity to vet for others (inevitably mostly like yourself). Problem is, historically underrepresented communities are not “there”’ and they have never been “there”, so since they have not been “there”, they cannot be “vetted” which means they cannot BE “there” and so they end up never being able to move “up” either since they can’t move “in”. This is why there is so much more “window dressing” and tokenization during the Floyd era, rather than real change.

Think of Jackie Robinson. I’m an old baseball player and a big fan of the sport. We can talk about all the things that Jackie means today to society and the game, but the fact is it took the Dodgers to take a chance. They knew he could play, but he didn’t have major league experience because he could not at the time have been in the major leagues. Whatever calculation they might have made about his playing potential was based on his play in leagues among his own people and they had to trust that he was the kind of player that could both represent what they wanted to accomplish and who could endure what he would endure by being “first.” They made the decision.

Time and time again, I find in limited areas like sports, the military,  and music, the system is willing to take that chance and give a shot to that person it heard at the country fair or saw on the high school field who has no name, no agent, no big family ties, and hasn’t been in the newspaper. Sometimes they get boom, sometimes they get bust but they are willing to experiment and be innovative THERE. I have seen universities go out to find “Johnny” for the football field, then swear to God that there is no way they could apply that same logic to “Johnny” the future lawyer. It’s disingenuous because the methodology is the same. What’s lacking is the real commitment.

We need revolutionaries. We value them among marginalized populations, but those are no good unless we have the CEO, the hiring director, the systemic person who is going to take a risk and give a chance to someone. Sadly this society doesn’t have many such people. Marginalized people are penalized for past discrimination that prevented people like them from being in the system.

The system has placed marginalized people in a vise where it cannot accept mediocrity (lack of experience), obviously your treasurer must be able to add no matter who they are. At the same time, it cannot countenance their excelllence either, unvetted and not having occurred on the playing field the exclusionary people traversed in their socially non-competitive prior worlds.

Until this society figure this out, it is going to face a grave danger in a kind of nepotistic creative obsolescence among elites, public and private. A kind of structural “incest” where the constantly rotating of chairs by a small, unrepresentative, and at times archaic, elite eventually goes blank in productivity when the music stops. Closing on my baseball analogy, after years of running around in circles, major league baseball finally decided to accept the records of the old “Negro leagues.” They finally decided that they would officially institutionally “vet” all of those players and let them in to history, knowing full well that in a fair world they would have been in already and ahead of so many others who “won” the race, not by fair inclusive competition, but by systemic exclusion.

I am waiting for such revolutionaries in this society..right now I’m just stuck with baseball and demographically this society has sat without swinging and watched two called strikes go by in the ninth (in a game it was already losing).

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