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From Compliance to Compassion: A Diversity Journey (Part 1)


Recently I have been spending time in the twitterverse engaging with other education professionals. I encountered some incredible knowledge dropped by Julia E. Torres (@juliaerin80) who shared an article on black empowerment in Denver schools. You should click the link here for the article and here for the twitter engagement.

No. I am serious. Go read those things. They will put this all into context.

I'm not kidding. Before you go any further, I strongly recommend you read that article.

Julia started the thread with a quote out that is mind blowing and a critical piece of truth. Honestly, if you don’t get anything else out of my writing, you’ll hear this:

“Equity has been done mostly for compliance. We don’t want to do this for compliance, we want to do this for sustainability. We don’t want to do this over again. This is not an experiment, this is our kids.”

Sit with that for a moment. Do we as white folx (or with our other privileged identities) truly care about equity and inclusion because of our notions to comply with the social order, or are we looking for change around equity issues that are sustainable and build a better world for OTHERS? Will we only deal with issues of equity until we fill our compliance cup, or will we push further to engage toward sustainable change?

As I sit with my own journey, I reflect back and recognize this internal battle between compliance and compassion in my own walk. When I think back to my youth, I was originally motivated by my own ego and self. Here is my story:

As a first year student at UC Santa Barbara, the Resident Director in my building, Jamie DeJesus (I use names because I do not want these amazing professionals who impacted my life to be erased) told me at one point;“Tyler, you have potential to be a great leader, but if you don’t focus on diversity issues you won’t ever achieve your full potential.” It was 1990, folx; we hadn’t yet switched brands to multiculturalism, social justice, inclusion, or equity.

As I shared in a recent post (located here), it was 28 years ago I was introduced to the concept of building capacity to lead "effectively within, across, and about difference" (Jamie Washington) I wish I could say that stuck with me and I made changes. Alas the hubris of an 18 year old boy/man got in the way and I completely ignored Jamie's advice. I had never needed to think about or consider diversity in my life growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, why would diversity impact me in 1990?

That first year in college,