The Other Columbus: Tackling racism requires getting dirt on your hands

Someone tell companies that DEI is played out

Scott Woods
Former Equitas Health employees (from left) Lisa McLymont, Tia Carrington and Liz Rose-Cohen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided not to make misogyny prosecutable as a hate crime. His reason? It would overwhelm the police and courts. Violence against women is somehow “the number one issue in policing” in the UK, and yet cracking down harder on those who commit such violence would be the wrong way to address the problem. Johnson is effectively saying that the problem is so great that to focus on it would create more problems.

As someone who doesn’t think policing is the answer to almost anything, I’m certainly not here to make a case for creating more problems. But then, Johnson doesn’t believe in many concrete solutions anyway, such as more money for things that do address the problem. In fact, the list of things that Johnson’s administration has opted to not only fund, but to increase funding for, are heads and shoulders more than anything going to women’s protection, health or education.

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Which, of course, all reminds me of how many people see the problem of racism in America (or anywhere for that matter, but I’ll let Johnson weigh in on that one once he’s done infuriating half of the women in Ye Olde Country). The problem of racism is so vast and entrenched that to make any structural changes to stop it would decimate several other socio-political systems upon which this country relies to function. Even narrowing the target down to white supremacy would be a bridge too far for some. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that so many people who would be charged with fixing the problem are, in fact, the problem.

I wanted to be surprised at Johnson’s horrific response to such a powerful issue, but I’m Black. This is exactly how American racism has been “addressed” for the last 60 years. First white people were sold the idea that we could fix it by not talking about it. Then the tactic was picking and choosing who gets to talk about it. Now the answer is to have everyone talk about it, but poorly. Not to mention that half the country is being convinced that going back to scrubbing race from all discussion is, again, the answer. In very few instances since 1964 has the white answer been to do something other than talk about it.

The Dispatch ran an article yesterday about health services company Equitas Health detailing a bevy of accusations of racism leveled against it by current and former employees. It was yet another article I read with no alarm. What is there to be surprised about? Equitas says it has enacted all manner of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work and hired at least one very specific person focused on addressing problematic culture in the ranks. It is the same line that every organization rolls out to make a case that they’re working on the problem (which of course they won’t admit is actually a problem). There must be an organization that sells DEI pamphlets and software to companies looking to not be the bad guy. Frankly, I’m surprised anyone is still trying this far out from last year’s protests. I guess no one’s told them that DEI has already become code for “workplace culture Band-Aid.” Someone please stop all of these companies from demanding this mindless busywork of their employees. 

More:Former Equitas Health staff condemn 'disrespectful, degrading and dehumanizing treatment' of Black employees

As a Black person in America, I’m inoculated against the confirmation of such behavior in workplaces. This isn’t to say I’m impervious to the effects of bigotry or its cousin, microaggression (which is just racism in an Easter suit). I am merely unable to be surprised by the exposure of it. It’s like all the times Christopher Walken is in a movie completely unfazed about having a gun pointed at him: You can’t be bothered to get riled up when you know how things are going to go down. 

As someone whose mutant ability is to see racism in everything, even I still manage a belief in a better world. I do not think the cause is entirely hopeless; otherwise I’d write food and horror movie reviews. But I assure you that the way to tackle racism isn’t to ignore it, and the solution isn’t to talk about it. We must identify changes that we can make individually, locally, regionally, and nationally. If we can pretend that putting a recycling bin in front of every house is moving the needle on global warming, we can figure out a way to dismantle some level of white supremacy. Just don’t commit to another coffee date or panel discussion. Commit to real world action. Labor against white supremacy for a day until your hands actually get dirt on them. Show your work.