If, like me, you had the misfortune of reading the Daily Herald’s recent report on the status of Elgin’s diversity program and subsequent unconscious bias training, then, like me, you’re clearly more confused than ever.
How that reporter can so consistently get it wrong – right down to restaurant names – is beyond baffling. But I suppose we should give her credit for a unique kind of effort and consistency.
To fill in those background blanks, diversity consultant Denise Baretto, a real piece of work, engaged in the kind of inauspicious social media commentary that should’ve had her ass summarily canned. But since race relations is a touchy topic in The City in the Suburbs these days, her company remains employed.
To be more specific, one of Baretto’s utterly unconscionable posts read, “If white women tried as hard to eliminate white supremacy as they try to lose weight, white supremacy would be ended.” Because all white women are fat and oblivious, right? And suddenly we’re all white supremacists, too!
I’m thinking the term “white privilege” would have been a wee bit more appropriate.
Not one to rest on her social media laurels, Baretto added, “We interrupt our amazing #fashionweek to officially tell people mad about Kap, Nike etc. to fuck yourselves.”
Nice! I’m thinking Ms. Baretto is the perfect choice to write an updated edition of “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” “Kap,” of course, was shorthand for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In that same piece, Baretto told the Daily Herald that she’s “being more careful with swear words on social media.” Ya think? That certainly makes her a leading candidate for The First Ward’s annual “Keen Perception of the Obvious” award.
As to the white women post, Baretto added, “I understand that people were offended, and I get it, but calling out racism is not racism. They are not equivalent.” No, they’re not! Because what she said – as an Elgin diversity consultant – is exponentially worse. At least unconscious biases are just that, unconscious. But Ms. Baretto left no doubt as to whether she’s a conscious racist.
Since no one could possibly make heads or tails of that DH article, I had an enlightening conversation with Elgin Communications Specialist, Molly Center. She explained that one of Baretto’s associates was finishing up the unconscious bias training wrapping up on 12/10, and her company’s contract with the city expires on 12/31.
I asked Center whether Elgin would rehire Baretto and she said, “One of our goals is supplier diversity, so issuing an RFP is always a possibility when considering new contracts, but that would be a council decision.” That’s code for, no, they won’t be bringing her back.
Upon offering my theory that, since EPD officer Jason Lentz was fired for a much milder social media post, wasn’t Baretto’s continued employment a double standard, I didn’t get much of a response, which was probably the correct response.
Reading between the lines with a number of off-the-record Elgin insiders, it would seem that, in the era of the Cynthia DeClements shooting, high level administrators are particularly nervous about Traci Elli’s reaction to that kind of firing.
Of course, Traci Ellis is the former disgraced U-46 school board member, self-appointed spokesperson for black folks everywhere, fiction author, and the woman who compared the American flag to toilet paper. Ellis does have a small, but very vocal posse who did their damndest to commandeer Wednesday’s city council meeting over an utterly untrue rumor (we’ll discuss that on Monday).
So, while I was about to chide Elgin for their disturbing lack of cojones in this regard, as my crazy-ass mother liked to say, “Discretion is always the better part of valor.” Perhaps letting Baretto simply fade away is the wiser choice, after all.
Meanwhile, I’m going to, once again, call on my favorite Illinois City (please don’t tell Aurora) to drop this unconscious bias training bullshit once and for all. Even if done correctly, it only puts folks directly into a bunker mentality that destroys staff morale, and it only makes them further dig in.
Not to mention that, as this diversity training debacle clearly demonstrates, it only supplants one set of unconscious biases with another.