I’d just driven into my parents’ driveway. I was time to pick up my toddler from the babysitting grandparents. And there was my little 3-year-old Rosie, rocking back and forth on her rocking horse without a care in the world. The horse squeaked and groaned on its springs, far too annoying to be allowed in the house.
Some people are just made to cause, as the late Congressman John Lewis called it, “good trouble.” They’re contrarian by nature. It’s in their DNA. It ignites their fury. It explains their courage to put life and limb at risk for what they believe in.
Which brings us to African American History Month 2024 and to “Mrs. Good Trouble” herself, the late civil rights pioneer Amelia Boynton Robinson, inarguably the matriarch of the voting rights movement. Now if you subscribe to that familiar saying, “behind every great man is a woman,” then I’ll say, “behind every great movement is a woman.” Many of them in fact.
Navigating Machines and Race: Shaping Cognitive Diversity and Innovation
We are at the threshold of a new era where diversity, equity, and inclusion will leap beyond biology into an interaction with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics. We are at a stage where robots mimic human motions, AI voices converse and learn, and technology pushes the boundaries of our understanding. We are witnessing the breakthroughs of innovation advances: quantum computing redefines reality, genetic engineering rewrites the code of life, and self-driving cars reimagine mobility. But it is the cognitive diversity introduced by AI and robotics that truly compels us to redefine our concept of “different.”
Deborah Levine requested that I join her group on Black and Jewish Dialogue in 2021. Given today’s atmosphere, dialogue is crucial. Levine is the editor-in-chief of the American Diversity Report (ADR). She is a Holocaust documentarian (Courter, 2023; Levine, Untold Stories of a World War II Liberator, 2023), whom I am sure when she launched ADR never anticipated that diversity and DEI would be equated with anti-Semitism. Yet the cry has been aimed at academia and business (Cohen, 2023; Notheis, 2024) I am baffled by the cry to silence and dismantle DEI.
Through my DEI journey and practice since 1991 in corporate America, DEI has been inclusive and provides respect and dignity to all across religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, physical and mental ability, and other demographics. I will provide some examples later in the article.
It was an honor to share my perspective as a Jew and diversity professional at Chattanooga’s MLK interfaith service commemorating The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That event was 7 years ago but my passion for diversity is a lifelong legacy from my father, a US World War II military intelligence officer whose letters describing Naziism reside in Cincinnati’s American Jewish Archives. Having dedicated decades to tikkun olam, Hebrew for ‘repair of the world,’ I resonate to this day to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
Carlos: Hi, Stephenson. Thanks for taking the time to discuss your pioneering transgender research. It certainly provides an illuminating perspective that goes well beyond the media fixation on bathrooms, sports, and grooming. How did this fascinating research journey begin?
Stephenson: Those are still important topics, but my interest in post-mortem identities began before graduate school when I attended several memorials for trans people. I could not help but notice the arbitrary way in which the deceased’s gender identity was assigned. Usually these memorials reflected their family’s preferences rather than the way the deceased would have defined themselves. Then in graduate school I encountered the concept of end-of-life (EOL) communication. I concluded that end-of-life communication intersected with the use of public memorial expressions, such as gravestones, obituaries, and funerals.
Why It Matters:
Belonging, Values, Socialization, Structure, Aspirations, and Community
As I reflect on the importance of finding common ground among people of diverse customs, beliefs, and religions, I am reminded of the values and principles that have been taught throughout my life. My journey, filled with a sense of purpose, has shown me the significance of building bridges that connect individuals, regardless of their differences. It is in understanding and embracing our shared humanity that we can truly bring about the impact of belonging, uphold core values, shape the way we socialize, give structure to our lives, and reach our collective aspirations as a global community.
In case you missed it, October marked National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Here’s why it matters: People with disabilities represent a vast pool of untapped talent in a competitive global labor force, particularly with the domestic unemployment rate at historically low levels.
Nevertheless, too many companies still ignore people with disabilities in the hiring process — despite their proven talent, merit and ability to do the job. Moreover, even some progressive employers which hire persons with disabilities may fail to retain, train and advance this overlooked segment of the workforce due to unlawful discrimination.
Carlos: Guillermo, I still remember the first time we met. You were about to start your senior year at the University of California, Riverside.
Guillermo: Yes, it was the summer of 2012.
Carlos: Our friendship began when you became my research assistant. Now you’re on your own fascinating research journey, examining the experiences of Latino college athletes. How did you get into this topic?
There has been significant progress in diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) goals within the US. Data from the Pew Research Center showed that 61% of workers have experienced company policies that ensure fairness in hiring, pay, or promotions. This is important given that DEI helps empower individuals and promotes the reduction of harmful bias against race, gender, sexuality, and religion.
However, one aspect of DEI that gets left behind is concerned with weight. Reports showed that inclusivity initiatives fail to consider plus-size workers, who are often stereotyped as lazy and less competent. Additionally, many workplaces are still not accommodating to plus-size individuals, who have stricter dress codes and limited healthcare benefits.