Last week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner participated in an object lesson about diversity which had an unintended lesson.
Hyatt Hotels Diversity & Inclusion executive, Tyronne Stoudemire, was speaking on workplace diversity at a Black History Month event in Chicago. Stoudemire, who is Black, poured a glass of milk to represent the White men who lead most organizations. As Rauner, who is White, held the glass of milk, Stoudemire held up a bottle of chocolate syrup, which he said “represents diversity”.
When Stoudemire poured in the syrup, it sank to the bottom of the glass. “When you look at most organizations, diversity sits at the bottom of the organization,” Stoudemire continued. “You don’t get inclusion until you actually stir it up.” Rauner stirred the milk and then took a sip, declaring, “It’s really, really good.” “Diversity!” declared Rauner, raising the glass, and the crowd applauded.
But afterward there was a lot of eye rolling.
The chocolate milk metaphor is flawed as in illustration of diversity. But it is a good metaphor for White supremacy.
Chocolate milk is milk … milk with chocolate in it. It’s still milk. The milk has not changed. In fact, if you give it enough time, the chocolate syrup would just sink to the bottom again.
This is exactly how “inclusion” policies work in most places in our society. Whether it is a company or the society at large, Whiteness dominates. White experience is the treated as the norm and the experience of people of color, if it is considered at all, is treated as a deviation from the norm. This is what is called White supremacy.
Mixing Black and Brown people into the White culture does not change its White Supremacist nature. This kind of “inclusion” is a shallow attempt to create diversity. If Stoudemire had let the chocolate milk sit long enough for the chocolate to fall to the bottom again, it might actually have been a good object lesson.
If we want a truly diverse community, mixing in Black and Brown people is not enough. We need a more fundamental change in White Supremacist society. In chemistry terms, we need a compound, not a mixture–a change at the atomic level. Otherwise, the White milk remain White milk.