By Leah Smiley, CDE
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy, who was a Christian socialist, according to Wikipedia. Bellamy had initially considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it – knowing that the state superintendents of education were against equality for women and African Americans.
Bellamy’s original Pledge read as follows:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the National Flag Conference called for the words “my Flag” to be changed to “the Flag of the United States”, so that new immigrants would not confuse loyalties between their birth countries and the United States. The words “of America” were added a year later, while “God” was added in 1954.
Since the conception of this ‘Pledge’, diversity has been a forethought, not an after-thought. The creators realized that it’s possible to be different while united. Fast forward more than one century later, America is finding that no one thing divides this Republic like the concept of ‘justice’. From O.J. Simpson to Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, America practically splits down traditional racial lines when these subjects come up. What is interesting is that race and justice is an issue that just won’t go away. The problem is that once America becomes more demographically diverse, we will see more issues pertaining to race and justice– IF we do not take action now.
Ethnifacts, population researchers, say the “tipping point” has already happened in America. According to these researchers, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 37.7% of the population checked Hispanic, Asian and African-American on the latest census count. But that figure excludes any multi-racial groups, which would bump the multicultural population up to 49.9% as of 2010. Ethnifacts researchers also “found multicultural majorities in the following states: Arizona (58.54 percent), California (75.10 percent), District of Columbia (76.06 percent), Florida (57.43 percent), Georgia (58.46 percent), Hawaii (89.61 percent), Maryland (59.22 percent), New Mexico (76.16 percent), Nevada (64.52 percent) and Texas (69.41 percent).”
Some assume that you can move away from diversity (e.g., the concept of “White Flight” or relocating one’s corporate headquarters), and avoid the problems of multicultural communities altogether. But for those left behind, a different reality sets in. A demographic disparity occurs when different population groups are not represented in the demographic make-up of decision makers, or those in authority. Demographic disparities can affect the balance of power, the allocation of resources, and the perception of equality or fairness. Within communities, a demographic disparity can be great or slight—depending on population growth, the composition of the population, and the quality of life, to name a few. Generally, when there is more diversity, there are greater opportunities for disparities to occur in education, housing, criminal justice, and even, media reporting, to name a few.
Demographic changes, in areas where there is “more diversity” such as in Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New York, are causing local governments to re-evaluate diversity amongst its police force. This is a big issue that is very complex. Nevertheless, I will try to encapsulate the essence of the matter in a blog. Here’s what police departments need to determine:
A. What is the extent of the problem?
First, what do the numbers say? What did the population look like 20 years ago, what does it look like today, and what will it look like in the next 20 years? What “stereotypes” exist about different groups in the community? What other unconscious biases might exist? How do stereotypes and unconscious biases affect community-police relations and the perception of fairness? What other trends are evident based on the population changes? What is the specific problem? What data, lawsuits or case studies support the fact that a problem exists? How will this issue hurt the city’s/town’s image if these issues are not addressed? What else will be a negative repercussion if changes are not made?
Once the extent of the problem is determined, it is necessary to take proactive, decisive action.
B. Beyond training, how can solutions be embedded in day-to-day practices?
Sometimes, diversity training is viewed as a panacea—a cure for all ills pertaining to diversity problems. The reality is that diversity interventions would be much more effective if they were connected to organizational goals, and embedded in day-to-day practices. This is where diversity officers, human resources, front-line supervisors, and leadership can work together and find specific examples of how to apply cultural competence, inclusion, equity, and fairness. The expectation is that supervisors– not diversity trainers– would lead discussions about best practices for engaging diverse communities. The reasoning behind this is that law enforcement often has its own culture, and what better way to empower an “insider” to expedite change than to include them in the training design, content, facilitation and application.
C. Who can hold police departments accountable for change?
Step #1. When we talk about accountability, the first thing that we want to be mindful of is that accountability begins with the community. Officers should be accountable to the people whom they are responsible for “policing”. Along with the discussion about accountability, there needs to be something called a “relationship”. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a relationship is “the way in which two or more people are connected. It includes how individuals or groups talk to, behave toward and deal with each other.” Building relationships in diverse communities engender respect, communication, and peace. Even if we agree to disagree, we can do so in a way that does not destroy, or break up, the relationship.
Step #2. Diversity leaders and inclusion experts can also hold police departments accountable. Within every city and town, there are diversity professionals who work for colleges/universities, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. While the community may not know what it wants, outside of fairness and justice, diversity professionals can help guide police departments through the technical aspects of inclusion, cultural competence, and compliance.
For example, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion is hosting a monthly community conversation about race and policing. This presents an opportune time for honest conversations about the “difficult history of structural racism and segregation that has created homogenous suburban communities”.
Step #3. Politicians must also hold its police forces accountable. This is an example of diversity being led from the top. Unlike some corporations or educational institutions, politicians must be elected every few years by the people—you know, the ones that live in the communities? And once the diverse constituents figure out when to vote, and how to do it consistently, it will be curtains for all of those politicians who made decisions on behalf of a few. Therefore, stop and repeat Step #1.
D. How will the impact of different interventions be evaluated and measured?
Every good strategy has a plan for frequent evaluation. In “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker”, Dr. William A. Cohen asserts that “Management requires a breakdown of tasks, assignments as to who is to do what, time schedules, resource allocations, performance expectations, a means of measuring results, periodic and ad hoc reviews, and feedback.”1
The measurements necessary for control are frequently termed metrics. Choosing the correct metrics and making the decisions about them are incredibly important in their use for control, in both the day-to-day and the strategic sense.”2 Therefore, the impact of one’s intent must evaluated, measured and controlled with quantitative and qualitative data to support that change has, or has not, occurred.
Finally, transparency implies that some mistakes may have been made along the way, but we’re going to be honest about it and report on our status anyway. According to Merriam-Webster, the actual definition of transparency is “honest and open; not secretive; easily seen through; free from pretense or deceit”.
Much can be said about nationwide efforts to address a problem that affects 15% or more of the population, and has drawn worldwide scorn due to its proximity to genocide, which is “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group.” As I stated before, there is no easy solution. Nevertheless, justice is inextricably tied to law and order. And, in keeping with the Pledge of Allegiance, (“one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”), this blueprint for law and order will help America to realize the full potential of its pledge.
Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org.
1 Cohen, William A. “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker”, American Management Association – 2014. Page 112
2 Cohen, William A. “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker”, American Management Association – 2014. Page 114