Little Mermaid casting African American as the lead actress marks a milestone for racial progress.
What is the difference between representation and diversity hiring?
Ariel is known to many as that beloved little girl in The Little Mermaid. But her casting wasn't always the easiest. Disney's casting choice started a heated debate. Putting African Americans on the big screen is worth celebrating. Much credit to Disney for redefining the story for the new generation. Isn’t it great to see more diverse faces in the market?
Recently, I attended a meeting where someone looked at my (small but mighty) team and accused me of being a racist for not having “Black or Brown people on my team.” That comment shocked me. I have always been proud of my team, so I didn’t expect to receive such critical feedback regarding them.
Most of my teammates first found us through our online presence. Some knew me for years. Others reached out to me cold. Some are avid readers of this newsletter. Others are alumni of the LivingOS Fellowship. Throughout the past few years, dozens of people have applied to join our team. Because of our community focus, we’ve attracted a lot of Asian candidates. To effectively help our community navigate and solve their problems, familiarity with the Asian American background, culture, and tradition is often key.
When I interviewed new team members, I focused on their unique skills and whether they could work well with our team and community. If they were a great fit for our team, I’d be excited to bring them on board. I would never turn down a candidate because they did not fit a particular racial profile. The commentator advised me to hire a team member to diversify our team. They suggested I prioritize race over qualification. However, isn't that unfair to the candidates who are more qualified? Ideally, no one should be hired to fulfill a diversity quota. They should be hired because of the unique value and talent they’d bring to the team.
I never thought that not having an African American on the team could be a problem. Is that racist? Our team at LivingOS does not have white people yet. Is that racist? Racist or not, such an argument often comes down to equality versus equity. Equality means leveling the playing field for everyone. Equity means using resources to help reach an equal outcome. I care about increasing access and giving everyone a fair chance to shoot their shot, but I do not believe in using quotas to dictate the result.
What would you do if you were me? Is it racist not to have racial diversity in the team? Should LivingOS bring in coaches from diverse backgrounds to expand beyond our main audience? Have you encountered similar challenges at work? Have you ever encountered racial discrimination in life?