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To what extent are you "yourself" at work? Kenji Yoshinothe Chief Justice Earl Warren professor of constitutional law at the NYU School of Law, studies the phenomenon of "covering." Coined in 1963 by the sociologist Erving Goffman, "covering" describes the different ways and reasons we hide aspects of our identities when we're functioning within groups. 

Yoshino argues that covering is a powerful barrier to diversity and inclusion in companies, and advocates for "uncovering" instead. He cites the example of Barack Obama, who was advised before his presidential run that he'd never win the presidency with two "foreign sounding" names, and that he should go with "Barry Obama" instead. Obama refused, and when he was sworn in, "tripled-down" on his uncovering by choosing to state his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. 

When the NYU School of Law offered him a chair named for Chief Justice Earl Warren, Yoshino was faced with a difficult "uncovering" moment of his own. As district attorney, Warren had interned (imprisoned) Japanese Americans during World War II. Of Japanese descent himself, Yoshino couldn't in good conscience accept the position, a great honor in the eyes of the school and its board of directors. Refusal was awkward to say the least, but Yoshino explained his position.

The school's response may surprise you. It surprised Yoshino, and completely shifted his perspective without forcing him to compromise his position. 


Kenji Yoshino's Masterclass on Reeinvisioning Inclusion is available exclusively to subscribers to Big Think Edge