What Exactly Is Job-Culture and Cultural Fit?

In many workplaces, we often hear terms, such as ‘job-culture’ or ‘cultural fit’. For many of us, we still have yet to figure out what those two terms mean. We may have an idea, but not a definition. However, we often find exactly what these two terms mean as we spend more time in our role(s) at a company.

Truth be told, organizations are composed of people. People come with values and belief-systems. In the heart of this, you have the human-experience. No problem. Organizations usually do not expect people to come in the door as a blank slate. On the contrary, they are looking for individuals that will help the organization accomplish its goals. No problem. All organizations have end-goals at the end of the day.

So, what exactly is the problem? The problem comes with organizations disguising White-supremacy. Disguising as what? Job-culture or their definition of being a cultural fit. In many workplaces, diversity is usually tossed around in trainings, workshops, and business jargon. However, it is quickly seen that many people of color do not occupy positions nor occupy positions of leadership. Why?

As previously noted, organizations are composed of people. However, what happens is that predominately-White organizations may state that they’ve tried to recruit people of color, but haven’t found anyone qualified. Another common excuse, we don’t know how to recruit people of color. Honestly, I find these two excuses as…excuses.

In sitting in meetings with (White) recruiters, (White) board members, and (White) supervisors, there’s not a lack of ideas on how to progress an organization forward, or how to accomplish quarterly goals. However, it always seem as if there’s a lack of ideas on how to recruit and retain people of color. In often seeing myself in predominately White spaces, I am told how smart I am and how I am great at articulating myself. This is racist. I do not like to coin this as microagression. It’s just racist. Call a spade a spade.

On many occasions, (White) co-workers have made sly comments about my hair and how I styled it. On other occasions, (White) coworkers would use Black vernacular to speak to me. On a few occasions, (White) coworkers would make derogatory comments about Black people and try to make an excuse for it. In organizations that lack diversity AND inclusion, nothing will change. To be exclusive of people of color and to punish those that are Black and brown in the workplace because they do not fit Whiteness is White-supremacy. Diversity trainings and workshops are ineffective if positions of power are still being occupied by Whites. Furthermore, keeping people of color in the lower-tiers of the hierarchy subconsciously aids in the belief that these populations of individuals are not qualified for the upper-echelons of an organization. In essence, this feeds into White-supremacist thinking, and maintains the ideology that people of color are inferior to Whites.

In the nature of transparency, people of color are growing tiresome of these vague concepts that are simply indicative of White-supremacist ideology that is running through an organization. Hiring one person of color doesn’t make you diverse nor inclusive. If that person of color has to succumb to racist comments and exclusionary tactics in the workplace, the job-culture is problematic.

In my own personal experiences, I have seen workplaces that are diverse and inclusive of all individuals from all backgrounds. In these workplaces, the organizations flourished. On the other hand, places with White-supremacy can still flourish, but it lends itself to a workplace that will not flourish in the way that a diverse and inclusive organization will. As a globalized world, we have to learn and understand one another. We have to learn how to communicate with folks that do not look, speak, or behave like ourselves. It is a reality that we have to understand, despite the opposition of some.

So, what do I propose? Absolutely nothing. People of color continuously teach and labor behind equitable practices in workplaces. To draw out a plan for organizational change in the department of equity is not my job as a Black woman. It is the job of those in power to create an equitable place of work for all employees.

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Social-Inequities In Education

“If you wrote this paper, you did a very good job,” were the words of one of my professors. As my professor spewed these words to me, I wanted to retreat and not return to class. I was absolutely stunned that he questioned my academic-integrity, despite the known passion that I had for the research topic. In replaying that comment over and over again in my mind, I am often left speechless. What exactly did he mean? Was I not expected to deliver a well-written paper? Was I not expected to deliver a thought-provoking thesis? I’m not sure. However, I am often faced with these scenarios from White professors.

Back in May, I remember wrapping up coursework for the semester and feeling a bit of relief for the work I had done. For one of my classes, I remember giving a presentation over the criminalization of Black girls in PK-12 schools in America. Specifically, I looked at the impact(s) of zero-tolerance policies for discipline. After class, I asked my professor clarifying questions for our final-paper. In giving advice, she jokingly stated that I should add a narrative about a time that I was kicked out of school in order to really bring the reader into the research. As I stood there, I felt angry. Why? Because I’ve never had this experience. Furthermore, she felt as if this issue was laughable. I didn’t approach this research through an autoethnographic lens. I didn’t center myself in it at all. However, my professor felt that I should’ve added a personal touch to really engage the reader, as if the research wasn’t sufficient by itself.

In completing coursework and balancing college-teaching for the Spring semester, I can recall working with an organization that centers it work in urban schools. In working with the organization, I quickly realized the underlying racist and classist undertones of the group. The employees of this organization were middle to upper-class White women from the suburbs of Leawood, Overland Park, and Olathe, Kansas. In spending several hours and days with the same group of women, I would often hear comments about students’ dirty clothing, a student’s foul odor, the spelling of students’ names, how these students were affected by trauma and how this organization was necessary to prevent students from going in the wrong direction. Coupled with these disparaging remarks, these women would often engage in conversation on the greatness of the suburban schools in which their children attended. These interactions were indicative to me of the importance of checking one’s positionality and personal biases.

As a Black woman, I would often find myself disengaged with these women and the organization because I saw the attitudes in which they held about the students they were seeking to serve. As a young, Black girl that attended these same schools, I was frustrated. I felt bad for the students because I was able to hear the conversations held behind these students’ backs. The women would often go back and forth with one another and not see a problem with the comments they were saying. It was bewildering to me. You’re working with a population that you truly disregard as inferior to you. In this eye-opening experience, I have vowed to never place myself in another organization that doesn’t value the people that it serves. For them, I guess it was for the accolades.

In reflecting on these most recent scenarios, I continue to fight for social-equity in education at the intersections of race, class, gender and dis/ability. It is truly disheartening to see how students of color and faculty of color still face unfair conditions. Unless systems change, little will be done to dismantle what is happening. Honestly, this isn’t a call for individuals to change, but to get a collective understanding of what needs to change. People make organizations. People carry ideologies. Ideologies form the way we see the world. In looking at the world through a certain ideology, we are able to engage the world in that capacity. Ideologies matter. People matter.

Moving Beyond Words: A Call for Action

Tonight, the Lee’s Summit School Board held a special session to vote on equity training for LSR7 that’s been hotly debated for the last year. In a room filled with community members, educators, concerned parents, and intrigued spectators, the school board moved to approve the plan with a 6-1 vote. The vote was an important one. It was a move declaring that all students are worthy of an equitable educational experience, no matter their race/ethnicity, language, disability, and/or socioeconomic class. It was a move declaring that all students are worthy of being fought for when problems arise in our school districts.

Tonight, I sat among people that showed up on behalf of students. Tonight, I sat among people that have written letters and typed emails to the school board on this important issue. Tonight, I sat among people that have organized groups to coordinate and execute plans for creating an equitable educational experience for all students. Tonight, I sat among people that understood that equity isn’t a buzzword, but an absolute necessity in the grand scheme of the human-experience. Tonight, I sat among people that showed up with their children and cried for the possibility of something greater and better after the vote. Tonight, I sat to see the definite possibility of change in the district for this generation and those that will come after.

Tonight, the countless hours spent in talks, forums, and private conversations became a night that many have anticipated for a long time now. Tonight, the families, students, community members, and board members that have fought for this equity training has seen their wish come to fruition. As we left the session held tonight, the city of Lee’s Summit, surrounding school districts, and the nation will await the outcome(s) of tonight’s vote to move in the direction of change and positive impact.

The Problem(s) with Diversity Workshops

On Monday, I attended a series of mini-workshops on diversity and inclusion. In the span of a few hours, I was ready to call it quits. I was tired and irritated. Diversity talks are becoming increasingly popular and sometimes required by employers. However, I’ve concluded that these talks are merely emblematic of the bigger problem in our society- we talk a good game, but lack true action.

In these workshops, we were given handouts over the definition of diversity and why diversity is important. Honestly, most people will never say that diversity isn’t important. However, society often shows how inclusion is a tough pill to swallow. In these small, one-hour workshops, we nodded our heads to the reasons behind striving for social-equity in our classes, places of work, and etc. But we never discussed the need for diversity. We simply started the conversation on how we can become diverse and inclusive in our practices.

These workshops were relatively easy to sit through and didn’t require much critical thinking.

In efforts to appease the predominately White audience, Whiteness was never a part of the bigger picture. The concept of Whiteness was never on the table to be deconstructed. It was completely ignored. Out of sight. Out of mind.

As being a Black woman, I couldn’t ignore this huge elephant in the room. I was bewildered that this wasn’t the first point of discussion in our conversation on diversity and inclusion.

The speakers would speak about ‘the other,’ ‘voice,’ ‘cultural-relevancy,’ and etc. However, there was no mention of Whiteness and how it perpetuates the inequities that plague the lives of Black and Brown people. In order to have a true conversation over this issue, we have to contextualize the issue. There wasn’t any contextualization. The conversation continued as if there wasn’t a reason for why these social inequities persist in our society. I guess, these social inequities are just inherent.

As I shuffled between the mini-workshops, I only saw a handful of people that looked like me. Why? In a place that parades the necessity of ‘diversity’, where was this diversity?

In arriving at the rooms in which these workshops were held, I wanted to scream and pull out my own hair. I was being told the necessity of diversity by a White person in a room full of White people. I was being told that there were external organizations available that could facilitate an easier existence in the space I would occupy for work.

In the numerous diversity workshops I’ve attended in the past and present, I believe they play to lip-service and have no real impact on changing the climate of a space. If the issue of Whiteness isn’t deconstructed then the cause is lost. The content in these workshops are very sanitized and lack real depth. Inequity may be used, but the concept is very much misunderstood. In most cases, structural changes are usually not a part of the conversation.

In being a Black woman, I am deeply enraged by these workshops. I find them extremely nonsensical and unhelpful in the fight for creating equitable conditions for underrepresented and historically oppressed groups.

Diversity and inclusion are two separate concepts.

In my opinion, we must aim for both. We must aim to create, sustain and enforce new ways of including those that are continuously silence and marginalized in our society. There’s no benefit of having diversity if people are being structurally excluded.

If tokenism is the aim, diversity may be the route for you. But if you’re aiming to be inclusive, you’re digging deep to change the structures in place to create space for all voices to exist and maneuver.