Tuesday, May 9, 2023

My privilege is NOT a superpower

I am currently in Nashville, at the Craft Brewers Conference. I'm spending my time split between networking at the Start A Brewery lounge that my firm is co-sponsoring, and attending educational sessions. One such session, which I attended yesterday, was titled, Privilege as Your Superpower

In these turbulent times, so many know they want to do something about inequity, but don't know where to start. Unfortunately, concerns about saying the wrong thing or not having the power to create change lead many to do nothing. It is essential for leaders to understand the concepts of both systemic and individual privilege, because when they do, they will find that their privileges are actually their superpowers.

It is a laudable goal to promote the understanding of "privilege" so that we can do better with DEI issues in our organizations.

But here's the problem — the presenter was a white, female leadership consultant. 

More specifically, I have two problems.

1.) When someone challenged the speaker by asking: "As a white woman leading/owning a consulting company giving DEl presentation do you feel like this presentation should have been given by a BIPOC person," her answer (and I'm paraphrasing) was, "Yes, it should, but I work with some Black people and they are cool with me giving this talk." This response is the definition of "not cool," and exhibits a myopathy that we cannot ignore. I'm not making this up, although really I wish I was.

2.) The title of the presentation makes my head hurt. By claiming that "white, male privilege" is a "superpower," you are suggesting that everything else is "less than." The inequal power dynamic that you're seemingly arguing against is baked into your very premise.

We, as business leaders, must do better to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplaces. But as white man, I'm not equipped to lecture others on this issue. I can train eight days a week on the legal issues surrounding DEI, but on the leadership issues someone from a marginalized population must be the one delivering this message.