Thursday, March 2, 2017

Diversity training in Arizona? It's hobbled by its own bias - OREGON LIVE

Originally published: March 1, 2017

Before she packed out for the Arizona desert with her staff, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz told The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board: "We're not changing society. We're changing government. We're excited and a bit apprehensive. I am concerned people will think it's a waste of taxpayer's money."

Before we get to the money part, consider the proposition: Off-site diversity training for managers whom Fritz expects to "stop talking about things and get results." She seeks better representation of minorities and women in Portland city government, especially in management positions. The goal is to better reflect the composition of a fast-changing society in which white men have long ruled and controlled the vocabularies and values that drive business - and to ensure that all transactions at City Hall are bias-free.

The goal is laudable. Portland and Oregon are comparatively white places in a roiling melting pot nation. But Portland and parts of the state have in recent decades embraced surging numbers of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. Meanwhile the plight of African Americans, in Portland and nationally, is more challenging than ever in a context of employment equity and human rights. Fritz is correct when she says: "It's not okay to say 'we use an equity lens' (at City Hall) but ignore the larger questions. You simply can't do the work of any department well without a diverse staff."