Donald Thompson: Hey everyone, welcome to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast. I’m your host Donald Thompson, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and CEO of Walk West in Raleigh North Carolina. On this podcast, we share diverse perspectives from leaders in their industry, and we get to hear what diversity means to them, why businesses should be focused on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and why D&I is not only the right thing to do, it is absolutely imperative to the growth of your company.
Before we get started, (info about course and CTA)
On the show today, we have two young professionals from Wilson College at NC State who are focused on Diversity and Inclusion for the staff at NC State, its students, and for the students’ prospective employers. Bri Hart and Delisha Hinton are moving the conversation and molding young minds, and I’m so excited to share this interview with you today.
For Delisha, she is born and bred in Raleigh North Carolina, so she’s been exposed to a diverse set of people throughout her life. But for Bri, it wasn’t until she went to college that she was introduced to people who weren’t exactly like her. And on her LinkedIn page now, she says she is centering on the experiences of historically marginalized young people. So to start the interview today, I asked her what that meant to her…
Bri Hart: , so like I said, I grew up in a very rural area, pre black and white, like most small towns in the South. and so it wasn't until I went off to the university of Georgia where I was exposed to so many different people from so many different backgrounds that were totally different from what I knew, like even learning about different religions besides Christianity was a new concept for me. and so when I went into working in college access and working specifically with underrepresented students, learning how to show up as myself, and that being enough to inspire students. So not necessarily feeling like, okay, I have to teach these groups of students, these skills in order to be successful, because for most students from marginalized groups, they already have the skills and the capital that they need to be successful.
But I've learned that working with, in general, marginalized groups. A lot of times it's that empowerment piece. And so for me and my work, Just A) showing up as myself and knowing that that's enough to empower and B) just being radical in my approach and a lot of times going out of my way to seek out those experiences to support students.
Donald Thompson: Now. That's super powerful and impressive. And one of the things that you said that, uh, I just want to reiterate, you talked about the empowerment piece and one of the things I've tried to encourage people that I talk with, from all different backgrounds is normally what people have is more than enough.
We often focus on our limitations. And what that does is it dulls the tools. Yup. And we've got to get more and more people focused on the things that we do have, and let's win with that while we're trying to figure out the things around the edges. And so I really appreciate you describing that . Delisha, your programming work both Wilson and at NC State.
Tell me a little bit about the detail of some of the programs that you're building and have built and a little bit about that passion for you.
Delisha Hinton: I think one of the big ones right now that is kind of in the works and underway is, something that Bri and I actually have started that we've called Something to Chew On.
it's your lunch and learn. Um, it's for our faculty and our staff within the college. Um, but we've taken a creative approach and we thought about, well, how's the way that we can bring topics related to diversity and inclusion to the table and thinking about from a historical standpoint.
And so not sure if you're aware of seeing that the New York Times has put out the 1619 project, which it is this kind of catapult of reflection of the past 400 years of slavery. and thinking about what slavery did to the U S but then also what erupted from it. And so everything from cultural appropriations to capitalism, to traffic, to, healthcare in so many things that we are all impacted by and thinking about, okay, so what does this mean to us and how do we start making changes where it may affect me one way you something completely different and Bri another way. And so we've been able to kind of start breaking this apart and giving homework almost to people and saying, go read pages, you know, whatever from whatever. Um, and it's focused specifically on one topic, but there's this reflection and it ties back to slavery and how so many things have come out of slavery that a lot of us don't even think about.
Um, you know, economy and growth. And so within the article and within the podcast, one of the things that kind of kicks off a is talking about quotas. for slavery, it's, you know, you have your individuals that are out in the cotton field, they are picking cotton.
one person takes however much within one day, one of someone else picks up so much more, less than a day, but the owners are keeping track of it and they're looking to see how much you're bringing in per day and are you going over your quota? And if so, that means I have this expectation that you can actually go and pick more than what you've been taking, or are you picking less?
And if so, you know, some kind of lynching or some type of, horrible thing that I'll say that, you know, has taken place where it's, you didn't meet it, you have slacked off for that day. and you think about in today's world and how many companies have quotas, how many places have this expectation for their employees to do so much within a day?
Yup. and so many of us, we don't think about it from that standpoint in terms of, well, where does this actually come from and how did it originate? And so we had a really great conversation that was focused on capitalism, but it tied into, higher education, holiday shopping, and workplace stress.
Donald Thompson: Interesting. these are all pretty powerful topics in themselves, right? Because they're experiential and for people to grow and change, right? We've got to really understand their experiences, right? Not just their kind of physical, uh, appearances and different things. How would you guys define or educate people on what diversity in the workplace means?
And if you're dealing kind of just from a base level,
Bri Hart: I have heard the analogy then diversity is given the invitation to the party when inclusion is being asked to dance. And so for me, I would even think inclusion goes beyond being asked to dance say, if I come to the party, I want to make sure that you have a menu option for my dietary needs and that I have a appropriate place to go to the restroom based on my gender identity, but even thinking beyond just having a seat at the table but thinking, what does it look like for all of your guests at the party, whatever that party may be so in this instance thinking about the workplace.
Donald Thompson: Now that's super powerful. One of the things, whether it's in the corporate side, the educational side, any kind of institutional change has to be driven by the leadership. Tell me a little bit about the leaders within your organization and how they've empowered you to really attack this type of programming.
Delisha Hinton: I think one of the things I'll say is, you know, our leaders in our college they're right now, I think more active and wanting to think more holistically about diversity inclusion, across the entire college community. And so when we say our college community, we're talking about our students.
We're talking about our faculty, we're talking about our staff. so I think what's interesting is the makeup of our student population and the graduate level, the majority of the students are international. And so it's, you know, from the standpoint, from everything of them walking into their very first day of class to them getting ready to leave and needing support when it comes to career services.
It's this kind of thought of how do we start making sure that those international students have the resources that they need and able to go off into the workforce. But then also how do we equip our faculty and staff to actually understand some of the challenges that they may face, and at the same time, then it's this balancing act of beyond just the students themselves, but what are their experiences? What are their challenges? How do we better educate ourselves on those experiences and challenges and trying to put ourselves in their footsteps as much as possible and some of it is just through conversation and that alone is a starting point before we even do any programmings or any kind of trainings or anything else that they need to be a part of. But I think right now their leadership as a whole is wanting to actively see things that are empowering our students and educating our faculty and staff to better support the students in the classroom and outside of the classroom.
Donald Thompson: That's awesome. One of the things from a diversity and inclusion standpoint is conversation is powerful and you get an opportunity to break down walls and create a space where people can talk, right? Cause we can't really get to know each other if we don't spend time together. I totally get that.
How do you guys encourage people to act in the moment when they hear or see something that's said or done, that's not quite right.
Bri Hart: You know there are certain words that, for the most part, if you have a pretty good, if you grew up in the space and you have a pretty good understanding of race relations and racial dynamics, there are certain terms that you know are just a no, no.
And so for a lot of us, it's really easy to say like, Hey, Don that was not okay. You shouldn't have said that. But when it comes to the dress or when it comes to, you know how people may show up on social media or maybe outside of work. how do you have that courage to have that conversation with someone?
Something Delisha and I try to be intentional about is really going back to the empowerment piece and powering, um, everyone, our colleagues, even I, I mean, it's not easy. It's not easy to tell someone like, Hey, that's not okay and this is why it's not okay. And also realizing that if I as someone who is committed to waking up everyday and making the world more inclusive and being respectful, I know that that's part of my responsibility as a human being because that's what I've committed to. So even though it's hard, I'm recognizing that that's a commitment I've made to myself and a commitment I made to bettering society.
So how can I be an example to encourage colleagues to do the same?
Delisha Hinton: It's something you have to constantly continue challenging yourself on. And in a sense, you have to, you have to step outside of that box, so to speak. And you have to get uncomfortable because diversity is not diversity without you being uncomfortable.
And I think one of the things I can say in terms of a way to think about it, so this comes out of, um, NCBI, which is the National Coalition Building Institute. Um, and NC state has a chapter. I'm fortunate enough to be on the team there. One of our workshops, it ends with this very question.
And how do you, how do you kind of respond when someone says something or shows up somewhere and you're like, this is wrong. So, it's something that we call Fight, Flight, Flow. Ultimately, you want to be able to flow. And flow is so hard. It seems easy when you're like, okay, someone just said something and now I have to be able to flow through this conversation with them, asking them questions without getting angry, without getting upset, without, you know, this emotion side that kind of sways me one way or the other.
Whether you're sad or. You're mad, but you don't want to fly. Cause fly means, you know, you're just leaving it and you've left it at the table. You have acknowledged that this person has said something or has done something and you leave it. Or fight is basically, you're going to say something and it puts that person in another uncomfortable place. So, you know, one of the things that's kind of looking at it, if typically, if someone has said something or has done something there, they have some type of ouch.
And that flow allows you to identify what that ouch is. But if you fight, you're fighting withtwo ouches cause you're both hurting. And no one is going to heal within that particular scenario or that situation, but flow is hard.
Donald Thompson: one of the things that I want to just repeat for the power, Fight, Flight, and Flow, and that came from the national coalition. Yes. Tell me a little bit like, tell me a little bit about this organization. Yeah, that's really good stuff.
Delisha Hinton: Yeah. So an international organization.
Um, NC state has its own chapter. There's a few other institutions throughout the U S and then they've got some internationally. And so, um, there's a team of us throughout NC state, and so it's made up of a very diverse group of individuals that are. mainly faculty and staff.
you know, I have myself, that's out of an educational department. We have some other folks who are out of IT. We have some folks who work with our vet school, we have researchers on the team. And so you're bringing folks with their professional experience. It's all coming from different backgrounds.
And we receive requests to come and facilitate a workshop. And sometimes the workshop is, you know, I just want my ambassadors to be aware of diversity and inclusion. And for that particular group, it may mean. I wanted to remind ambassadors of being mindful and being thoughtful of the things that they may say, or do as they're interacting with perspective students and families, thinking about the questions that they may receive and what's the best way to actually answer that question. But then also being mindful of themselves to ensure that, you know, as an ambassador, they're not misrepresenting NCState, themselves or any of their own beliefs in a wrong manner.
And so this workshop, it starts off, with something that we call up downs. It's great cause it's a way of kind of in a sense saying like, who's in the room? And so you may start off with, age. You may start off with gender.
you may go into your race, ethnicity. Um, but within that you're able to kind of break down and saying, okay, so you know, please stand up if you identify as a part of the European heritage. And if so, then we may then ask, you know, do you know which European heritages. You may go into black, African American.
And then there's that one of saying, well, I identify as black, but I can't. I can't say which country. I can't trace it. And so it's this way of being able to understand who's in the room. It's understanding the records that we have, um, that come from our childhood. When we may have a stereotype or we say something, and then how do you start to think about where these things come from?
Knowing that although it's there, it's not necessarily what we believe. And then also how do you, how do you fight the stigmas that are out in the world?
Donald Thompson: That's super powerful. Thank you for that explanation. Everyone learns differently and diversity and inclusion there's lots of information out there. How do we make the good stuff that has some meat to it, more well known, So that when people are seeking, they can get some things that help them move forward.
If you were talking with a prospective employers or people that are running businesses and they were like, well, how do I get a diversity program started?
Like, I don't know what to do. Like I work with a lot of large corporations and have friends and colleagues there and they've got enough money behind putting some really nice programming in place and there's a companies that are doing a really good job. I'm really talking about $5 million business, $10 million business, $50 million business where they don't have, you know, the ability to have a chief diversity officer and someone specifically to create, you know, cultural working groups in different things. What are some assets, readings, thought process that you would recommend for somebody just trying to get something off the ground.
Bri Hart: Diversity is a buzz word, right? So it's like, Oh, let's have a diversity program. Let's get more diverse people.
But why? Why? Why is it that you want a more diverse workforce?
So why is it that you want to cultivate some sort of diversity programming? So I think the first step is just being intentional and having an understanding of what your true purpose is. Because otherwise, if you're just throwing together a program, it's not gonna succeed.
It's going to fail because there's no purpose and because there are no outcomes they may end up being worse off than you were to begin with. And I think another thing to think about too is, .programming is great, but a lot of times diversity issues come into place based off of institutional issues.
So thinking about what can we do as an organization to be better and in turn promote a sense of diversity within our organization so you may not have the money to hire a chief diversity officer, but can we hire a consultant group to come in and tell us where our gaps in our organization, and give us recommendations of things that we can do in order to move forward?
Donald Thompson: No, that's a great answer. I mean, most people that I talk to now believe that diversity is good. I think that macro messaging has been successful and those that don't, they're going to be there for awhile.
So really we got to work with the people that say, okay, this is good. And now a lot of people are searching for how do I, and then how do we in our organization, figuring out those next steps. And I think that's where there's still a lot of, green pasture, so to speak. For people to put the right elements in place to achieve those outcomes once they have them. When you guys think about, your journey as practitioners in diversity inclusion and leaders in that space, what are some of the key things that you would have people taking a diversity inclusion course think about, reflect on, so that what they're learning does remain sticky and it becomes a part of them?
Delisha Hinton: So I think one of the things I first start off with is asking the question, who am I? Really having to think about who are you as a person? And I asked my students that, and they kind of sit there and they look, and they're like, well.
You know, I'm such and such, and I'm like, okay, let's dig a little bit deeper. Who are you? What does that really mean? And so I think at that point, that's where you start really thinking about some of your identity groups, some of the ones that you can outwardly see, but then the ones that are truthfully hidden.
and one of the ways I think about it is the cultural iceberg. And so, you know, most of us, we know you can only see about 20% of an iceberg. The rest of it's underwater. Some of it's super, super deep. Think about yourself as this cultural iceberg and what people can see from the outside. But then what's, what's on the inside is probably what matters the most.
When you start thinking about yourself and understanding who you are, I think that gives you a better perspective of the world in knowing that when I look at you Don, you know, I see one thing, but that may not be who you are as a person or what you may tell me. And same thing if I were to say the same thing for Bri, but if I asked you, well, who are you.
You may give me something completely different, you know, blows my socks off, but I'm like, wait a minute. That's not what I expected you to say. Um, and I think at that point, that's where you start really having these questions of saying, okay, now I really want to actually get to know people.
And you're taking it beyond this surface layer and you're peeling the onion back and you're getting to some of those core components. there's some things I've said to students about myself, and they're like. They look at me with big bug eyes like I had no idea. And I'm like, yeah, you wouldn't know that just from looking at a person.
But when you start asking those questions about yourself, it allows you to open the door to being able to be a little bit more comfortable to asking those questions about others too.
Bri Hart: Obviously we all have our own idea of what truth is. Um, and something I learned that I've kind of carried with me, um, as a practitioner, is that multiple truths can exist in the same place, in the same space.
Um, I think a lot of times when you think about diversity and inclusion work, especially for people like me who grew up in a very, not as diverse city as Raleigh, right? going off to college and just having this cognitive dissonance and feeling like, well, this is not what I know to be true, but kind of growing through this idea of like, okay, this is my truth.
This is someone else's truth, and I don't have to make that work for me, and I don't have to force my truth on someone else. And then also realizing that I need to give myself space and grace for my truth to evolve. So the same way I thought, obviously at 19 is not the same way. I think now at 29 .
Delisha Hinton: Yeah, and I think the other thing that I would add in that we talk a lot about Bri is thinking about what privilege you have, so in terms of your identities, what privilege comes from those identities, but then with that also knowing, if you have majority privilege identities being also aware of oppressed identity, those who come from marginalized backgrounds and marginalized communities, and what's the best way you can support those individuals where you know you come from this level of power or the ivory tower, so to speak.
But, how do you help a friend? How do you give them a hand in being able to reach them where they are? and not just looking out that ivory tower on yourself and just saying like, well, everything's peachy keen here. Which, you know, it's true. It's great if it is, but thinking about everyone else who's around you, who's not living that same life.
Bri Hart: And I think that's something we both try to be intentional about as black women. Like obviously in the theory of privilege and oppression and being a black woman, those are two intersecting oppressed identities and flipping that and saying like, okay, we are college educated black women working on a college campus in positions that allow us to educate others. So how can we move our positions to create space for people from marginalized groups and to incorporate inclusion, for our colleagues?
Donald Thompson: No, I think that's super powerful. I really liked the, the component of who I am because I think when you start with self.
Right. It gives you the right context of humility. It's where you start really looking at others. Really I'll take a moment and we're like, okay, I got this together not so much this together. This is who I am. All right, and we'll be a little bit more graceful with you cause I got this stuff to work on. Let's just talk.
Delisha Hinton: You got to find a level of comfort within yourself, but then still continue to push in those areas where like, I don't know this part of me, but I really need to understand this part of me.
Donald Thompson: You mentioned privilege. how do you explain to someone that doesn't believe there is white privilege?
Bri Hart: Look at the history of the United States of America. Right? There's really only been one president that has been not white. So for a lot of people, luckily there is a generation of kids who can look at a president and see themselves, but for the most part. Literally the highest office in power for a lot of women and for a lot of non-white people, that's a position that could seem unattainable because they have never seen, we have never seen someone who looks like us within that position.
When you think about privilege, you have to think about power.
Who holds the power? Where do people look like who are in positions of power? And if I don't see someone who looks like me in those positions. I think they have something that I don't have, which in most cases is white privilege.
Delisha Hinton: Yeah. That's like the biggest question. Um,
Bri Hart: I think sometimes too a lot of people who don't think white privilege exists think it don't exist because they've struggled in life or that they've had some like, well, I didn't get this position. I'm not rich, or I grew up in a rural background or whatever. That can be true.
Like I say, multiple truths exist and more likely than not, there are more opportunities that can be afforded to you because of your race. Or there are not any opportunities being taken away from you because of your race.
Donald Thompson: Totally agree.
Last question as we wrap up, and I am absolutely enjoying talking with you guys. The flow of just really listening to you guys riff.
When you guys are working with young people, how do they view diversity and choosing companies to work with? Because I think before you guys answer, one of the things that. The angle that I'm coming out with diversity is how does it make the business better? And I'm finding that that is opening some ears, right?
Because there's a moral imperative to it for sure. There's the right thing to do, a just thing to do. But then what are the financial reasons that your business can prosper if you think about it correctly?
Delisha Hinton: So, I've had students who are looking at companies, and at first, you know, for seeing who's scribing and they're like, I just want a job. I just need a job. And. You know, that is of course, one of the critical things upon graduating from colleges that you are leaving the only the degree, but a job in hand.
And I would say for some students it's not at the forefront for them to think about diversity within the workplace. But I have had students who have gone off and they've started working within those first few years. They're like, wait a minute, this is not quite what I thought it was going to be, or what it was like.
And that could have been based upon an internship experience that they had. And then you go and you work and you're there full time and you're like, hold on, this is, this is a different place. For students now. It's one of the things that they more so learn once they actually start working.
And at that point, it then becomes a critical component, particularly for students of color. or for students who have other hidden identities that, um, are, you're marginalized or you're oppressed identities. and in particular, like I had one student who was an undocumented student. Um, and that one alone is a huge thing of just thinking about like, okay, so what do I do in order to find a job and where do I go?
But thinking about is there a level of comfort that you can actually bring that up at some point within an interview process to say, okay, so I'm actually an undocumented student. Will you still hire me? And if not, then, you know, does that student actually even enter into an interview with a company knowing this part of themselves?
But at some point having to disclose it. And once you start going through the hiring and the HR process, and then for some students, I think part of it goes down into location. And so I've had another student who had a wonderful internship with a company. And, Thought about working with them full time when she was like, I don't know if I could live in this area.
And at that point in time for a company, you know, I think one of the things is, it's not saying like, okay, let's get up and move our headquarters into, you know, a more diverse, area. But it's more so thinking about how do you actually provide the resources for individuals who are coming into that company to make them feel more comfortable.
And then also showing that you care, showing that you want to actually be there. And I think right now, um, I know research is coming out in terms of, you know, your generational groups. That is one of the things for millennials is they do want, you know, money is great, but actually money is not on their top list of things when they're looking at companies.
A workplace environment is one of them. And understanding that company culture, they want not complete freedom, but they want to be able to feel comfortable within the company themselves, where they're working with and who they're working with. Um, and I do think a lot of that at some point it does circle back around to diversity inclusion.
you know, I can't say that really probably any of our students are probably asking questions like Bri and I would ask if we were on an interview and asking about, okay, so tell me a little bit more about your team dynamics. Tell me a little bit more about what is your, you know, workplace environment and what's your culture within the company to try and drill down a little bit more into is, your company supportive? are they in tune when it comes to diversity inclusion? And, you know, is this something that I'm going to be welcomed into when it, you know, working on your team?
Bri Hart: And I think along with that, this generation of youth are a lot more, they're a lot more socially aware and just have access to a lot more information than even what I had to, I grew up on, you know, like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and stuff.
But these guys are like tumblr and everything else. And so I think along with your point. The students that we work with in the young adults that we are working with, they want this sense of congruency with companies. So what are your ethics? Where are the causes that you care about and how does that align with my personal values?
Because a lot of our students, for instance, they're interested in sustainability. So there's a company has sustainable practices, and is that congruent with the type of culture that you cultivate within your organization ?
Delisha Hinton: Yeah. And I would add on, um, social justice to that as a topic.
And thinking about work law labors,
Bri Hart: I mean, cause even like, think about this idea of cancel culture, all it takes is for your brand to do something ridiculous. And it'd be all over the news students, more likely than not. that's where they're gonna think about when they are applying for jobs, when they see like, this company is hiring for X, Y and Z.
Donald Thompson: Well guys thank you so much.
We really, really appreciate it.
That was Delisha Hinton and Bri Hart from NC State University. Such a great conversation with two African-American women who are shifting people’s mindsets.
A few things I want to discuss.
- If employers want to attract the best talent from college – and more importantly if they want to KEEP the best talent from college – they need to make sure their workplace is diverse.
- Fight, Flight, or Flow. When faced with a situation that is clearly wrong, how do you react? Ultimately you want to be able to flow but flow is so difficult.
- If your company is doing diversity simply because you think you’re supposed to do diversity, the program is going to fail. You need to have a goal in place.
Thanks for tuning in everyone. As I mentioned at the top of the show, (diversity class and call-to-action)
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Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time on Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox.
In this podcast, we feature Delisha Hinton and Bri Hart, two young professionals from NC State University who are focused on Diversity and Inclusion for the staff, its students, and for the students’ prospective employers. You’ll hear how employers can attract – and KEEP – the best talent, the concept of “Fight, Flight, or Flow” when faced with an aggression, and how to get started with a diversity and inclusion program.