Diversity Is Being Invited To The Party

We are happy to share an article from our friend Lee N. Coffee, Jr., the Founder and CEO of To The Rescue: Lee Coffee & Associates, an internationally recognized firm where Lee is a Professional Speaker, Facilitator and Chautauqua performer who specializes in maximizing human potential, titled Diversity Is Being Invited To The Party.

Diversity Is Being Invited To The Party

It would be better not to know so many things than to know so many things that are not so.” Felix Okoye


What do geneticists, biologists, anthropologists, and other people of science say about the human genome?   How can coaches leverage modern biology and genetics to combat racism? What does the word race mean in your community?  How does racism show up in South Africa? South America? Southern India? Great Britain; and your coaching community?  

Coaches bring healing and belonging to humanity by standing in truth, being considerate of how clients identify, respecting their lived experiences, and being mindful of the social determinants that shape the coaches’ and clients’ values and beliefs. The myth of race unconsciously controls us. How are ideas about Santa Claus and concepts about Race-related? 

 They are both global myths with a history extending over several centuries; and, some people are genuine believers who keep the legend alive. What role does the psychology of marketing play in promoting both?  Using a phrase of color, what can I do as a coach to mitigate the “white lie” of race while acknowledging racism’s harsh reality? The Nigerian proverb enlightens us, “Don’t let the lion tell the giraffes story.

The word race is based on a socially constructed myth; however, racism relies upon this mythological deception. According to Daniel J. Fairbanks, distinguished university professor, research geneticist, and author of Everyone is African: How Science Explodes The Myth of Race,

“The notion of three major races — African, European and Asian—makes little biological sense because those three groupings are far from equal in terms of diversity, and there are no distinct genetic lines that separate them” (2015, pg.55)

Racism has prevented humans across the globe from rising to our fullest potential; however, coaches can create the right blend of powerful questions, emotional intelligence, and empathic listening skills to heal a wounded world.  Courage is one of the practical tools a coach uses to engage the client and facilitate their growth.  Do you recall when a teenager named Malala Yousafzai showed courage and spoke truth to power? She stated, “If people were silent, nothing would change.”

When will the coaching world harness its collective power to identify, illuminate and eliminate racism within the ranks? As coaches, we cannot teach what we don’t know. As transformational leaders, we cannot lead where we fear to go. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion do not go far enough because it is the pool’s shallow end.  After the killing of George Floyd; some discussions remind us that, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” As if this phrase can ease tension and gain sway in DEI discourse, it sounds nice.  However, – Racism is being assaulted (or killed) for having the audacity to show up at the party. Discussions around Racism exists in the deep end of the pool. RACISM is a global pandemic. A virus far worse than COVID 19. DEI isn’t enough because “People who are accustomed to privilege often see equality as oppression.” ~anonymous

Where can we use Edwin Markim’s words to move from Inclusion to Belonging?

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”

Many people lack the communication skills to have a coaching conversation around racism, in my lived experience, because it does not impact them directly.   How do you coach a mixed-race or multi-ethnic parent whose child is bullied because Mommie is white and Daddy is black? How do you coach the client who has been a target of racism due to their Amerasian status? How did the conversation about Prince Harry and Magen Duchess of Sussex inform you about real or perceived racism?

Belonging evokes a sense of fitting in or feeling like you are an essential group member. Like the sensation we have when laughing with our immediate family or closest friends, we feel like we are genuinely part of the “in-group.”  The declaration Black Lives Matter exists at the heart of the concept: From inclusion to belonging.

 In America, during that peculiar institution, Blacks built the country as artisans, fed the nation as drovers while moving cattle up the trail, and beginning with Crispus Attucks’ death at the outset of the revolutionary war, defended the country against foreign and domestic enemies. Yet these words uttered by a “Buffalo Soldier” of the 10th U.S. Cavalry resonate today: “Let it be said that the Black man has done his duty under the flag, whether that flag protected him or not.”   All lives will not matter until all lives matter. When will Black Lives Matter?

Various ethnic groups born and reared in different communities have dedicated their lives to servant-leadership, been productive citizens, and followed the law well enough to stay out of the judicial system, yet they wonder, what must I do to belong?  A generation ago, Frank Wu, the author of YELLOW: Race in America Beyond Black and White (2002) reminded readers that

“People speak of “American” as if it means “white” and “minority” as if it means “black.” Asian Americans, neither black nor white, consequently are neither American nor minority. Asian Americans should be included for the sake of truthfulness.” (2002, pg. 20)

Similar observations are discussed in Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature. Agustín Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, writes, We have a whole suite of myths to support us” (2015, pg 5.) In his seminal work, Professor Fuentes outlines irrefutable scientific evidence from various fields, including anthropology, natural science, and psychology, and makes the business case for disregarding the rhetoric that presents fallacies about biological races’ validity.

 As a Black man, professional coach, and former citizen-soldier, I desire to belong, be included, valued, and appreciated.  To belong, coaches, clients, and casual observers must develop the right mindset.  After his “awakening,” Siddhartha Gautama, the 6th-century spiritual leader, better known as Buddha, provided a path for us in the 21st Century, whose essence is captured in the ICF Core Competencies: Embodies a Coaching Mindset.  Buddha taught two important doctrines, the Four Noble Truths:

1)    Suffering (dukka) pain and misery exist in life.

2)    Desire is the origin of suffering (dukka)

3)    Suffering (dukka) can be eliminated when desire ceases

4)    The elimination of suffering (dukka) is the Eight-Fold Path.

 And the Eight-Fold Path. His first Noble Truth is that life includes suffering (dukkha). He also provided a path to decrease suffering in his concept called The Eightfold Path (Right Speech, Right Understanding, Right Action, Right Livelihood (aka coaching), Right Effort, Right Thinking (meditation), Right Mindfulness, Right Intention).

Ask yourself: What is my calling at this stage of my life? Where am I stuck in my development? How can I tap my creative potential to transform my coaching practice from inclusion to belonging? Albert Einstein provided this kernel of wisdom In the middle of EVERY difficulty lies opportunity.” 

Here is your opportunity: To proceed from Inclusion to belonging: Do Not wait for someone to grant permission to exercise your Inalienable rights. You are born with this POWER.  Keep your POWER, Use your POWER, Share your POWER! In other words, learn to K.U.S.! Fredrick Douglass informed us that “POWER never concedes anything without a struggle, it never has and it never will.” Almost a century later, Elenore Roosevelt followed up with sage advice “No one can make you feel bad without your permission.” Take your rightful place at the table of humanity.  I BELONG! You belong too!

 Tips for talking about anti-racism, social injustice, and inequality include:

  1. Build a relationship based on mutual trust, safety, professional maturity, and spiritual maturity.
  2. Be authentic and struggle thru the “groan zone “of open communication
  3. Please recognize that this is THE MOST challenging conversation we might have with ourselves, family members, a client, or another coach.
  4. Identify the critical role of somatic awareness of body, language, and the range of emotions each person experiences throughout the discussion
  5. Plan to “Check-in” often to maintain esteem for yourself and others.
  6. Remember that “practice makes permanent,” to improve this skill, you must develop muscle memory.
  7. Have an industrial size box of bounty Kleenex or paper towels.

     Be the rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Maya Angelou


How does it apply to you in your life?
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