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When DEIA Hate Is Good


Vernon Lindsay teaching a DEIA class to faculty.

 

I hit the driveway after a long run, and my phone lit up. Two colleagues messaged me about an email sent to all university faculty. An attendee of the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) workshop I led the previous day manipulated my words.


Full of the euphoria I experienced while running, I read the email and replied to the text messages. I said I was grateful for the challenge to grow and that the sender was funny. Moments later, the endorphins dwindled, and I processed the tone and content of the message in my inbox.


I remembered advice from countless podcasts, books, and YouTube videos.


“Whenever you do something of value in life, some people will love you, and others will hate you,” said many of the people we admire.

The hate doesn't feel good, but it indicates you are on the right path. Introducing new ways of thinking and doing things disrupts the status quo. Their hate is a good thing; it symbolizes your leadership.


Your opposition wants things to stay the same. They are afraid of change. Their fears and desires for comfort limit progress and encourage jealousy.


Here's the best option for you. Use anger as your vehicle's fuel to reach a divine destination aligned with purpose.

Do you need more context to the above advice? Read on.


In last week's blog post, I discussed the resistance to raising DEIA awareness of policies and practices. I teach the course Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Medical Education in the College of Graduate Studies. On February 28th, I co-presented an introductory workshop about DEIA topics in higher education.


Many of the faculty members responded well to the content and interactive delivery. They asked constructive questions and engaged in the group discussions. Reading body language and interpreting comments, I also became aware of a less enthusiastic fraction of colleagues from various departments.


The email received after my run confirmed suspicions. Another professor accused me of terminating jobs for not adhering to DEIA protocols. As of today, the university does not have mandated DEIA policies, and I am not in a position with the authority to fire or hire anyone.


I never threatened anyone’s job.


The email, copied to the administration and all faculty members, attempted to manipulate, discredit, and bully me. After attending my children's swim meet and allowing myself time to write a civil response, I replied to the accusations.


You can read the exchange below. I modified the conversation for brevity and to protect the identities of all persons involved.


My reply started with a pleasant greeting.


Thank you for this response. I am grateful for this opportunity to clarify several statements from Thursday's DEIA presentation.


Sender: Please clarify what you meant by the comment, "If you hope to KYJ (keep your job)?"


A Power Point slide about the importance of DEIA

Me: When I said KYJ (Keep Your Job), I articulated the importance of eliminating racial biases in exams. My statements referred to our recent accreditation visits and the importance of working with students to help them pass their exams. Our status as an accredited institution correlates with our students' performances in academic and clinical settings.


Sender: You started the session by asking faculty to read into the AUA mission statement for the words tolerance and acceptance. (Neither word is in the AUA mission statement, by the way) -

 

Me: Dr. ______ began the session with a question on the differences between acceptance and tolerance. I followed her introduction, displayed the AUA mission, and asked whether our mission statement supports how we understand acceptance or tolerance.

 

Yes, I am aware that our mission statement does not use the words, "acceptance" and "tolerance." It does include, "dedicated to, offering opportunities to underrepresented minorities, fostering a diverse academic community, compassion and professionalism." These phrases guided the structure of Thursday's DEIA session.


 

Sender: I would like to reiterate that the issues of acceptance and compassion are separate. As a clinician I can treat everyone with care and respect even if I do not agree and validate their beliefs. -

 

Me: I disagree with your separation of acceptance and compassion. As an educator and social justice advocate, I need compassion, acceptance, love, stamina, strength, patience and other skills to serve our students and to engage in the struggle for freedom. But, I realize that's me and I accept our differences.


This email is one of multiple conversations between the sender and me since January. Our in-person and virtual exchanges about DEIA started when I received critical feedback on a presentation for first-semester medical students. The micro-aggressive comments revealed hostility towards efforts to support students with transgender or non-binary identities.


In addition to sending feedback on the lecture, this individual recommended watching a sermon by a conservative minister and Trump supporter. I clicked the YouTube link, and my blood boiled. The pastor preached against social justice and reinforced slanted biblical interpretations.


Are you still with me? Good. The next two sentences capture what I teach future physicians and medical educators through DEIA topics.

Regardless of religious or other belief systems, physicians must be able to treat every human being with respect. Acceptance of their racial, gender, sexual, age, ability, and faith identities is integral to the doctor-patient relationship.

Understanding hate as a byproduct of authentic leadership is how I process recent attempts to sabotage my efforts toward a more inclusive campus. The sender of the mass email message sent me another link to a hearing on the growing anti-DEIA movement. I foolishly clicked play.


The disturbing footage supercharged this morning's workout, strengthened my passion for raising the volume on marginalized voices, and guided the edits to this piece. 


If you're stuck today because of encounters with people who do not want you to succeed, take this post as a sign to keep pursuing impactful work in your field. Use hate as a source of energy to propel you forward.


In this Women's History Month, look at current and past examples of women leaders to understand the possibilities for your cause.

Subscribe to this blog for future writings and advice about similar topics. Watch the video below for a clip of the professional development workshop mentioned in this post.



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Yes, Doc, it seems to me that acceptance is a passive word, but compassion is an active word, something that takes much more effort than acceptance (and its lower derivative, tolerance). You definitely are on to something societal changing. Keep on going.

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Yes, indeed we need acceptance and the action of compassion to support DEIA efforts in higher education. I appreciate reading these words from you and knowing you're in the health field!


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Thank you, Cousin! I loved this blog. I feel you on this and sometimes when I speak my truth about being of service to students using (DEIA), rather than being of service to the University I am seen as not a "team player" and not an administrator. I respect what you and your family are doing and support your mission, my friend. Frank Lilly-Winn

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post, Cousin Frank. I know you are doing great work in Sacramento. DEIA is an important field. Much love

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