4 Steps To Liberatory Consciousness

Diversity Initiatives Might Not Be Enough. Liberatory Consciousness Is The Answer

Have you noticed the trend? The trend that’s woven among milestones and strategic goals for DEI, belonging statements, equity reports, and even “culture change” conversations – all efforts that contribute to much-needed change. Looking at any big corporate name, you’ll find a plethora of information on what the company is doing. They’ll have diverse groups of people in videos and case studies, telling rich and impactful stories about the company’s contribution and impact.


At the macro level, this is a fantastic signal – it means that we are moving in the right direction. It’s clear that good work is getting done behind the scenes to get companies to position their brand and culture in these ways. But, when you look at independent news and social media posts that call light to the still vast inequality riddled within those companies – I can’t help but ask, “Is this just superficial work?”


For instance, look at companies like Google or Cisco, which feature beautiful vignettes of empowered, inclusive employees through their diversity initiatives. They both also publish a thorough annual diversity report that showcases their progress – yet independent headlines still strike doubt when reporting on things like caste discrimination and bias in the company. This happens at most companies – just take your pick and perform a quick google search, first, their name and “diversity initiative”, then their name and “discrimination”. Let me know what example you found the most compelling.

At the micro level, if we were to conduct a survey asking whether or not employees across the board feel the benefit of these DEI programs and initiatives, I would hypothesize that they aren’t. Here’s why (and how to fix it):


  1. People are in denial: not just anyone, but coworkers, peers, and even in many cases, the marginalized individuals themselves. Maybe you claim that the oppressive systems aren’t that bad – and it’s just social media hype or woke/cancel culture. Perhaps you think, “oh, that oppressive system exists, but it doesn’t apply to or affect me.”
  1. People don’t accurately understand the issues at hand: They might misattribute narcissism to racism or get the facts wrong when hearing about a story online. Maybe they are misled by someone online about the real issue at hand. Either way, even if people don’t deny that a system is oppressive, if they can’t accurately analyze and agree on what is happening – then the issue can’t be fixed.
  1. People don’t act against the oppressive system: This is a common one on social media – a single unjust action online can stir up millions of impressions, comments, and opinions, but after the initial boom of energy and noise is created – nothing happens. In a smaller scenario, it might even be a racist or insensitive comment in a workplace that goes unchecked because it was too uncomfortable or inconvenient to speak up.
  2. Allies are hard to find when it counts: How many times have you seen 10s or 100s of bystanders watching while something happens? Many people will tell you they are your ally – but will they stand up and say something when it really matters. To truly solve the issue, everyone must individually act with an initiative toward diversity and inclusion.

So, what’s the key to fixing this? Liberatory Consciousness has my vote.


Liberatory Consciousness is the process of acknowledging that we live in marginalized and oppressive systems with awareness and intentionality. It’s the idea that enables us to understand the role played by each person in the maintenance of the system without blame or judgment and, in turn, use this awareness with intentionality by focusing on creating changes within our microspheres of influence. So, instead of systematic top-down corporate initiatives that superficially “solve” the issues within our workplaces – we take the accountability into our own hands and individually become aware of, analyze, act on, and develop ally-ship around those that are oppressed.


Barbara Love’s 4 elements of Liberatory Consciousness are simple, relevant, meaningful, and most importantly, doable – every day! They are Awareness, Analysis, Action, and Accountability/Allyship. 


  1. Awareness: To develop the capacity to notice our behaviors, language, and thoughts and how they shape our communication, interpersonal relationships, and perception of the world around us – starting with ourselves. Looking inward will be the key to a good understanding, leading to excellent outcomes. 
  1. Analysis: To develop the capacity to think independently and make sense of the happenings around us by being thoughtful and analytical. If we can thoroughly analyze and examine different possibilities and perspectives, this will allow us more range and options. 
  1. Action: This is simple to do, but sometimes hard to get right. Once we have awareness and analysis complete – how do we create actionable steps to improve the system and society? This step is often uncomfortable for many people. You can talk about the oppressive nature of our world all day long – but will you act against it? This third step is truly the only way that we can be liberated and, in turn, liberate others. 
  1. Accountability / Ally-Ship: The idea that a person raised on one end of the race/class/gender divide can provide a different and valuable perspective to the person raised on the other end and vice versa. Under Liberatory Consciousness, the accountability part of this deep level of understanding between polar opposite views will pave the way for an ally-ship based on mutual understanding that change needs to happen for the better future for all of us and not just some of us. 

Consider your own use of Liberatory Consciousness – is there one step that is hardest for you to enact? Right now, I’m working on strengthening my actions. Writing this blog is a way to act on my awareness and observations of the oppressive systems around me.


“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that of good people.” – MLK


So let’s not be silent.

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