Anti-race expert and entrepreneur Matthew Kincaid started learning about anti-racism and has been putting it into practice since the age of 13.
The former New Orleans-based social studies teacher and school administrator is now the founder, CEO, and chief consulting officer of Overcoming Racism, a consulting firm that provides schools and organizations nationwide with “high-impact race and equity professional development and consultation,” per the firm’s website.
For Kincaid, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training is critical in dismantling the systemic racism that exists in the workplace and in the classroom.
“If we look at our education system today it far more models the opposite of the values of DEI than it embodies the values of DEI,” Kincaid explained. “We are more segregated in schools today than we were in the 1970s.”
Kincaid shares more with BLACK ENTERPRISE about his humbling childhood days, pursuing entrepreneurship, and his purpose behind Overcoming Racism.
Where did your anti-racism work begin? Can you tell us the backstory?
I attended my first anti-racism intensive when I was 13 years old. I started leading anti-racism intensives in the following year with the national conference for community and justice. Growing up I lived in a Black community but attended predominantly white schools.
Anti-racism work first personally gave me a voice and a framework to live within this dichotomy. My passion for anti-racism work grew over the course of my experience in school as I could begin to see more clearly how race, and the legacy of racism, shaped the lives of me and my peers.
Can you describe any childhood/early experiences that you think could have been handled better with implemented DEI practices?
Yes, my entire educational experience as a child was rife with racism. I did not have a Black core subject classroom teacher until I was a senior in high school. I had numerous white teachers who were nice, kind, and caring but had little experience and no training on how to engage with my needs as a Black student. Everything from not learning the history of the intellectual accomplishments of people who looked like me to learning inaccurate narratives of Black history.
I frequently had teachers who were ill-equipped to deal with racialized conflict with my peers and there were times when I felt like I was singled out for discipline because of the color of my skin.
How did you transition from teaching to championing DEI and pursuing entrepreneurship?
My first full week of teaching my school lost two students to gun violence. It did not take long to recognize that the greatest obstacle to my student’s success and long-term goals was not their intellect, ambition, or drive—they had those in abundance. I also recognized that many of those racist systems operated fluently in a school context.
I started by instructing my students about systemic oppression. I taught my students affirming history about their culture and the communities that they came from. We worked together to envision and actualize a culture of equity in my classroom. After training all the adults in the building and shifting discipline practices in a single year we reduced suspensions by over 75% while improving our school performance score.
I taught for four years before I was promoted to assistant principal and after running successful workshops around the city, I recognized how much my work could impact schools if I had a further reach. Overcoming Racism was officially founded two years after that and has now grown to work in healthcare spaces, non-profits, corporations, and the list goes on.
What was your purpose behind building Overcoming Racism to what it is today?
I am building Overcoming Racism out of the urgency of the problem that we face. We don’t have the luxury to lose generations of Black brilliance to systems and structures designed to exploit black labor. I work to build Overcoming Racism into an organization that can have a significant impact on the eventual eradication of racism from our systems and intuitions.
What DEI practices do you teach?
We teach that policy drives individual actions and choices within an institution rather than the other way around. It is critical that we create anti-racist policies for people to exist in rather than believing that we can eliminate racism simply by hiring nice people.
We teach that diversity is a passive intervention. If you get a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds in a room, you have achieved diversity. Getting those people to work together while leveraging their cultural differences for collective success is a different thing entirely. So we teach organizations how to value and elevate the cultural wealth of diverse cultures in the workplace rather than expecting everyone to acquiesce to a mythical norm.