Home Column - Tuesday When a school board has no diversity, By Ngozi Bell

When a school board has no diversity, By Ngozi Bell


Something really interesting happened recently – I started looking at the genesis of success, leverage and opportunity. What are the foundations that prioritise those things or better still facilitate those nouns into action! This is not a new question that I just stumbled upon. It has been asked, answered, and re-answered in so many forms and formats by so many people in all sorts of contexts. So why am I visiting it again, what profundity made it important to me again? The simple answer is nothing! Yes nothing, all that happened is that I saw something that triggered a little more thinking in that direction.

The observation was two -fold, the first was that there is a dance involved – go forward for a time and heat things up, cool the heat, and then go backward right back to where things were bad and stay there. The second thing is the intentionality that prevails. Let’s tackle these and discuss.

So, the school board jumps on the bandwagon and gets diversity on board, they go for great and bring in good people. Progress is made in key areas, the school grows, knowledge is shared and additional knowledge and expertise come on board. Things are coasting, kinks are being worked out and the community will thrive. Everyone sees the notable difference, even in the management of issues. There were now rungs to climb unlike the times before and levers to pull where none used to exist. It was not perfect; it was not good enough, fast enough, nor accelerated enough, but it was better in every way. The excellence that poured out of the school was unprecedented. While you cannot attribute it all to the board, one could see that the diverse board impacted so many areas. Their work facilitated modest diversification in staff, more with the student population,  and even much more in opportunities the community embraced. They set the tone for permitting more voices, more capacity, more capabilities, and all that “more” helped better happen. Everyone liked the progress because the benefits outweighed the effort. It appeared like everyone was happy for it to continue and expected that it would, well until it didn’t. That takes me to the exploration of the second observation.

The intentionality that prevails can make one conclude that everything from beginning to end was all deliberate, calculated, engineered, that there was a purpose in the move to diversify but for a finite period. There was deliberate purpose to reap and then reel in the benefits during that period. There was content in the perspective that the “benefit window” was itself a gift or better still a reward of sorts, that should engender and justify the “taking it all back”. Those who think like this would in their warped minds characterise it like this – when things are changing or “improving” as some like to see it, we allow it for a while, giving them sweet relief enough to create some comfortability and the perspective that things can only get better. They think what they have come to expect have come to stay. They let their guards down and start to trust us. They think we are all the same, on the same page, and for the same things, they become convinced that we are heading to the place where everyone flourishes. Then we yank everything out, we reverse course and retreat and dump everything that seemed like or was progress. We retard them back to where they started like nothing happened. In disbelief they accept their lot, this time believing that it will never change and that fighting for change is not worth it, now we have them, body, mind and resources! That is how we stay on top and oppress them  – 

So why is this the case? Why take a school there? Are there no merits to the observable outcome of diversity? Do people not want the good they are seeing? Was it all a farse, part of a make belief world? The point being how do you experience something so great and that potentially gets much better and then reverse course so callously? How is that possible?

Why they reverse course.

Failure with respect to diversity initiatives were typically attributed with a plethora of reasons and several people eager to lay bare their version of “issues with diversity or diversity programmes”. The most popular reasons include poor returns on diversity initiatives, some said you cannot legislate wisdom nor can you outlaw bias, others said organisations did it to protect themselves from lawsuits and costly consequences, nothing more, so they did not plan for anything long term. Other things like resistance, improper implementation and lack of consistency are also cited. 

However, in the case of the board I mentioned above and like many cases, there are no downsides with their diversification, only upsides. The kinks have been worked out, all corners turned, everything is going well, and people accept and get used to it, it is comfortable, nothing scary just good! Then just then the carpet is pulled, and everything is reversed in one fell swoop. I pondered about it using the school board I mentioned as the backdrop. Why dd they go back, where the changes too good to sustain? Why did they remove anyone and everything that remotely represented diversity and revert to an all-white board of males and females; exactly where they began? In other cases, you can replace race with ethnicity,  gender or religion. Just as randomly, I realised that several things were at play here and several things were intended simultaneously:

  1. Power – All along it was a power play, the ability to make something right and dismantle it at will. That is the biggest “wand to wield”.
  2. Law – Moral law was only relevant when it was according to them or their version, they had the capacity to do “right” but if that right if it suited their desired mode of operation, conversely,  they could stir “wrong” and that state would emerge as the new “right” according to them.
  3. Dosed kindness – They fundamentally believe that you dose out goodwill and kindness in specific quantities and seasons, then you withdraw it so that people don’t get too used to it as the status quo and think of it as a right.
  4. Rights are temporary gifts – They do not fundamentally believe in the rights of others, but instead see it as a gift you extend and withdraw at will.
  5. Instability creates gratitude – Keeping people guessing and things unstable ensured their gratitude whenever they got little morsels of stability they craved and prayed for.
  6. Equality is a farce – In their DNA they do not believe in equality or equity, for them it’s all a game of wits and winning.
  7. Fear is their sustenance – At the end of the day they are driven by fear, paralysing, lying, debilitating fear that their power, money, opportunity, leadership, resources etc. was always on the verge of disappearing.
  8. Wacko / Quack Economics – They recede to trying to keep others in bondage and simultaneously creating the infrastructure for a non-compete economic framework that excessively benefits them at the detriment of others. They leverage the very resources and minds of others at the cost of zero, in order to illegally secure maximum profitability.

Finally, it’s really all about them looking at the world and seeing that the fields will eventually level, people will evolve and get a different framework. So they try their worn-out dirty tricks again and again. Driven by fear they stick with it, deploy it often, randomly, feverishly. They don’t care about the optics or blowbacks because they are desperate. In my thoughts, I blinked twice with understanding and finally made the following conclusions:

  1. Time’s up – somehow, we are at the precipice of the end of an era, some past sins no matter how hard they try can never have the hold they once had. The minds they bound have broken free and moved on, the anchors that held those shackles now forever gone – In simple speaks, what I am saying is that so much has changed – things like technology have showed up and while everyone is not equally endowed, the disenfranchised is a lot more enlightened, their potential a lot more viable. They will scratch and claw and engage until they find their way up. Many so called cast away, poor, low income etc. are finding ways to solve their own problems and in turn becoming teachers of the so called “haves” and in many cases “elites”. They are also willing to try longer or as long as it takes, even when they don’t make it, they know it’s on their terms and timeframe.
  2. The future is now – that means that what we all used to look forward to, imagine, contemplate, is nigh – this provides so many options. It blows open the things that were initially shrouded by lack of understanding and vision. Now there are only a few degrees of separation to so many things we once could not dream of engaging. If you ask hard enough, seek deep enough – there are unconventional ways to access several viable pathways.
  3. There are casualties – the truth is that in the scheme of inauthentic inclusiveness there are casualties, people lose especially, the disenfranchised, the most vulnerable and the neediest, but the truth is that unlike it used to be the perpetrators lose too. They no longer wield the end – to – end power, resources, know-how that made maximum oppression possible. They lose a lot when they hurt or squeeze others out. The expertise and everything it takes to fully maximise benefit is no longer viable. In essence they no longer go scot-free in their own schemes.

So. what next, how do we move forward from here? Here is what I offer, we move forward by doing a few things:

  1. Let go – it might be time to let go of places that play these games and let them be, don’t satisfy them with a need to be a part of them.
  2. Find your own place – find places dedicated to other, that care about diversity and work at it even when they fail. Those that believe beyond what they see and experience.
  3. Go up – Really give your all to diverse spaces that have the values you care about, help them prosper, help them retard bad eggs, represent them well and help them win

There are a number of things we could identify and I am sure you have your own list too. The key thing is that diversity works, it is good, it changes lives and makes everything healthy. It is a gift we must honour and an opportunity we must never discard. If we encounter unbelievers, we can help them understand, but when we encounter the unwilling, the dismantler, the unhelpful – shun them and move on and reject their games because the truth is they have no real power that is why they resort to manipulations!!

So to the school board that has reverted to discarding their diverse team and retarding their success, ride on as you like, we are “outta’ here and so will many soon enough if you don’t make the right change and this time permanently!!

Take a listen to this podcast Say It Skillfully® OUR VOICES – Ngozi & Okezue Bell, Carpe Diem! Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (voiceamerica.com)

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).

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