Dear Prudence

Help! My White Colleagues Have Made Diversity and Inclusion My Job.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A Black woman looks contemplative and to the left, holding hand to chin. A collage of headshot graphics is shown at left.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by DMEPhotography/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Diversity and inclusion and white people: I belong to a professional women’s group of which I am the only BIPOC member. Recently our chair decided we needed to set up a diversity task force. When the call went out for volunteers, I discovered that I was the only member to volunteer. When I pointed this out, people responded with defensiveness, saying how much they already contribute and how overwhelmed they are. (Note: I also contribute a lot and am also overwhelmed.) I am left with the feeling that these ostensibly well-meaning white women, who claim to care about diversity and inclusion, don’t care enough to do the work to change things—and instead are happy to sit back while I do it for them.

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I am frustrated, disappointed, and disheartened. Part of me wants to quit this group. I also feel they think I am overreacting. How can I inspire them to participate and care about this issue that is so important to my very existence without feeling increasingly resentful?

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It’s very worth your while to ask these questions—Do I think it’s possible to change some of these women’s minds, and if so, do I think it’s personally worth doing all that work by myself until I’ve got some reliable backup? Are there other local women’s groups that might serve similar personal and professional needs but that aren’t almost exclusively white, and if so, do you want to join one of them instead? Would you consider starting a group of your own—which would certainly entail a great deal of work on its own, but potentially more rewarding and exciting work? I think you should prioritize whatever serves your own needs and interests here, both because this is unpaid work and because it must be exhausting to be burnt-out, overworked, and isolated amidst a sea of white colleagues, well-meaning or not. If you think you’d rather have a conversation first stressing that you’re considering leaving the group over this before you do so, you absolutely can, but only if you think it would feel personally meaningful or contribute to your own peace of mind, not because you owe these tired white women a rousing speech.

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