The Seven Deadly Sins of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

Keith Martin-SmithBuddha In Therapy, Cognitive, Emotional, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Moral, Politics, Video, World Affairs 2 Comments

Become a supporting member to watch the full conversation

Humanity is entering the Transformation Age, a new era of human civilization, with Integral Consciousness rising at its leading edge. Our members don’t use Integral Life as just another media subscription they use weekly or discard. Instead, most stay with us for years, using Integral Life to learn Integral Philosophy and build an integral mind slowly, methodically and when they need it. We’re here to help you shape the future that’s emerging no matter where your life takes you.

Get Full Access For $1 (30 days)* Or explore all membership plans → * Trial price for the first 30 days, then $20/month. Cancel or switch plans in 2 minutes at any time.

Join Keith Martin-Smith as he questions whether DEI initiatives are achieving their intended goals of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Instead of moving in that direction, are they further perpetuating any number of unseen biases? Is the narrative around privilege and diversity not only too simple, but working against a stated desire for cultural equity?
Keith questions many DEI assumptions, with loads of data, such as how other facets of privilege like class and education level impact our understanding of police violence, who is really being oppressed, and many other nuances.  He asks, and answers, how we might rethink and reshape the DEI discourse, moving towards more skillful, more honest, (and more integral) approaches.
Hard-hitting and direct, Keith cites 7 places where DEI, while partially true, is moving into problematic application because of the places it’s also partially false – and seemingly blind to that. His 7 sins are: 1.) Simplified Understanding of Privilege (included in the free preview) 2. Narrow Perspective on Diversity 3. Intolerance 4. Equal Outcomes Lead to Biased Policies 5. Excessive Focus on Oppression and Power 6. Tribalism 7. Anti-liberalism
We hope you can join this important conversation, which will be the foundation for upcoming talks around how DEI can be improved.

Images and maps by Corey deVos

Sin #1: Simplistic View of Privilege

The first sin discussed is the simplistic view of privilege, which reduces complex social dynamics to binary categories of oppressed and oppressor, often based solely on visible identity markers like race and gender. This perspective neglects the multifaceted nature of privilege, which can encompass factors like socioeconomic status, education, and geographic location, leading to an incomplete understanding of how privilege operates in society.
To address this sin, the solution proposed involves broadening the conversation around privilege to include its more nuanced aspects. This means acknowledging the complexity and intersectionality of human experiences, where privilege and disadvantage can coexist within individuals and communities. Encouraging deeper, more empathetic discussions that recognize the full spectrum of privilege can lead to more informed, effective DEI strategies that truly address inequality.


Sin #2: Limited View of Diversity

The second sin highlights a limited view of diversity that focuses predominantly on physical or cultural differences, overlooking the rich diversity of thought, experience, and perspective. This narrow approach can stifle the potential for true inclusivity and innovation, as it prioritizes visible diversity over the diversity of ideas and viewpoints that can drive collective growth and understanding.
Expanding the definition of diversity to include diverse thought and perspective is crucial. Encouraging environments where a multitude of voices, including those that may dissent from the majority, are heard and valued fosters a more vibrant, dynamic community. This approach not only enriches discussions but also contributes to a more inclusive culture that celebrates differences as a source of strength and creativity.


Sin #3: DEI Can Be Intolerant (Ironically)

Intolerance, the third sin, refers to the tendency within some DEI efforts to suppress dissenting opinions or critique, often under the guise of promoting inclusivity. This can create environments where individuals feel unable to express differing viewpoints for fear of being labeled as bigoted or out of touch, which ironically undermines the very diversity and openness DEI initiatives aim to promote.
Creating spaces where differing opinions are welcomed and valued is essential for combating intolerance. This means fostering an atmosphere of open dialogue and mutual respect, where all members feel safe to share their perspectives. Such environments not only enhance understanding and empathy but also drive innovation and problem-solving by leveraging the full range of human experiences and insights.


Sin #4: Overemphasis on Oppression and Power

The fourth sin involves an overemphasis on oppression and power dynamics to the exclusion of other factors that influence human relationships and societal structures. While recognizing the reality of oppression is crucial, an exclusive focus on these elements can lead to a worldview that sees interactions primarily through the lens of victimhood and power imbalances, potentially obscuring pathways to empowerment and collaboration.
Adopting a balanced perspective that acknowledges both systemic issues and individual agency is vital. Recognizing that people have the power to affect change, both within themselves and their communities, alongside understanding systemic barriers, offers a more holistic view of social change. This approach encourages solutions that empower individuals while addressing the structural inequities that limit opportunities.


Sin #5: Equality of Outcomes = Racist and Sexist Policies

The fifth sin critiques the goal of equality of outcomes, arguing that it can lead to policies that, while well-intentioned, inadvertently reinforce racial and sexist biases by imposing arbitrary quotas or standards that do not account for individual choice or circumstance. This approach risks valuing numerical representation over genuine equity and disregards the complexity of human aspirations and capabilities.
Shifting focus from equality of outcomes to providing equal opportunities for all is proposed as a remedy. Ensuring that every individual has access to the resources and support they need to achieve their potential creates a truly equitable environment. This approach respects individual choices and acknowledges that success can look different for each person, promoting a culture that values merit and diversity in its truest sense.


Sin #6: Tribal Identities

Tribalism, identified as the sixth sin, refers to the division of society into increasingly fragmented identity groups, each vying for recognition and power. This can exacerbate societal divisions and distract from shared goals and common humanity, leading to a polarized environment where solidarity and understanding are undermined by allegiance to narrow group identities.
Embracing a more holistic view of individuals, which considers a wide range of factors beyond race and gender, is the suggested solution. Acknowledging the full complexity of human beings fosters a more respectful and accurate perception of individual identity. This approach promotes unity and understanding, transcending tribal divisions to highlight shared values and common ground.

Click here for a comprehensive overview of qualities, traits, and types that shape our identity.

Sin #7: DEI Can Be Anti-Liberal

The final sin, anti-liberalism, criticizes the tendency of some DEI initiatives to suppress free expression and enforce conformity to specific ideologies. This approach contradicts liberal values of open debate, freedom of thought, and the importance of diverse viewpoints, potentially stifling dialogue and innovation.
Promoting a culture of open debate and the free exchange of ideas, where diverse viewpoints are not only tolerated but encouraged, is vital. Recognizing that robust discussions and the challenging of assumptions are foundational to progress, this solution advocates for a return to principles that value the diversity of thought as a cornerstone of a truly inclusive society.

Click here for examples of anti-liberal DEI positions in all four quadrants.

Key Questions:

Here are some questions you can contemplate while listening to this discussion. We suggest you take some time to use these as journaling prompts.

  • Navigating Privilege with Insight: How can I discern which factors or traits are most relevant in evaluating privilege in my context, balancing universal principles with specific situational nuances?
  • Harmonizing Diversity with Unity: How can I integrate the value of diversity with the principle of unity in my understanding and actions, recognizing the strength in both diversity and unity?
  • Navigating Openness and Integrity: What criteria can I use to decide when to include or exclude a perspective, ensuring I maintain openness while safeguarding the integrity of discourse?
  • Empowering Balance: How can I recognize and balance the influences of personal agency and circumstantial factors in my life and in the lives of others?
  • Fostering Fairness: In what ways can I hold the values of equal opportunities and equal outcomes simultaneously, navigating the complexities of striving for fairness?d
  • Integrating Identities: How can I honor both my personal identity and my affiliations with group identities, without losing sight of either’s importance?
  • Cultivating Shared Realities: How can I foster environments where debate and consensus coexist, promoting both the exchange of diverse viewpoints and the pursuit of shared understanding?

Context Visualization: Toward an Integral Intersectionality

This project aims to create a comprehensive analysis capturing a wide array of factors influencing human experience and identity. This initiative seeks to elevate traditional DEI approaches by introducing the concept of a “Kosmic Address,” viewing each person as a unique constellation of various traits and qualities.

The concept of a Kosmic Address posits that every individual can be understood as a specific point in a vast, multidimensional space, located by their unique combination of traits and qualities across multiple spectrums. This includes factors like physical traits, psychological development, personality types, sex and gender identities, multiple intelligences, life conditions, and more. It’s akin to a complex, dynamic coordinate system that pinpoints the exact ‘location’ of an individual in the Kosmos of human experiences.

Enhanced Intersectionality
Incorporating the notion of a Kosmic Address leads to a more powerful and inclusive understanding of intersectionality. It recognizes that individuals are not just a sum of separate attributes like race, gender, or class, but are instead complex amalgamations of multiple, interwoven dimensions. This perspective allows for a deeper appreciation of the unique pathways and experiences of individuals, acknowledging that each person’s Kosmic Address is a singular combination that cannot be fully replicated.

This tool is designed to facilitate a richer understanding of human diversity, enabling individuals and organizations to approach DEI with a more integral, holistic perspective.

Applications in DEI
This enhanced approach transcends traditional DEI models, promoting a more inclusive, comprehensive understanding of identity. It empowers the recognition and celebration of each individual’s unique Kosmic Address within the tapestry of human diversity.

The project aligns with the integral vision of recognizing the multidimensionality of human beings. By adopting the concept of Kosmic Address, it contributes to a more nuanced, empathetic, and effective way of engaging with diversity, equity, and inclusion, encouraging a deeper respect for the vast spectrum of human experience.

In our comprehensive exploration of human identity and experience through the concept of a “Kosmic Address,” it’s vital to recognize that the myriad typological factors we’ve outlined play a significant role in shaping individual life paths and choices. This multifaceted approach helps in understanding why certain groups may be underrepresented or overrepresented in specific fields or vocations.

While recognizing the potential impact of systemic barriers and oppression, it’s equally important to consider that a range of typological factors, including physical, psychological, developmental, and cultural types, among others, significantly influence individual predispositions and choices. For instance, the underrepresentation of a particular racial group in long-distance running records or the prevalence of one gender in certain professions can often be attributed to a constellation of these typological factors, rather than solely to systemic oppression.

This nuanced understanding aids in evaluating the concept of “equal outcomes” as a measure of “equal opportunities.” Equal outcomes can indeed serve as a useful barometer for assessing the existence of equal opportunities across groups, but this assessment requires a careful consideration of the various typological factors at play. Factors such as inherent physical abilities, cultural influences, personal interests, and psychological predispositions must be factored in to gain a more accurate and holistic understanding of representation in various domains.

Such an approach acknowledges that while striving for equality of opportunity is essential, expecting uniformity in outcomes without accounting for the diversity of human typology may overlook the rich tapestry of individual differences and choices. It emphasizes that equal opportunity should lead to the empowerment of individuals to pursue paths aligned with their unique constellation of traits and preferences, rather than enforcing a uniform distribution across all fields and vocations.

In conclusion, the project’s integral vision, which recognizes the multidimensionality of human beings and their diverse “Kosmic Addresses,” contributes to a more nuanced, empathetic, and effective way of engaging with diversity, equity, and inclusion. This approach encourages a deeper respect for the vast spectrum of human experience, understanding that diversity in outcomes is a natural reflection of the complex interplay of various typological factors shaping each individual’s unique journey.

Keith Martin-Smith’s When The Buddha Needs Therapy is now shipping!

It is possible to be liberated from the suffering of this world, but the path is a paradoxical one of embracing your ego even as you let it go. If you seek true liberation and freedom from the seemingly endless strife of life, you’re in the right place.

Purchase on Amazon

Previous Episodes of Buddha In Therapy

The Lost Art of Adulthood: Reviving Our Rites of Passage

The Lost Art of Adulthood: Reviving Our Rites of Passage

In this episode, Keith and Luke Entrup discuss the necessity of reintroducing formal rites of passage for our children, not as a fun thing to do with your kid but as something vital for their development – a piece most of us missed and have had to make up for throughout our lives.
The Seven Deadly Sins of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

The Seven Deadly Sins of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

Join Keith Martin-Smith as we question whether DEI initiatives are achieving their intended goals of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, or whether they may be perpetuating any number of unseen biases that take us further away from those shared goals. Are we oversimplifying the narrative around privilege and diversity? How do factors like poverty impact issues like police violence? How might we rethink and reshape the DEI discourse, moving towards more skillful (and more integral) approaches?
The Power of Vulnerability: Embracing an Integrated Masculinity

The Power of Vulnerability: Embracing an Integrated Masculinity

In this insightful discussion, Keith Martin-Smith addresses the misconceptions around male vulnerability, emphasizing its role as a source of strength and authenticity. He explores the transformative impact of embracing vulnerability on men's emotional health, relationships, and societal perceptions of masculinity.
Sex, Identity, Gender: Beyond Wokism and Trumpism

Sex, Identity, Gender: Beyond Wokism and Trumpism

Join us as we push even further into the front lines of the culture war skirmishes that have become so plentiful over the last several years. Corey deVos joins Keith to discuss how our notions of sex, gender, and identity apply to some of the most contentious and pressing issues of our time, and how they can be integrated into a more integral dialectic.
What Is a Man (And Why Does It Matter?)

What Is a Man (And Why Does It Matter?)

With all the cultural war battles being waged around the question "what is a woman", Keith Martin-Smith offers an integral discussion of manhood and masculinity — as a biological given, as a cultural construct, and as an ongoing source of identity.
Shadow, Trauma, and Attachment: Why Do Spiritual Teachers Keep Messing Up?

Shadow, Trauma, and Attachment: Why Do Spiritual Teachers Keep Messing Up?

If spiritual teachers are so “awake” and “enlightened”, why do so many of them get caught with their shadow hanging out? Watch as Keith Martin-Smith offers a stunning overview of shadow, trauma, and attachment disorders, and how they can corrupt both our mental health and our spiritual awakening.
Shadows of Development

Shadows of Development

Join Keith Martin-Smith and Kim Barta for an exclusive discussion as they delve into the world of shadow and ego development. Kim is a seasoned therapist, coach, and educator with over 40 years of experience who has dedicated his career to the resolution of shadow material. His unique perspective on the intersection of development, trauma, and attachment disorders combines the best of developmental psychology with depth psychology.
The Highest Stages of Conscious Development

The Highest Stages of Conscious Development

Terri O'Fallon and Keith Martin-Smith dive into a deeper and more detailed exploration of Terri's STAGES model, focusing on a smaller section of the model: stages 3.0 – 6.0 (roughly Amber/Orange to Turquoise/Indigo). Terri outlines what makes each level of her model unique from the last, what causes people to shift from one level to another, as well as what the mature expressions look like for 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 stages.
Perspectives on Development: Introducing the STAGES Model

Perspectives on Development: Introducing the STAGES Model

Terri O’Fallon takes us on a guided journey through her STAGES model, an integrally based development model that charts human development from infancy to the highest levels of development that humans are capable of. Terri’s research is based in the number of perspectives a person can take (1st through 7th) – and she explains how different levels of fluency with these perspectives can often cause us to talk “past” or “over” one another, and how familiarizing ourselves with these perspectives can help us stop doing that.
How to Build a Conscious Community

How to Build a Conscious Community

Keith Martin-Smith talks with Dr. John Churchill about the themes in Keith's latest book, When the Buddha Needs Therapy: shadow and awakening, the problem and promise of spiritual communities, the state-stage model as it relates to trauma and growth, narcissism and other personality disorders inside of spirituality, the power and trap of lineage, and what a fully Western version of an awakened spiritual path might look like.
Therapy & Awakening: A New Integration

Therapy & Awakening: A New Integration

Keith Martin-Smith speaks with Chad Bennett, a psychotherapist and ordained Zen priest, about why our existing ideas of therapy are often limited and keep us bound inside of the therapeutic relationship, unable to learn the skills necessary to continue our own growth towards psychological wholeness.
Who Awakens? How to Be Free From Your Freedom

Who Awakens? How to Be Free From Your Freedom

In this talk, Keith Martin-Smith dives into some topics of particular interest to those on a spiritual path. He first addresses the question head on: what is awakening, exactly? To answer this, he presents the listeners with a Zen koan, or riddle: Who awakens?
Keith Martin-Smith

About Keith Martin-Smith

Keith Martin-Smith is an award-winning author, writing coach, and Zen priest. He is passionate about human connection, creativity, and evolution. His books include "The Mysterious Divination of Tea Leaves", "A Heart Blown Open", and "The Heart of Zen". His most recent book is his first novel, "Only Everything", a novel that explores the promise and the pain of following an artist's path.