Whether it’s the new Congress or the Oscars, the increase in diversity in highly visible American institutions is undeniable. But there’s more to equity than visible diversity, says Eddie Moore, a diversity trainer speaking at Metropolitan State University on Wednesday.
A Florida transplant living in Green Bay after getting three degrees from colleges in Iowa, including a Ph.D. in education policy and leadership, Moore has more than 20 years’ experience training groups about the ways white supremacy and institutional racism impact systems today.
“Like most people, I think you can’t deny progress in America when we’ve had Obama in the White House,” he said. “In the same breath that I talk about the visible presence of a person of color, a black woman, a black family in the White House – although that’s really good – you look at other aspects of society … education or banking or health care or investment, personal wealth. We continue to see issues, particularly around race.”
MinnPost: What will you focus on during the event?
Eddie Moore: I feel like there are a lot of diversity-oriented trainings and opportunities to do some learning, but the way I learned is you have to be in an evolving framework when you’re talking about any subject matter. So I feel like diversity needs a tough class, so to speak. So, this is how I sometimes describe it: This is my CrossFit course for diversity, or my calculus class for diversity, where we’re going beyond diversity. It’s an important topic which is all important learning. But what about issues of power, privilege, leadership? In this case, specifically looking at white supremacy and institutional racism.
MP: So what do you hope people will walk away with after taking a course that you consider calculus for diversity?
EM: I think, one, that people take away a better understanding of the vocabulary. I hear people often talk about privilege, white privilege, those kinds of things, but not necessarily having conversations about the source where those come from – the foundation that issues of privilege were built upon. So, I’m hoping there’s some clarity around terms like institutional racism, like white supremacy, like white privilege, like white male cultural dominance, toxic masculinity; all of these are, I think, terms that are out there but there hasn’t been a learning environment to discuss them — but also to talk about ways in which they’re present and they can be challenged. So, it’s not only definition understanding, but it’s also action-oriented. I want people to take away knowledge, and I want them to be inspired to take action.
MP: What would be a good example of what you mean?
EM: Some of it could be as little as terminology. It could be like using gender pronouns as a way to be more inclusive of folks who are not operating in the binary of he and she. It could be also possibly making sure that all video or all visual presentations include closed captioning. Because ability is another form of privilege that we often don’t think about. So, it could be something a little like that as a small way that someone could be understanding their power or privilege and then taking action. And then it can be some really tough stuff related to naming white supremacy in the work environment, naming institutional racism as a part of how organizations were designed to operate and to function.
By naming these things, we then focus on the name as a part of the solution. I feel like people are often trying to change an organization or system but we never even get to name the challenge. The challenge is always huge. The way people are going about it, it’s often unclear primarily because we haven’t named it. But that’s a big action item.
To be able to say the problems we have, the gaps we have here, are really due to male privilege or white supremacists and institutional racism — it’s not often we find those words being named as part of the challenges. I think that that can be a really big ask of folks. But I do want people as an action item to be able to just name what it is. So that we can kind of put the big challenge on the table and grapple with it.
EM: I’m a schoolteacher and a coach in football and basketball. That’s really how I feel like I got started building early skills associated with what I do. But the real catalyst to get me started on consulting and public speaking and training was when I went to a small town in Iowa called Loras College to get my master’s degree and I met some folks there in the school district that really partnered with me to just be doing some really positive information-oriented trainings. We talked with kids primarily.
And then as I went to the University of Iowa, one of my college professors in one of my first classes really challenged our class to talk about diversity … with some familiarity with power, privilege, and leadership — that it’s not diversity work if you’re looking at it in isolation. And so I think those two educational pieces in my life really sparked and challenged me but also kind of supported and provided me some opportunities to just grow my skills and practice my presentation. …
MP: What are you noticing about how young people are talking about and engaging with these issues? We see young people stepping out in so many arenas (gun control, climate change), and I’m wondering if you’re seeing it in your work, as well?
EM: I’m seeing young people willing to and interested in learning about white supremacy and its impact and its influence on our nation’s founding and also being willing to examine if that is a part of where we are today. Like, where is white supremacy, white male cultural dominance – those power structures, those frameworks – where are they present in our society today? There’s an interest in understanding that – again not to say white people are bad, not to be attacking and degrading, but to be committed to changing structural design, systemic design. I think that having young people willing to grapple with that is different than having young people interested in diversity and understanding diversity.
MP: Can you tell me a little bit more what you mean when you’re saying instead of just learning about and knowing about diversity, they want to be thinking about structural and systemic design? What’s the difference between those two?
EM: If you take education as an example, … people often talk about progressive schools when they talk about … the present diversity, and there’s some excitement about that. So, that’s one aspect. No one’s talking about often how schools were designed by white people for white people. The structural design of the place is not really examined. Real progress is looked at as: The place looks different. But that structure is still producing the same kind of results, if not worse.
The research shows that many students of color are doing worse. The gaps are getting wider. Even though their presence is there, which is a good sign of diversity, the structure is the same. … Diversity could be a good thing, but if you’re still producing the same results or worse …
You could do that example in homeownership. You can do that in family wealth. You can look all the across structures and systems. You can see some visible signs of some presence of diversity. I mean, we can acknowledge that that’s good. [But] I don’t think we’re often looking at the structural piece of it. …
So, I think now having people willing to be beyond diversity is also a good sign that maybe over these next 25 years we’ll not only see a commitment to diversity but also to challenging the structural design. That’s why I think this presentation at Metro State is so exciting. It’s not a diversity presentation. I mean, it’s really a presentation designed to be the next level of engagement.