With the actions, words, and activism of some educators of color, diversity and the call for inclusion are beginning to create noticable waves in the ocean of edtech. There are a lot of divers and fishing boat captains in this ocean who are majority white. In the edtech ocean waters, especially close to the surface, you find quite a significant number of the same types of fish swimming in schools together. When you dive deeper you will uncover one of the true jewels of the ocean: a colorful and unique coral reef full of a variety of fish. The funny thing is that most leadership in edtech (divers and ship captains) don’t want to make the effort to dive a little bit deeper in the edtech ocean to find these coral reefs. They choose instead to make easier and more comfortable decisions to remain in the areas of the ocean that are full of schools of similar fish. Instead of using the resources and opportunities they have at their disposal, many intentionally choose to stay in the shallow parts with the monochromatic fish.
In terms of diversity and inclusion, I really would love more white leaders in educational technology to take a pause. We as educators of color have been put on hold for quite some time, so I feel a moment of pause would actually be very beneficial. During that moment of pause just think, are we doing the same things we’ve always done in regards to diversity and inclusion? Are we just giving lip service in regards to diversity and inclusion? Have we done any work or are we actively reaching out to diverse voices and perspectives? When we receive push back about our choices in regards to diversity, do we feel a little like we’ve been caught? That moment of pause can truly be so clarifying and moving. Reflect on the work you, your board members, selection committees and colleagues have really done. Can you say without a shadow of a doubt that privilege and the skewed lens privilege creates has not tainted your actions?
Unfortunately instead of this needed pause, commonly and recently, I’ve instead seen defensiveness, hurt feelings, and bold denial. News flash: It is okay to call a spade a spade. Today’s awesome article in the Washington Post eloquently alluded to the fact that directly calling out behaviors or words that are not inclusive or even racist is not reason one should feel slighted or insulted. If your outward actions indicate your complete lack or minimal action steps for inclusion and diversity, why be so upset or offended when it is called out? Yes, you’ve gotten your hand caught in the cookie jar again, grabbing for the same sugar cookies. Instead of blantantly deflecting what you have done, having your feelings hurt, or trying to make excuses, I encourage you to do the following:
- Listen to the push-back and feedback you are receiving; not with the intent to reply, but grow and reflect.
- Accept the responsibilty for your delibrate choice to reach in that same sugar cookie jar again and possibly even apologize.
- Truly commit to take legitimate action steps to not necessarily stop completely reaching in the same sugar cookie jar, but to regularly and consistently diversify the cookie jars you reach for.
The big issue for me with the cookie jar metaphor is this, not that you are reaching for a cookie, quality cookies are awesome. The problem is this, you are purposefully and very delibrately reaching in the same jar for the same types of cookies EVERY SINGLE TIME. Privilege creates and enables this behavior not only in edtech, but in many siutations. Realize that privilege of any kind creates an ugly lens and perspective from which to look through. I’ve noticed when even one person taps or pushes back on that privilege lens, this oftentimes will cause the fragile lens to break, leading to knee jerk negative reactions, deflection, and upset feelings.
Remember diversity is not a bad or dirty word. Many people when they hear the words inclusion or diversity, they feel they will lose something instead of seeing diversity as an opportunity to gain so much more. So instead of being offended when you are called out regarding your lack of diversity and inclusion in edtech spaces, realize what you are contributing to the problem. There are multiple stages in the recovery process and many educational technology leaders are still stuck in the pre-contemplation and contemplation phases. Please humbly reach out for help in this process, recognize this is a problem you can and should fix, and move to action phase of recovery. Seriously, this is 2016 and there is absolutely no excuse not to intentionally make an effort to look for more coral reefs in the edtech ocean.