Seconde Nimenya’s new book “Unlocking Diversity: How to Create Inclusive Cultures in a World of Difference” is a much needed and long overdue book, especially in the wake of the protests that have rocked the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020.
Racism remains a major problem in the United States and around the world. In this new book, Seconde Nimenya offers practical advice and fresh insights on how to live in harmony with one another, learn to appreciate and celebrate differences, and create a better world for all. As an immigrant first to Canada and then to the United States from the East African country of Burundi, Seconde offers fresh perspectives on race and racism, and the benefits of creating inclusive workplaces and communities.
At the heart of this book is the need to listen to each other’s diverse stories and the need for all groups to take responsibility and work together to create a world in which we can all live together. Seconde does not point fingers but simply explains that each person needs to be accountable for themselves and their efforts in developing an inclusive culture. We’re all in this together, so we all need to be kind to each other as we sort through our social and racial issues to create a more diverse and inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.
Creating inclusive cultures in the first place requires greater education about what it means to be included. I love that Seconde makes the point over and over again in this book that more inclusion means more, not less. Just because we want to include more people from diverse backgrounds does not mean we exclude others – a fear often held by people in more dominant cultures.
We also need to be ready to answer questions about our cultural backgrounds without being offended or hiding the truth. Seconde poked fun at herself in the book for this reason because when she came to the US, she got tired of people asking where she was from, so she started by saying she was Canadian. Today, she is proud to say that she came from Burundi to North America. In fact, her first book, Evolution Through Adversity, tells her incredible story of growing up in poverty amid Burundi’s civil wars and how she obtained an education, despite all the hardships. Today, she speaks to groups around the world, sharing her message about how we can move beyond adversity, while developing more diverse and inclusive societies.
Seconde asks all of us to be open to sharing what we’ve learned from our experiences, and not to be so quick to dismiss people as ignorant if they ask questions because those questions reflect their desire to learn.
Seconde also speaks to the fine line people have to walk when trying to increase diversity. She says, “If you promote acceptance of diversity for your group, but exclude the experiences of other minority groups, even the so-called privileged, it’s not an inclusive business. Creating inclusive cultures isn’t just about standing up for your people.” It calls on diversity practitioners to stand up for all who experience discrimination because of their identity.
Throughout this book, Seconde offers advice to both individuals and organizations to increase diversity and inclusion in their lives, organizations, schools, and workplaces, and focuses on how education is needed for such efforts to succeed. “I believe education is the only solution that truly empowers communities and has the potential to end the cycle of violence and poverty,” she says.
In the wake of national protests against racism in the United States and even many other parts of the world that took place in May and June 2020, Conde’s message about systemic injustices is timely. It’s not a government or police department that’s necessarily to blame for racism, but instead, Seconde says, “I often say that systemic injustices didn’t put themselves in place; people did. And so, people can just take them down. So many countries have built back from nothing and it’s a testament that when we want to, we can. Each of us is called to step up, use our universal privileges, and fulfill our local and global consciousness.”
Seconde calls on those in positions of leadership to remember that inclusion isn’t about taking away someone else’s privilege, but inviting more of them to be part of “we.” She says, “There are no strangers in this life just other people living their own human experiences.”
Clearly, the way we approach race issues in America has a long way to go. It’s time for us to find new ways to work together.
Unlocking Diversity is a great book to help you begin to move toward opening up conversations, increasing your understanding of each other, and doing your part to make the world better for everyone. This may be the biggest challenge and lesson we are put on this planet to learn. Until we learn it, our problems will never be solved.