How can it not know what it is?

The brilliant Matthew Kirby has invited me to join him on an upcoming episode of his Honest Human Resources Podcast. I’m looking forward to our conversation about Whiteness in the workplace. In particular, we will be talking about allyship. Although the term is frequently tossed around in the diversity, equity, and inclusion context, we don’t talk transparently about what it means for professionals from minority racial and ethnic groups when white allies are difficult to come by or, worse, when an apparent ally commits an act of betrayal.

In preparing for the taping, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me to be an ally to professionals in groups whose demographic representation in the mainstream population does not match their representation in the corporate workplace. This is what we mean by underrepresented groups. Corporate America does not reflect the makeup of the general population from a gender or racial/ethnic standpoint, especially at the senior levels.

Listening to prior episodes of the podcast, I know that I can expect Matt to ask me about how I perceive myself to be a human resource. It’s important to me that I convey just how much contempt I have for this contrived euphemism. The term “human resource” was developed as a means to soften the characterization of people and their labor as commodities. In other words, a human resource is an input of production like any other asset or tangible good. It’s 2020, and we still treat human beings as items to be bought and sold.

I am a human being, not a human resource. My labor can be compensated, but I am not a raw material to be consumed in the making of goods or services. I am a person. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, language matters. As we move forward into the great unknown of life after COVID-19 quarantine, it will be more important than ever before that we remember and place emphasis on our essential humanity. Our discourse at the moment boils down to a discussion of the economic value of human life. If this becomes our reality then we have lost what makes us human.


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