Soul Food Saturday and Taco Tuesday are NOT the Answer to Workplace Discrimination!

Cultural celebrations have always been a small piece of understanding some of the cultural traditions different human beings practice. They are a way of bringing us together to help build community, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging. BUT, they are not the answer to solving exclusion and discrimination within your company. Recently, I placed a post online to remind people of this fact during Hispanic Heritage Month and this caused me to receive some not so nice messages in my inbox, and I don’t give a damn. Here’s why:

  • People were offended by the fact that they felt I was negating from being able to bond through the 3 F’s of superficiality in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion…food, fun, and festivities. They were upset because they felt I was minimizing the building of community and wanted me to stop being so negative.

So I felt the need to write this article and explain my original point even further for the people who think that if they eat a taco, wear a headdress (a huge form of cultural appropriation), and talk about cultural practices, they are inclusive. Nah….. you’re not, keep reading.

Cultural celebrations are a way to build community, but not the answer to the way you mistreat people at work. They make people feel good, and show a sign of recognition, and in some cases they overshadow the discrimination that happens behind the scenes. The issue is not in the superficial way the workplace is celebrating people’s identities. The thing we have to pay attention to and solve after the celebration is over is the norms that caused us to celebrate the cultures in the first place.

Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, LGBTQIA+ Pride, Native American History Month, Women’s Equal Pay Day etc. are here and celebrated because of the need for those populations to fight through oppressions. We celebrate some of these special times and days because people have had to earn them and fight for equality through our gotdamn blood, sewat, and tears! They should be recognized, but not just in a superficial way. These celebrations are our way of remembering the fight of our people and a motivation to remind us to keep fighting for change, they should be acknowledged by our allies in the same way, followed by action. We have to include within those temporary celebrations the end game that many of these populations were fighting for, which is the equality and equity in policy and practice on an institutional scale.

In our companies we should be:

  1. Analyzing mobility, development, retention and recruitment of those populations, and creating policy and practices that promote equity.
  2. We should also be establishing programs within our social responsibility sectors that support the broader communities year round, especially if you have employee resource groups dedicated to those marginalized identities who cultures we celebrate.
  3. We should be allocating resources to communities, and lobbying for policies that support these populations.
  4. We should be holding diversity and inclusion trainings that help us to reinforce equity as a daily practice, not just a one time celebration or check the box solution.

I get that people like to have fun and enjoy one another’s differences in a positive and safe space. I also get that there are more ways to do that then just eating food, listening to music, and raising a flag. The same way people have died, suffered, and advocated for the right to have and celebrate their culture. We should be putting into making sure they are included in our systemic practices and continuing the causes that they fought for in the first place.

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