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This episode was originally recorded as a panel with members of the L’Oreal USA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Board. Joining the panel were Jennifer, Ivy Fairchild, Consultant, Hispanic Federation. Dr. Crystal Lee, CEO & Founder, United Natives, Anna Mok, Co-Founder & President, Ascend Leadership, Scott Richman, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Jamal Watkins, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Advancement, NAACP. The intersectional panel featured a discussion on civil rights, including a reflection on progress, and gaps still needing to be filled. Discover the role of the individual in civic engagement and activism, the need for equitable capitalism and corporate action, and the importance of allyship.
JAMAL WATKINS: We get into the 1940s. You see the passage of the UDHR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Folks are wrestling around the globe with this notion of civil and political rights, social-cultural rights. Then we get to the United States and that's when the formal civil rights movement starts to take shape. What I would say is that what's important about the movement is that it leveraged certain change levers to achieve racial equity, a coordinated movement that had research that focused in on litigation and using the courts that actually use storytelling and communications to speak to the nation and the globe, that actually trained consciously leaders for the young people and elders in the community to be organized, that actually convened culturally different groups and communities from around the nation to fight forward, that use policy, advocacy, tactics, and mobilization. All of these things, these change levers were a part of the civil rights movement, really with a focus to achieve racial equity and dismantle structural racism.
DOUG FORESTA: The Will To Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, best-selling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She's a passionate inclusion and equity advocate, committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies, she and her team advise top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now onto the episode. Hello and welcome back to The Will To Change. This is Doug Foresta. The conversation that you're about to hear was originally recorded in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and features an intersectional panel discussion on civil rights. The conversation was moderated by Aubrey Maslen, assistant vice president, head of DEI communications and engagement at L'Oréal.
You'll hear the panel members introduce themselves at the onset of the conversation, including Jennifer. The discussion explored topics including reflections on progress, what more needs to be done, the role of the individual in civic engagement and activism, the role of organizations and equitable capitalism and corporate action, all this and more. One more note before we begin the episode. There were a few minutes during the recording where some of those notorious dings, those little notifications that happened on our computer made their way into the recording. However, the conversation itself is rich and engaging. We hope that you'll forgive us for a few dings here and there in the episode. And now, on to the conversation.
AUBREY MASLEN: I want to take us to our next panelist, Jamal Watkins, who serves as senior vice president and lead strategy for NAACP, which is one of our oldest civil rights organizations. Jamal, please introduce yourself.
JAMAL WATKINS: Thank you, Aubrey. It is good to be with team L'Oréal and the extended family of L'Oréal and my fellow panelists. My name is Jamal Watkins and I bring you greetings from the city of Washington DC. It should be a state. We're still working on that, but it is good to bring you greetings from the nation's capital. For those of you who know our organization, we turn 114 years old next month, but we know that the fight for racial equity, civic engagement, supportive policies and institutions, the things that really dismantle structural racism is far from over. So as we engage in this conversation today, I'm excited that we get to lean in on a range of different topics because when we value communities, especially the communities that are underserved through both a corporate lens but also a government lens, a community lens, it really is about lifting up all boats.
I know for some folks, that may sound hokey, but at the end of the day, that is the work of the association, the work that I get to do day in and day out with my leader, Yumeka Rushing. But most importantly, as I wrap up this introduction, we are an organization of volunteers. There are millions of individuals around the nation who power the NAACP and make it what it is. As we continue to center this conversation and center this work, it really is about those frontline community members and those frontline individuals who are making the sacrifices and contributions to really ensure that our democracy is what it should be. So happy to be engaged in this conversation.
AUBREY MASLEN: Excellent. Thank you so much, Jamal. I know we look forward to hearing more about what you just spoke about, the role of organizations, the role of the individual as we all continuously and collectively work to advance progress. Next, I'd like to invite Dr. Crystal Lee to introduce yourself.
DR. CRYSTAL LEE: Good afternoon, morning, or evening, wherever you all lovely people are at. Dr. Crystal Lee. Born and raised from the Navajo Nation. As an Indigenous person to this current land that we call the United States, I just want to acknowledge the Indigenous peoples that were here prior, and then also all the new relatives that have came since. I am founder/CEO of United Natives. It's a national nonprofit for Native Americans in different capacities. By training, I'm an infectious disease research doctor from an academic standpoint, but from a community training standpoint, I am a community member of the largest tribe in the country, which is the Navajo Nation. But by being a community member, we also aim to be a good relative and kinship is very important. I do consider the L'Oréal people colleagues as family because that kinship piece is truly important of that connectedness. But not only as a good relative to our Indigenous people and beyond, but of course to our four-legged relatives, to the water, to all those things that keep us binded and keep us connected.
In addition to that, I aim to also be a good ancestor because of all the ancestors before us that withstood a lot of experiences that we stand on their shoulders of. That's just the premise of what my organization does. I also do sit on the board for L'Oréal diversity and inclusion, which it's a huge honor for myself and also the associated representation on behalf of our Indigenous communities. Thank you.
AUBREY MASLEN: Thank you so much, Dr. Lee. The sentiment on we are standing on the shoulders of giants is something that rings so true for all of us on this call, and so I know we look forward to continuing the discussion today. Next, I'd like to invite Scott Richmond, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, who is joining us in today's panel to introduce himself.
SCOTT RICHMOND: Good afternoon and thank you so much. I'm honored to be on this panel with this really distinguished group and to be working with L'Oréal. L'Oréal's been an extraordinary partner, especially in the area of Holocaust studies. Very, very important in helping us promote those programs across the country. ADL trains teachers in that space. We've trained more than 100,000 teachers to teach about Holocaust studies as a vehicle for promoting tolerance, for promoting civil rights and all the topics we're talking about here. For those who are not so familiar with ADL, it's an organization that's been around since 1913, which a year before the NAACP and an organization that is devoted to fighting hate. It's a bit unique in that that's its sole mission. We're a Jewish organization and we take the lead when it comes to issues of fighting anti-Semitism, but when it comes to other forms of hate, we are allies in that space.
Very, very important for us that we are working with communities and offering them the resources that ADL has. Those resources really run the gamut from being reactive to proactive. From a reactive sense, we are responding to incidents of hate literally every day of the week. I'm the director for New York and New Jersey. It's the area, unfortunately, with the most hate crimes across the country, and we are responding to those incidents every day. But we are also engaged in advocacy at the local state and federal level, along with our coalition partners, along with so many of the organizations represented here and many, many more. We are engaged in fighting extremists. We have the center on extremism. It's an entity within ADL that tracks extremists, that provides background on extremists and provides information to law enforcement, very important partner of ADLs. We have our Center for Technology and Society that's fighting hate in digital spaces.
Then on the far end of the spectrum in terms of being proactive, we have our education work, anti-bias, anti-hate and anti-bullying programs in the schools. More than four million students were touched this year in the United States by these programs, very important for us. It's looking to the future. It's creating a group of people who learn how to respect one another, to celebrate difference and to celebrate diversity. And as important as math, reading, science, history, all those subjects are, we believe deeply that students need to learn how to respect one another as part of their education. Thank you so much.
AUBREY MASLEN: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you very much, Scott. We are very honored to continuously be a partner of the ADL and to continue that commitment. We've got two more panelists to introduce before we jump into the questions. Next, I'm going to go to Ivy Fairchild from the Hispanic Federation.
IVY FAIRCHILD: Good afternoon, everyone. It's such a pleasure to be here today. Thank you L'Oréal for inviting me, and thank you all for coming out on mass with this panel on a dreary New York afternoon. I own an organizational development firm called Landmark Consultants and we work with nonprofits across the country to build sustainability. I work with Hispanic Federation on their capacity building programs. Hispanic Federation is one of the largest civil rights organizations for Latinos. They have a membership of about 400 organizations across the country working to build sustainability of nonprofits to increase their advocacy efforts. For me, it's particularly touching to be speaking here today because I think about when I first arrived in the United States, this little girl who didn't know how to speak English, who entered a completely different world from what she knew and was told that she couldn't speak Spanish at home anymore because she had to learn how to speak English, who couldn't talk to other people to tell them how she felt because she didn't speak the language, and who was very different from everybody on their block.
When I arrived here, we had to acculturate and acclimate to the culture. We weren't allowed to be ourselves. So to be sitting here today talking about how this movement has given us the voice to really come out and talk about who we are and talk about our differences and make sure that the people understand that those differences enrich all of us is really powerful for me. Thank you very much.
AUBREY MASLEN: We are thrilled to have you join us. You're absolutely right, it should never be about assimilating. It's all about how are we additive, right?
IVY FAIRCHILD: Absolutely.
AUBREY MASLEN: Fantastic. Last, but certainly not least, joining us, I know, from an exotic locale, we have Anna Mok, who is a senior partner at Deloitte and also serves as the co-founder of Ascend Foundation. Anna?
ANNA MOK: Thank, you Aubrey, and thank you team for inviting this amazing group together. Just hearing the introductions again, even though I know many of our panelists from our council, I learn and I'm reminded about how connected we all are, that each of us, in different dimensions of our lives, are connected. That brings me to the story why I even do this work for Ascend. For those of you that are not familiar with Ascend, we are an organization focused, anchored in the work for the Pan-Asian community. We started about 17 years ago when many of us that were in corporate America looked around the companies and said, "What happened? Why weren't there so many of us that started in these companies, but there were still so few of us that were moving up the ranks even though we all came into these organizations as technically equals in these apprenticeship models?"
So we started the organization looking at how we can really bring more conversation into the issue of Asian advancement and looking at how we break those barriers. As we've continued to do that work over the past decade and a half or so, I think there's been a few learnings, and I know we'll get to some of this later, is one, we can't do this work alone. Meaning, as an Asian-centric organization, we have to do this in community with everyone. We are part of a larger fabric of society, and so to do that, we have to do that in multiple ways. We have to align and educate and lift others, but we also have to ask others to be on this journey with us. When we talk about issues of things like hate and bias and race and discrimination and inequity, it's really not a Black, white, brown, yellow issue, it's really a human issue. So as we've continued to evolve our work or work has continued to expand while still very much anchored around helping Asians reach our full potential, we have asked our membership.
We're a membership-based organization. We have chapters. We have all the way from students involved with us to corporate board directors who are committed to our mission. We've actually asked our membership to reflect on what does making an impact in the workplace and society look like. In that interpretation, we are saying it is not only about accreting more wealth and accreting more power and position, but it is equally about what are we doing to give back and how do we show up and support others. We're also so proud in that work that in 2020, we created a consortium and L'Oréal was one of the companies that joined us in this work at what we call the 5-Point Action Agenda, which covers a lot of the work that we'll talk about more later on this call. I'm a child of immigrant parents and an immigrant myself and a little bit different from Ivy.
Our first thought was San Francisco Chinatown, so I thought the whole world looked like me and acted like me and were living in places like me. It wasn't until I furthered my education and our family moved around San Francisco that I realized that actually, people were not like me and that we had to learn to close that gap when we work with people and live with people who have very, very different experiences than what I may have experienced as a child and growing up. Thank you just for allowing us to be here. It's an honor to be part of the council.
AUBREY MASLEN: I really just want to kick us off and perhaps Jamal, you can start us here, can you share with us some examples or any perspective you might have on how the civil rights movement was really a watershed movement in many regards for the advancement of other communities and historically marginalized groups?
JAMAL WATKINS: Well, I would say one of the things that's fascinating about history and time periods is that if you look at historical records and historians, they would say the formal civil rights movement here in the United States was about from the mid 1950s, say 1954 to around 1968, the late '60s, but as we all know, the struggle for civil and human rights in this country happened well before that moment, which I think was a crescendo moment that it also reflected in many ways some of the things that we don't always focus in on. I appreciate, for example, Dr. Lee leading us in even recognizing ancestral and tribal lands. I live here in Washington DC, but the Anacostans who were here before us, this was their community, their home. So when we think about history, I wanted to just walk through I think a piece of the historical timeline that gets us to the civil rights movement and I think the impact that it had.
When you think about post-Civil War and Reconstruction, there was a brief moment where there was enfranchisement. Black folks were able to actually vote and get elected. Then you had post Reconstruction, say 1890 to about 1908, where you saw the racialization of our communities in a negative way. The Jim Crow era, disenfranchisement, exploitation of workers of color, and not just Black workers, I think Latinos and folks from the API community. Then I worked for an organization that was founded in 1909 by Black and white founders. When I say white founders, some folks say, "Oh, it was multiracial," but we were founded by Black folks and Jewish folks. At that time in 1909, the Jewish community wasn't necessarily considered white and wasn't treated with the red carpet and the, "Welcome to the United States. This is your home. This is your country."
So as you start to build into the history, we get into the 1940s. You see the passage of the UDHR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Folks are wrestling around the globe with this notion of civil and political rights, social-cultural rights, and then we get to the United States and that's when the formal civil rights movement starts to take shape. What I would say is that what's important about the movement is that it leveraged certain change levers to achieve racial equity, a coordinated movement that had research, that focused in on litigation and using the courts that actually used storytelling and communications to speak to the nation and the globe, that actually trained consciously leaders, both young people and elders in the community to be organized, that actually convened culturally different groups and communities from around the nation to fight forward, that used policy advocacy tactics and mobilization. All of these things, these change levers were a part of the civil rights movement really with the focus to achieve racial equity and dismantle structural racism.
I would argue when you think about the modern notion of movements, many of them are picking and choosing from the strategies, tactics, and the change levers that the civil rights era that the historians really book in as being utilized to be successful and ultimately, and this is something I think we're still married to inside of the NAACP and other organizations like us, is that it's about policy advocacy and systems change and practice change. If you figure out how to leverage those change levers and to shift those systems and policies, then you actually are able to advance the agenda, if you will. The irony of all of this and a lot of what I'm talking about wasn't about changing the hearts and minds of men, but it was changing the lived experiences of the communities that were impacted. I would say for me, how I would answer this question is that the modern civil rights movement as according to historians really created a new form of strategies and tactics and practices to advance an agenda that others could also replicate and model for their own struggles and their own fights.
SCOTT RICHMOND: I think I'd like to pick up on one thing that you said in terms of levers and using those levers for their own fights, and that's the hate crime statutes. I think we live with these hate crimes laws and take it for granted, but most of those laws didn't exist before the recent past. It wasn't until the 1980s that people began calling for hate crimes laws, really, I think, directly in response to the civil rights movement. There were two very high profile cases. One, a case against a white supremacist group that had attacked a Jewish man and another against a group of teenagers who had attacked three Black men both in the 1980s. Those led to hate crime statutes, and ADL is an organization that has been putting forth model hate crime statutes since then and pressing states to adopt them. I'm really proud to say that 46 states have now adopted hate crime statutes, but we're still left with four states that don't have them. But that definitely grew out of the civil rights movement and we should all be grateful for those who paved the way.
AUBREY MASLEN: Absolutely. These moments seem additive, right? You build on that progress. It hearkens back to the standing on the shoulders of giants that we spoke about previously. I saw Anna come off of mute. Anna, do you want to add a perspective to this discussion on borrowing tactics and levers from the broader movement?
ANNA MOK: Yeah. Jamal talked a little bit about it, but I think sometimes we define movements that's a single point in time around an issue, and then there's a beginning and end. I think just from the historical walkthrough of what we've lived, we know there's not necessarily no end, but it evolves. It changes and evolves. I think that's important for us to remember because it's not something that we can say, "Okay, I'm done." And while we may sometimes feel impatient, and I think all of us on this call are impatient about the pace of change exhibition when we're trying to change systems, we have to recognize that it is not a one and done. And also, movements evolve and change and what we do and how we do it change too because people change. Then we'll get into some of the generational discussions.
IVY FAIRCHILD: I'm so glad that Jamal emphasized the tactics in organizing because I think that for many people, when they think about the civil rights movement, they only think about the demonstrations that took place. They don't realize that beyond the public face, there was all of this work going on behind the scenes to help improve, to help with the passage of legislation, and that it was those tactics and organizing that gave women the right to have credit cards in their own name, to own homes, to buy a mortgage, to sit on a jury. For years, women couldn't obtain custody of their children, and using those tactics and organizing strategies, we were able to get that. In terms of the Latino movement, we have been fighting civil rights since the early 1900s. But I think that one of the things that the civil rights movement did was that it highlighted the importance of lifting up leaders in our respective spaces. César Chávez and Dolores Huerta rose up in 1965 to find the United Farm Workers Union. That union joined with the great picker strike in California for the biggest great boycott.
It really got people out to really say, "Hey, I'm here and I want to be heard." I think also, that it empowered young people to come out, and young Latinos in particular. In the late '60s, there were a lot of Latino students in LA who couldn't even go to the bathroom. They weren't allowed to go to the bathroom. They weren't allowed to speak Spanish. I think that the civil rights movement really said to them, I can come out there and I can protest this and I can make changes. Then we know that it made changes because as a result of the walkouts, we saw tons of school reform and increased enrollment in college by Latino youth. I think that when you think about the Mexican American legal defense fund that was patterned on the NAACP, the Young Lords that were founded by Puerto Ricans in Chicago, that was modeled after the Black Panthers, and that movement made extreme changes in Chicago and New York City. So I think that in a variety of ways, the civil rights movement has impacted lots of us around the country.
AUBREY MASLEN: Excellent. Dr. Lee or Jennifer, I want to give you both the opportunity to add any perspective to that before we jump into our next topic.
DR. CRYSTAL LEE: Yes. I would just like to say a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I know as Indigenous communities, him acknowledging us in this quote, in which he stated, "Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the 16th century forward, blood flowed in battles of racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today, we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for the shameful episode our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalted."
I appreciate the acknowledgement coming from such a thought leader such as him to acknowledge that the struggle for injustice in not only the United States but globally has transpired, and the era in which the civil rights movement occurred, I would like to say as Native Americans at the time, we were mostly on reservation-based land. When we left the reservation, we were also subjugated to segregation. We would be in the "colored" only section in a lot of our tribal communities. So we were alongside with the Black community as segregation transpired. In addition to that, Native Americans are a bit different than other Americans in the context that we have tribal sovereignty, so therefore, our political system is quite different on how we work with the US government and/or states. Because we are considered sovereign nations, we work directly with the federal government, which puts us in a completely different policy bracket than any other racial ethnic group.
Because of how the current policies have been implemented, then we still suffer large disparate rates because of our political platform as our current states. I know in our Native American history in the 1960s, that was considered our Self-Determination Era, still to date. We learned and aligned ourselves with a lot of the tactics and also joined forces with the Black communities as civil rights had started its wave wholeheartedly. With that, we created almost a similar group, similar to the Black Panthers. They were called American Indian Movement. This was also around the 1960s, 1970s that really called out for improving policy, eradicating policy, developing new policy as it relates to tribal communities. In 1978, it wasn't until that policy, which is called American Indian Freedom and Religious Act, us as natives were not even allowed to practice any of our cultural ceremonial or spiritual practices. We would get jailed or imprisoned up until 1978 to even practice who we were, something so very recent.
Once the Self-Determination Era, which is parallel to the civil rights movement, this really helped give us the vision and tactical strategies to not only join forces, but also to do our due diligence on fighting and protecting our rights as well.
AUBREY MASLEN: What I'd love to learn from this group of folks, and I know Jennifer touched upon it, what roles can each individual at our individual respective capacities can we play? What is the role of an organization in continuing to advance inclusion for the diversity dimension that you have the most experience working with or that you represent in your professional capacity? Starting this question, we've seen, for example, a really troubling rise in anti-Semitism and attacks against members of the Jewish community. I saw a report from 2020 that indicated that something like 63% of Gen Zs had limited knowledge about the Holocaust and the history. That was actually true. Scott, I'd love to hear from you. What role can we continue to play as individuals and what more needs to be done to address these issues?
SCOTT RICHMOND: Well, thank you for that. Certainly in terms of recognizing communities that people haven't quite seen in this space, as I'm representing the Jewish community in this conversation, I think the anti-Semitism that the Jewish community has experienced is not always a part of the diversity space. I think as we've seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, that has changed over the past few years. I speak a lot in corporations and that was not the case before, which I'm grateful for. In terms of what can be done, in order to be allies with the Jewish community on this issue, and you rightly note the statistics are very troubling, ADL puts out an annual audit every year of anti-Semitic incidents. That annual audit is not a survey. That's the way most people take the temperature of different issues in this country. It's actually a compilation of the incidents to which ADL has responded over the course of the year and an analysis. What did it show?
It showed in the 42 years that we've been doing this audit. 2021 was the highest year on record for anti-Semitic incidents that we had ever encountered. We're not talking about a trajectory that goes from 1979 to 2021. We're talking about maybe a decade. I grew up at a time, I grew up in the '70s and '80s in New York and I never thought about anti-Semitism. It was not on my radar. I never experienced it, and I just assumed that my kids who were 21 and 24 would be encountering the same existence. This was a thing of the past. Well, it's not that it was gone completely, but mostly. That is not the case. It's really been over the past decade. If I go back to 2013, 10 years ago, that number was one quarter of the number of incidents. So it's quadrupled since 2013. It's undeniable. I happen to live in New York, which is 50 states across the nation. It's the state with more anti-Semitic incidents than any other state.
In terms of what to do about it, especially in the corporate space, this is about being an ally with the Jews in your space. The best way to be an ally is to actually understand what anti-Semitism is and, whatever the manifestation is, if you want to call it a microaggression, if you want to call it stereotyping, why that falls into that category. The thing is anti-Semitism is a form of social prejudice, but it's a form of social prejudice that doesn't look like any other form of social prejudice, except that it involves bias and bigotry. Why? Because it's a set of conspiracy theories. It's a set of tropes, as we call them, seven of them. Those seven conspiracy theories are the ways that most often, anti-Semitism manifests itself.
The trope of power, Jews being accused of having too much power, controlling the government, media, business, of greed, something associated with money, of dual loyalty, of being loyal not to this country, but to Israel, the trope of Holocaust denial, particularly pernicious trope that has really gotten new life on social media, the blood libel, which is this idea that Jews don't treat non-Jews properly, the deicide charge, the charge that Jews are collectively responsible for the killing of Christ, which was debunked by the Pope in 1967, but still exists in some quarters, and the anti-Israelism when it rises the level of anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel is not by itself anti-Semitism at all. So understanding those seven tropes which don't have a manifestation in other forms of social prejudice and understanding that these are part of a pattern. When Jews are experiencing this, they're not seeing it as a one-off kind of thing in the workplace or any other place. They're seeing it as part of a pattern that's existed for decades, hundreds of years, millennia, and for them, it's very painful.
AUBREY MASLEN: Again, I really want to key in on the role of individuals is to be an ally and your allyship can start with educating yourself and making sure that you understand what the discrimination bigotry, in this case anti-Semitism, looks like, how to spot it and how to address it in real time. Other panelists, I see-
JENNIFER BROWN: If I could-
AUBREY MASLEN: Jennifer, yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: If I could, yeah. You just laid, Scott. That was so crisp and memorable. Sadly, really sticks in your mind and your heart. I would say to build on what you're just saying, Aubrey, our job is to understand the tropes, the microaggressions that are faced by each community, especially those we are not a part of. That is something that I think we need to commit to memory, commit to our hearts, and be on the lookout about and be vigilant. I say learning is stage two, stage three is action with the learning. That's, I think, where we're between these two things right now. Many people are trying to deepen their learning, trying to understand what's going on, particularly when they don't have the lived experience to spot it and understand it. But then the action is the utilization of our voices to push back, to challenge, to have hard conversations, to point out, to question, and to be the agitator in the system. That's allyship 2.0 or 3.0.
Those of us that carry varying degrees of privilege that mean that we are insiders in some way, and by the way, we all carry something like that, it's not just the province of certain people, there are always ways we can be activating these things to shift the system. The work that I focus on is how then do we enable the knowledge? How do we equip the learner to become the leader? How do we encourage the ally through what can be a really fraught journey of not knowing fear, cancellation, being called out? It's a minefield because the learning is going to be imperfect. The learning journey of allyship is imperfect.
But the space that needs to be held, and L'Oréal does this beautifully and other companies I get the privilege to work with, creating a container for us to commit these things to memory, to take action, to tolerate and expect imperfection in ourselves and others then to have the space and grace to actually move forward and develop, I don't like the word mastery, I'm looking for another word, expertise in knowing when to say, what to say, how to say it, and how hard to push. But it's always getting comfortable being uncomfortable. That's the core competency of where we have to shoot for, I think.
IVY FAIRCHILD: I think also that we have to recognize that not everybody is the organizer, the agitator, the pusher. Our responsibilities is to know what's happening, to understand what's happening, and to support those out there who are doing something about it. One of the easiest ways that most of us can do that is by donating to organizations that are doing the work that we cannot do. If I can't go out in March, if I can't go out and stand for a particular group, I can, in most instances, write a check to support those people who are. I think that that's very important. I think it's also having conversations at home. Sit around your table and talk to your kids about what's going on. Educate yourself, educate your children, and together, come up with responses to how you will deal with these issues on a daily basis. Because I don't want anybody to think that you have to be the one out there pushing all the buttons. You don't have to be. You just have to be there to support those who are.
AUBREY MASLEN: Very well said. Anna?
ANNA MOK: Just continue to build on just what my esteemed panelists has said back to what an individual can do. What I encourage audience, again, when we use big words like movement and rights and justice, it feels so heavy and daunting. We should not let that add fear to us, but allow those thoughts to liberate us, to recognize it's making big things happen, it's actually a series of small things too. Us as individuals, whether in the workplace or society has a role to play in that. A couple of just very basic examples. We've already talked about educating ourselves, but acting on, if you see a microaggression happening, just asking about it and calling it out means so much to the person that that happened to. If something didn't look right, felt right, or sounded right, asking and calling, "Did I just hear that? Is that what you meant?" and asking that question. We can do that in the workplace. We can do that with our family. So that's one thing we can each do.
You don't need to be the loudest person in the room to do that. You can whisper in the ear of the person who committed the act is important, so you don't have to again be the one that seems like I have to be so out there to do the work. The second thing is I always encourage, and I challenge myself on this all the time, it is human nature to surround ourselves with those that are like us. That is our place of comfort and home. We want to eat with others who eat our foods, who went to the same schools, who live in the same neighborhoods, who dress like us. That is very natural in many ways, especially in how we create communities.
JENNIFER BROWN: Then I would also say the partnership of allies means that we can work smarter and not harder. I think we've also been the blunt instrument, the pushing fly against the screen door just over and over and over again, hoping for change. But I do think working through others, others we can count on, others that are prepared to support us, that's like a prerequisite, but the relay race that could be run where we get that rest because we can hand the baton to somebody and know that they are going to carry it and honor it and take it as far as they can. They're ready. They're fit. They're ready to plug in so that we can take a breath. I think a lot too about really doing this work differently in different kinds of coalitions and feeling that if I'm not there to say something, nothing's going to get said.
I think that is what leads us to this deep soul fatigue. Then lastly, just plugging into community and being able to just breathe and cry together and commiserate. This is something in the workplace that employee resource groups provide, which is close the door and just unload and process. Before we go out there to fight another day, we have to create space for that to let the air out of the balloon and reconnect and feel the strength of the foundation of our communities because it is very strong. We can forget that when we're out on the frontier, reconnecting to the purpose, reconnecting to the why, and realizing and being reminded that we are not alone.
AUBREY MASLEN: Great perspective on really leaning into one another and tapping into our collective communities and resources that stretch in an intersectional manner beyond just our respective diverse community or dimension. I want to take us to one more question before we open it up, but before we do that, I saw Scott and Ivy come on. If you would both like to jump into this topic that we're on right now.
SCOTT RICHMOND: I was also going to talk about coalitions. For me, it's incredibly energizing to feel that you're not alone. I'll give you an example. We have a partnership with the NAACP in New Jersey, a formal partnership with them. When we speak out with one voice on issues of racism or anti-Semitism, that is so incredibly energizing and it's really, for sure, you could talk about passing the baton, but it's also about this idea of not being alone. The second thing I would say is we have to find moments within our work that are wins. I had a win this past Friday, something that is very energizing. We had something called the STOP conference. STOP stands for Students Together Opposing Prejudice. We brought together students in Upstate New York who were part of No Place for Hate program, 150 students. What did we do with them?
Well, each year it happens around MLK weekend and we have a different civil rights theme. It's been going on for 19 years. This year the theme was music, the music of the civil rights movement. We introduced them to this topic. We took them through different songs and lyrics, and then we went into breakout rooms. Each of the students, these are middle and high school students, wrote their "freedom song." Whatever it is that they're passionate about, they wrote these songs. We brought them all back together, and about a dozen students had the courage to stand up and recite, sing, chant, whatever it is, their song and it was the most beautiful thing. I said this is what's incredibly energizing for me and really propels me forward.
IVY FAIRCHILD: I'll be quick, Aubrey. But I think that one of the most important things is giving ourselves the permission to say no. Sometimes when we say no, we give other people the opportunity to step up and shine because you are not around to do the things and do things that you wouldn't have let them do had you been around. I think that saying no really really begins to give you a different perspective on the work that you're doing and how you engage others.
AUBREY MASLEN: Absolutely. Love that. Learning what your limits are and being true to yourself in those limits, but also providing others the opportunity. On this question, we talk about burnout. How do we avoid it as we are also passionately working to drive progress when it comes to inclusion and advancing historically the marginalized groups? We learned about learning to lean into the collective, to the coalition. We talked about self-care and taking care of your holistic self. We talked about this notion of learning to say no and drawing boundaries and limits. The next question that I would love to pose to this group is we've got five generations in the workforce right now ranging from Gen Zs up to our baby boomers. Obviously, as L'Oréal, we're having a conversation today on civil rights, but from your own perspectives, why is it still really important that we recognize that there is still much more progress to be done? Why is this conversation still relevant?
ANNA MOK: Oh, I'll start. I think just even the examples we've given shows why it's important. But I do think it is important, Aubrey, to your point, to recognize that in that five generation of the workforce. What I've experienced and how I look at and how I show up on the issue of what a civil society should look like in civil rights may be very different than my 22-year-old daughter that just graduated from college, that just started adulting in her first job. How I show up in the workforce, how I lean in is very different. I learned that every day from my colleagues at the firm because we have a big generational... I almost slipped on the word divide, but there is a divide between these generations, but there's also a glue that holds us together. So I think first, recognizing and not expecting that we will all interpret this the same way is very important. That happens in the workplace, but also in our homes and in our communities. And also not discounting the experience.
I think those of us that may be older, we believe that the younger generation has it easier. They don't actually. When I was growing up, my parents didn't have to worry about whether I walk to school on my own, and I did that at five years old. Parents today don't even let their kids out the house in any neighborhood. So do they have it better than my parents? Probably not. So I think we have to recognize that it's not easier for those that come after us in this movement, but it is different, and that is important actually once we translate this work in the workplace too. Because what does creating a place of belonging mean? It actually means something very different depending on which generation we're in, and also how we show up. We talk about protests and marches. Not everyone wants to do that. That's not how we all express how we show protests or how we express our voice. That's okay actually. We shouldn't let those things stand in our way and create barriers to us, but find what's common in our experiences.
JAMAL WATKINS: I would lean in and say, just because we have five generations who are now in the workforce, the question is, have we achieved racial equity? The reality is that there is an economic disparity among people of color in the workforce still, and those that are not people of color. Actually, there's an economic disparity among the 1% in all of us. So when we think about this notion of retirement, for example, when we think about this notion of being able to own a home, pay off your debt, sustain your family, there is a racialized wedge that continues to grow. So grandparents and their grandchildren are still experiencing some of the economic exclusion practices and there's no other rationale or reason for it other than race still becomes a factor. Pay equity between women and men are still there. When you start to look under the hood and look at women of color, it's even worse. So when we start to talk about the data and the reality of lived experiences, I think what we're really wrestling with is that time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds.
Policies and practices have to shift in order for the live realities so that we can say, yes, we have overcome the gaps that are there and that are prevalent. We can't say that right now. The work still is in our face because the gap still exists. So in many ways, I think I agree with Anna around the generational piece is very different, but some of the realities that folks are facing, especially when you look at pocketbook issues, have not gotten tremendously better. So how do we overcome that? Because when we start to really look at what is happening into communities, when we start to follow the data, we start to look at the analytics, I think that will drive the types of conversations we need to have and show us that we're not at a place where we've achieved racial reconciliation and that we can all go home and hold hands, and everyone is happy and has achieved what they needed for their communities. I would say that, for us, especially in my organization, tends to be our focal point.
IVY FAIRCHILD: I agree. I think that we have to recognize that we have an unfinished civil rights agendas and that we need to stick together because our country has changed radically. It's no longer just about Black and white. It's about lifestyles. It's about gender. It's about economics. So how do we define a model that addresses all of that and meets the needs of each of those generations?
DR. CRYSTAL LEE: I think from my perspective, we have this saying in tribal community is about seventh generation, where our current state, especially the elders, are looking seven generations ahead. It's not just solely looking from my generational context, but what's my great-great-grandchildren? What's their lives going to be? How do we create a positionality for our communities that they will thrive instead of this notion of I have to self-survive? And this model of looking ahead from a supportive stand and context, and then also valuing the youth because we know that they are going to be our generational leaders coming forward. How do we support them? How do we teach them? How do we mentor them? How do we devise this plan to where it's inclusive versus I'm an elder and this generation is five generations, instead of looking at it as a gap, but reframing it in a more positive aspect to utilize what we can learn generations as a continuum and not a divide because we all bring something to the table regardless of what age and/or gender.
I think just also changing the framework of what generational wealth could really look like in the context of community environments and social structures.
AUBREY MASLEN: Absolutely.
JENNIFER BROWN: Can I just add the-
AUBREY MASLEN: Please.
JENNIFER BROWN: ... the concept of being taught by? I and many in my generation weren't heard, didn't have a voice, so I am cheering on the younger generation who seems to honor the authenticity and the fuller self, particularly in how they show up at work. Even in the LGBTQ community, there's a lack of understanding of history for sure. But there also can be this reverse mentoring scenario where we take heart from the courage that we see because so many of us weren't afforded the opportunity to really live into our full purpose and contribution because of the closet. It's striking that I still meet people in my generation who are closeted in the workplace all the time. Also striking to know and see and witness young people being truly authentic to themselves and how beautiful that is and how important it is, and owning all of their different identities, both visible and invisible and their intersectionality, just to listen to them speak about it or come out earlier or be beautifully inclusive in a way that never needed to be taught.
I tell my older leaders, bless their hearts, it's my generation. I say, "We were taught to say, 'I don't see color.'" That was what we were taught, and to me, encapsulates the shift, the massive shift that we've seen to now be talking about difference and differences, wanting to be seen and heard and valued into matter. It's a huge shift. Honoring the journey between the generations, the journey that we've been on both directions is so important. But I have to say, I hold out a lot of hope and responsibility with young people to come into systems and change those systems in ways that we can't even imagine. I think we're here to understand what that looks like. Somebody said earlier, how do they define belonging? I think Anna, it was you. They don't define it in the same way that we do.
I'm not even sure they're going to see identities in the silos that we've seen them in terms of employee resource groups. I don't know because there's so many things and they're allies to so many or advocates or co-conspirators to so many. They're taking it to the next level. It is going to shake up the structure and the way that we've organized, I suppose, change, at least in the workplace. I'm so here for it though. Because look, I know our talk track. I know our generation and how we approach things and we need a refresh. We need to rethink. We need inspiration and not to rest on the hierarchy in terms of who knows the most. It's we got it simultaneously honor it, but also flip it.
Hi. This is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
DOUG FORESTA: You've been listening to The Will To Change, uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we'll be back next time with a new episode.
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