The 3 C's That Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Can Teach Us Today To Advance Workplace Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Author Elnora Fratini

Posted Feb 25, 2023

Reads 2.9K

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50 years have passed since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. passed, but his teachings on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are more relevant today than ever before. At a young age, this civil rights activist made an indelible mark on American history through his courageous and consistent actions. Dr. King gave us three DEI lessons that can help advance the workplace into a more equitable place for all Americans.

The first lesson is on-the-ground presence. Dr. King knew the importance of being present in communities to understand their struggles and aspirations better. He believed that leaders must be physically present to connect with people and create meaningful change. This principle can apply to workplaces as well, where leaders need to engage with employees from diverse backgrounds and understand their experiences to create inclusive policies and environments.

The second lesson is courage. Dr. King showed immense bravery in standing up against systemic racism and fighting for the rights of black Americans during a volatile period in American history. He inspired others to do the same by leading by example, even in the face of adversity. This principle can apply to workplace leaders who must show courage in addressing issues related to DEI within their organizations by taking action against discrimination, bias, or inequality.

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As she points out, living on a cruise ship is not just about luxury and relaxation; it's about adapting to a new way of life. The constant movement of the ship, the limited space in the cabin, and the lack of privacy can be overwhelming at times. However, Christine has learned to appreciate the simplicity and minimalism that comes with this lifestyle. She values experiences over possessions and cherishes the memories she creates during her year life aboard the cruise ship.

The Reality of Criticism: It Will Come Your Way

When it comes to championing DEI, one of the harsh realities is that impassioned criticism will come your way. This was recently illustrated by the controversy surrounding Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court. Some Black women found her offensive due to her past decisions regarding affirmative racial discrimination. While many may have good intentions, simply making people unhappy is not enough.

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To truly make an impact in advancing DEI efforts, empathetic leaders must take bold and decisive actions. The status quo will always attract criticism, but visionary leaders understand that this is a necessary part of transformational change. Building relationships with key leaders can help enable executives to make the tough decisions required to move forward boldly.

Despite the high sensitivity and potential for backlash, courageous leaders must take a bold position on issues related to DEI. Mishandled efforts can lead to disappointment and ineffectiveness; however, transformative progress requires moral clarity and empathy. Ultimately, President Biden's decision to nominate Jackson was a values-based legacy-defining decision that loudly echoes his commitment to advancing DEI in historically disadvantaged groups.

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Be Prepared to Combat the “Diversity Equals Deficiency” Myth

When Justice Breyer's retirement was announced, President Biden promised to nominate a black woman to fill the seat. This is an example of how organizations can diversify their teams by seeking out individuals from historically underrepresented groups with extraordinary qualifications, character and experience. However, in many cases, the assumption that diverse candidates are inherently deficient remains chronically assumed.

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It’s important to recognize that diversifying organizations isn't just about checking boxes or meeting quotas. It's about ensuring strong organizational performance by enhancing teams' creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, this goal is routinely beset by polished prejudice – including cringeworthy questions that subtly suggest the proverbial elephant in the room: does this candidate meet our standards, or are we hiring them just because they're diverse?

To combat these misconceptions and ensure robust DEI efforts that deliver measurable results, leaders must overcome resistance from well-meaning executives and mid-level managers who may not understand how investing in advanced underrepresented talent benefits everyone. As Allstate President and CEO Tom Wilson wisely remarked: "We don't own investment banks, but if we did, they would be owned by women of color and veterans equity." By keeping this mentality at the forefront of your hiring practices and investing in a believer-to-builder transition within your team culture, you can actively work to dispel the pervasive rhetoric obstructing DEI progress.

What Does "Diversity" Mean Exactly? Be Clear in Your Context

The word diversity simply refers to human differences, but it's often used as an imprecise catch-all category referring to a wide array of stigmatized, marginalized, and historically disadvantaged groups. The politically correct use of the term forestalls meaningful action because progress requires strategic acuity and tactical specificity. Bidens approach to the Supreme Court nomination process is a great example of explicitly naming what diversity means in clear observable terms. By appointing a black woman and a Hispanic woman to senior management leadership positions, he is helping leaders gain a vivid picture of their organizations' current state and take actionable steps towards DEI impact.

A general commitment to increase diversity without a specific vision or plan rarely fuels measurable progress. While generic pro-diversity stances may make for great soundbites, lasting change begins with sober analysis and explicit goals expressed in clear observable terms. Only then can organizations face ambiguous executive commitments with clarity and purpose, ultimately leading to true diversity progress.

The 'Airbnbust' Proves the Wild West Days of Online Vacation Rentals Are Over

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However, Dan Latu, a professor at Columbia Business School, argues that Airbnb's woes are not unique to the sharing economy. "Every industry has its ups and downs," he says. "The key is to adapt and innovate." Indeed, Airbnb has already begun to pivot towards longer-term stays and experiences in order to diversify its revenue streams. While it may be too early to say whether these initiatives will be successful, they demonstrate that Airbnb is willing to evolve in response to changing market conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Dr King's three C's?

Dr. King's three C's are: courage, compassion, and community. These were the values he believed were essential for creating a just and equitable society.

How did Martin Luther King lead the Civil Rights Movement?

Martin Luther King Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement through nonviolent activism, including organizing protests, boycotts, and marches that drew attention to the systemic racism and discrimination faced by Black Americans in the United States. His powerful speeches and moral leadership inspired millions of people to join the movement and demand equal rights and justice for all.

Who was Dr Martin Luther King Jr?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968.

What can Biden learn from Jackson's nomination?

Biden can learn from Jackson's nomination the importance of selecting a running mate who is compatible with his values, vision and goals for the country.

Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?

Ketanji Brown Jackson is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and has been nominated by President Joe Biden to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Elnora Fratini

Writer at Inside Business

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Elnora Fratini is a writer who has a passion for exploring new ideas and sharing them with others. She is deeply committed to personal growth and self-improvement, and her writing reflects this focus. Elnora's work ranges from thoughtful essays on social issues to practical advice on health and wellness.

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