As an African-American male who is also a first-generation collegian and one of the few to reach the heights of educational achievement in earning a Doctorate of Philosophy, I can attest to the fact that the path I have traversed has been largely devoid of others who look like anyone in my family.
When I reflect on the alluded to path, it is in many ways astounding how few of my peers matriculated from high school to college, not to mention how many were “weeded out” by various methods when it was time to pursue graduate studies or attend a desired professional school. Put simply; from my, and every other “minority”, the stony road we traveled was the antithesis of diverse as it was absent black or brown faces, regardless of gender, political leanings, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. So, I am confident that you can imagine my surprise when Denise Young Smith, a black woman who serves as Apple’s vice-president of diversity and inclusion revealed this week that if I knew what to look for, I would have realized that the lily-white overwhelmingly male environments that I trudged through were the epitome of diversity.
During a recent speech at the One Young World Summit, held in Bogotá, Colombia, Young Smith took individuals such as myself to task for our belief that there is little diversity to be found in a room filled with nothing but white males. According to the Apple executive, “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” In many ways, it is frightening to consider that a person who knows so little about diversity and inclusion holds such an important position at Apple. I am saddened to report that prior to her current post, Young Smith served the company as its vice-president of Human Resources.
In the alternative universe that Young Smith has created to maintain her employment, matters of diversity and inclusion have devolved into being unique human experiences such as do you prefer U2 or the Rolling Stones, is your favorite flavor of ice cream Butter Cream or Vanilla, or do you prefer your pizza cut in slices or squares. According to Young Smith, “Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.” Quite possibly the most befuddling aspect of all is that Denise Young Smith must have dealt with these issues during her ascension within Apple, a company whose workforce is, you guessed it, predominantly white and male; these numbers are fairly standard for Silicon Valley companies.
In many ways, Young Smith’s failure to understand the seriousness of diversity reveals a common tendency of a cadre of black professionals who consciously choose to serve as obstructionists motivated by a selfish strategy that betrays the very spirit of the motto of the black club women’s movement of “Lifting as we climb.” Instead of helping others during their ascension, figures such as Young Smith have implemented a strategy of feigning ignorance regarding racial matters and issues of inclusion that they pray will aid their survival in Fortune 500 companies. Sadly, Young Smith shares that she has been “playing this role for a very long time.”
Negroes of Young Smith’s ilk should be ashamed of themselves, however, one must possess a moral compass to come to such realizations on their own; instead, it is shifting political winds and public condemnation that births contrition in such persons. In reality, their contrition, which always occurs in the form of a public apology is merely another layer of their desperate attempt to stabilize their current employment status. Hence, I am absolutely certain that Young Smith will apologize after the public backlash regarding her controversial speech. Unfortunately for those seeking a career within a Fortune 500 Company, such individuals have learned how to expertly navigate shifting public opinion and always live to obstruct the path of others for another day. I guess when we really think about it, by sharing her deplorable thoughts Young Smith is displaying a form of diversity, it is just so unfortunate that it is the kind that no one should aspire to.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017