From Belonging to Becoming: Heritage Months and the Evolution of Language

Jennifer Brown | |

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In this episode, originally recorded as a DEI community call, Jorge Quezada, Vice President, Inclusive Diversity, Granite Construction joined the program to discuss how the Latinx community experienced the seismic disruptions and social movements of this year. Discover the role that cultural months focused on identity play in ensuring that attention and investment is given in an inclusive way.

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Understanding intersectionality and the verbiage to celebrate it (7:00)
  • Reshaping belonging in the workplace (15:00)
  • Employee resource groups as a profit center instead of an expense item (22:00)
  • Turning intent into action (28:00)
  • Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with inclusive diversity (33:35)
  • Noticing our own identity bias through full spectrum thinking (38:00)
  • The White Men as Full Diversity Partners (44:00)
  • Psychological safety in the workplace (49:00)
  • Clarity, vision, and seeing people to create inclusion (53:00)
  • Resistance to being lumped into a federal protected identity category (1:01:00)
  • Understanding the term BIPOC (1:08:00)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JENNIFER BROWN: Anyway, so tell everybody a little bit about who you are, whatever you’d like to share about your diversity story. We always love kind of grounding this in our own sort of lived experience. Also, I know you’re an enormous ally and accomplice, so anything you’d like to tell us about all that, the floor is yours.

JORGE QUEZADA: Well, and I saw the email, so thank you so much. I saw the email, and it just like that sense of gratitude just washed over me, in the sense that you and I have known each other for a long time. I’ll touch upon how you touched my life here last week. I’m Jorge Quezada. Hispanic Heritage Month, I get to wear my guayaberas in the corporate culture environment. People get to ask me where these things come from. Not just Miami, I wore them in El Salvador. Then we got the little flag of El Salvador, and this is why I chose this background here. It’s been really interesting. I’ve been in this work for a while. Back in March… and I think Andy Storch, you know Andy, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.

JORGE QUEZADA: He asked me to listen to a podcast. In that podcast, someone mentioned that the DNI work was going through just some devastating losses, because people are losing their jobs and stuff. I think a lot of it has to do with, we’ve always been like an expense item, not a profit center. I think we all understand what that means. One of the things that I’ve been doing in the last 15 years, is really framing the work that we do as a profit center. I’m showing companies that I’ve worked for how employee engagement can elevate productivity, can elevate profitability. I’ve stuck to it. I believe it and it’s true. Then there’s the other thing, that if you really get into the science and the data behind it, you can actually show whenever you’ve introduced DNI initiatives, the money that a company can save on healthcare, because now since you have employee engagement, you have more employees.

Then all of a sudden… it’s marvelous, when you can get a hold of that data. I guess I’d just like to say, thank you. Thank you, Jennifer for the work that you do. I think I call you a pioneer. Someone that works for me asked me… we’re going to start our third employee resource group here at Granite. She had asked me, “Hey, you know what? You’ve challenged me with this. Where can I go and learn information about how to do this thing called ERGs?” Because I had been saying, “ERGs.” Literally… I’m sorry. Oh, sorry, the thing is not catching, but anyway… oh, here it is. This is a document that I printed out in the internet back in 2010. This was the work that you did in 2010 with Cisco.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my god.

JORGE QUEZADA: Kudos to Cisco’s, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right.

JORGE QUEZADA: Great company. This is my go-to on how to run ERGs-

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh goodness.

JORGE QUEZADA: … so much, look at it. You’re going to love this.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, I did not pay for this by the way.

JORGE QUEZADA: No, you didn’t pay for this. You also had a chapter here called Best Practices to Next Practices, which is really cool. It gives us insight into what to think, and it’s amazing how that played out. The other thing that has happened… and just to set up the conversation today, I was invited by a white male, to help him read a book called Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. It’s a workbook for 28 days. It is introspective. It is hardcore. It challenges you to your core. I was so taken back by that I was invited, because he needed me to help him through this book. Then I invited someone else, and the whole conversation around allyship and intent, but impact was a highlight. Then I remember… and by the way, you’re still on the internet.

There’s images of you in front of this document, which is called The Ally Continuum, which is interesting. It’s also in this book. This is the like, shameless plug for Jennifer commercial. I’m telling you, there’s artifacts that have been developed by leaders like Jennifer, that are go-to for me. That compress the learning curve, that someone that works for me goes through to learn about the work that we do, number one. Number two, it’s evergreen. It’s stuff that you can utilize, I go back to this ally.

I’ve realized I wasn’t as good as an ally, so I appreciate you saying that about me. In that book, I realized that I was not as good an ally as I thought in a bunch of different dimensions. I was happy with that… that I went through that process. That’s how you’ve come up in the last… I would say the last month, but in the last two weeks have highlighted it for me. Yeah, that’s how I’ve set it up, but it’s been a great week.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thanks, Jorge. I’m like, “My face hurts, because I’m smiling so much.

JORGE QUEZADA: No problem.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you so much.

JORGE QUEZADA: Then I see Diane Reiman on the line as well, so hey Diane.

JENNIFER BROWN: Hey Diane.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah.

DIANE REIMAN: Hi.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so cool. All right, so Jorge just showed The Ally Continuum. For some of you that wonder like, where is that model? It morphed slightly into the Inclusive Leader Continuum, which is… but Jorge and I go way back, and that’s why he’s using that. We morphed it into a less of a linear model, and more of a sort of circular shape. Then I also changed the first stage. I used to call it apathetic, the first stage in the continuum. I remember my publisher said, “That’s a little pejorative. It’s a little judgy.” I said, “Well, that’s honestly how it feels as someone who’s affected by somebody’s lack of action. It feels like that apathy actually causes harm.” I took his point, and so we renamed it to unaware. Unaware allows us at that first phase, to actually stretch out into apathy and resistance, and denial and sort of ignorance too. I’m not saying ignorance from, like, this… again, a judgy thing, but ignorance in terms of, “What do you mean there is a problem? What do you mean everybody doesn’t love working here?

JENNIFER BROWN: I feel comfortable here. Like why doesn’t everybody else feel comfortable?” It was a good tweak, and I’m really glad that… this is why you really benefit from publishers that have… They can point out these things that we’re just too close to, to really understand how it’s going to be read. The book is called How to Be an Inclusive Leader. It’s my second book, and the model is fleshed out in there. Jorge, tell me…

JORGE QUEZADA: What’s interesting, so-

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah.

JORGE QUEZADA: Go ahead. I’m sorry, Jennifer.

JENNIFER BROWN: Go ahead.

JORGE QUEZADA: I was just going to say that the reason why that resonated so much to me was, in reading this book, I realized that in the DNI space, we talk about assume good intent. Intent by itself… my intent without action is meaningless. I could be thinking, like, “I’m a good person.” I could be thinking, “Oh, this is what I’ll do next time this happens. I’ll do…” it’s the action. That’s why being an advocate calls for action. This work calls for action. The reason I think… I believe this is Jorge speaking. We’re in the state that we’re in, is that… and we hear people silent.

There has been people that have been silent with good intent, but have not taken action. I think now we see that there are certain generations. Like the Gen Z, millennials. I think about my kids who are… they’re taking action. There is a lot of diversity dimensions at play here, but that’s how… I appreciated the model, because it helped me crystallize what I was feeling. That’s what I’m reacting to, when you said that’s how you feel, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, exactly. Jorge, I have to ask you the vulnerable question.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Where did you realize you weren’t putting your intent into action, around what perhaps aspect of identity was that? Or was it in general… so your own personal learning?

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: I know I constantly am having aha moments about not assuming the intent is enough. I think that’s where organizations are stuck, because we were told for years that that was enough. I loved our prep call. You talked about, “That was enough. It used to be enough. It’s not. It never was enough, but I think we thought it was enough. Now we know.” Tell us a little bit about your journey on that path and sort of give us an example.

JORGE QUEZADA: People that know my story, know that my grandmother… she’s Afro-Caribbean. She was born in Haiti and then went to El Salvador. One of the things that I realized, that I still harbor this thing around colorism. Both from my mom… when I dated women who were darker, she reacted a certain way. When I married my wife, my wife is Mexican American and she’s light skinned. The first thing that my mom shared was, “Oh my goodness, your kids are going to be so beautiful. They’re going to be light.” I share that with you, because I had to ask my mom, where was that coming from? You saw the emotion come out of her. That’s because she’s Mayan…. and if you ever see my parents, and my mom actually and my grandparents, they’re like 4 foot 11. They’re little Mayans. My grandfather on my dad’s side, he’s about 6’4″, who married my grandmother.

She shared stories of how colorism impacted her, and how she didn’t want that to impact me or my kids. That it came from that, and then it just… like all these emotions come out. When you asked me for vulnerability, I’m just giving it to you, because we’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and we run the color spectrum. Like Latinos, to use that term, we run from… if you go to Spain or you go to the capital of Mexico, you have blonde hair, blue-eyed people, all the way till you see Afro-Colombians, Afro-Hondurans, Afro-Salvadorans. We were too impacted by people that were taken from their Homeland. There’s history that we have to own up to when it comes to slavery in Mexico, Central and South America. It’s important to share I guess.

JENNIFER BROWN: Jorge, you’re getting so much love and acknowledgement in chat. I just want to tell you, you can go back and read it later.

JORGE QUEZADA: No problem.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you. Thank you for being so vulnerable. It’s a heartbreaking story and a universal story, and more far reaching than we acknowledge and even know today. I just want to answer the question, this session is being recorded. Thanks for asking. Absolutely, it’s too important not to. Jorge, so-

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah. In that book… and so now you got me fired up, and I’m getting goosebumps thinking about this. Chuck had Black Lives Matter on top right. Thank you, Chuck for that. The thing that I struggle with when I say, “Black Lives Matter,” I think about Ron Adams. I think about Joseph Bayo. I mean, there are people that I put that terminology to. Right now the discourse and the separation that’s being created, is that people want to just focus on the organization. The organization has to do what the organization’s doing. When I hashtag that, that’s what I go to. That book had me think through that. Like, “Why was I hesitant? Why didn’t I get more engaged early on? Why did I hold back?” It just allowed the exploration to take place. Sorry, I had to add that.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so beautiful. I mean, tell us about… so I think what you’re describing is the education. Looking at Hispanic Heritage Month, which we’re in, through this deeper lens. I know for Granite, you’re just now starting a multicultural ERG. It was interesting to everybody. Just so you know, there’s a gender related ERG and also a veterans’, but that’s all you have.

JORGE QUEZADA: Right, yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m curious, like two questions, the celebration of this Heritage Month, how are you orchestrating that? What do you think is most important that we’re actually reflecting on in perhaps a deeper way, because of this year and your own sort of bringing your story to that? Then two, tell us about why you decided to take this next step with this third network, make it multicultural. Tell us like… that probably has a lot to say about kind of Granite’s readiness I’m sure. Who knows? Your talent demographics, all that kind of stuff.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah, and I know that Diane Reiman is on the call as well. One of the things that we did, was when we did our diagnostic, when… I’m celebrating my one year anniversary here at Granite as well. When I did a diagnostic, one of the things that I wanted to find out was to get a temperature pulse of the organization. Then when you look at the data, you realize, “Okay, we’re close to 38% Latino population here.” In the construction industry, you can imagine the craft work is populated by that community. Not so much for African Americans, not so much for Asian Americans. When we compare ourselves to the industry, we’re doing well. What I didn’t want to do… because I got some feedback.

I didn’t want to create these ERGs, to all of a sudden, have it be the Latino ERG or the Hispanic ERG. All of a sudden, because of population, you saw all this activity. Then you had maybe a handful of African Americans let’s say in Florida. How do you bring that community together, when they’re spread out throughout the entire country? I felt that if we were going to talk about… and this is why I keep saying, Diane’s here, because she and I worked at Allstate together. Inclusive diversity is what we switched to. I wanted our company to be inclusive of all the diversity that we had today, tomorrow and into the future.

I realized… and Mary-Frances Winters says, “Inclusion starts with I.” One of the things that you see there, right in the middle of inclusion is the word us. For me, I wanted to focus on the us. I wanted to mitigate that similarity bias, that the NeuroLeadership Institute talks about. I wanted not only to focus on the difference, but also think about the similarity and the commonalities that we have. From a multicultural perspective, I wanted to… because it would have been too easy. Like all of a sudden… and maybe this is kind of like a reaction to something.

Maybe I’ll pay you guys for the therapy I’m going through today. I didn’t want to be the Hispanic guy that was focusing only on Hispanic issues at Granite. I was very mindful of how I wanted the cadence, the staging to take place. I think that’s important when you get a pulse of an organization, what people look to, what they react to. That was part of it as well, but I wanted numbers. I wanted the corporation to feel the people of color impact on the company. I wanted the company to understand multicultural concepts, better than trying to compartmentalize, “Today we’re going to talk about African Americans. Today we’re going to talk about Hispanics. Today…” I wanted to overwhelm the system that way, I guess that’s another way for me to say it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, like flood the system. Also, show the critical mass the size. I mean, there’s something to be said for not parsing out an already maybe underrepresented community, into these little slices. This is actually a really universal-

JORGE QUEZADA: I wanted to take the assumptions out of it. I’ll tell you right now, the highest population of African Americans at Granite, Salt Lake City, Utah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Wow.

JORGE QUEZADA: I mean, the data doesn’t lie, right? What you realize is, you have people there that are really committed to recruitment, the development of people of color. Salt Lake City now is becoming a hotbed of diversity as well. They’re working through some stuff there, but it didn’t shock us when I saw the data, but it surprised me.

JENNIFER BROWN: Continuing on your request for therapy, people are appreciating what you said in chat. It’s… you know what that is, Jorge? It’s the covering behaviors that Kenji Yoshino talks about. What you just shared, was the sort of intentional distancing from your own identity, to make sure that nobody can ever say that you’re positively biased towards that identity.

JORGE QUEZADA: Correct.

JENNIFER BROWN: We instinctively know, we all do, that we have to tread really lightly. I mean, it’s a really fine line we walk every day, to not sort of seem overly biased towards our community.

JORGE QUEZADA: Correct.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just kind of noticing it I think, in ourselves. I think that the stronger point is… I love, which is that you are gathering this multicultural, truly multi-identity coalition. That’s going to be, I think extremely effective. Then who knows? I mean, over time it may end up wanting to kind of separate off. I don’t know if you foresee that in the future.

JORGE QUEZADA: Well, yeah you know…

JENNIFER BROWN: I mean, do you believe that that’s a good thing or?

JORGE QUEZADA: Well, I’ll tell you what, there is a great book right now. If none of you have done it, I encourage you guys to sign up for this, Leadership for a Changing World. Sorry, Jennifer, another shameless plug. You’re on there today, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: I am.

JORGE QUEZADA: Bob Johansen is on today as well. Bob Johansen is a futurist, and he just wrote a book called Full-Spectrum Thinking. What he’s challenging people to do, go 10 years out and think about what your organization is going to look like. Have that foresight to develop the insights that you need for action. In one of the segments, I think it was either in his podcast or in a podcast I was listening to, I have been influenced in the last… I would say three months on this. They were having a conversation with someone and someone said, “I am biracial, queer, gender non-binary, working class, first-generation to go to college. What box are you putting me into?” To me, I had to take a step back, because I think what we have to be aware of is, we’re in this generational understanding of our work as well.

I think the people on the Mount Rushmore of DNI… let’s say Ted Childs. Let’s say IBM, Ted Childs back in the ’80s, he did some phenomenal stuff. Some of us are still practicing those strategies of ERG and all that work. What’s happening is, we’re also being influenced by two generations that are more involved. Think more critically of diversity and inclusion at a whole different level, that when they come into the workplace, the very boxes that we have created to measure, to track and do all this stuff, or to move work forward, may not fit that group. You almost have to talk to that group and find out what motivates them.

The safety issues… now I’m going to Maslow. The safety issues, level two may be different. The belonging, level three is totally different. Self-actualization for some of these young folks may be totally different. I think this is why… one of the things that’s happening, like Hispanic Heritage Month, June was an incredible month. A lot of people felt, “Ooh, we can’t celebrate Pride Month. Too soon. We’re going through all this stuff.” Same thing goes with Hispanic. Like some people… “It’s too soon to be doing this kind of stuff.”

Well, I share that with you, because I think we also have… like the people that are marching, getting involved in… it’s multicultural. There are more people engaged in the work. I think we have to stop thinking about, “Well, it’s this moment now. When is our…?” That kind of stuff. From a visceral perspective, you hear that this conversation is about the black community and the white community working things out. What happens to the brown people in the middle? I will tell you, from a visceral perspective, I want to know those kids that are being held in Texas, in cages. That we still know that’s happening. No one’s talking about that. Now, I say no one, because I’m also… I guess I have this weird bias. I think it’s media not talking about this. I say it that way, but it is a concern. What you have to do is, you have to be kind of like, this is why the Bob Johansen book added clarity to me, was you have to be thinking of this from a full-spectrum perspective. What are the issues that you have to be doing? That’s why I get excited about this work.

That it’s challenging, we’re in the midst of transformation. In our quest to belong, we also have to understand we’re also in a quest to become, to transform. Bob Johansen does a wonderful job of speaking about belonging and becoming, so I will share that with you guys.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s beautiful. I’m going to crib that, that’s gorgeous.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s incredible. You mentioned the Maslow hierarchy of needs. I’m putting this stuff in chat. Definitely, it needs to be in the DNI practitioner toolkit all the time. I mean, this is one of the go-to models. I mean, others are sharing some other information on Bob Johansen. Yeah, thank you for raising how those kids are still locked up. There’s no words. I mean, I feel like back to the workplace, with the complexities that you just outlined and all the richness that exists, and how so many of us are intersectional, so much as invisible about who we really are. How do we bring along I guess, those in the organization who don’t feel like they’re a part of that, or can’t relate from a personal story or identity perspective, without overwhelming them? I mean, I think that’s why I came up with that continuum, because I wanted to make it simple for people to locate where they are in that journey and take the right next step for them, which is not the same.

I would never speak to people the same, in terms of your folks who were activated and moving into advocate, versus those who were unaware, moving into aware. I’m always aware of this diversity of I guess, readiness and willingness in the organization.I know you’ve done… I don’t know. Some of you might remember Jorge ran the White Men as Full Diversity Partners’ work at Northwestern mutual, I believe.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, that’s a thing unto itself. I mean, these are these off-sites, where literally the men of the organization go and dedicate hours and hours, to talking about their identity and their role as inclusive leaders, powerful stuff. Where is Granite in that Inclusive Leader Continuum? I know it’s hard to talk about organizations in the aggregate. I resist that question, because I’m like, “It’s hard for me to globally put an entire organization in one place, because different leaders in different functions also set a totally different tone, right? We know that those numbers would be extremely different. Anyway, tell us about, where’s Granite on that? How do you think of moving sort of the messy middle, if you will, of the organization to the right?

JORGE QUEZADA: I would tell you that in this work… and I’ll just talk about the construction industry. Depending on whatever construction company you benchmark, you’re talking about anywhere between 82 to about 94% white male, okay? If you’re going to introduce diversity and inclusion practices, without bringing their voice into the room, it’s not going to go anywhere. You’re not going to move the work. You’ll have permission from the top. You’ll have expectations from the people at the bottom, but the middle is not going to drive the work.

The middle wants to get… middle managers want to get promoted. What they’ve seen is, they get promoted, because of what they’ve seen the people up top do and do those things. The White Men as Full Diversity Partners in an interesting… because what it is, it’s just a form of dialogue of understanding concepts. Even in one of the agreements that we teach in that work or we taught in that work was, you have the right to agree or disagree with anything that we’re talking about here. I thought that that was powerful, because you have to create that space.

Psychological safety is something that I think lives in all the demographics, and all the things that we’re looking at. We have to have a safe space for people to have that dialogue, and that’s what that work did.When you ask this specifically with Granite, one of the things that I think you have to find out like at Kraft… When I was at Kraft, it was amazing to me that a company that specialized in bringing ingredients together… that’s diversity. That’s Andres Tapia you’re talking about.

Diversity is the mix, inclusion is making the mix work. They did that to make delicious plates. That’s what they talked about, making delicious foods. I utilized that concept, to cognitively have them understand that they were already practicing DNI. The second thing, when I went to Northwestern Mutual, there was the portfolio of offering, so I switched it to that. Here at Granite, safety is the cornerstone of our work. If we do not practice safety, we’ll live into the statistics that underwriters plan out for certain jobs. I didn’t know this. I didn’t know coming into construction. We had Victoria Hoyt, just two days ago, share a story that in one of the projects that we had, we were building this big bridge.

Underwriting came in there and very, just trivial. “Well, our expectation is we’re going to have four deaths in this project in the next five years.” Like, “What? We’re agreeing that this is how we’re going to do this?” It’s like almost going to the hospital and hearing doctors around, and it’s like, “We know we’re going to lose 32 people in the third quarter. Let’s make sure that we can mitigate that, only get 33.” I mean, when you have that kind of stuff, that’s what it felt like to me. We’re now getting into the space of early identification of potential risks in a work site. Safety, I thought, “Wow.” Then there’s another dynamic. There was a video that was shown on how we practice safety, and how we speak up and listen up. We just didn’t call it psychological safety. What it is, is our employees… a leader can come and say, “Hey, I need you to go do this.” If the employee feels like, “Wait a minute, there are some issues here with what you’ve asked me to do from a safety perspective.” We encourage those employees to speak up.

When they’re speaking up, we challenge the leaders to listen up. I’m watching this, like there’s four vignettes. The room is dusty. I got tears in my eyes, because we’re showing all this stuff in the families. Then by the third video, I thought, “Oh my goodness, this is psychological safety at play. People have the space to share what they need to share, and not have it feel like it’s going to be held against them.” Then by the fourth video, I’m like, “Oh my goodness, we’re practicing inclusive leadership.” Then it’s like, “How do you con how do you make those connections?” Then when you started talking about us, when we started talking how this works, you realize that as people start sharing… there are men today that go home and have wonderful families. They have daughters they coach. They’re very hyper aware of the issues that are in place today, but now I’m going to come back to this covering thing. I believe Brene Brown talks about this thing around armoring up.

There are men today… because when you think about people in construction, you think about people with their sleeves rolled up that are coming in. People put on an armor, and we have to break that down a little bit to share our stories. I hope that helped framing how we move through it, but that’s where we’re at today. We’re actually… like I mentioned, I was with Victoria Hoyt and we did a podcast together. We were talking about safety here at Granite. I tied in psychological safety and how it worked. It was incredible how much it connected to the DNI work. All of a sudden, it showed up as one. Not it showed up as two different things. I think that’s success in our work, when you can inculcate our strategies into the business, game over. It takes off.

JENNIFER BROWN: Totally. I love that, what you just described. For all of you in various companies and industries, what is the value or commitment to the culture that you can then leverage in this way? I love that it’s such a great fit. It’s like, you never saw it before and it just came into focus. Now it enables people to enter that conversation with some familiarity, with some sense of confidence-

JORGE QUEZADA: Right.

JENNIFER BROWN: … and belonging. Yes, because if I understand this concept, then maybe I will understand this concept.

JORGE QUEZADA: Correct.

JENNIFER BROWN: I think one of the biggest barriers of this work, is this sort of feeling of defeat. It’s, “I’ll never understand this. I’ll never say the right thing. I don’t know whether I belong here. I don’t know what to say.” We’ve got to figure out connection points that welcome people in and say, “You got this. This is something you can actually learn. It is a muscle you can develop. I’ve seen it happen.” It takes focus, and you and I talked about habits. Kind of building this competency as a muscle, which by the way, it takes time to condition a muscle. It takes experimentation. I’ve been thinking a lot about like, if you overtrain, you’re sore, but that’s just part of building the muscle. You tear the fibers and they come back stronger. I think this work is like that.

JORGE QUEZADA: Well, and I think when you say that to me, what resonates… and I don’t know where I heard this. I know where I heard it. I heard it in an IDI, Intercultural Development Inventory webinar. Where let’s say you’re going to go run a five miles or a marathon, let’s use a marathon, because it takes a while. I think people in this space, because there are a lot of new people coming on board, they feel the pressure of going and running without stretching. If some of you are runners, some of you were… you have to stretch to play. You’ve got to stretch. I think this is the work that has to be done, to understand the foundation of DNI.

It’s a must. Right now we have the luxury of this, to be going to a lot… you could go to a webinar, like free webinars in a day. 15, you can do 15 webinars the way it’s coming at us. In the past, you had to fly places to go to our different gatherings, to learn about stuff. Now it is powerful, all the stuff that we have to take in. To build on this word, clarity, that you mentioned. It was very fortuitous, but I don’t know if you guys… you guys probably noticed it. I didn’t, until I had to do this. I was going to create this meme off a Thoreau quote that, “It’s not what you look at. What’s important is what you see.” I was going to show kind of glasses blurred over here. Then I put the year 2020, and I was like 2020. 2020 is about vision. It’s about seeing right? I think 2020 has given us as practitioners, this view of the world. We’re getting to see people, we don’t look at people anymore, we get to see them.

We get to see their character. We get to see how they engage. We get to hear the words. I think for me, this year has enabled… it’s almost like enabled this work that we do to have more energy. I think this is why… I mean, people are trying to do this work I think. Like, “Jorge, I need you to have this courageous congress. I just need you to take care of that. You’re the DNI guy. Go talk to the people.” I think there are companies doing that.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.

JORGE QUEZADA: Then there are companies that really want to get engaged. Those I think are the companies that are going to come out of this, with not a new normal… and David Rock says it, “A better normal.” Our opportunity to create a better normal it’s here. We own it. This is us. All the things that we have been talking about, people are just eating it up. They want to know more, they want to learn more and so we have to take action. We can’t just have good intent anymore. We have to have impact. That’s what I think I would connect to what you just said.

JENNIFER BROWN: So beautiful. The privilege of being able to see people, and the fact that you’re trusted with that information, when we all know how vulnerable that information really is. I’ve been saying a lot that, we can’t conceal our lives in a strange way, even though we’re virtually connected now. We can’t conceal our lives in some ways, like we used to be able to in the physical office space. Right Jorge? You’ll see my same sex partner walking around behind me. I might have been closeted or I might’ve been covering, but I don’t have the choice to do that anymore.

Same thing with kids, same thing with meeting mental health accommodations and having to be more overt about it. I think we are seeing each other at this new level. I think it’s what led to then the reaction to George Floyd’s murder, because we were in this whole sort of deeper thing with each other I think. We’re talking about empathy a lot back in March, April, May. The groundwork was laid to see that in a different way, and to have it land in a very different way. Then have it sort of galvanize a whole generation of people that had never really been seeing that in that way. It just awakened our humanity and I’m so grateful. I’m like so goosebumping, and I know how difficult it is to be vulnerable and trust each other with our truths. Especially in an organizational context, where this is a very new level set for us to deal with each other and so-

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah, I will tell you that I think we also have a better understanding of what is a point of view and what is a truth. I think people speak in point of views. This is my point of view and they present it as a truth. I think that’s what creates a lot of the conflict as well. Someone said that change doesn’t happen, if someone loses. Change happens with win-win. For me, that has been a big deal. When you say… I think what we were able to see with George Floyd, it’s something that the black community has been experiencing for a long time. Right, so much so that you can trace how people have been treated to the Willie Lynch Letter. Some of you may have read that letter. It is the most graphic thing on what happened during that time, during slavery. I would tell you that, I think now people are saying, “Enough,” number one.

Number two, the younger generation is saying, “We’re going to take action.” I think boomers and Xers, are still working their way through some of the things that have been built around us. We’ve never talked about religion. Yet as practitioners, we talk about it as a diversity dimension but, “No, let’s not talk about religion.” There is a bunch of things like that, that pop up… and it’s in your book too, the iceberg model. I think it almost feels that, we don’t talk about these other things that have been impacting people for a while, yeah. No, I’m feeling that right now. When you said that, I think people staying home. People having time, and all of a sudden, it allowed them to go take action. That was interesting how that all developed too, but the black community has been experiencing this. The Latino community has been experiencing this. People of color in general. I have that conversation with my son, when he drives from Thousand Oaks up to Monterey Bay and back. I tell him, his job literally is to make that officer comfortable. It’s what I do. His job is to keep that gun in that holster.

JENNIFER BROWN: How does a kid do that? That’s complex stuff.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah, and he’s at an age where his prefrontal cortex has not been developed yet.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right.

JORGE QUEZADA: He’s still very much into that limbic brain, that he’s reacting to what he sees in the news, what he’s… he’s in the music industry. He feels for the people that he works with. He has that visceral response to something. When those lights go on, that siren goes on, he’s going to react, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Right.

JORGE QUEZADA: You’ve got to have that conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, God. Thank you, Jorge. We have a couple of questions.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah, sure.

JENNIFER BROWN: There’s one here about the inner diversity of Latinx communities, vis-a-vis ERGs and sort of the conundrum of being lumped into a larger group, and sort of things getting perhaps lost. Lila, would you come off mute and describe a little bit more about what you read in that New York article? I haven’t actually read that. I’m glad you shared it.

LILA DOCKEN BAUMAN: Yeah, it was talking about Jessica Krug and her at the George Washington University. Coming out and admitting that she has created a false black identity all these years. It examines the trail of her identity shifting. That she kept adding or subtracting things from that identity until she was like identifying as a Caribbean, Latina, black, which is completely different from the original half Algerian black that she had claimed to be. The discussion was taking… the rest of the culture needs to take responsibility for being so lazy about understanding the Hispanic, Latino community, which is so broad and so wide and so rich. That we can’t even think through how those two identities are so different from each other.

I’ve also heard from Latinx students who complain about that as well. Even with those that have different views about immigration for example, and those from different places in the world and saying, “I can’t be lumped with somebody from Chile, because I am from… we’re very, very different in our outlook.” I’m just wondering about, is the resistance to being lumped into a federally protected category, in a way that kind of flattens out and reinforces those misunderstandings.

JORGE QUEZADA: Wow, that’s deep. We can go like three hours on that. Let me give you my experience. Jorge Alberto Quezada, age of six, has no idea of life in general. Now we’re going to go to New Orleans, where Jorge Alberto… there aren’t many Jorges. The minute I show up to New Orleans, just like Ellis Island, I became George. People started calling me George, so okay, I’m George. Then I realized I was Hispanic, by the way. I realized that I was Latino. I’ve always known myself as Salvadorian. It starts from that place.

It starts from that place. I think what happens is through assimilation, we’re expected to lose our language. We’re expected to lose our culture. We’re expected to give up the very thing that makes me who I am. I love my papusa with cotijo and horchata, right. I love that stuff. I share that with you, because I think people will argue… there’re all kinds of people who’ll talk about that. That we live in a country that has a high expectation, that you’re going to be American and you’re going to speak English. They lose sight of the fact that I’ve been American. I’ve been Latin American. We’re called American, because we’re in a continent. We’re the United States of America. There’s the United States of Mexico. There’s all kinds of things that are in play.

I’m going down this path, because even when I hear Latinx, Latinx I think is because people still don’t know if, “Do we say Latina, a group of Latinas? There’s Latinas, a group of Latino. There’s a group of Hispanics.” Then there is a masculine tone to Latino. We have to respect that. That’s why to me, that’s why it’s Latinx. The Pew Survey will tell you that most Latinos don’t like the term Latinx. We continue using it, because in a lot of ways, I think it allows safety in how I’m approaching you. When Lila, you talk about lumping people all into one, I think there is that. You do feel it.

Like, Jennifer, you asked me like, what’s the biggest loss of the Hispanic Heritage Month at this time? I think it’s, we’re not allowed to have our community. We can’t be allowed to celebrate. We can’t be together. That’s what defines us in a lot of ways. Then through assimilation, it’s interesting what happens. There are people then… DACA, no DACA. I border… it is amazing the complexity of the 20 plus countries, depending on territories, that are impacted by the flags behind me. It’s not a monolith.

That’s I guess why I wanted to show this today too was, is that there is a lot of flags represented there. Within our own community, Salvadorans don’t hang out with Hondurans. You got people… and Haitians and people from the Dominican Republic, they don’t want to hang out with Cubans. I can go on and on. Then you have people who are dark, don’t hang out with light-skinned people sometimes and you have that. It doesn’t surprise me that an article like that is written, but then it doesn’t surprise me also that we’re all in an interesting journey. I think we’re in the middle of learning about us, and learning about other people and how… work do we do? That’s what we do. We teach people that self-awareness. We teach people to work better with others, so that we can accomplish common goals. It’s important for us to have these conversations. Sorry for being long winded, but you got me fired up.

JENNIFER BROWN: So good, and there’s such a dialogue here in chat. Somebody is raising that young people may prefer Latinx right. Being in higher ed.

JORGE QUEZADA: I don’t know.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, that’s-

JORGE QUEZADA: The only young people I know don’t. Like my daughter doesn’t.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, interesting.

JORGE QUEZADA: My son doesn’t. Yeah, they don’t.

JENNIFER BROWN: Interesting.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah, you know what? We were on vacation. They asked my son… we were in Mexico. “Where are you from?” “I’m from Chicago.” “Okay, yeah. I was hoping you would say, “I’m from El Salvador.” “No, I want to say I’m from Chicago.” “Okay, good.” He was born in Chicago. He went there. They asked my daughter and she was four years old. They said, “What’s your name?” “Vanessa.” “Where are you from?” “I’m American.” That was their socialization. Yes, the younger people may want to be called Latinx, I just don’t know. We have to ask.

JENNIFER BROWN: By the way, the non-binary community and the LGBTQ plus community appreciates the X too, right?

JORGE QUEZADA: Yes, exactly. Yes.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s what I know originally, so yeah.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yes, of course. I get it. Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Are there other questions for Jorge, in our last couple of minutes together? Anybody else like to come off mute?

JORGE QUEZADA: Oh, I just thought something I want to react to, but go ahead.

JENNIFER BROWN: Why don’t you go ahead, and then we’ll get people-?

JORGE QUEZADA: I’m reading this book by Layla Saad, and she introduces this term, BIPOC, never heard of it. I’m in DNI. I’m in DNI, and the whole premise of that book to me as I was reading was white supremacy, colonialism, this, this, this. All of a sudden, BIPOC hits me right in the… like “Pew”. I’m like, “What is BIPOC?” I started looking at it right. Black, Indigenous, POC. I’m like, “Wow, why did we separate it? Why are we separate? Why are we saying black and indigenous? Why do I feel some kind of way now? Why do I feel like now I’m a person of color?”

I saw that. I appreciate you sharing it that way, because it’s that exploration… after the book, I got it by the way. After day 20, I’m in. I can use the term BIPOC, and I’m not going to have that visceral reaction, because I get where it’s coming from. Those are the kinds of things that people are experiencing. We have cognitive load in our work. When you start off with diversity, then you go diversity and inclusion. Then it’s inclusion and diversity. Now we have diversity, equity and inclusion. I mean, some people have put belonging into it. There are people who just like, “whew”, it’s cognitive overload. We have to understand the cadence, that we have to introduce and talk about this stuff.

JENNIFER BROWN: Jorge, that’s why I love your practitioner mindset and we’re so aligned. That meeting the client where they’re at, right?

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s not about what we want to teach, or running as fast as we can. It’s pulling, going together. It’s pulling along in some cases, because it really feels like that. It’s an interesting challenge for some of us, because we’re sprinting ahead, we’re at 3.0. We have to sort of foster the 1.0, to get to the 1.5 even. Like forget the 2.0. Sometimes you’ve bounced around probably between really mature cultures on DNI, and really sort of beginner cultures. Do you have a favorite? Is there kind of an ideal stage that you think you’re really suited for?

JORGE QUEZADA: Wow.

JENNIFER BROWN: This an important question for practitioners. I think about this a lot, like what energizes me? What kind of client energizes me? You know what I said, At JBC, we straddle a million different companies at very different places. Then I’m curious about my team, because their answers may be different. When you come alive, who are you teaching? What are you working on, that feels like it’s right in your sweet spot?

JORGE QUEZADA: I’m trying to identify the problem we’re trying to solve around diversity and inclusion. Why did you bring me here, right? I’m asking questions, because it’s another prop I use, right? We assume that the whole Rubik’s cube is white. Then we say, “Okay. Well, then let’s bring color,” right? What happens is, I think we realized very quickly that we’re so complex and this Rubik’s cube keeps changing. We go into a meeting and the intersectionality that takes place changes. What happened at home the day before changes who you are.

The city that you’re going to changes, but there is a gravitational pull to bring it back to red, bring it back to blue, bring it back to yellow. I would offer to you, that depending on what problem that you’re trying to solve, if your problem is you’re trying to bring in more diversity, okay. Then you better be thinking about the inclusive environment that you have. If the Rubik’s cube looks like this and it’s an inclusion piece, well then you better make sure that the diversity is also in place. Then by the way, you also want to identify, what are the outcomes? Are you getting the belonging you want? Are you getting the equity you want? Are you getting the becoming that you want? That’s one of the recent questions I’ve been asking people around equity. I appreciate the name and all that stuff.

I say, “Okay, thank you very much. You’re an equity practitioner. Walk me through, what does equity look like to you by the end of the year, five years from now, 10 years from now?” Some people right now, were in the stage of just talking about equity and what that looks like and what it should feel like. We haven’t really landed on it, like quantify it yet, but it’s an important word. To me, equity has always been an output of good DNI practice. Now that we’re calling it out, okay, so what does that look like? I think for me, it’s trying to develop the strategy, trying to develop the learning modalities that we need. There’re some folks that like… I come from a place where you have to sit down and see people get emotional, and have dust in the room and talk about the stuff. There’re some people that believe you can teach unconscious bias in a five minute micro-learning. There are practitioners who teach that. “Well, watch my video and you’ll get to know everything about unconscious bias in five minutes.”

You got to help me out on that one. You got to help me out, I don’t know if you’re going to get the impact. Good intent, I don’t know if you’re going to get the impact that you want. I hope I answered your question, but I think it’s from the beginning phase of it, right? That’s what geeks me up, but then-

JENNIFER BROWN: Totally.

JORGE QUEZADA: I also believe that… because I’ve heard people say this, “Our job is to make sure we don’t have a job.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, we hear that a lot. I don’t know if I agree with that for a lot of reasons.

JORGE QUEZADA: Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? You’re struggling right now understanding the black community. What happens when you get someone who’s black and gay? What are you going to do? What are you going to react to? I use that as an example, but-

JENNIFER BROWN: Thanks, Jorge.

JORGE QUEZADA: Yeah, I’m sorry.

JENNIFER BROWN: Lots of thoughts on that one, yeah. I mean, not just selfishly, because I want us all to be able to do this work, but yeah. The whole argument of embedding this into the business as usual, I mean, we are so far away from that so far. It’s-

JORGE QUEZADA: I see Jay on the call, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.

JORGE QUEZADA: I will tell you, I never knew her diversity dimension on the martial arts until she shared it with us and the videos that she’s been posting, which is awesome. I met her years ago, at a conference board meeting that we were at. Those are the kinds of things that I don’t think we spend enough time talking to people about, and our leaders don’t spend time talking to people about. I think I just saw this recently too. Someone says, “Instead of how was your weekend?” You should be in a position to say, “Hey, how did your daughter play in the tournament?” Or if you want to take it to another, it’s like, by her name, “What did Cindy do in the tournament?” We should have that level of engagement with our people. Right now, I don’t know if we do that enough. That’s I think how deep you have to get to know people, and that’s what I hope we teach to teach, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yep, absolutely. “To Jorge, you’re amazing.” Let’s unmute ourselves and thank Jorge.

JORGE QUEZADA: Oh, that’s-

JENNIFER BROWN: Three, two, one, unmute.

EVERYONE: Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: You got goosebumps, Jorge?

JORGE QUEZADA: Oh, yeah. The love, the love is washing over me. Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: You deserve it.

JORGE QUEZADA: This is the kind of stuff that… Jennifer, thank you for doing this.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you. Thank you so much, Jorge. Can people reach out to you? What’s the best way to get in touch with you?

JORGE QUEZADA: I think the easiest place right now would be, if you can go on LinkedIn, you can find my name, Jorge Quezada. It’s MBA, I check on that and so I’ll react. Then I’ll send you my personal email. Or if you’re writing down, it’s jorge.quezada@gc, Granite Construction, inc as in Incorporated, .com. Send me a note, I’d love to chat. If I can help in any way, please reach out.

JENNIFER BROWN: The best. Thank you so, so much. This went so fast, and I know we’re just taking notes madly. One of the things I love, that you quote so many other people’s work. You integrate it in this beautiful way and you’re contributing your own. Like the Rubik’s cube image is not one I’m going to forget very soon. It’s just gorgeous, Jorge. I don’t know, I’m just full of appreciation for you right now. Good luck with the Heritage Month, and all the conversations and your launching of your network. I would love to revisit how that all goes. Maybe in a couple of months, we can talk again.

JORGE QUEZADA: Excellent.

USEFUL LINKS

Bob Johansen Full Spectrum Thinking

Layla Saad – Me and White Supremacy