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Diversity, Inc: A book review by Bob Morris

Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business
Pamela Newkirk
Bold Type Books (October 2019)

How and why “a willful negation of our shared humanity” must be eliminated

In Judgment Calls, Thomas Davenport and Brooke Manville explain how and why decisions made by a Great Organization tend to be much better than those made by a Great Leader. Why? While conducting rigorous and extensive research over a period of many years, they discovered – as Laurence Prusak notes in the Foreword — “that no one was looking into the workings of what we term [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics] – the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.”

I was again reminded of those observations as I began to work my way through Pamela Newkirk’s brilliant book. She examines racial diversity with a focus on the three largest racial/ethnic minority groups: Hispanic/Latino, African/Americans/Black, and Asian Americans.  She pays special attention to three fields: academia, Hollywood, and corporate America — “each of which has publicly and privately grappled with the issue [i.e. domination by Whiteness] over the past five decades.”

Whereas Davenport and Manville are advocates of collective judgment in a workplace environment, Newkirk is an advocate of “a truly diverse society” in terms of its assumptions and decisions, to be sure, but also “culturally, politically, spiritually, economically, and psychologically.”   She wrote this book in order to explain why as well as how to “reframe the diversity conversation of recent years from a cozy we-are-the-world ideal to one fired by a mission to combat systemic racial injustice and pervasive delusion about where we stand.”

As the Notes section clearly indicates (Pages 220-243), Pamela Newkirk has created an evidence-driven examination of the progress — and lack of progress — the United States has made toward racial diversity. Hers is an immensely important contribution to our understanding of how and why racial diversity “will only be achieved once White America is weaned off a prevailing narrative of racial preeminence — a belief system as intoxicating and addictive, and ultimately destructive, as any opiate.”

I  conclude this brief commentary with this passage from Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham, Alabama Jail,” April 16, 1963:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

That is why “a willful negation of our shared humanity” must be eliminated.

 

 

 

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