There are few positions where a person of color can openly assist in the advancement of fellow POC without fear of seeming militant. One would think the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Apple would be able to candidly acknowledge race and the significance of inclusion in a forthright manner on behalf of marginalized people.
Yet, no such thing occurred during a panel where Apple’s VP of Diversity Denise Smith Young shared her views on her area of expertise.
During a recent panel moderated by Atlantic Media publication Quartz, Smith was asked which community was she intent on recruiting. She responded by saying: “I focus on everyone.”
“Diversity is the human experience,” Smith added. “I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.”
Her expansion on what she considers to be diversity was where things got strange.
“There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse, too, because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation,” she said.
Social activist DeRay McKesson was also present at the panel and challenged Smith’s response.
“White people say to me all the time like ‘DeRay, I worked really hard for this, I worked hard,'” he said, making a point about White privilege. “You didn’t work hard for every band-aid to look like you, for every baby doll to look like you, for the world to treat you as human, and everything as ‘other’ is not the result of your personal hard work—that’s what White privilege is.”
Smith is the first to occupy the VP of diversity role and has been with Apple for over 20 years.