With equity, diversity and inclusion moving to the forefront of workplace and academic discussion and little space left in budgets to adequately pay for training, the task of diversity training often falls into the hands of students most harmed by gaps in EDI.
Providing diversity training is emotionally taxing at its best and retraumatizing at its worst.
And though the emotional labour of providing diversity training cuts deep, those on the receiving end often fail to recognize it.
Students, often untrained and feeling a sense of obligation, are working for free to provide a service that would be otherwise costly; universities and workplaces fail to recognize there is a reason for that cost.
Many people who professionally provide EDI training attended graduate education focused on anti-oppressive techniques, something that requires years of work and research to effectively disseminate.
Marginalized students aren’t intrinsically trained on how to teach people to be anti-racist or how to be activists. Many students facing oppression don’t have the time to fully educate themselves on anti-oppressive practices, nor do they have the resources.
What’s more, living in one oppressed identity doesn’t automatically provide people with knowledge of every other. While intersectionality has come to the forefront of our EDI narratives, that doesn’t mean that a racialized straight person innately understands the struggles of an LGBTQ2+ person, nor does it mean that an able-bodied LGBTQ2+ person understands the struggles of a disabled person, the list goes on.
Students living in oppressed identities are the people most critically impacted by workplaces and schools failing to understand or implement diversity initiatives. When marginalized students provide such training without preparation, they have no choice but to draw on their own experiences in that space and relive traumas the organization they’re trying to help caused.
EDI training is necessary, but untrained and unpaid students should not be the ones providing it. If schools and workplaces expect young, marginalized people to perform such a emotionally laborious task, they have a responsibility to ensure that they are properly trained and, more importantly, ensure that they have access to proper support systems and compensation while providing training.
Marginalized students face systemic barriers to accessing education and employment from the outset and asking them to fix a system that kicks them when they’re down is nothing but insulting.