How Useful Is Diversity Training?

More from our inbox:

  • Flowers Against Putin’s War
  • Actions to Take to Reduce Overdose Deaths
  • Misjudging Leaders Like Jacinda Ardern
  • A Not So True Story

Credit…Rose Wong

To the Editor:

Re “What if Diversity Trainings Do More Harm Than Good?,” by Jesse Singal (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 22):

I’m an old white guy who has worked as a community organizer for over 40 years. One thing I’ve learned trying to motivate volunteers is that guilt and arm-twisting don’t work. You may get a warm body in a chair, but the disengagement is palpable.

The diversity, equity and inclusion organization for which I’ve been a consultant for more than 20 years, Visions Inc., includes as one of its guidelines: “It’s not OK to blame, shame or attack ourselves or others.”

Guilt-tripping white people — or any historically privileged group — doesn’t work to develop D.E.I. outcomes. D.E.I. training should help individuals authentically explore and understand personal and interpersonal attitudes and beliefs that in turn help to shift our engagement at the cultural and institutional levels.

This is a complex process with lasting rewards. Research confirms that organizations that value diversity outperform those that do not.

Building true inclusivity is a journey, and as I often say: It takes a whole lot longer if you don’t get started.

Michael Jacoby Brown
Arlington, Mass.

To the Editor:

During my career in corporate middle management, I was subjected annually to all kinds of training modules: diversity, sexual harassment, anti-money-laundering. By and large those who were receptive to such repetitive training needed it the least. Conversely, those who needed it the most weren’t receptive beyond paying lip service.

But does that mean the training was ineffective or counterproductive? No, because that’s a question of what the company’s goals really were. The true point was to insulate the corporation from liability and bad publicity on account of bad acts of employees by being able to say: “We trained them. We’re shocked, shocked to see such goings-on in this establishment.”

This would never of course be admitted in public, but whispers in the executive suite — including at other companies where I knew senior people — made it very clear.

Steve Benko
Southport, Conn.

To the Editor:

My employer, a private school, provided diversity training run by respected Black and Latino colleagues. They helped white teachers like me understand how minority faculty and students were experiencing some of our words and behaviors.

Though I found it challenging to acknowledge my unconscious biases, I became a better teacher, colleague and person through this process.

Rather than give up on diversity training, researchers and institutions need to continue to refine and publicize best practices.

Eliza Migdal

To the Editor:

I’ve been through dozens of rounds of diversity training in my career. To the extent that its purpose is to create more harmonious work environments and not simply to inoculate employers against discrimination suits, I applaud the intent. But in one key way I find the execution deeply lacking.

Never once have I experienced training that questions the validity of race as a means of categorizing human beings. Race is a social construct rooted in slavery, apartheid and eugenics, not science. Yet all the training I’ve experienced treats race as axiomatically real. We are taught to treat members of “other” races with equity, without ever questioning the idea of race itself.

By upholding race as a valid descriptor of people, diversity training upholds the very basis of racism. This strikes me as perverse, and as a tragic lost opportunity to get people to think about the subject more deeply.

John Albin
New York

Flowers Against Putin’s War

Credit…Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Protesting War With Flowers at a Poet’s Feet” (front page, Jan. 24):

It’s gladdening to learn that Vladimir Putin’s dirty war in Ukraine is meeting with protests at home. Such actions by courageous Russians, no matter how few in number, are now bound to be as important as Western tanks in Kyiv’s battle against the invaders.

Who can forget the important role that earlier dissidents played in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union?

Louis Menashe
The writer is professor emeritus of Russian history at Polytechnic Institute of N.Y.U.

Actions to Take to Reduce Overdose Deaths

Reneé Jones overdosed three times last year, once while looking after her grandchildren.Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “In New York City, Overdose Deaths Soared During Pandemic” (news article, Jan. 14):

As a physician and former chief of addiction medicine for Rikers Island, I’m grateful for this thoughtful piece on overdose deaths. I’ve cared for scores of patients like Reneé Jones, whose three overdoses last year you describe. Many of my patients are traumatized, marginalized and criminalized. Just what the doctor didn’t order.

The painful reality? Of the 20 million Americans with substance use disorder, only 10 percent are receiving treatment.

We need urgent action in four key areas: widespread availability of naloxone to immediately reverse opioid-induced overdoses; widespread harm reduction implementation, from clean syringes to safer consumption sites, such as overdose prevention centers; stigma reduction through education; and increased funding to expand addiction treatment, prevention, recovery and support services.

For far too long, drug use has been regulated by politicians and the criminal justice system. If colon cancer patients get medical attention, then so should those with substance abuse disorder. We must shift away from cuffs and corrections to care and compassion.

Here’s some good news: On Dec. 29, the Drug Enforcement Administration eased the rules for providers to prescribe lifesaving buprenorphine. Another glimmer of hope: New York became the first U.S. city to authorize two overdose prevention centers, where people can safely use illegal drugs under staff supervision.

These are important steps, but we still have a long way to go.

Lipi Roy
New York

Misjudging Leaders Like Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand speaking to reporters last August.Credit…Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “The Star Who Didn’t Quite Deliver,” by Josie Pagani (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 25):

This piece about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand shows how easy it is to misjudge public leaders and misthink our role as citizens.

We yearn for leaders who will be our saviors. So, when Ms. Ardern fails to rescue us from intractable problems like inequality, we think about her as “The Star Who Didn’t Quite Deliver,” as the headline put it.

The real problem here, I believe, is our expectations. We should expect high levels of competence from our public leaders, not the ability to walk on water. And we should expect citizens to participate fully in public affairs, not expect to be saved.

Jerome T. Murphy
Cambridge, Mass.
The writer is a retired Harvard professor and dean who taught courses on leadership.

A Not So True Story

“The Crown,” featuring Emma Corrin as Princess Diana, added a disclaimer to press materials and a trailer saying the series was “inspired by real events.”Credit…Des Willie/Netflix, via Associated Press

To the Editor:

Re “As Historical Dramas Mushroom, So Do Complaints About Their Inaccuracies” (front page, Jan. 15):

I find it extremely interesting that people are concerned about the inaccuracies and fabrications in historical dramas but don’t seem to have the same sense of indignation about the inaccuracies and lies put forth by our politicians.

Harvi Bloom
New York

Related Articles

Back to top button