Fighting Backlash to Racial Equity Efforts

  • Rosalind M. Chow, L. Taylor Phillips, Brian S. Lowery, and Miguel M. Unzueta
  • June 08, 2021

Understanding the real reasons why diversity initiatives provoke opposition can help you lead employees through cultural transformation.

Image courtesy of Curt Merlo/

After corporations committed to dramatically increasing their focus on racial equity in response to the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, the hard work of making the changes needed to live up to those promises began. Unsurprisingly, those changes are meeting resistance, such as negative comments posted during virtual forums about race and a lawsuit filed by a White employee claiming that diversity training created a hostile work environment.1

These responses are predictable: If you’re benefiting from the current system, you’re likely to resist changing it. In the United States, the primary beneficiaries of the existing system are White people. And if anything threatens to thwart America’s progress toward open dialogue and racial equity, it is White people’s unwillingness to engage with the idea that if others are suffering from undeserved disadvantages, it is all but certain that they themselves benefit from undeserved advantages.2