By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
For long time, the world as we know it, has been divisive, discriminatory and dangerous (3Ds), made worse of late. Neither is it diverse nor inclusive.
The former through the latter has been recognised as important in trying to eliminate the 3Ds and making the world more equitable and just for all among the human population and its enterprises.
Many global agenda embrace the tagline “no one left behind” as a matter of policy in order to advance the state of diversity, equity and inclusion, in short (DEI), while co-creating a better future.
Through diversity, the future can be better represented in the context of gender, ethnicity, and one’s ability to cope. This in turn can lead to closing the gaps that have been created through the processes of colonisation by exploitation and subjugating fellow human beings to oppression and suppression just because of mere differences in their physical appearance for instance.
The system of slavery, apartheid and as well as other forms of abuses are stark examples that are still happening even today in nations claimed to be democratic!
The issues of refugees and similar issues related to human rights are piling on top of it all affecting many in the Global South despite many claims that the world is more prosperous and ‘modern’ than ever before. This directly enlarges disparities among communities best illustrated and experienced during the pandemic.
Notably, with respect to the distribution and use of vaccines worldwide. It now fully endorsed that the more advanced nations enjoyed far better treatment than the rest. The latter were deprived of the vaccine, while the former had surplus, well in excess of their needs.
Evidently the excess vaccines were destroyed instead being deployed to the poorer population of the world. Thus, the notion of inclusivity becomes a vital value to narrow, if not eliminate, the existing lacuna.
In another words, DEI as an decades-old initiative in academia and the government sector to promote fairer representation among groups which have faced historic discrimination is well accepted and practised without much hesitancy!
Overall, the example of the “vaccine” could be figuratively substituted by other relevant factors related to the prevalence of the pandemic. Employment is one. Another is the supply of food and basic amenities.
Or freedom to move or decide given the various constraints and limitations put in place to curb the spread of the various types of viruses. Corruptions, greed and plain selfishness are among the more oft-quoted cause affecting DEI.
Fortunately, many organisations are committed to DEI to further improve the 3Ds in the workplace or even causal social environments. So too in ensuring that the appropriate practices and policies adopted for the implementation of DEI throughout the organisation which is very much encouraged.
Especially when aligned towards sustainability because DEI can facilitate in connecting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as envisaged by the United Nations to target the 5Ps of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership within the Agenda 2030 framework.
Of late however, there has been a crooked twist, an inclination to drop reference to DEI at a time regarded critical with climate crisis looming ahead.
This could be traced back to coincide with the resignation of the Harvard president in early January involving a 53-year-old, daughter of an immigrant. She is the first black president, and the second woman, to be appointed to lead the Ivy League university, also the shortest serving president in its 388-year history.
To this, a prominent civil rights leader, Al Sharpton, was reported to condemn the resignation and called it “an assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity, and inclusion” referring to some conservative quarters in their effort to undermine Gay.
Her appointment to the job was deemed as the culmination of diversity and inclusion efforts by side-lining the conservative voices in higher education.
They vowed on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, not to “stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America.” They includes billlionaires like Elon Musk!
As a result, DEI took a different turn from what it was known for decades as a platform that promotes the community well-being and solidarity. Instead, it is now turned on its head alleged to be discriminatory and racist to the white majority. It has even gone into the US presidential campaign where at least one candidate has made a U-turn on DEI at the behest of the conservative peers.
Meanwhile, dozens of prominent companies have been “targeted”, directed to a wide array of diversity initiatives adopted, including fellowships, hiring goals, anti-bias training and contract programmes for minority or women-owned businesses to redress racial and gender inequalities in the workplace and community. Others focused on successful diversity programmes based on affirmative action that some have long tried to dismantle.
More specifically, it is not a co-incident that the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer – the dominant player in the scandal-ridden vaccine development initiative during the pandemic – has allegedly dropped race-based eligibility requirements for a fellowship programme designed for college students of Black, Latino and Native American descent; even though a judge had dismissed a lawsuit against the programme two months earlier.
With such a development that some said showing “chilling effect over corporate efforts to address workplace inequality,” the need to sustain DEI cannot be overemphasised according to experts.
Otherwise, DIE will undergo a slow death, especially in the Global South where the impact of historical injustice is still very much felt, now betrayed a new form of colonisation enhancing the 3Ds instead. – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY
- The writer is Rector at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)