Let America Be America Again




DeWayne Street is the Vice President of Workforce Advancement at Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. In this role, he is responsible for ensuring that the employees in Goodwill’s retail stores and staffing programs are diverse, properly educated, and trained for their role. Previously, DeWayne worked with the State of Wisconsin Workforce Development Department as Deputy Administrator of Employment & Training and Superintendent of the Department of Corrections/Thompson Correctional Center. Additionally, he continued his passion for advancing diversity initiatives with his own consulting business, Midway Diversity Solutions, which he founded in 2000 and continues to operate. In his consulting work, DeWayne focuses on creating inclusive, culturally competent organizational cultures.

… O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be! …

These are the words of Langston Hughes. They are just as prescient now as they were when first published in 1935. The struggle for our nation to truly be a place where all citizens are valued and respected remains largely unfulfilled for many citizens. The forces of history, economic angst, and the shifting demographics have all coalesced to produce the current state of increased marginalization and fear. It is during such times that leaders need to emerge to push society and organizations forward toward increased understanding and shared progress. We need to summon such courage in this hour and in this place. The consequences of not doing so are painful to contemplate for those who believe in equality and civil rights.

Historical vs. Contemporary

Austin is becoming more diverse with each passing day. Like our nation, this has not come without a price. Increased marginalization, both racial and economic, have marred our journey and have forced this generation to challenge America to be America once again. How do we create space for a new type of dialogue on the issue of marginalization, one that will make it operational and not just aspirational? This starts with understanding historical drivers and patterns of marginalization and their contemporary manifestations. For too long, marginalization has been viewed through a contemporary lens. Once we examine it through a historical lens, only then will we be able to determine the genesis of the problem and properly address it. Every problem has a history.  Once you know that history, you can solve the problem. Marginalization is no different.

Our Role in Diversity

In addition to understanding the history of marginalization, each of us must be willing to examine and confront our own biases. As Howard Ross states in the book, Reinventing Diversity, bias is not bad; it is acting on it that constitutes the offense. Part of the challenge is to control our individual biases before they go operational. This starts with admitting that we all struggle with it and that no one group has a monopoly on it. It is a common problem that requires a common solution. We can no longer engage in a one-dimensional dialogue on this issue where voices that are perceived to be privileged are muted. It will take every voice to be heard and valued as we seek to become the nation that Hughes demands we become. We must do this not only for ourselves, but for those who will come after us.

Let’s leave them a better society than we inherited.

Are you ready to confront you own biases? Join us at Mission Driven 2017 to learn more from DeWayne Street about how to identify and examine your own biases, understanding how they impact your interactions with others, your decision-making and the way you show up as a leader.

Related Content

Mission Driven 2017

Register for Mission Driven, the 2017 Human Capital Summit, and come together with fellow social-sector champions who believe in a better future for our community.

 
Learn more

Courageous Leadership in a Volatile World

Every time you say “yes” and choose to lead, you show the world your courage.

 
Read more

The Power of Awareness

As leaders, we need to be sharply awake, disturbing our own “inner serenity” to be aware of the opportunities surrounding us.

 
Read more

SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER

 

Stay connected with monthly e-newsletters. Get first notice of community events, read the latest blog posts and find out who’s doing what in the social sector.

CONTACT US