Practice using inclusive language daily


After reading “The Inclusive Language Handbook” by Jackie Ferguson and Roxanne Bellamy, I was thoroughly embarrassed. I was reminded of all the non-inclusive words that I’ve been wrongly using for years at work and at home. They included sexist language, totally dumb terms and words that I should never have used.

This short book is filled with examples, exercises and quizzes to make us more aware of using language that includes everyone. According to the authors, “Inclusive language is the daily practice of communicating intentionally unbiased words that acknowledge diversity, convey respect, and support an environment of equitable opportunity.” They stress “daily practice” as using inclusive language can have a positive effect on culture and human relationships.

I never paused to think that humankind is more inclusive than mankind, human-made is better than man-made and it’s better addressing folks as friends, colleagues, team etc. than saying “you guys.” I didn’t know that a more inclusive term for wheelchair bound was “person who uses a wheel chair” and it’s better addressing a person as having a learning disability than saying that the person was a slow learner. The book also provides specific guidance regarding inclusive language use across different sectors like healthcare and retail.

This is a treasure for anyone wanting to use more inclusive language to enhance communication and collaboration.

The fight for equality continues


Tuesday, October 11, 2022 is National Coming Out Day celebrated across the United States. At least 31 transgender people have been murdered this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). And, in 2021, 50 transgender people were killed setting a record.

Justice and equality are out of reach for the LGBTQ+ community both here in the US and abroad. During the pandemic, an independent UN report “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the human rights of LGBT persons” highlighted deteriorating mental health and increased demands for psychological assistance including a 4-fold increase in instances in which a caller was contemplating suicide.

Living authentically, freely expressing their own identity without fear has always been a struggle for LGBTQ+ individuals. Coming out is a difficult journey in a world filled with hate.

Why Native acknowledgements are important.


Today, October 10 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “Indigenous people” is a broad term that refers to any culture that lived in a place first. It is good practice that we honor the original inhabitants, understand the losses they suffered and recognize the inequities that exist in our treatment of indigenous people.

Courtesy: Rawpixel.com – Freepik.com

According to Howard Zinn’s “A people’s history of the United States,” in 1515, there were perhaps 50,000 Indians left and by 1550, there were 500. Today, approximately 1.5% of the U.S. population — 4.1 million Americans — identify themselves as having American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) heritage.

It’s important that we acknowledge the truth that the historic homelands that we are on were originally inhabited by indigenous people. Taking a moment to authentically recognize the sacrifices of the original inhabitants not only shows respect but also progress towards social justice. And, it can be done in a simple sentence like: ” We would like to take a moment to recognize the sacrifice of the tribes (name them) that once lived and thrived here.”

Most American Indians now live in Western states, with 42% in rural areas compared to 23% of whites. In 1980, most American Indians lived on reservations or trust lands, compared to only 20% today. Over 50% now live in urban, suburban, or rural non-reservation areas.

American Indians speak over 200 indigenous languages. Approximately 280,000 speak a language other than English at home; more than half of Alaska Natives who are Eskimos speak either Inuit or Yup’ik.

One woman’s fight against the boys’ network


In late January 2016, Jamie Fiore Higgins, one of the most powerful women at Goldman Sachs decided to call it quits. For two decades, she was at a workplace filled with misogyny. Her book Bully Market reveals the inner workings of a powerful boys’ network that permeates corporate culture in America.

Jamie Fiore Higgins

Higgins came from a hardworking Italian American immigrant family. She wanted to be a social worker but her dad wanted her to be in a financially lucrative career. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, she joined Goldman Sachs and the money was good, really good.

Bully Market is a riveting account of how the boys’ network systematically excluded her and used their abusive power to pin her down at every turn. This is the story of Tom White kicking her out of an open meeting, Eric choking her and pinning her against the wall, Mike screaming at her for going against the Goldman “family values”, of Justin sabotaging her review and Jerry and Vito mocking her.

This boys’ network is still alive and kicking and not much has changed for women in corporate America. In a non-linear work culture, hybrid work environments now allow instant online bullying instead of bullying at the workplace.

Bully Market is a candid, tell-all story, very few women would dare to write. Higgins exposes her vulnerability, her daily conflict of money versus values, her relationship with her husband, and how she withstood two decades of abuse in corporate America.

“Leaving your desk to get your wing tips shoe-shined was a worthwhile endeavor. Providing breast milk for your infant at home? Not so much. Those men in the offices clutched on to their old boys’ club values with white knuckled fists,” she writes angrily about how she was treated during and after pregnancy.

As an intern, she was subject to humiliating treatment at the hands of trainers. Later, when she became a trainer, she was upset about her own behavior. “Like the long-bullied kid on the playground who becomes the bully, I had become a part of the cycle of abuse at Goldman Sachs,” she writes.

According to her, Goldman’s value system was so different from what was shown in glossy brochures and their website. Higgins calls out human resources and employee relations departments for being the least helpful and the least confidential.

This was a value system created by men in glass offices. Higgins always felt that she was owned by the brand and she was nobody without it.

All this happened prior to the “Me Too” movement and the killing of George Floyd. Since then, corporations have made paranoid attempts to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their mission statements. In her parting advice to the C-suites at Goldman Sachs she writes: “Don’t take the company’s ideals and create a list of business principles or best practices, or stick them as chapters in an employee handbook. Instead make them permeate the offices and be modeled by everyone in senior management.”

Hope things have changed at Goldman Sachs and other corporations. In an age of non-linear working and quite quitting, it’s better upholding the values that you were taught at home and not at your workplace.

Disclaimer

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.

Understand bias first.


We are biased, even the most open-minded amongst us.

Nobody talks about bias better than Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt in her much-acclaimed book “Biased.” We hold biases based on so many characteristics from gender to race to height. Dr. Eberhardt narrates her story of how she was body slammed by a police officer on the top of the roof of her car for driving a car in Boston that had its registration in her mother’s name. Later, a meta-analysis of 18.5 million traffic stops across the US between 2010 and 2016 done by her graduate student, Nicholas Camp, showed that when “black drivers are pulled over, they are more than twice as likely as white drivers to have been stopped for an equipment violation (broken light, expired tag etc) than a moving violation.”

The stereotypes in our heads are generations old and social media makes us more biased. Today, it’s easy to spread what’s wrong faster than what’s right.

Everyday biases at work can stunt careers and prevent opportunities for growth. In an article in the Harvard Business Journal “Are you aware of your biases?” leadership coach Carmen Acton tells us why she had shunned a smart employee from good projects because she assumed he was not fit to do the job because he didn’t have a college degree.

Understand your biases before you start launching your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. Being aware of oneself is the first step towards a journey that includes everyone and excludes none.

Know the difference between racism and prejudice.


In the summer of 2011, Eric Deggans, now NPR’s first full-time TV critic wrote an interesting piece in the St. Petersburg Times clarifying the difference between prejudice and racism.

I’ve often found Deggan’s view on prejudice and race simple and thought-provoking. According to him, prejudice is something that you observe in the moment. “You are walking home and cross the street to avoid an individual because you fear a mugging. Racism is internalizing as a core value the idea that some races are superior or subordinate to others,” he says.

We often use the word racism incorrectly when we prejudge someone because of their race or color. Someone might prejudge another individual but she/he may not believe that any race is superior to one another and cannot be called a racist.

“Many times when talk turns to a suspicion of prejudice, the word racism is used, incorrectly and unfairly,” Deggans says. We have our own prejudices and a single mistake doesn’t equal racism. However, a long history of prejudice will definitely make us a racist.

Prejudice is everywhere. The only way we can sort this out is by being vulnerable and engaging in honest conversations with one another.

Old silos kill collaborative DEI work


In the second half of 2020, following the killing of George Floyd, we saw a global movement for racial equity. Companies pledged money, chief executives wrote heartfelt essays, millions of dollars were invested and many chief diversity officers were hired with over half of them starting last year. Has it yielded any systemic change? Not much, says a 2022 Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report from Culture Amp.

Culture Amp surveyed employees from over 2,000 global organizations and found that nothing much has changed in terms of systemic progress. Almost one in three DEI practitioners felt that they were under-equipped to perform their jobs even though perceptions of DEI are generally very positive. Only 40% of organizations had dedicated DEI roles and 80% of them were hired just in the last year.

The report added that “competing priorities, tight resources, inexperience in the field, and a lack of accountability can lead to deprioritizing DEI work in favor of core HR tasks, setting DEI initiatives to fail or have limited impact.”

DEI practitioners must first amplify their own voices among leadership before trying to create internal change. The report added that many lack the ability to collaborate and benchmark effective strategies on a companywide basis. The old silos haven’t gone anywhere!

Strangers on LinkedIn, please leave me alone!


LinkedIn strategists, consultants, experts, and a whole slew of people want to make us influencers in a single day. As noted marketing expert, Seth Godin says, drip by drip…be authentic…these things take time, effort and genuineness. Here are ways not to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Saw you in the best practices group. (A common gimmick)

If so, let’s talk! book a call now, https://calendly.com (For what? Why?)

Let me know if that sounds interesting to you & we can connect over a Zoom call and discuss this further. No rush if you are busy. (Ploy to get me into a Zoom call!)

This is not for everyone, but I thought you might be interested. (I am special, right?)

I noticed that we are in the same group and thought it would be a good idea to start a conversation. (Another plain, boring gimmick)

Just circling back to see if you would still be open to grabbing a few minutes for feedback. (Please don’t grab me!)

From one CEO to another CEO, I’m reaching out to you as a fellow LinkedIn Open Networker (Ego, Ego, Ego- aren’t we exclusive?)

I like to get to know people in my network, and as a first step of getting to know each other, I’d like to invite you to have a Zoom call. (Clearly a LN consultant’s line!)

Hey…Just checking to see how you’re doing. Summer is almost over, so my 5 year old started kindergarten. (Touchy feely stuff doesn’t work here)

Gift from my 5-year-old daughter (Poor kid! Did you need to go so far?)

Sorry for just following up on this now, been swamped myself … was on your site and noticed you guys may have some ADA compliance issues on your website. OK if I drop in some insights on what I’m seeing? (Desperate? I already have problems. Leave me alone!)

I see we share some mutual connections (Aren’t we on LinkedIn?)

Thanks for connecting. I was just going through your profile and found it to be interesting. (Really?)

I’m in the process of expanding my network of successful professionals. It will be great to connect with you. We can share knowledge and experience in this fast changing world. (I move slow in a fast changing world. Leave me alone!)

I am getting back in touch as I believe we would both benefit from the chance to connect outside of LinkedIn. Do you have time in your schedule to talk? (Can’t connect with you inside LN, so why outside?)

Gun in a Black boy’s pocket


A. Van Jordan’s poem “Airsoft” dedicated to Tamir Rice made me sad and angry.

Tamir Rice

Just five days before Thanksgiving, on November 22, 2014, Rice was shot and killed by police at 3:30 pm in broad daylight at a recreation center in Cleveland, Ohio. His gun was an Airsoft replica whose pellets the boy was ignorant of and the police officer shot him dead thinking it was a real gun.

Was this done out of bias? Was this done out of centuries of hatred? Was this done out of prejudice? Was this done out of sheer brutality or dislike of the color of somebody’s skin or looks? Or, was this done by a mentally deranged individual? Was this a mistake? Was this miscommunication?

Who on earth would shoot a 12-year-old?


As mysterious as a cat in a box,

a toy gun in a Black boy’s pocket,

the gun neither dead nor alive,

unless offered a chance to empty

his pocket to solve the paradox

of what a day might hold. – A. Van Jordan. “Airsoft”

Western rugged individualism sometimes focuses on subjective written laws, a jury, and very rarely, common sense.

Why inclusion matters


Several years ago, I worked for a very diverse firm with employees from different parts of the world. This resembled the poster child of a diverse work environment but there was no inclusion. Employees never felt belonged and and management never cared because they were the least inclusive.

Nothing much has changed over the course of the last two decades. A McKinsey study “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters” states that while overall sentiment on diversity was 52 percent positive and 32 percent negative, sentiment on inclusion was lower with 61 percent negative and just 29 percent positive.

The study looked at data from 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies and found that the business case for diversity remains strong but companies lag behind in inclusion.

Unless a culture shift happens, we will all be paying lip service to DEI and changing nothing.

Why language diversity matters in healthcare


50 different languages other than English are spoken throughout the U.S. in daily healthcare encounters, says the inaugural edition of the Healthcare World Language Index published by AMN Healthcare Language Services, a provider of healthcare language interpretation services. Based on assessing 110 million minutes of interpretation services, the top 10 languages other than English used in patient/healthcare provider encounters nationally are:

LanguagePercent used
1. Spanish74%
2. Vietnamese3.8%
3. American Sign Language3.6%
4. Arabic3.5%
5. Mandarin3.0%
6. Russian1.8%
7. Cantonese1.7%
8. Portugese1.2%
9. Haitian Creole1.0%
10. Korean0.9%
Source: AMN Healthcare 2021 Healthcare World Language Index

DEI: A booming cottage industry


  1. Median DEI manager’s salary: $103,693 (Salary.com)
  2. VP & Chief Diversity Officer (Major public university): $315,000. (Plus sign on bonus, car allowance, and here is the kicker:  2 complimentary season tickets for football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey!) 
  3. Pre-2020 online DEI courses: Hardly a dozen courses existed on Coursera or LinkedIn. Today, hundreds of courses, certificate programs, and micro-credentials are available.
  4. Highly paid DEI consultants: Make between $4,000 and $20,000 per presentation.
  5. Elitist writers: Previously unknown writers with no clue of where and how marginalized communities live now have must read books!
  6. A spin off industry: Sub-specialists in inclusion, implicit bias, micro-aggression and other DEI topics are thriving, not to talk of DEI start ups in San Francisco!
  7. State and federal government mandates on DEI: Mean long-term opportunities for specialists, consultants and academics.
  8. Lived experience experts: Some have ditched corporate careers to start their own boutique operations highlighting their lived experiences.
Sell when you can: you are not for all markets
William Shakespeare (1564-1616). "As you like it."

Be authentic while communicating diversity


How do you communicate your organization’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) strategy in an authentic way? Instead of using standard DEI statements, get to the heart and soul of your organization’s commitment to DEI. Provide a truthful account of where you are and where you want to be. You need to communicate at two levels within the organization: the organizational and at the personal, human level.

Here are some tips to communicate your DEI initiatives honestly and with full transparency:

1. Stay true to your brand values

Adhere to your brand guidelines. Let the look and feel convey consistency, truth and transparency. Messages must be clear and cohesive.

2. Be specific and intentional

Every message should have a clear purpose and identity. DEI information is raw, boring and incomprehensible with acronyms and hard words like implicit bias, micro-aggression etc. Keep messages simple, interesting and transparent and easily understood by the rank and file employee. Use graphics with caution- do not clutter it with fancy KPIs and other metrics. At the end of the day, this is a human endeavor and none of us will ever be perfect.

3. Bring people together

Clear DEI communications can bring people together, engage them and emphasize two-way communications. Think of question & answer sessions, coffee meetings, DEI huddles, book clubs and vulnerability sessions where you get the chance to expose your biases.

4. Holistic

DEI communications must inform audiences about short and long-term goals and values of the company. Tie your message to company values, aspirations and where you want to be in meeting your DEI goals.

5. Integrate

The best DEI communications happen when internal, external communications, public relations, marketing, human resources and the DEI department work together in developing and disseminating messaging around DEI. Different perspectives add value in creating clear, crisp and effective communications.

Resource:

Here’s an interesting blog from Deloitte on this topic.

The death of the soap.


I miss tiny soaps, shampoos and body washes, the ones you looted on your last day of check out from hotels.

The cheap motels I frequented had tiny, cute soaps that smelled like sandal and took me back home to India 8500 miles away. They were so small that thrifty motel owners made sure that they lasted only for a couple of showers!

However, my recent stays have been disappointing and the temptation to whisk soaps is no longer there. Thanks to COVID-19, hotels have plastic containers filled with shampoo, conditioner and body wash.

Admit it or not, whisking tiny soaps gave you a feeling of accomplishment.

“Teaching people to be unbiased is hard work”


The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) world is in hyper-growth. A cottage industry rife with consultants, thought leaders, LinkedIn gurus, coaching sessions, books, and new acronyms by the day, it’s hard for the common man to understand what all this means.

Dr. Rohini Anand’s book “A guide for systemic change in multinational organizations: Leading global diversity, equity and inclusion” stands out amid this clutter. She narrates her personal journey and admits the privilege she enjoyed growing up in India before coming to the United States for higher studies. This book is filled with practical advice, anecdotes and her own confessions of making mistakes globally while looking at DEI with a purely US-centric lens.

Dr. Rohini Anand

Dr. Anand emphasizes the importance of culture, diversity and context and its importance in DEI work. She takes us on a global diversity journey similar to how Anthony Bourdain took us around the world teaching us about global cuisines. With humility, Dr. Anand encourages us to take a historical perspective, and learn and understand culture before launching an employee engagement survey or starting off with irrelevant metrics.

Numerous examples highlight the flaws of a US-centric approach to DEI that has been dominated by mostly insular male CEOs with a US marketing perspective. We learn that DEI, like exporting the US-version of democracy cannot be franchised like McDonald’s. Instead, it requires humility, understanding of context and leveraging the power of relationships.

Dr. Anand generously shares what she learned during her her decades-long experience leading global diversity at Sodexo, and explains 5 key principles starting with why global diversity should be inherently local. Identity, context, culture and values vary from place to place. She urges us to focus on a transversal approach to global diversity management, a mix of top-down DEI initiatives mixed with a highly localized strategy. Before starting a DEI program in a particular country, listen to change agents in localized contexts, she warns. The complexities of of race and its shifting social construct are well-explained in this book.

Her second principle about transformative leadership teaches us why leaders must change to lead change in DEI. Change cannot be made in DEI without personal passion and a shift in worldview. The third principle tells us that DEI is good business but warns us that studies based on US empirical data might seem totally irrelevant in other parts of the world. Understanding global and regional trends is key, she adds. The fourth principle “go deep, wide and inside out” explains why change efforts must be deep and wide within a company. They require ” a well-conceived and well-implemented governance framework to include a transversal strategy and to scale the inclusion effort to a global reach (wide)” The fifth principle highlights the importance of metrics and is laced with examples including the Sodexo Diversity & Inclusion Index (SDII).

I’ve had the privilege of learning a lot from Dr. Anand when she gave me an opportunity to understand the fundamentals of DEI. Dr. Anand is solid- thorough, well-versed, disciplined, and purposeful. This book reflects her tireless work in this field and is a must-read for any leader wanting to make progress in our post-pandemic work culture. After all, the business of “teaching people to be unbiased is hard work.”

Oh! How we embellish on LinkedIn!


Hyped words on LinkedIn

So much goodness all in one place!

Thanks to a cottage industry that thrives on hyped up resumes, fakes who we are, and dangles high profile words in front of recruiters, there is now a dictionary of LinkedIn hype out there. Here are some interesting ones… from a pandemic resilient franchisee to a purveyor of sorts!

Bloody Sunday: 50 Years of Injustice


British police killed 14 protesters at a civil rights protest in Derry, Northern Ireland, on January 30, 1972, setting off a four-decade long hostility among the British and the separatists in Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland were asking for the same rights the British enjoyed. Justice has been denied for the families of the 14 who were killed. Nobel Prize winning poet, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) describes the day:

Coffin after coffin

Seemed to float from the door

Of the packed cathedral

Like blossoms on slow water.


Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

Want new donors? Check out the importance of diversity-related data.


The term “culture of philanthropy” is boring. Instead, let us focus on creating a culture shift by incorporating Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) data in our conversations with donors.

The “culture of philanthropy” has been around for over a decade, repeated in case statements, campaign materials and in conversations with internal and external constituents. I haven’t had any donor ask me what that meant as it still seems a fancy word to me.

Culture shifts happen when strong leaders influence every nook and corner of an institution with a common purpose. This purpose resonates with every constituent regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and other identities that make us unique but part of a whole. DEI-data is critical here.

However, we ignore DEI data and go back to the same old prospect pools, the “wells” as we call them, reaching out to the same constituents again and again.

Retention is good but over-retention wont bring anything new to the fold.

Do we have meaningful insight on DEI data regarding our constituents? How many of our boards have had the same members for over half a century? How many times have we scrambled to check boxes when a grantor asks for the diversity of our board?

The practice of adding namesake women and minorities to boards for the sake of diversity numbers is nothing new to the nonprofit world.

However, the times have changed and in an excellent data guide, the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA) talks about the purposes of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) data, how it needs to be collected, used and stored. The APRA Ethics and Compliance Committee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Data Guide is a very useful resource that can help us look at donor pools with a different lens.

DEI data can help us diversify our boards, build better donor affinity groups, understand cultural nuances, tailor new types of volunteer engagements and, as the guide says “help further policies of non-discrimination.”

Any collection of DEI data should ask the question “Why” and it must have a business reason. Transparency is key as we design questions, responses are voluntary, and we must include a way to obtain informed consent.

DEI data can provide insights to frontline fundraisers on building relationships with new donor pools, asking them culturally competent questions, and getting to know people in a more meaningful way. This process will also help us reduce our biases, both conscious and unconscious.

While DEI-related data can give us a wealth of information, the APRA data guide teaches us how to use it ethically, for what kinds of purposes and how it needs to be stored.

This is critically important as we live in a world full of data breaches. However, DEI data, if used well can engage and strengthen our relationships with new donor pools.

At the end of the day, we all seek inclusion and belonging. What better way than to harness DEI data to include new constituents we had never thought about?

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Are you radically inclusive?


1


Truth

Your employees can always speak the truth. They have the freedom to tell it like it is.

2


Mistakes

It’s okay for your employees to make mistakes. You will allow them to learn and grow from their failures.

3


Clarity

Your leaders are transparent. They tell you clearly what’s happening inside and outside the company.

4


Usness

You are together. You have broken the silos and you want to work closely, helping one another.

5


Culture

You will work together to change culture inside and outside the organization. And, you know this is not going to happen overnight.

6


Trust

You will always have each other’s back. You wouldn’t need to suspect people within your organization.

7


Policies

You will develop fair policies for hiring, recruiting, pay, onboarding and other HR practices in the most inclusive way.

8


Growth

You will grow together and every individual will have opportunities to succeed and grow.

Unless you see and feel it, you won’t know what enslaved people faced in America


Let’s pray for atonement.

Three years ago, on a hot summer day, I visited Whitney Plantation Museum, the only museum in Louisiana that told the stories of enslaved people. I never knew that such a museum existed until one of my daughter’s friends told her about it.

The Big House. Courtesy: Whitney Plantation.

On arrival, I was greeted by it’s founder, John Cummings. A New Orleans-based trial attorney, he restored the plantation over 15 years before opening it to the public in December 2014. Cummings told me about his journey in owning the property for over two decades and then building a museum that told the story of enslaved people.

As I toured the Museum, I learned about the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery in Louisiana. I also learned how enslaved people were treated brutally as they produced indigo and sugar.

I saw the Big House where domestic slaves performed multiple duties from cleaning, serving food and looking after their masters, always at their beck and call.

I had never seen such a structure in my life and I had never even imagined that such things had happened in America, All I knew about slavery was about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, largely because of his famous “I have a dream” speech that my children learned at school.

After all, why should a non-immigrant Asian on an H1B visa care about the past of this country? You are living in the suburbs in Arizona surrounded by a majority white population and I was in my own ghetto. People never talked about race at any of the places I worked. They still don’t.

Besides conversations about the weather and nice places to eat, Americans seldom talk about race even as they call it the original sin. Not talking about the original sin is in itself a sin.

Fast forward a few years later, I took my citizenship test. I was given a set of pre-ordained bureaucratic questions highlighting the virtues of America’s best export product, democracy, forgetting that the country’s efforts to export democracy to the rest of the world has failed miserably.

The citizenship questions were largely about the constitution, past presidents and their middle names. My Jesuit-school education in India had prepared me well for rote memorization. I aced the citizenship test within minutes, and my interviewer who was already debating where to go for lunch, was so happy. She got me approved in ten minutes flat. The citizenship test was all about rules of democracy that actually changed on January 6, 2021.

The best way to understand your past is to see and feel what had happened and ask the question: why? The lives of enslaved people in America look pale compared to the country’s efforts to promote capitalism, rugged individualism, pseudo-socialism and of course democracy which is being questioned internally.

3 things you can do

1. Immerse yourself in history, take your children with you.

2. Talk openly about race, ask difficult, uncomfortable questions. The original sin will never go away, but we can seek some atonement.

3. Are you a corporate CEO? Instead of hosting another annual holiday party with Covid-19 restrictions, why don’t you take your employees and show them slices of history?

Linguistic racism is a global phenomenon


No one owns the English language anymore.

In my BA English literature class in India, I was first introduced to the Cockney accent, the dialect of working-class Londoners. The Queen’s English came to us later.

I got my first taste of linguistic racism working in a newspaper in the Persian Gulf. Linguistic racism occurs when people are discriminated on the basis of their accent and the dominant culture feels superior in the use of a particular language and in this case, it was English.

The Persian Gulf, fully reliant on expat labor, had become an inevitable breeding ground for discrimination against non-native English speakers.

Newspapers advertised for Native English language speakers alone for all the top jobs. It was common to see a British editor at the top in a newspaper with a global mix of underlings, mostly non-Native English speakers from Asia.

One high-ranking English editor who I worked for had a Cockney accent. Being a native, he had only one task daily- write a 750-page editorial on the Arab-Israeli conflict, a perennial conversation point in the region. He mastered it by cutting and pasting sentences every third day!

Meanwhile, the non-Native English speakers brought out the 32-page English newspaper every morning.

Today, there are 400 million native English speakers and around 2 billion non-Native English speakers. Teaching English is now a multibillion dollar industry and no one owns the English language anymore.

“English is constantly evolving, because of the diverse ways different nations and groups use it. Yet instead of embracing this linguistic diversity, we still rank particular types of English higher than others – which means that both native and non-native speakers who differ from what’s considered ‘standard’ can find themselves judged, marginalized and even penalized for the way their English sounds,” according to an article by Christine Ro in BBC Worklife titled “The pervasive problem of ‘linguistic racism’.”

Linguistic racism showed its ugly head when the global economy shifted to a work from home mode. Those with thick accents found it hard to express their ideas to those who spoke ‘standard’ English.

Linguistic racism has created workplace conflicts due to the unnecessary superiority of the Native English speaker. Employees often felt that Native speakers showed superiority and sometimes insulted them.

I believe the term “Native English speaker” must be removed forever. For centuries, we have discriminated against non-Native speakers and shut their voices down. Many great ideas have been lost in the process because we never had the patience to tap into the additional expertise they had, even though their accent was different than ours.

In a language with no masters, a removal of unconscious bias, some empathy and the ability to listen to people from other cultures will only do your business good, now and in the long run.