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When the past is present…

“…The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin


President Proclaims National African American History Month 2016



Harriet Tubman, "The Conductor," with fugitive slaves in Underground Railroad station

Harriet Tubman, “The Conductor,” with fugitive slaves in Underground Railroad station

America’s greatness is a testament to generations of courageous individuals who, in the face of uncomfortable truths, accepted that the work of perfecting our Nation is unending and strived to expand the reach of freedom to all. For too long, our most basic liberties had been denied to African Americans, and today, we pay tribute to countless good-hearted citizens — along the Underground Railroad, aboard a bus in Alabama, and all across our country — who stood up and sat in to help right the wrongs of our past and extend the promise of America to all our people. During National African American History Month, we recognize these champions of justice and the sacrifices they made to bring us to this point, we honor the contributions of African Americans since our country’s beginning, and we recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character.

John Lewis (l) and Jim Zwerg after being beaten on a Freedom Ride in Alabama in 1964. Lewis, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), later became a long-serving Member of Congress from Georgia.

John Lewis (l) and Jim Zwerg after they were beaten on a Freedom Ride in Alabama in 1964. Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Now he is a long-serving Member of Congress from Georgia.

From the Revolutionary War through the abolitionist movement, to marches from Selma to Montgomery and across America today, African Americans have remained devoted to the proposition that all of us are created equal, even when their own rights were denied. As we rejoice in the victories won by men and women who believed in the idea of a just and fair America, we remember that, throughout history, our success has been driven by bold individuals who were willing to speak out and change the status quo.

Refusing to accept our Nation’s original sin, African Americans bound by the chains of slavery broke free and headed North, and many others who knew slavery was antithetical to our country’s conception of human rights and dignity fought to bring their moral imagination to life. When Jim Crow mocked the advances made by the 13th Amendment, a new generation of men and women galvanized and organized with the same force of faith as their enslaved ancestors. Our Nation’s young people still echo the call for equality, bringing attention to disparities that continue to plague our society in ways that mirror the non-violent tactics of the civil rights movement while adapting to modern times. Let us also not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could make our voices heard by exercising our right to vote. Even in the face of legal challenges, every eligible voter should not take for granted what is our right to shape our democracy.

The "War on Drugs" begun by President Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a sudden steep rise in the number of Americans being jailed. The US now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

The “War on Drugs” begun by President Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a sudden steep rise in the number of Americans being jailed. The US now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

We have made great progress on the journey toward ensuring our ideals ring true for all people. Today, African American high school graduation and college enrollment rates are at an all-time high. The African-American unemployment rate has been halved since its Great Recession peak. More than 2 million African Americans gained health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The incarceration rates for African-American men and women fell during each year of this Administration and are at their lowest points in over two decades. Yet challenges persist and obstacles still stand in the way of becoming the country envisioned at our founding, and we would do a disservice to all who came before us if we remained blind to the way past injustices shape the present. The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners — a disproportionate number of whom are African American — so we must find ways to reform our criminal justice system and ensure that it is fairer and more effective. While we’ve seen unemployment rates decrease, many communities, particularly those of color, continue to experience significant gaps in educational and employment opportunities, causing too many young men and women to feel like no matter how hard they try, they may never achieve their dreams.

President Obama's slave ancestry has been uncovered

President Obama

Our responsibility as citizens is to address the inequalities and injustices that linger, and we must secure our birthright freedoms for all people. As we mark the 40th year of National African American History Month, let us reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2016 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.



Ex-Cop William Melendez Gets Up to 10 Years for Beating of Michigan Driver Floyd Dent

By Erik Ortiz,

The ex-Michigan cop convicted in the beating of an unarmed driver during a traffic stop last year was sentenced Tuesday to 13 months to 10 years in prison.

Former Inkster, MI police officer William Melendez

Former Inkster, MI police officer William Melendez

William Melendez, 47, was caught on police dashboard camera in the January 2015 assault against driver Floyd Dent, who was hit 16 times and testified that he was choked so hard he passed out.

Melendez during his hearing was also sentenced to 90 days on a misconduct in office charge. He was given 85 days credit for time already served.

From the bench Tuesday, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans admonished Melendez for an incident that seemed to spiral out of control from a simple traffic stop.

“You were so into your bravado that you forgot the eye of justice was recording you,” Evans said. “You knew better. You were better trained than any of those officers out there. You were more experienced.”

Melendez, who was fired from the Inkster Police Department last April, was found guilty in November of misconduct in office and assault with intent to do great bodily harm…

Dent, a 58-year-old Ford Motor Co. worker, was initially charged with driving on a suspended license, possession of cocaine and assaulting or resisting a police officer. But those charges were later dropped.

Floyd Dent victim of a police beating during a traffic stop in November, 2015

Floyd Dent victim of a police beating during a traffic stop in November, 2015

Dent has maintained police planted the cocaine on him..

He settled a civil suit with the city of Inkster in May for $1.4 million, and amid the public outcry in the case, the city’s police chief resigned, two officers were suspended and Melendez was fired.

The incident was widely cited last year amid the renewed national focus on police brutality in minority communities…

Floyd later told WDIV-TV that he had hoped Melendez would have been thrown behind bars for longer than 10 years.

“If it was left up to me, I would give him 15 years,” Dent said. “All the lying and humiliation and everything he’s done — he’s supposed to be an officer of the law.”

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Jan Rodrigues: The First Black Man on the Island of Manhattan

By Steven J. Niven,

In 1613, seven years before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, and six years before a Dutch vessel sold 20 Africans to the Virginia colonists at Jamestown, a black man named Jan Rodrigues was the first non-Native American to settle and trade on what is now Manhattan Island.

Mural of Jan Rodrigues in Harlem River Park

Mural of Jan Rodrigues in Harlem River Park

Rodrigues, described in Dutch records as “Spanish” and a “black rascal,” was born in Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) to a European (possibly Portuguese) father and a mother of African descent, and where he was presumably known as Juan Rodriguez.

Other than a fairly small number of Spanish bureaucrats and colonists, the majority of people on Santo Domingo were black or mixed race—some enslaved, some free—and many shared a culture that was influenced by the indigenous Taino population.

…Rodrigues, like much of the Santo Domingo population, began to make a living through smuggling, an occupation that became more lucrative after 1600, when Dutch, Portuguese, French and English vessels began arriving in the Caribbean in much greater numbers en route to their own planned colonies in North and South America…

At some point before the summer of 1613, Rodrigues joined the crew of the Dutch merchant shipJonge Tobias, captained by Thijs Mossel, on its voyage from the Caribbean to the East Coast of North America, including a journey up the Hudson River. The vessel anchored off Manhattan Island, where the crew traded furs with the native Lenape. Perhaps, like Mathieu da Costa, Rodrigues was an able linguist who could converse with them in pidgin. Several weeks later, Mossel commanded his crew to return to the Netherlands, but Rodrigues refused to leave, claiming that as a free man, he had a right to choose.

Mossel reluctantly agreed to leave him there and left him with 80 hatchets, some knives, a musket and a sword. Over several months, Rodrigues traded with various native bands and with other Dutch vessels in the region, including one captained by Adrian Block, who was mapping Long Island Sound. When Block returned to the Netherlands later that year, he discovered that Mossel was suing him in court. Mossel claimed that Rodrigues was his servant and that his presence on Manhattan was in service of protecting Mossel’s exclusive trading rights with the islanders. Block disagreed.

Block stated that Rodrigues was a free man, not a servant, and was acting on his own authority, not on Mossel’s behalf. Another Dutch captain, Hendrick Christiaensen, testified in support of Block’s claim that Rodrigues was a free man, based on his several months living with native groups as a translator for Christiaensen’s own negotiations with a band of Rockaway Indians.

Contemporary Dutch painting purported to be a likeness of Rodrigues

Contemporary Dutch painting purported to be a likeness of Rodrigues

Rodrigues did not testify in the case, but he made clear his views of his former ship captain when the Dutchman, Mossel, returned to Manhattan in April 1614 aboard a new vessel. Upon sighting Mossel, now captain of the Nachtegael, on the Hudson, Rodrigues fired his musket at the ship. The Dutch crew, armed with swords, guns and torches, responded by chasing him onto the island, where he was briefly wounded and captured. Rodrigues somehow managed to grab a sword from one of his pursuers and escaped to the safety of Christiaensen’s vessel. For Mossel, Rodrigues’ resistance proved his claim that he was a renegade “black rascal” and not free. The Dutch courts disagreed with him, however, and by not returning Rodrigues to Mossel, implicitly ruled that he was a free man.

With the conclusion of the court case, Rodrigues disappeared from the written historical record. Some accounts suggest that he remained in Manhattan and established a trading post, where he was supplied with axes, kettles and other metal tools to barter with the Lenape. As the first-known nonindigenous resident of the region, he had knowledge about local language, customs and values that was invaluable to the growing number of Dutch visitors and settlers. He may have married and had children with a local woman and was perhaps still in the region when the Dutch West India Company arrived in Manhattan in 1625…

Race-based slavery would gradually entrench itself in New Amsterdam, which would later become New York, as well as in all of the mainland Colonies, and the history of Manhattan’s first free black resident was largely forgotten until the late 1950s, when Dutch historians discovered his case in the Colonial archives. But it was not until 2013 that the English and Spanish translation of his court case became widely available through the Dominican Studies Institute at the City College of New York.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Hillary Clinton Goes Back to the Dunning School

By Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic Monthly

Last night Hillary Clinton was asked what president inspired her the most. She offered up Abraham Lincoln, gave a boilerplate reason why, and then said this:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines.

“You know, he was willing to reconcile and forgive.  And I don’t know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that might possibly have brought people back together more quickly.

But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the re-instigation of segregation and Jim Crow.  We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant.  So, I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.”

Clinton, whether she knows it or not, is retelling a racist—though popular—version of American history which held sway in this country until relatively recently.  Sometimes going under the handle of “The Dunning School,” and other times going under the “Lost Cause” label, the basic idea is that Reconstruction was a mistake brought about by vengeful Northern radicals. The result was a savage and corrupt government which in turn left former Confederates, as Clinton puts, it “discouraged and defiant.”…

Notably absent from it is the fact that Lincoln was killed by a white supremacist, that Johnson was a white supremacist who tried to curtail virtually all rights black people enjoyed, that the “hope” of white Southerners lay in the pillage of black labor, that this was accomplished through a century-long campaign of domestic terrorism, and that for most of that history the federal government looked the other way, while state and local governments were complicit.

Yet until relatively recently, this self-serving version of history was dominant. It is almost certainly the version fed to Hillary Clinton during her school years, and possibly even as a college student. Hillary Clinton is no longer a college student. And the fact that a presidential candidate would imply that Jim Crow and Reconstruction were equal, that the era of lynching and white supremacist violence would have been prevented had that same violence not killed Lincoln, and that the violence was simply the result of rancor, the absence of a forgiving spirit, and an understandably “discouraged” South is chilling.reconstruction

I have spent the past two years somewhat concerned about the effects of national amnesia, largely because I believe that a problem can not be effectively treated without being effectively diagnosed. I don’t know how you diagnose the problem of racism in America without understanding the actual history. In the Democratic Party, there is, on the one hand, a candidate who seems comfortable doling out the kind of myths that undergirded racist violence. And on the other is a candidate who seems uncomfortable asking whether the history of racist violence, in and of itself, is worthy of confrontation.

These are options for a party of amnesiacs, for people whose politics are premised on forgetting. This is not a brief for staying home, because such a thing doesn’t actually exist. In the American system of government, refusing to vote for the less-than-ideal is a vote for something much worse. Even when you don’t choose, you choose. But you can choose with your skepticism fully intact. You can choose in full awareness of the insufficiency of your options, without elevating those who would have us forget into prophets. You can choose and still push, demanding more. It really isn’t too much to say, if you’re going to govern a country, you should know its history.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


The Unflattering History of the Cop Who’d Run Over Black People

By Mike Mullen,

Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker is very, very sorry about a recent Facebook post advising Twin Cities residents to run over Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating on Martin Luther King Day. We know this because Rothecker issued a statement to that effect, with the help of a PR firm, saying he was “extremely sorry” to everyone: The people of St. Paul, his fellow officers, his family.

Sgt. Rothecker arrests a protester at the 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN

Sgt. Rothecker arrests a protester at the 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN

What we don’t know is whether Rothecker is sorry for leaving nearly identical and equally offensive Facebook posts in November, back when Black Lives Matter protesters were trying to draw attention to Jamar Clark’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

If Rothecker didn’t regret those posts before, he probably does by now.

Posting under the moniker “JM Roth,” Rothecker took the fight right to the people he disagreed with, replying to posts on the Facebook page of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a local progressive nonprofit. According to Becky Dernbach, communications director for NOC, Rothecker was a “serial troll” around the time of Clark’s death and the resulting protests…

Rothecker wrote, “They should’ve ran them over. Obviously their parents never taught them not to play on the highway. If drivers would’ve just kept driving, any idiot that wants to walk onto the highway and risk getting hit, it’s their fault and not that of the driver.”

He added “F BLM” and “any others that support what they are doing.”

In a later exchange in the same thread, Rothecker espoused a similar legal viewpoint, writing that drivers are within their rights to deliberately run someone over, so long as they “stop and speak with police.”

It should be noted that Rothecker’s not a particularly accomplished driver himself. According to police department personnel records, complaints have been filed against Rothecker over the years, and seven were upheld, resulting in discipline. Three of those were for car accidents.

In 1998, Rothecker was blamed for not turning on his lights and siren while heading to an “emergency,” resulting in an accident. In 2007, Rothecker was “pulling out of headquarters to respond to a call when [he] hit a post,” which internal affairs ascribed to “driver inattention.” And in May 2014, Rothecker was in another accident while driving his cop car, this one blamed on his failure to yield…

Rothecker has been placed on leave for the January posts encouraging drivers to plow through crowds of protesters on Martin Luther King Day. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the city’s police department have strongly condemned his message. Just about the only people supporting Rothecker are under professional obligation to be in his corner. The St. Paul Police Federation helped Rothecker release his statement of contrition earlier this week, and, in their own release, noted that Rothecker is an honorably discharged military veteran with 22 years on the force.

“He has many supporters in the community and among his fellow officers,” reads the statement…

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here


ABHM Founder’s Day Gathering 2016: Black Voices Matter!

Celebrate Black History Month with an Evening of Arts and Culture

February 27, 2016
Centennial Hall • 733 N. 8th Street • Milwaukee

Click for Tickets

Blk Voices Historic Struggle

Please join us in celebrating the civil rights legacy of ABHM’s founder, Dr. James Cameron, at our Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation. This annual event also serves to build community and raise funds to operate the museum’s public programs.

This year’s program, Black Voices Matter! An Evening of Arts and Culture, dramatizes the historic and enduring struggle against violence and oppression by black artists and writers.

With this performance, Hansberry-Sands celebrates its 35th anniversary!

With this performance, Hansberry-Sands celebrates its 35th anniversary!

5:00pm – Doors open

  • Unveiling of a new museum exhibit  by the Milwaukee Public Library
  • Release, sale and signing of the new illustrated, expanded edition of Dr. Cameron’s inspiring memoir, A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story

6:00pm – Curtain rises on Black Voices Matter! an ensemble of 3 one-act plays

Marti Gobel as Ida B. Wells

The multi-talented Marti Gobel as Ida B. Wells.

Narrator: Robert Smith, UWM Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Inclusion & Engagement

Talkback Moderator: Eric Von, Milwaukee talk radio show host

ToT front w back excerpt







Book Launch & Signing

A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story will be released to the public for the first time. The book, which retails at $24.99, will be available at an event discount of $20 for 1 copy or $30 for 2 copies, when pre-ordered with a ticket. (If you want more than 2 copies, please write to us at

Books at the event: A limited number of books will be available for purchase immediately following the performance, so it is best to pre-order books with your tickets by 2/21. Pick up your pre-ordered book at the event by showing your ticket.

The late Dr. Cameron’s son, Virgil, will be on hand to sign books, along with the writers (Reggie Jackson, Dr. Robert Smith, Dr. Fran Kaplan) who contributored new material to this expanded edition.

lifewrites-press-logoTo read excerpts from the book or for more information, click here.

A Time of Terror is published by LifeWrites Press, a project of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation.

Proceeds from ticket and book sales support the ongoing public programming of America’s Black Holocaust Museum. 

The Legacy Foundation is very grateful to the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Milwaukee Public Library, our Corporate Sponsors, and our Community Partners for making this Founder’s Day Program possible.


Stephen Colbert Let DeRay McKesson Interview Him About His Whiteness

By Zeba Blay, the Huffington Post

The “Late Show” made a bold move on Monday night when #BlackLivesMatter activist DeRay McKesson, named one of Fortune magazine’s “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” of 2015, came on as a guest to discuss his new anti-police violence initiative Campaign Zero, the mission of #BlackLivesMatter and why sentiments like “All Lives Matter” are disruptive to the movement.

“You know, it’s such a distraction,” McKesson said. “If ‘All Lives Matter’ was true, then we wouldn’t have to be out in the street. The police have killed 26 people just in 2016. We have so much work to do.”

Watching a key black activist on a popular late night talk show speaking candidly about police brutality, the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Democratic debate was amazing enough. And things got even more interesting when Colbert asked McKesson to help him understand his white privilege.

“I might be the whitest person you ever met,” Colbert said. “So I might have the most privilege of any white person you’ve ever met. How do I identify that in my own life?”

“What you can do is extend that role so you can dismantle it,” McKesson suggested. “You can create opportunity for people. You can amplify issues in ways that other people can’t, and you can use resources to create space for people.”

In response, Colbert switched seats with McKesson, encouraging him to “ask me about being white.”…

The 8-minute interview proved that it is possible to have frank and even funny conversations about race and white privilege in the mainstream.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrates 30th Anniversary

By Kate Brumback, the Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — The King Center in Atlanta is set to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church.mlk

The commemorative service caps more than a week of events meant to celebrate the slain civil rights icon’s legacy. The overarching theme of this year’s celebration is “Remember! Celebrate! Act! King’s Legacy of Freedom for Our World.”

“What most people around the world want, whatever nation they live in, is the freedom to participate in government, the freedom to prosper in life and the freedom to peacefully coexist,” said King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King.

The theme of freedom is especially meaningful this year, she said, because it is the 50th anniversary of her father going to Chicago to highlight the need for open and fair housing. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in January 1966 announced plans for the Chicago Freedom Movement.

In a nod to that legacy, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro is set to speak at Monday’s service…king_statue

Among the highlights of the events leading up to the commemorative service was a two-part discussion on Jan. 9 — part one was The Race Factor and part two was Rights vs. Responsibilities — that was part of the King Center’s series “The Beloved Community Talks,” which focuses on King’s philosophy of nonviolence. Part of that philosophy involves having truthful, candid, intense, uncomfortable conversations without anyone feeling demoralized, Bernice King said.

“Conflict is inevitable. Differences are inevitable. We will never get to a place where we will all agree on everything,” she said. “We have to have a manner of dealing with each other where we respect the dignity and worth of the person.”…

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Congressman Wonders If Congressional Black Caucus Cares About All Black Lives

By Julia Craven, the Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) says he’s heard a lot about how the criminal justice system and other institutions treat African-Americans from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Representative  Sean Duffy, (R-Wis)

Representative Sean Duffy, (R-Wis)

But on Thursday, he wondered aloud on the House floor why the CBC wasn’t more vocal about “how their communities are targeted in abortion.”

“Here are some stunning facts. The African-American community is 15 percent of the country as a whole, but accounts for 40 percent of the abortions. Fifteen percent of Americans, 40 percent of the abortions. In New York City, the most recent statistic is that African-American women had more abortions than live births,” he said…

Non-Hispanic black women actually accounted for 36 percent of the population that received abortions in the U.S., according to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whereas white women accounted for 37 percent — but black women were about three times more likely to receive an abortion.

“My liberal friends, Congressional Black Caucus members, talk about fighting for the defenseless, the hopeless and the downtrodden,” Duffy added. “There is no one more hopeless and voiceless than an unborn baby, but their silence is deafening. I can’t hear them. Where are they standing up for their communities, advocating and fighting for their right to life?”

What Duffy didn’t express was any understanding of why so many black women have abortions. CBC member Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), however, provided the congressman with that context in a statement she delivered on the House floor on Friday:

“I don’t expect Representative Duffy to understand why his comments were so offensive, nor do I anticipate him apologizing for them. What he and so many of his Republican colleagues fail to understand is the underlying context behind high abortion rates in African American communities. High rates of abortion are related to poverty and lack of access to prevention services. A number of African American women face multiple barriers to accessing quality, affordable health care, which can lead to higher rates of both unintended pregnancy and abortion.”

History, culture, and disparities in educational attainment and wealth all factor into the abortion rate for black women — and contribute to the broader racial and economic inequalities the CBC is actively fighting against…

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Diversity Policies Don’t Help Women or Minorities, and They Make White Men Feel Threatened

By Teresa L. Dover, Cheryl L. Kaiser, and Brenda Major, the Harvard Business Review

U.S. companies spend millions annually on diversity programs and policies. Mission statements and recruitment materials touting companies’ commitment to diversity are ubiquitous. And many managers are tasked with the complex goal of “managing diversity” – which can mean anything from ensuring equal employment opportunity compliance, to instituting cultural sensitivity training programs, to focusing on the recruitment and

Business People Icons

Business People Icons

retention of minorities and women.

Are all of these efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really. The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women. A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies found that implementing diversity training programs has little positive effect and may even decrease representation of black women.

Most people assume that diversity policies make companies fairer for women and minorities, though the data suggest otherwise. Even when there is clear evidence of discrimination at a company, the presence of a diversity policy leads people to discount claims of unfair treatment. In previous research, we’ve found that this is especially true for members of dominant groups and those who tend to believe that the system is generally fair.

All this has a real effect in court. In a 2011 Supreme Court class action case, Walmart successfully used the mere presence of its anti-discrimination policy to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination. And Walmart isn’t alone: the “diversity defense” often succeeds, making organizations less accountable for discriminatory practices.

There’s another way the rhetoric of diversity can result in inaccurate and counterproductive beliefs. In a recent experiment, we found evidence that it not only makes white men believe that women and minorities are being treated fairly — whether that’s true or not — it also makes them more likely to believe that they themselves are being treated unfairly…

The implications of this study are troubling for the ways we currently attempt to manage diversity and foster inclusion in our organizations. Groups that typically occupy positions of power may feel alienated and vulnerable when their company claims to value diversity. This may be one explanation for the lackluster success of most diversity management attempts: when people feel threatened, they may resist efforts to make the workplace more inclusive.diversity2

So what can managers do? First, they must appreciate the potential effect of diversity messages on groups that have traditionally been favored in organizations. Of course, this isn’t to say that managers should avoid discussions about or efforts to increase diversity in order to spare the feelings of their white male employees. However, managers committed to fostering a diverse workplace may need to spend a bit more time crafting messages and designing programs that are more effective because they come across as more inclusive.

Second, managers should know the limits of diversity initiatives for minorities and women. Currently, diversity initiatives’ strongest accomplishment may actually be protecting the organization from litigation — not protecting the interests of underrepresented groups. Women and minoritiesthrive in environments that support diversity. But extolling the values of diversity and trying to train employees to value it may not convince minorities and women that they will be treated well, and may not increase their representation in the workforce. In order to foster fair, inclusive workplaces, diversity initiatives must incorporate accountability. They must be more than “colorful window dressing” that unintentionally angers a substantial portion of the workforce. Diversity policies must be researched, assessed for effectiveness, and implemented with care so that everyone in the workplace can feel valued and supported.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.