2022 was a record year for police killings so you can probably stop with the DEI memos

At this point on the calendar I can probably stop writing about the general failure of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. They don’t work, and by now, that should be obvious. But before I sunset that topic for a while, I have one more thing to say. The blame, for once, does not lie at the feet of DEI training or facilitators (who, for the record, are some of the biggest fans of my criticism of DEI efforts).

In 2022 police killed the most people we know of in a given year and nothing that we’ve done seems to have stemmed that tide. Mind you, this isn’t because of rising crime: most of the killings occurred after an escalation of a routine interaction. We’re talking mental health checks (9% of cases) and traffic violations (8%) and other nonviolent offenses. 11% of cases involved an alleged sighting of a weapon, which may or may not have been legal in any given state. In 32% of cases the victim was fleeing, not posing a threat to an officer. More, the killings remain highly disparate: Black victims accounted for way more presence in the statistics than represented by population numbers. 24% of police killings were Black last year. We remain only 13% of the overall population.           

Let’s be clear: Police killings are why so many organizations and companies hired or (worse) internally generated DEI campaigns. The protests of 2020 compelled organizations, first, to publicly pledge (or not) that they didn’t actually want Black people to be unjustly killed by police; and second, to begin installing campaigns to right-correct whatever injustices may exist in their workplace or social cultures. Most weren’t terribly interested prior to that year, and most have done away with, defunded, or let die on the vine whatever efforts they enacted. You certainly aren’t getting fewer emails and newsletter about diversity in your office because they fixed it. Too many organizations assumed that programming a speaker once a year or doing some icebreaker quizzes at a staff meeting were enough. Not enough to fix the problem, mind you; enough to say they addressed the problem. Which is all most companies do about anything they don’t really want to be on the hook for: address it. Start a conversation. Bring it to the table.

Never change. Never give agency. Never shift power dynamics. Never enforce accountability.

2022 marks the highest number of police killings on record: at least 1,176 people that we know of. Reporting remains an issue across the country, but several vetted sources have arrived at the same conclusion. The problem that started all of this (again, for the umpteenth time) – police brutality against Black people – has only gotten worse.

It’s hard for me to sit in a DEI meeting or to take seriously a conversation that believes the conversation is somehow a step in the right direction against a problem like that. To keep doing so three years after the fact is practically a slap in the face, particularly considering how infrequently the actual issue of police brutality appears in these efforts. If I tell you that I want you to help change a system that now kills 3 people a day on average and your response is to have a counseling session for me, you’re lucky I don’t call the police on you. I’d rather you just do what so many universities and businesses have been doing in the past year: ceasing all efforts to change. At least then I know where you stand and we can decide if I should keep engaging you or not.  

Whatever you want me to believe you’ve been doing isn’t working. I do not feel safer. I do not feel like things are going in the right direction. I do not gauge your success on how you or I feel. I gauge your success based on the numbers. The number of people killed by the police is a real number. It is a genuine threat to life and liberty. So you’ll forgive me if I look at your efforts – your meetings, your art, your speeches, your invitations – for the band-aids that they are. We are too proud of what we think we have accomplished in the last few years. The majority of the 1,176 people killed by police last year would beg to differ.

Photo credit: Photo 29660132 © Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com

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