We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Matthew Whitaker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Matthew, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
I highly recommend Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. “This new book,” writes Chris Schluep, “points to our entire social structure as an unrecognized caste system. Most people see America as racist, and Wilkerson agrees that it is indeed racist. She points out that we tend to refer to slavery as a ‘sad dark chapter’ in America when in fact it lasted for hundreds of years—but in order to maintain a social order and an ‘economy whose bottom gear was torture,” it was necessary to give blacks the lowest possible status. Whites in turn got top status. In between came the middle castes of ‘Asians, Latinos, indigenous people, and immigrants of African descent’ to fill out the originally bipolar hierarchy. Such a caste system allowed generations of whites to live under the same assumptions of inequality—these ‘distorted rules of engagement’—whether their ancestors were slave owners or abolitionists. And the unspoken caste system encouraged all to accept their roles.” This book is a must-read for everyone seeking to understand the roots and reality of the current, dismal state of race relations in America.
What should our readers know about your business?
Our mission is to be the catalyst our clients are looking for to assist them in creating inclusive, collegial, and successful environments, by providing innovative and effective strategies and tactics, that are tethered to their business plan, mission, and values, to increase synergy, performance, productivity, profitability, brand optimization, and competitiveness. Our vision is to answer the persistent call for a more equitable, inclusive, and productive world, by deploying our experts to increase cultural competency and leverage difference to create innovative office and environments. Our goal is to be knowledge and passionate diversity and inclusion partners in a larger efforts to maximize our human and institutional potential. The great sociologist, W.E.B. DuBois, wrote “there can be no perfect democracy curtailed by color, race or poverty, but with all we accomplish all.” We at Diamond Strategies believe that “with all we accomplish all.”
We are a small, minority certified enterprise of five (5) full-time employees, two (2) part-time employees, one (1) intern, and five (5) sub-contracted trainer/facilitators, who provide transformational cultural competency, diversity, equity, and inclusion training and leadership in community relations to our clients through a combination of keynote presentations that augment current efforts, overseeing robust and thematic workshops and training sessions, cultural competency training, one-on-one coaching, informational and bridge-building community forums, and other activities designed to provide the knowledge, skills, attitude, sensitivity, and resources that you need to engender healthy, positive, and effective cultures of collaborations within and beyond your organization. Our passion is helping our clients understand, embrace and leverage DEI to make themselves more happy, efficient, resilient, competitive, and successful at navigating our dynamic and changing world. Our skilled leadership and first-rate analytics will help you move the needle in the area of DEI and community relations. Our team distinguishes itself from our competitors by offering adept researchers who have the rare capacity to assess our findings, understand their meaning, and communicate them effectively to academicians, business leaders, educators, students, and everyday people.
Our team was organized by an interracial couple in Dr. Matthew C. Whitaker an Mrs. Cassondra L. Whitaker. Five of the eight members of our core team are women, we have two Spanish speakers, and our team also boasts members of the Baby Boomer, X, Millennial, and Z generations. If firms are not diverse, how can they instruct others in inclusivity? All of us are keenly aware of, and have deep interests in, many aspects of our culture. We are outspoken, resourceful, and enterprising diversity and inclusion gurus, who are uniquely suited to help our clients. We are particularly adept at communicating comfortably and effectively with people from manywalks of life. We are professional and collegial, and we do whatever it takes—putting in countless hours— to produce the best work possible.
Not surprisingly, we are devoted to issues that affect the everyday lives of people, particularly those who have been rendered marginal by virtue of their race, class, and gender. Our team has coached and mentored executive leadership, administrators and emerging leaders within 6 K-12 school districts, 13 community colleges, 11 universities, over 15 non-profits, and over 30 businesses and large corporations. Getting to this point was not easy. We were doubted. Many people considered our services to be non-essential, until our cities erupted in visceral and violent protest that is, until employees of color and their allies began walking off the job en masse and demanding comprehensive, sustainable, and measurable equity and inclusion efforts, until corporate boards, themselves predominantly White, began going viral, hearing investors, firing executives, and withholding philanthropy for failing to move the DEI needle. Now we are not merely viewed as the purveyors of cottage industry, kumbaya comfort for guilty White c-suites, and angry, activist employees, we are seen as essential workers and first responders for individual and institutional growth, justice, and social cohesion. We overcome these challenges by remaining focused on the work. We do not do what we do for money, even though we are a business and we have bills to pay. We are highly educated and trained professionals who have transformed our passion into our livelihood. In other words, we do not have jobs, we have callings, and we are answering them.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Day 1 and 2: Scottsdale, Phoenix, Wickenburg, Prescott, Jerome and Sedona
1. Head straight for the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North (swimming, spa, etc.)
2. Desert Botanical Garden around sunset.
3. Dinner at Tomaso’s in Phoenix
4. First Friday, Art Walk, and Heritage Square in Phoenix
5. Drinks at The White Rabbit (Speakeasy)
6. Sunday church service at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church
7. Breakfast/Brunch at LoLo’s Chicken and Waffles
8. Heard Museum (Native American art and culture).
9. Drive to Sedona via scenic route through Wickenburg, Prescott, and Jerome (dinner at The Asylum in Jerome)
11. Spirit Room Live music
12 On to Sedona and L’Auberge de Sedona Resort and Spa.
Day 3: Sedona
1. Pink Jeep Tour
2. Crescent Moon Picnic Area at sunset
3. Dinner at Dahl & Di Luca Day
Day 4: Grand Canyon
1. Grand Canyon National Park
2. Sinagua pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument
Day 5: The Painted Desert & Petrified Forest
1. Petrified Forest National Park
2. Drive north to Chinle, on the Navajo Nation reservation, to stay overnight.
Day 6: Canyon de Chelly
1. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Day 7: Return to Phoenix
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shout out to my former students, Ari Anderson, Nico Armao, Monica Butler, Caleb Clapp, Jack and Danny Eden, Charles Gebekia, Kara Schubert Carroll, Ryan Loo, Patrick Seifter, Grant Sobek, Rose Sosa, and Greyson Taylor. Their passion, potential and confidence keep me inspired and on task. Bigs ups to friends and mentors Sheila Kloefkorn of KEO Marketing, Dr. Joel P. Martin of Triad West, Inc., Charles and Sheri Mitchel of All About People, Inc., and Christy Moore of Social Spin Laundromats. Thank you for your counsel and for showing everyone that entrepreneurship, service, and social justice, are not antithetical, All of you have innovated, changed lives for the better, and uplifted our communities in the process. You have blazed the trail for Diamond Strategies to follow. To Joanna Deshay, Marion Kelly, and Essen Otu and the Arizona Diversity Leadership Alliance, thank you for being a guiding light in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. To my braintrust, Travis Cronin, Alonzo Jones, John L. Jones, Jr., Jason Harris, Lasana O. Hotep, Katina Howard, Ricky Jones, Jeremy I. Levitt, and Roy Tatem, thank you for keeping me sharp and on point. Finally, to my wife, Diamond Strategies’ logistical guru, Cassondra Whitaker, and our entire staff–our family–thank you for believing in our movement. You treat “the work” like a matter of life and death, because you understand that in many cases, it is.
All images provided belong to Matthew C. Whitaker and/or Diamond Strategies, LLC.