I went to a movie a few weeks ago, and when it came time to empty my wallet on refreshments, I saw a sign to the left of the concession stand that read, “We Proudly Serve [Starbucks logo].” Of course, my tolerance for late night movies has decreased significantly, and in that moment, coffee seemed like the best option to aid me in getting through any post-8:00PM obligation.
I purchased said-Starbucks coffee, mixed in my coffee fixins, and took a sip before leaving the concession area. Before I could swallow the mouthful of lukewarm coffee, with a disgusted look, I glared at the concessions attendant as he gave me a, “My bad,” shrug.
“It’s, Starbucks-ish,” he laughed.
The shrug continued as I walked away, enduring the movie with my Starbucks-ish.
“We proudly serve *Starbucks coffee.”
We do this a lot.
We accept the, “-ish.”
In many ways, this is an, “espoused versus enacted,” moment. This is about congruence (are you doing what you say you’ll be doing, and all of that).
I worked professionally with fraternities and sororities for several years, and continue to do so as a consultant and facilitator. This idea of congruence is a big piece of the conversation, and continues to disrupt what we believe about values and values alignment. In fact, many of The North-American Interfraternity Conference programs coin this concept as, “Values are what you do.”
For the most part, I agree.
And while this post goes beyond fraternities and sororities, it’s important to understand this simple philosophy. The philosophy of doing.
Let’s go back to the concession stand moment I experienced a few weeks ago. The theater had a Starbucks sign. Cups. Social capital. In theory, this was a perfect combination of what I think I needed (wanted) from the sign that beautifully read, “We Proudly Serve [logo].” Ish. We do this a lot. We accept the, “-ish.”
And specifically, we accept the, “-ish,” as it relates to equity.
Pieces were missing from my movie Starbucks. I experienced Starbucks-adjacent. And when I think about equity within companies, schools, organizations, etc., I see a lot of equity-adjacent outcomes. Equity as a value must be what you do.
And it goes beyond a quick fix.
“We’ll have a speaker.”
“We’ll have a program.”
“We’ll have a unity barbecue.”
“We’ll hire a Diversity Director.”
“We’ll giggle when someone says, ‘Bye, Felicia!'”
Some, indeed, have the right resources: the books, the materials, the buy-in, the marketable labels. However, if you’re not brewing the real stuff (see what I did there?), and if you’re not actually living and doing in a space of integrating these values, it will play out as values-adjacent rather than values-enacted.
Folks, hiring a diversity officer may help reach more students, however it alone will not address your diversity, equity, and justice problems.
Do you value equity (+diversity, social justice, inclusion) as a lived part of your organization, school, or company, or do you simply honor it as a box to check?
Often, schools and companies will hire a person to, “lead diversity initiatives,” without actually infusing diversity and equity into the very DNA of their organization. This edit is essential, and will make for a better and more inclusive inclusion strategy. You may have the sign, the cup, and the belief, but do you have the action to support the spirit of what these pieces can create together?
Do you have an inclusion strategy?
Are you talking about equity?
Is equity more than one line-item in your budget?
How do you frame hiring or admissions as they relate to equity?
Do all departments value diversity and multiculturalism as important?
And finally, are you more than just a Starbucks sign?
You have a unique opportunity to influence those around you (humans and corporations), to stretch your and other’s minds, and to achieve real and authentic impact. I hope you’ll consider the possibilities.