How “Good Intent” Undermines Diversity and Inclusion

Focusing on intent allows people to avoid accountability for real harm caused, whether intentional or not.


On its face, that might not sound like a bad idea. After all, isn’t assuming the best in others generally a good way to go through life? What’s the harm in encouraging that within your community?

The harm is that telling people to “assume good intent” is a sign that if they come to you with a concern, you will minimize their feelings, police their reactions, and question their perceptions. It tells marginalized people that you don’t see codes of conduct as tools to address systemic discrimination, but as tools to manage personal conflicts without taking power differences into account.

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