Diversity Is Dead: Freestyle Thoughts on Neurodiversity, Black Life, Reconciliation and the Commodification of “Wokeness”

by Romanza McAllister, LCSW

Right now, there is a fire in my belly! Yes, I’m fired up around the conversations that aim to address change. The war cry is #Blacklivesmatter diversity now! But the fire in my belly is twofold. I am glad to finally be seen and taken seriously. But, is that what’s really happening? Every company I’ve ever done business with is contacting me to pledge their allegiance. It’s throwing my ADHD into a spam mail anxiety spiral. I feel like a guest star on the Twilight Zone (minus the Rod Serling plug.) Am I on trend only until George Floyd becomes another name added to the lengthy list of Black and brutalized bodies? Will everyone cash out on this wave and return to business as usual? Will Breonna Taylor ever become a household name? Will black folks be left holding the bag yet again?

My stomach is in knots.  I don’t want to go back on the shelf… way in the back, until another controversy erupts. I’m so uneasy, because we’ve been here before. It’s like a painfully funny sitcom that’s moved to late night reruns. “Woke” isn’t the new Black. Black people are Black. The disparities and atrocities we experience are very real. Post Ahmaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade and countless names you will never hear, we would like to think we have arrived to a fairer and more equitable world. But we’re not there yet. Yes, there’s an onslaught of diversity initiatives. This is a temporary answer to a pervasive issue. It’s time to call it. Diversity is dead!

As fellow ADHDers, we can’t push the agenda of neurodiversity; not without shining a light on how privilege and systems work to humanize some and dehumanize others. We can’t make space for learning and functional differences while we fail to make space for/accommodate different identities. And while we are at it… Who exactly gets to ADHD anyway? Countless Black lives have been taken while engaging in the simplest yet perfectly human activities of daily living. Being an ADHDer in my world feels unsafe. Race is a construct. Being human is not.

Neurodiversity, differences in sociability, learning and attention, does not live in a vacuum. To ignore our experiences and identities is to deny neurodiversity. You can’t say you support neurodiversity while withholding equitable resources. We can’t advocate for those who live and think differently while selectively acknowledging the above. “Diversity” implies having a great mix of folks with different backgrounds to source from to ensure that “everyone” is represented. That isn’t enough. Although diversity is great for corporations and institutions (it makes them money), it doesn’t do much to value people on a personal level. It also certainly doesn’t provide them with tools for success.

Who does diversity benefit? You can diversify your organization, but that does not imply a shift in power, resources or structural change. Diversity paired with inclusion has often led to Black bodies being tokenized and reduced to figurehead leadership. A widely known quote in the African American Community sums it up beautifully, “They want our rhythm but not our blues.” This speaks to the global reach of Black culture, and “Blacktivism”/social justice models, and representation; but this doesn’t translate to valuing, respecting and compensating Black people around innovation and contributions.

Having a Black friend “on deck” is the hot ticket this week, but what does that mean for us with regard to long lasting change? (If you think that was hard to hear, imagine how it feels to be living it.) We have to push beyond virtue signaling and educating others on why Black Lives Matter. Education and sympathy alone won’t end racism.

Equity is giving everyone the support they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. We are not the same, and that is wonderfully ok! Equality can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same resources. In this cyclical mad rush to be diverse and inclusive; we must reflect on how systems that lack equity protect, serve and elevate harmful practices. When we only uphold diversity and inclusion, we are often blind to the gate keeping and power held by those doing the including.

We all must be mindful of co-opting struggle and idealizing quick-fix solutions while ensuring ways to facilitate deep conversations that promote lasting change and accountability. Just because everyone is included doesn’t mean all voices are heard. Diversity and inclusion optics without equity disempower, quiet and erase the very voices they were intended to support.

Do we want to show just how good and fair we are? Or do we want to dismantle unjust and unfair systems. It’s time to truly commit to equity and value Black lives beyond sentiment. It’s time for right allyship to move way beyond intention to assertive application. We all have a long way to go as we continue to navigate this pandemic, heal our collective traumas and work to repair and reform fractured systems that have left us all wondering… What’s next? Your move…

 

Romanza McAllister, LCSW is a Psychotherapist/ADHD Coach & Race Equity Advocate. Located in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she works with Adults centered on Racial Identity, Codependency and acceptance of their ADHD diagnosis. Romanza also leads ADDA’s African American/Black Diaspora +ADHD Peer Support Group, and contributes articles like this one and Catch-22: ADHD, Work, & the “Black Tax”.

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      • Matthew Wong
      • June 24, 2020
      Reply

      TRUTH!
      Can’t stop, Won’t stop.
      Education + initiation= action. Rise up!

    1. Reply

      Thank you for your feedback Paul . I’m happy that you identified with my work! Keep doing your thing! Everyone has a calling/ ministry . There is someone that needs to see you and hear your story just the way you tell it . That’s what nuerodiversity is all about.

      • Elishva Ray
      • June 10, 2020
      Reply

      Wow! This had me on the edge of my seat. with every line I read. That part about not wanting to be put back on the shelf, whew! I felt that and share your sentiments. Thank you for delving deeper. For being a stand for the dismantling of this flawed system of racism and inequality. I appreciate you being straight and I love your writing style.

      Peace and jazzy Blessings
      E

      • Reply

        Thank you for your feedback! It’s time for change. I’ll internalize the above compliment and will continue to do the work. Thank you for the encouragement.

      • Paul Bohan
      • June 10, 2020
      Reply

      Thank you for writing this.

      I’ve also tried, I think, to say the same thing. My history, background, and situation, including race, are very different, but your take and conclusion about the lack of people giving up, and truly sharing, power, seems to be hitting the same nail on its head that I have been striking for years.

      I have a Facebook page pbthoughtsmissoula that is essentially a public diary of things I think needed to be shared. I’m sorry it’s not easy to ramble through. My ADHD makes sorting and organizing difficult to handle, in ways most don’t understand. The page, I’ve been told by others, is also slow to load, and get to its heart, going back years. There are duplicate articles or posts, and other inconvenient awkwardness issues, stemming from me and also how Facebook is not always easy for me to deal with. I often feel that I may be discounted or judged before I even get heard.
      I’ve read two articles of yours and they both resonated with me.

      Even knowing I might be totally wrong about what I see as similar.

      Sincerely

      Paul Bohan

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