Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

History, power, & culture.

When George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, Darnella Frazier captured the scene on her cameraphone and shared the 8 minute and 46 second video with the world.

What followed was the largest and most diverse mass mobilization of American street demonstrations in the nation’s history. Tens of thousands of government entities, nonprofits, and businesses began to hire diversity officers, and Americans from all political backgrounds grappled with what W.E.B. DuBois called “the problem of the color line.”

For many of us, it was the horror of Emmet Till all over again. 

65 years ago, Emmet’s mother Mamie Mobley Till requested an open casket funeral to show the world what those white men in Mississippi had done to her son. Before tying a cotton gin fan around his neck with barbed wire and throwing him into the Tallahatchie River, Emmet Till was beaten so badly he was beyond recognition. The Black press came to the funeral and took pictures of the 15-year old boy lying in his casket, and the photos were carried in newspapers across the world.

The muder of George Floyd was a chilling reminder of these more atrocious parts of our history. It was a wake up call that, somehow, a white law man still had the power to publicly kill an innocent black man in cold blood. There was a fear that, somehow, this horror was cemented into the foundation of American society.

History. Power. Culture.

A distinguished Black mentor of mine recently commented that when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, we are really talking about the intersection of history, power and culture. And I think he was right.


Because our history has influenced who has power in our organizations, and those of us who have this power wield a disproportionate influence on the culture. As leaders interested in effectively doing the work of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), we must understand how these forces of history and power continue to influence the culture of our organizations.

If William Faulkner is right in saying that “the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past,” then our history continues to shape and animate the present in profound ways. To do this work well, we do not need to know everything about our nation’s past. But we must know some things. Our history influences who has power, and how that power is used to shape culture.

Civic Partners believes that if we can learn what these forces are and how they operate in our organizations, then we can take practical steps to make our organizations places where people can both be themselves and be part of the group.

Such cultures of inclusion and belonging are a necessary ingredient for creating equitable outcomes. A more equitable future depends on our leadership, and our leadership depends on acting from an understanding of history, power, and culture.

Below are some of the services we offer:

  • Cultural Survey and Analysis
    • Setting priorities and developing assessment tools
    • 6 Workshop series – History, Power, and Culture
    • Individualized Team Support
      • DEI SMART Goal development and 360 Evaluations after 6 Months