Wake Up! The Need for Racially Diverse Leadership in Non-Profit
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
I am not going to say anything that you may have thought of yourself. But the simple fact remains, non-profit is still heavily lead by white leaders. Many of these leaders are capable, but there is a deeper question we need to ask ourselves about this reality. In order for our organizations, communities and the world to be more representative of racial diversity, it is necessary for white leaders to recognize that they need to clear space for leaders that don't look like them.
I am sure we have worked at organizations that have been helmed by white leaders historically, and even some that have been led by the same white leader for many years. What seems to lack in understanding, is the desire for them to do better vs. the need for them to inherently recognize that they may not represent or have the skills necessary to lead the changes from within the organization. While they are "learning on the job", too many white leaders are failing to recognize their own privilege and how it continues to translate into positions of power in the workforce.
There is great value when a white leader is able to recognize that no matter how well intentioned they are, they cannot reproduce the knowledge that racialized leaders hold, simply based on the fact that they don't have the lived experience, they have not had to navigate complex intersectional positionality. Think about it from this perspective: while they are doing their best to acquire the knowledge on how to be more equitable, appeal to diversity and prioritize inclusion, too many leaders of colour are unrecognized, or brushed aside that already have the knowledge and are ready to translate it into practice and policy.
This is not to say that white leaders cannot exist, but it's necessary that this consideration of self-inherent reflection occurs regularly. While white leaders may not be intentionally aiming to harm the communities they serve, it is too often they are overseeing organizations that are primarily rooted in serving racialized communities. This in itself is a problematic reality that is deeply rooted in white saviour syndrome.
For our communities to really recover, grow, manage and lead themselves, this shift in leadership has to become a central priority for our Boards and organizations alike. We need fresh leaders of colours to move us in the direction that is reflective of a world we want to live in, where young people of colour are able to see themselves in leadership positions regularly and constantly, without limitations.