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OPINION: Diversity is something to celebrate not run away from. DEI is not a boogeyman; it’s actually a superpower. It brings together the collective genius of communities that have been built from different experiences, challenges and traditions.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Most Americans support the notion of liberty and justice for all. As children, many of us pledged allegiance to our flag, and as adults, we still believe in justice for all. I know I do. That’s why I’ve dedicated my life’s work to fairness, whether as a civil rights attorney, Chicago’s first chief equity officer, and now as the senior strategic advisor for Race Forward, a nonprofit racial justice organization.
No matter where I’ve worked, I’ve always been driven by a passion for upholding fairness and justice. To connect people. To form a bridge between what communities need and what opportunities and resources they can access. It’s on this bridge where concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion serve as our guides, helping to ensure fairness in how we get to our destination. However, lately, that bridge has been under attack and the number one target: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
DEI is being targeted as the enemy, and it shouldn’t be.
The Washington Post reported that DEI jobs peaked in 2023, but have fallen by 8% so far this year, per data from Revelio Jobs, which tracks workforce changes. Also mentioned was that tech companies like Meta, Zoom, Google and, of course, X (formerly Twitter) are all reporting layoffs, cuts and pullbacks on DEI and related initiatives — some cutting budgets by 90%. The reason? They cite inflation; they point fingers at DEI underperformance metrics; or they reference workforce reduction requirements. What they aren’t naming is fear.
When people fear that which makes them feel uncomfortable, they will listen to any bit of evidence that supports their feelings of discomfort. We’re in an election cycle; there is a lot of fear-mongering that caters to a growing narrative: “White Americans are losing control.” That makes people uncomfortable – especially those who benefit from the status quo and want to keep concentrating power and wealth amongst a few. This intentional manipulation resonates with those who feel like the world is changing and something is being taken away from them.

Yes, change can be frightening. We don’t know what’s on the other side. Yet, history shows us when we build strength to weather the storm, when we embrace change — together, we are actually better for it. Now, when we bunker in, retreat and make baseless claims, we lose. When we act out of fear, we are not coming from a place of power and abundance, but from a place of defeat and scarcity.
The reality is that change is already here. In the 2020 census, 33.8 million people self-identified as multiracial and people of color make up over half of our nation’s youth. We are and are becoming even more of a multiracial nation. Diversity is something to celebrate not run away from. DEI is not a boogeyman; it’s actually a superpower. It brings together the collective genius of communities that have been built from different experiences, challenges and traditions. It provides perspectives that would be missed and feeds imaginations beyond the status quo. It pushes systems and practices to work for all of us, not just some of us. I know this is true because I have seen this firsthand in my work with the government and community. I have seen the power of diversity, equity, and inclusion to create solutions to problems that seemed insurmountable, like communities across the country working together to save lives in a global pandemic.
Americans believe in justice. Americans believe in fairness. Americans want to do right. We all want a fair shot at the life we desire. We want our kids to get a great education. We want to earn a good wage. We all want to feel safe and be healthy. DEI is a tool that helps us bring that into practice for all of us. None of us needs to be intimidated by diversity. None of us needs to be frightened by the humanity that is inclusion. Not one of us needs to be disconnected from the promise of equity, a promise of systems that deliver benefits for us all to thrive.
Yes, we need people who are assigned to integrate DEI into the core business of our institutions. But the measure of success is not just the outputs of their position, it is the strength of the institution to undergo true transformation. Throughout my career, I have often said equity is a lot like working out. The goal is to build a muscle that is strong enough to drive the change we desire. It requires the discipline of the entity that wants to change. When you stop doing the work, you lose the progress you have gained. Just like in the gym, the enemy is not the tools you use or the personal trainer you hire. They are there to push you beyond your comfort zone so that you can make real gains toward your goals. Similarly, DEI is not the enemy. It is a set of tools to push us to make real gains toward our goals as a country: true fairness, real justice and liberty for a great multiracial nation.
Candace Moore, Esq. is the senior strategic advisor for Race Forward, a nonprofit organization that works to dismantle structural racism by building collective power and transforming institutions.
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