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BHM 2020 Guest Post: Diversity: More Than Representation By Christine Nbemeneh

Shirley Chisolm once said, “if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Therefore, as we kick off the new decade, it’s important to evaluate whether we have actually done enough to make room for Black women at the table.

Within my professional (and even academic) career, I've held positions in which I was tasked with developing diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Whether it be in the political realm or in the private sector, I have found some campaigns to be well-meaning in their intent to diversify. However, they often fall short of their commitment due to the amount of time it takes to recruit quality diverse talent or simply due to lack of understanding.

HEAR YE, HEAR YE! Diversity efforts require time, commitment, and accountability.

Diversity is more than representation. Therefore, it is ridiculous for a campaign to expect support from Black female voters (let alone the black community) when it fails to incorporate our lived experiences and perspectives internally. In other words, tokenism is not cool.

Black women have not only been the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement, but we have been the unsung heroes of America’s political integrity at-large. Yet, our voting bloc continues to be taken for granted as we are often thanked for “showing up”, and then forgotten until the next election cycle.

Quite frankly, we don’t want to be thanked anymore. We want to be heard, we want to be seen, and we require a seat at the table. As a matter of fact, with all we have to say and offer -- you may just have to give us the whole doggone room.

Ideally, inclusivity gives space to those who are often barred from political power circles. Therefore, we need to establish a commitment to understanding the role that intersectionality plays in America’s political discourse. Yet, even amid the demands for diversity in politics, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being the sole Black woman in a sea of white colleagues who claim to be “progressive” allies but remain threatened by the misconception of what diversity could “take away” from them.

Let’s be clear: Allocating room and opportunity for others does not necessarily remove your seat from the table. It ain’t pie!

Instead, giving space to voices from marginalized communities has continuously elevated our political discourse and transformed our country. Key examples include Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, César Chávez, and even former First SLAY-dy Michelle Obama’s campaign for girls’ education.

That’s right, “First ‘SLAY’-dy”! I said what I said!

From Ruby Bridges to Ayanna Pressley, our society has progressed for the better when we welcome and incorporate the ideas of diverse minds, especially Black women. With that said, there is still much work to be done on both ends of the political spectrum because 2020 is more than the first year of the new decade. This year marks a major opportunity to set the precedent for recognizing the power of Black women in the upcoming election cycle. More importantly, in order to move our society forward, we need to return to a place of civility.

Finally, in the words of Barbara Jordan:“What the people want is very simple- they want an America as good as its promise.”

Christine is the founder of NKEIRUKA, which seeks to financially and politically empower women of the African diaspora. She has been featured in Elite Daily, UK Talk Politics, and formerly chaired United Nations Association-Glasgow. As an activist, Christine sheds light on educational equity, financial literacy, and minority entrepreneurship. Continue the conversation with her on Instagram or Twitter.

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