Some of the challenges I have been laying out to our clients and colleagues around Black History Month is to look internally and assess your progress from 2020 till now.

I’ve asked questions like:

  • Are you proud of what you have done?  Have you been thoughtful about what you have not done?
  • What have you learned?
  • Are you smarter about race issues?
  • What have you changed?
  • Are you better prepared to lead in this environment?
  • And what is the evidence of any of the above?

Before I dig deeper, a quick note on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I don’t know him. He and I never had the pleasure of meeting but my guess is that he rarely, if ever took his birthday off.  And I’d be willing to wager that with every celebration or moment of recognition (i.e. Black History Month) he redoubled his efforts towards meaningful change for the battle he was fighting that day and the day after.  I have always found it strange that the birthdays of folks who worked so hard to accomplish something is recognized with a day off as opposed to a day focused on work and thoughtful conversations.

Moving on…

In this ‘Diversity 2.0’ environment. I truly believe we are better off when we can keep ourselves “The RIGHT Kind of Uncomfortable”.  Black History Month offers us an opportunity to do this  – to be uncomfortable.  Leaders of organizations should to take this moment to look in the mirror and ask themselves the hardest of questions. For example, ‘Am I proud of what I have done and the organization we have become?’.

To be clear, I am asking myself these same questions. Yes, I have been working, studying and researching in the field of diversity in one way or another since 1995, but am I doing what I should be doing? Should I be doing more?

On the heels of verdicts connected to Ahmed Aubrey, George Floyd…

In the wake of hundreds of folks being hired as diversity directors and senior leaders…

It seems oddly quiet….out there.

Perhaps it’s just me, but leading up to Black History Month I did not see the energy around programs or activities that I have in the past. I did not read the passionate writings of various leaders discussing their redoubled commitment to elevating Black talent in various ways.

‘Diversity Fatigue’ is a real thing.

Whether you are a Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, White, of mixed heritage or prefer not to be labeled, you have likely been impacted by race related conversations, especially since 2020. For some, it has been a new set of conversations that started heavy and have only become more intense. For others, the subject was always heavy and somehow it became even heavier.

The work of learning by talking and sharing stories has been hard for some, heart breaking for others and for still others simply impossible.

The listeners have not had it easy either. Whether it was listening to the true stories of their colleagues unpacking daily and cringeworthy treatment. Or whether it was hearing the genuine stories of friends that were doing their best to understand the experience of others but simply could not get there, yet.

Again, ‘Diversity Fatigue’ is a real thing.

And the reasons for that fatigue are different. Some are tired of talking, others tired of listening.

And let me be plain, that fatigue crosses racial lines and we ought not assume that the reasons any one person is fatigued is the same as another person of the same group.

For example, some Black folks are fatigued from telling their stories. Others are fatigued from hearing those same stories. This plays out across many groups. On the other hand some of our White friends are tired because they have been working hard to learn and grow.

For those that have made it this far…

For those who are leaders or want to be…

For those who are wondering what to do for this Black History Month…

I wanted to provide a small yet powerful challenge.

Whether with your leadership team, your department, your entire organization or your family; consider the following:

Tell the story of how 2020 impacted you, your work, your leadership and your lens on the Black experience. Push yourself to be more open and more vulnerable than the audience expects of you; exceed their expectations. Let them know that you know they have their own stories about this time frame. Ask them to reflect on those stories and how those stories have impacted their own lives, leadership and decision making.

Acknowledge the gaps in your own learning that have been exposed and make the connection between those gaps and the decisions you have made over time.

Lastly, share any commitments to filling those gaps and highlight a bit of the work you have done so far.

Many of our colleagues, friends and family members are trying to make sense out of recent race related experiences. It is likely that many are struggling alone with this and you can help them.

Your exposure, your vulnerability, your example, your leadership will help them to see they are not alone; because you are struggling with them.

It can help them understand that there are options for learning and growing; because you will share some of your own.

And perhaps just as important as all of the above, you can help them to see how leaders ought to behave in moments like these; because you are doing it, you are leading and doing so, and in plain view.


James Pogue, Ph.D
JP Enterprises