Jackie - 00:00:10:
You're listening to the Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox podcast. I'm your host, Jackie Ferguson, certified Diversity Executive, writer, human rights advocate, and co-founder of the diversity movement. On this podcast, I'm talking to trailblazers game changers and glass ceiling breakers who share their inspiring stories, lessons learned, and insights on business, inclusion, and personal development. Thanks for tuning in to the Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox podcast. My guest today is Jim Morris. Jim is an Inclusionist and Senior Strategist and facilitator for organizations that are looking to make diversity and inclusion stick. Jim, thank you so much for joining me today.
Jim - 00:00:59:
Thanks for having me.
Jackie - 00:01:00:
Of course. Jim, will you tell us a little about yourself, your background, your family, your identity, whatever it is that you'd like to share?
Jim - 00:01:10:
Yeah, well, I love when you ask that question, Jackie, because it's like identity and white guy. Typically most of us don't think of ourselves as having I'm just a person, right? I mean, how many times have you heard somebody who looks like me? I don't have an identity. I'm just me. And I'm one of those people that probably, until I was 35 years old, didn't understand that I did have a social group identity, that other people may view me differently than I view myself, and blah, blah, blah. I just laugh when somebody asked that question. It took me a while to actually even know what it meant to begin with. I just had my 65th birthday, which freaks me out because I can't believe yeah. And it's one of the things I've actually learned is if you look like me, you may make it through most of your life without having experienced a lot of discrimination. But if you live long enough, age discrimination kicks in.
Jackie - 00:02:03:
Absolutely, Jim. That's right.
Jim - 00:02:06:
So I'm starting to see some of that when people ask me if they can carry my bags for me and that kind of stuff. So I would identify as being an older guy. I would identify as being a white guy, and I'm a two time cancer survivor and a father and a grandfather. Not a grandfather, a father, and hopefully a grandfather sometime soon. And really more of an educator than anything. I just love figuring out how to help people learn important stuff.
Jackie - 00:02:35:
I love that. Jim, one of the questions I always have a question of the season, and this question for my season 8 is, will you share with us a transformational life moment and how does that moment or experience inform or guide your life?
Jim - 00:02:53:
Yeah, there's a couple. The one that strikes that kind of is closer to the topic that we're talking about today was the experience, actually, of discovering that I'm a member of a group. I don't know if you've ever heard of a woman's singing group called Sweet Honey in the Rock, but my dad actually worked with Bernice Reagon Johnson, who was one of the founders of that group. She actually at a pretty young age, I was listening to one of their concerts and actually singing along with them. I was, like 14 years old. And she said, Jimmy, you know, this is our people's music. And I said, who are our people? And she said, my people And I said, well, aren't they my people? And she said, well, they could be, and you could be theirs, but it's not that simple.
Jackie - 00:03:44:
Jim - 00:03:44:
And Bernice was great at asking me questions that made me really question myself. And although I didn't identify as a member of a group, it was the first time I actually noticed I was white. And of course, that's something that she had noticed and people around her had noticed forever. I just thought I was just like we were all the same. I don't know why I thought that, because I grew up in the age of civil rights and my parents were pretty involved in a lot of that. But I still kind of went for the simplest common denominator and just thought I was just like everybody else, which I am to some degree, but I'm also completely different than everybody else, as we all are. So that actually really informed me. The other event I would say is actually it happened before that one. And the first event was my parents and I were visiting my grandparents in North Carolina. And I think I told you they lived in eastern North Carolina and they were tobacco farmers. I was, like, five years old and I don't remember all the details about it, but I remember being woken up early, early in the morning. And my mother was angry. I thought she was angry at me, but she assured me that she wasn't. We packed everything up in our car and left my grandfather's house and didn't even say goodbye to him. And I was in tears because I liked him, I loved him. I thought he was my grandfather. That's all I knew. And as we drove out, I saw this cross that had been burned the night before in his field. I think it was his field. It was on his property, I think. And I just remembered that experience. And then many years later, at some point, I was learning about the KKK and I went back and asked my parents and said, what happened that night? Because I just kind of put it out of my memory. And they said, well, your grandfather held a rally. And he was doing it in part because to show his dislike of our politics. And that was the last time we saw my grandfather. And the relationship with me and my mother's people has been very strained ever since. I've got one cousin I keep in touch with, but I don't keep in touch with any of them because I haven't figured out how to close that gap.
Jackie - 00:05:59:
Wow. Thanks for sharing that, Jim. Yeah, I can imagine with both of those moments, those life moments, just thinking about things differently, thinking about yourself differently, thinking about people around you differently. So thank you for sharing that. Yeah. Sometimes it's tough with family when we have different ideals and how do we bridge those gaps? I think it's something we're all still trying to figure out a little bit right. Sometimes with our families.
Jim - 00:06:34:
Yeah. One of my mentors once said, we teach that most which we want to learn. And for me, a core hunger is how do I close that gap with people like that? Because we got to close the gap. We can't just vilify them and demonize them and separate ourselves from them. We've got to figure out a way to particularly, I feel like people like me need to close that gap. So yeah, it still torments me a bit. In a good way.
Jackie - 00:07:03:
Absolutely. And speaking of closing the gap and educating right. Talk about why DEI is important to you and how did you get into this work?
Jim - 00:07:16:
Well, like I said, I classed myself as an educator, and I pretty quickly figured out that if I really wanted to have impact, I needed to figure out how to either work in a different school district than where I was or we were also doing some work in my school with partnerships with businesses. And I realized that businesses were actually pretty fundamental to changing the way we think about education and how we think about kids. And I was working in a school that was majority black kids and staff, and I was the principal of that school, so that was odd and complicated. I moved from being this educator. I discovered the importance of business, and I was like, maybe there's a way to actually work in business and help businesses understand more about what kids need and what educators need and what communities need in order to create a healthy community. And this idea of going to work in businesses started to make sense for me. So I spent a lot of time understanding more about working in businesses and ended up doing a lot of leadership development work as a business owner, then as a COO of a publicly traded company, and then kind of on my own as a consultant. Did a lot of work at doing leadership development. And then in 2001, another Epiphany experience was attending a workshop on being a white guy. And again, it was one of those I knew kind of up at that point that I was a white guy, but I didn't know there was a role that white men needed to play in terms of creating a more equitable world. I'm ashamed to admit it, Jackie, but I thought it was up to everybody else to figure out how to do that, and I discovered that that wasn't the case at all. So I really switched my whole practice from just leadership development to really working with leaders who were interested in equity and inclusion, including myself. So that's how I made that shift. It's been really good and really complicated because on the one hand, I don't feel like there's any way in my lifetime I'll know as much about diversity, equity and inclusion as a member of an underrepresented group or somebody who's been marginalized or racialized. There's no way I can understand it in my bones to the same degree. But I do think there's a way that I can take what I know and am learning and help other people who look like me become better advocates and better supporters of the work, not just for everybody else, but for ourselves. And that, to me, is the biggest one. Yeah.
Jackie - 00:09:45:
So important. And you're right. It's everyone's responsibility. We all have to do this work together. And so many of us can be advocates, right. Where our privilege lies and where our opportunity is to speak up for others, to advocate for others, to provide opportunity and access to others. And that's all of our responsibility in different ways. Right. It's not every day, Jim, that you see a white, cisgender, hetero man leading DEI for organizations or helping organizations think about what their responsibility is. And I love that talk about, if you would, how white men who often feel outside of the DEI conversation can not only participate in those efforts, participate in the work, but also lead the work.
Jim - 00:10:39:
Yeah. Well, you know better than most, I'm going to guess, by everything that you've done and your amazing story and experience, is there's something to be gained for people that look like me? Because, to begin with, if we really want to address this issue, if you think about why have we been at working on diversity and inclusion for over 50 years? And we've seemed to not be making more progress than we are. My belief is, and feel free to disagree, is that part of that is because the group that has the most influence over making the shift in terms of how we think about it societally is the group. That's in charge of a lot of that kind of has the privilege not in charge of, but the group that has the the most privilege and the most access to the culture. And if you look at if you look through the record of history, the groups that have helped cultures and societies make the shift the most are the groups that were in a dominant role. Either that or through super disruptive revolutions. And that may be what's required, and that maybe is what happened in the needs to happen again. But the other way things change is when people who are part of the dominant group actually take on the issue. Right? So if you think about what's going on with global warming, there's a lot of evidence to support that. The people that are going to have the most impact on what's happening with global warming are leaders of energy companies. Right. Once they buy into the whole thing, it'll shift. It doesn't mean it's all on them and it's all their responsibility. But once they buy in, it will shift. Once people who look like me buy in, that there's an issue and a problem, it will shift. Right. So I'm fascinated by trying to help people who like me, didn't understand their role, didn't understand they have an identity, didn't understand how they could contribute or even what their enlightened self-interest was, how there's all of that available to us in the work.
Jackie - 00:12:37:
Absolutely, Jim. And I just recalling what you said earlier about ageism, especially in the workplace, right. But in society in general, a lot of times what happens is certain groups feel like, oh, this isn't my conversation, this isn't my fight. But in fact, when you think about ageism as a form of discrimination or just age as a part of diversity or disability, which, as we all know, any of us can become a part of that diversity group at any point in our life, through age, through accident, through illness. Right? And so this is everyone's conversation, this is everyone's responsibility and everyone's work to make sure that we as humans have equal opportunity and access and the opportunity to grow our careers, be respected, feel safe in our communities. And that's, again, everyone's responsibility. So I love that. And I love that you're having those conversations too, Jim.
Jim - 00:13:47:
If I can add one other element to it, Jackie, one of the things that I think a lot of not all, of course men just like everybody, white guys are not a monolith. There's a lot of different kinds of us. Right. But one of the things I think that's true for a lot of white men in the US. Is we were acculturated not to feel, but to think and not to understand how to empathize, but to learn how to problem solve. Right. Most men in your audience will identify with a time when their partner, if they're in a heterosexual relationship, their partner said to them, I had this problem at work today, and instead of just listening, we drop into problem solving for them. Definitely. But one of the things that I'm just becoming more and more aware of in terms of my own self-interest is when I really work on my understanding about how to develop better relationships with everyone, particularly people who are across different. My world is so much more robust now in terms of the people I work with, the kind of work I do, the way we get projects completed, the kind of innovation that we have for the projects that we're doing. All of those things have gotten better as a result of me expanding who I consider part of my peer group and who I work with and how I do it.
Jackie - 00:15:05:
I love that it's so important to think about that, because you're right, Jim. We have to message people and how it's going to affect them. Right. What's the benefit? What's the benefit to your organization if you're an organizational leader and so understanding all of those pieces and how it affects your recruiting and retention efforts, how it affects innovation as you mentioned, how it affects productivity of your employees when they feel safe and happy and they feel like they can contribute or are contributing something valuable to the organization. All of that feeds into the business reason apart from the human reason, right? To do this work. So that's another great point.
Jim - 00:15:55:
Jackie - 00:15:55:
Jim, how do you respond to people who think that because you're a white, cisgender, hetero male, that you don't understand some of the nuance and struggles of underrepresented people and that you don't have all of the qualifications or can't have all of the qualifications to lead this work?
Jim - 00:16:21:
I tell them they're right. I say you're right. I'm not qualified to do a lot of this work. That's why I try not to do it by myself. I mean, I don't do work in client systems by myself. Even if I were a member of an underrepresented group, I wouldn't do it by myself because confirmation bias in the committee of one is almost always going to work out well. So we have to get diversity in the room. The other part I would say, and this is nuanced is I don't call it I heard it called it now I call it white centering. There's a lot of tendency when you're working with the population. I work with all sorts of leaders from all sorts of all stripes and all creeds and ethnicities and races, but I work really on how to create holistic engagement in organizations, which usually means how do you get the dominant group members to sit at the table? And in doing that, it's rare that white people understand what their role is. And the white-centering thing becomes kind of an issue because people start as soon as a white person starts to kind of become more aware of the things they hadn't seen, which typically happens. You've seen this in diversity trainings, that epiphany moment where somebody who looks like me or a white person goes, Whoa. A white, cisgendered, straight person says, whoa, I had no idea about all this. It's a wonderful moment. That's a spear through the heart. And then they become really interested, understanding more about their lived experience, sometimes to the extent that they forget why we're talking about this, which is not just their personal development, but how we can create a world that works for everyone. Right.
Jackie - 00:18:04:
Jim - 00:18:06:
That’s what I'm saying. It's nuanced. It's like, on the one hand, we want people who have no previous awareness to tap into their own lived experience to understand that and remember that the focus needs to really be on the marginalized, underrepresented exploited people who have been doing this work on their own forever. How do we partner with them in helping change that piece of the work versus going into a state of internal reflection about whiteness? I mean, it's an and both, right? You got to do a little bit of both. But as you've seen, it's pretty typical for people to kind of get overly absorbed in their own experience when understanding their lived experience if everybody else is important.
Jackie - 00:18:49:
Yeah, right. Absolutely. That's such a good point, Jim. And another thing is for those of us who are underrepresented to be able to give a little bit of grace because some people are having these epiphanies and conversations and realizations for the very first time and because of course, we all see through our own lens of experience and don't realize how just navigating the day to day can be so difficult for any marginalized group. And so that understanding is such an important part and an initial step in the conversation where there are so many challenges and struggles that if you're not marginalized or underrepresented, you don't realize can be difficult just navigating your day to day and going through life in your body. Right. And so I think that's such an important part of the conversation.
Jim - 00:19:50:
I don't know how you do it. And you meaning people who are part of underrepresented groups, how you continue to be in this work for as long as you are, the number of times somebody when I try and explain the lived experience of people who are part of my marginalized groups, people that look like me, look at me and go, no, that can't be. Or even they're listening to their cisgendered same race partner who's just talking about the experience of being a woman. And we go, that can't be like that. So number one reflex almost always, and you've seen it, is incredulity. Oh, come on, it can't be that bad. I don't know how you in particular, with the amazing amount of grace and patience and kindness at heart, that you obviously means they can just feel it. I don't know how you've kept that through so many experience like, oh, come on, you're making too big a deal out of this, or whatever they say.
Jackie - 00:20:50:
Jim - 00:20:51:
Astonishing. And it's got to be traumatizing in ways that I can only imagine.
Jackie - 00:20:56:
What I would say. Jim and I do have this conversation with practitioners because it can be tough, right, because you're human first and then you're leading this work. But the way I think about it is if you can change one heart or open one person's perspective, the ripple effect to their family and their community and their workplace can be so exponential and that makes it worth it. And that's what I think about on the struggle days. Right. And so if we're all doing that a little bit at a time with one person at a time, it can change the world. Jim. Let's talk about Jim Morris Consulting. What are some of the challenges that organizations come to you with. And will you share some advice about how to ensure that DEI sticks in organizations? Because we all have as organizational leaders, these great ideas and goals and what we'd like to do, but when we get into the work, it's hard and complicated, and you're dealing with personalities and long held beliefs and changing and shifting culture. How do you help organizations do that work?
Jim - 00:22:15:
Well, thanks for asking. I'm confused at a higher level than I was five years ago, but it's not like I figured it all out, right. And I learned so much by watching people like you and the practice that you've built and the way that you're doing the work. So a lot of my teachers and mentors, consciously and unconsciously, are everybody else that's doing the work. So I wouldn't claim any of my ideas as purely just mine, but a couple of things, and I think I just wrote a piece about this in response to that article in the New York Times. Did you see that article about diversity training, how it might be worse for people? Right?
Jackie - 00:22:54:
Jim - 00:22:54:
So I wrote a big response to that and sent in a letter to the editor. And I'm sure it won't get in. But my thing is and I'm kind of on a soapbox about this is a lot of organizations do training because it creates that epiphany, spear in the heart moment for people to kind of get aware and to understand more about what's involved. But training by itself doesn't actually accomplish everything. So to me, it's like there have to be events which are trainings coupled with activities which are looking at ways that they create different policies and practices inside the business. Those two things have to happen. Now, the truth is, my experience I don't know what you think is, and I'll be curious to hear, but I think many organizations succumb to the temptation of just doing training because they can pull it off. They can get people in the room to show up and listen and go, holy smokes, that was amazing. I've learned something new, right. Which is different than creating systemic, lasting, sustainable change in organizations. So to me, even though part of my model, my organization's model is based on doing training, part of it is to say, cut it out. Stop just doing training. If you're not doing training and it's not paired with internal change in your organizations, it's going to be a lovely experience, a little bit more like entertainment than about process improvement.
Jackie - 00:24:23:
Yeah. One thing just to grab onto is you said the word practice, and I love that word when I'm thinking about DEI. Because when you think about a training, right, just as you said, it can be a one and done. Right? More compliance. Like, okay, I've done my training. I know I'm not supposed to say this or I'm not supposed to do this, but a practice suggests an ongoing state, which is what we need. We need to continue to learn. We need to continue to have those conversations and be open to what we need to do from a personal perspective, from an organizational perspective. And so I just wanted to point out that that word is absolutely a word that I use all the time to describe DEI, because it's an ongoing thing. Right? It's an ongoing commitment. So I love that you said that, and I know I cut you off, but I just wanted to mention that one part.
Jim - 00:25:18:
Yeah. And I don't like calling it training because training implies a level of mastery. It's like, okay, you saw what happened with unconscious bias training. It's like, hey, I don't have any unconscious bias. I passed the training.
Jackie - 00:25:32:
Jim - 00:25:34:
Really? Yeah. It's a complete practice. And the way I talk about it is everybody has to have their own individual diversity practice in order to be a more effective leader. And organizations need to understand that we always say the journey thing, right? It's a practice and a journey versus a check the box and an initiative. It's not going to end. And you asked back to the question you asked, Jackie, was like, how do I manage being a white, subgendered straight guy doing this work? Part of it is I learned I have to develop my own resilience practice because half the time I get it wrong and somebody has to say, jim, I found that really offensive. Or, you know, that thing you did back there that really hurt my feelings. Do you realize you didn't even include me in that? I just have to kind of, over and over again, own it and say, jackie, I'm working on it, and I didn't do it, and I apologize, and I'll just try and do it better next time. And thank you for telling me. I just have to get really good at trying to make repairs and to understand and to keep moving forward and not let it do what a lot of people do. For those of you that look like me, I went to a diversity training. It didn't go well. I'm out.
Jackie - 00:26:50:
Jim - 00:26:51:
Jackie - 00:26:51:
Well, Jim, I like that you brought that up. Right? Because getting it wrong is something that so many of us are afraid of, especially for people who are not in those marginalized diversity groups. They don't want to get it wrong, and so they feel sometimes that inaction is better than making a mistake. Can you talk a little about how you get comfortable being uncomfortable right. With those mistakes which happen? We're human. We don't have all the answers. And best practices continue to evolve. How do we practice, right? How do we do this work without that fear of getting it wrong? Or how do we mitigate the fear?
Jim - 00:27:41:
Right? Well, I will go to how to here, because I think there are a couple of steps, particularly for people who are insiders or people who are part of the dominant group. So one is resist the urge to defend your intentions. Resist the urge to say, oh, Jackie, I'm a really good guy and I'm not racist at all and I'm sorry I made that mistake, but it's just an accident. We try and say that instead of saying one. Number one is try not to defend or justify whatever your intentions were. Most people know your intentions were good. Most people are capable of saying, he doesn't mean to be doing to be offensive or to be harmful. So most people get your intentions, so don't feel like you have to defend them. And I sometimes call it defending our nice guyness or our nice personness. I'm a good person. I want you to understand, well, good people do good things. And one of the good things people do is when we've caused harm without excuse or without justification, we say, I hear you. I can see it hurt. I know what it feels like when I get hurt in the same way I can see that that's happened. I didn't mean it, and I apologize.
Jackie – 00:29:00:
So to own it with empathy, to own it and say, you know, and even that apology I probably would take out. I didn't mean it, I meant what I meant. So to do that and the third step is to not let your own shame get in the way of your own action. Right? It's a shame response. It's like I've let myself down when I hurt somebody across difference. I've let myself down because it's against the values I espouse and believe in. So I feel remorse, I feel self-loathing, I feel whatever I feel. And those feelings are horrible. That's why everybody's doing so much work on shame. Nobody likes to be in shame, but it's up to us to kind of be resilient enough to say, that's my self talk. That's my inner critic. Right. Because what I've noticed is I've done some really egregious things and really caused people some harm, and they've been really good at telling me about it. And when I own it, they go, it's okay, let's move on. And they mean it. They mean it. I think, just like I have to learn to apologize. I think if you're a person who's worked with people like me a lot, you've learned that I'm going to make mistakes, you know it's going to happen and you're not keeping score on that. You're just like, when it happens, I'll let him know and if he's open, we'll keep going.
Jackie - 00:30:28:
Absolutely. Such good advice. Thank you for that. That's something I think that we can use in every part of our lives. It's how to properly apologize
And empathize, right?
Yes. Apologize and empathize. Absolutely. I love it. From your perspective, you talk a lot about what an inclusive leader is. What are the characteristics of an inclusive leader. And how do leaders begin to move in that direction?
Jim - 00:31:03:
Well, I've got a series of skills I think about when I do that, but one is empathy. A big one is empathy listening. So empathy is important and empathy, incidentally, is almost impossible. I've noticed for most people, when we're in shame, when we're in shame, we bypass empathy and we go straight to I'm sorry. And it's not just that I'm sorry, like, I feel bad. It's like, I'm sorry for you, which you don't need me to feel sorry for you. You don't need my pity, right? So we bypass empathy and either shut down or go to I'm sorry. So empathy listening, really listening and understanding the impact and being willing to sit in the discomfort of knowing that somebody's hurting in ways that you may not understand, incidentally, one of the things that really helped me learn about empathy was having cancer twice. I'm a two time cancer survivor, and people used to come up and go, you'll kick it, man, you're going to be fine. And occasionally, if I was in a grumpy mood, I just looked at him and said, really? Have you talked to my doctor? I'm not sure that I'm going to be fine. It sounds like, you know, that people say things in an effort to try and make you feel better, but they're not really thinking about what you need, they're just kind of talking about it. So empathy is a big one and really learning to feel empathy, which sometimes means saying, like with me, to say, hey, God, I have no idea what it feels like to be you right now. I have no idea. But I know how uncomfortable that event made me and I know how badly I feel. Sometimes that's the best we can do. It's almost worse to sometimes try and name, you know, how somebody feels when there's no way you can know how they feel. So empathy, listening, really learning to understand kind of all these paradoxes. It's like I'm part of an insider group and I have a responsibility and the work is not mine alone. It's an and both we got to do it together. It is my responsibility to take action on what I notice around systemic unfairness, discrimination, bias, systemic disadvantage. It is my job and it's not my fault that we're in this system. I don't need to go to shame, right? It is my responsibility. And it's not just me. We have to do it together. So understanding those, the group, individual paradox, I'm a member of a group, but I'm also an individual, all that stuff. So all those things and another big one for me is understanding and being able to distinguish between sameness and difference and our natural psychological reaction to difference, which is, whoa, what's going on here? This is a different. Our brains create a hack around full inclusion, and our brains say, if you don't get it. I know you know this, but our neurobiology tells us that you don't understand what's happening, therefore it must be a little dangerous. So our first step when we see difference is to back up, not to step in. Yeah. So those kind of skills to me are important. The other one for me that I say to audiences all the time is like, here's how you do inclusion. Whatever exclusion is, do the opposite. If you're used to making decisions by yourself, stop. If you're used to thinking it's all on you, stop. If you used to think you're the smartest person in the room, stop. If you think you're the one that's least capable, stop.
Jackie - 00:34:32:
Jim - 00:34:32:
Jackie - 00:34:34:
I mean, that's so simple, Jim, but that's so good. That's so right. Just whatever you're doing, stop. Think about it and go in another direction. Try something that's simple but so powerful. Yeah.
Jim - 00:34:51:
And the other one for me is about listening, is about not talking. Now, I'm not modeling that very well in this interview, but it's an interview, but there's a thing I say all the time, and this is kind of cheesy, but I like it a lot. It's wait and it's a good thing for leaders. Do you know wait?
Jackie – 00:35:08:
Jim – 00:35:10:
Why am I talking? Why am I talking? Why am I talking?
Jackie - 00:35:17:
Oh, wow. Okay
Jim - 00:35:19:
So I've been in meetings with senior leaders that I've been working with, and they'll have me observe them or something, just around how they're doing, inclusion and stuff. And once in a while they'll get going and I'll just write wait on a piece of paper from the back of the room and just hold it up and they go, okay. Right. Are there any questions? Anybody want to add anything? Because we just get going. We forget to listen.
Jackie - 00:35:42:
Absolutely. That's so important as we think about being an inclusive leader in how we manage our meetings, because it's very often when we think about diversity. Personality is part of diversity. And so you're going to naturally make space for the people in the room that are extroverts or think and process quickly to an answer to a question. But you've got to really give space in the room for people who either throughout their careers felt like they shouldn't contribute, weren't able to contribute, and pull that a little bit, ask that question. Does anyone have any questions or call people by name? Is there anything that you'd like to add? I think that's so important. And then being comfortable with that dead space, Jim, for me, is something that is a practice, right? Because people want to fill the dead air, right? Because it's uncomfortable, it feels a little weird. But giving that space for people to really process information and give them time to think about what their questions may be, what they'd like to add and contribute is so important in inclusive leadership. And I love that as an example because that's something simple that you can do, share what you need to and give space for others to contribute. You don't know what kinds of amazing ideas you can get.
Jim - 00:37:12:
Right. I don't know if you think the same way about this. I'd be curious, but I noticed that's a lot about extrovert privilege. Right. When the room gets quiet, the extroverts are going, oh, man, this is uncomfortable. I better say something to get people talking. While many of the introverts are going, I am so glad he shut up, because I need a couple of minutes just to think about what I'm hearing.
Jackie - 00:37:37:
That's right. Absolutely.
Jim - 00:37:41:
I notice in organizations, many organizations, particularly sales-driven organizations, there's a huge bias towards extroversion. Sure. To me, it's a dimension that we really I don't pay enough attention to. And including sometimes in meetings is don't. If you've got a meeting with 30 people, realize that half the people in the room are not going to feel comfortable speaking. So how do you get the meeting to work? And one way to do it, of course, and you've probably done this hundreds of times, is you just break them into smaller groups of two or three and say, So talk about that amongst yourselves, talk about whatever this topic is for the next five minutes, and then let's reconvene and see what happens. Sometimes that's the best way to get the introverts to join the conversation.
Jackie - 00:38:27:
That's right. Absolutely. Lots of great ideas. Jim, let's talk about your latest book, Gaslights and Dog Whistles: Standing Up for Facts over Fiction in a Fearful and Divided World. What inspired you to write that book, and what can we learn by reading it?
Jim - 00:38:46:
Every time somebody reads that title, I say to them, I feel like saying, well, you can tell it wasn't created by a marketing company. That's the world's longest title, but I appreciate you asking about it. I wrote it. I'm thrilled by this book because I wrote it for no other reason than in 2020 as a reaction to the backlash of all the civil rights protests, the peaceful civil rights protests that happened all over the world. Just to be clear, the largest civil rights protest in the history of the world with over 18 million participants, groups started to form that was started to talk about critical race theory and to try and find ways to using the term critical race theory, which almost nobody knew what it meant to say. We've got to stop teaching critical race theory in our schools, which basically meant we've got to stop teaching anything about discrimination, racism, enslavement or the history of civil rights in the United States. And it was a brilliant strategy because they captured all of that in that term, critical race theory, because nobody knew what it meant. It also sounds like a theory versus a reality. Right. So that group actually created a handbook for how to disrupt school board meetings, corporate meetings, DEI training or anybody who's advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion or civil rights. It was a handbook on how to disrupt them. Nobody had developed a book about how to stand up for diversity, equity, and inclusion, civil Rights and Preserving Teaching the Real History of the United States. So I wrote a book about it. That's the book, and it's super short. I think it's like 70 pages. I think it's only 22,000 words. And the whole purpose of the as an author, that's not a very big book, you know that. But the whole idea behind the book was to be a handbook for people who were like, what is this critical race theory? How do I talk about it? Where did it come from? How do I defend it? And what do I do to stand up for continuing to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporate spaces? So it's been very well received, and I'm actually thinking about coming out with a second edition because people have come back with lots of good feedback about it. But the goal here is just to equip educators, parents, school boards, DEI, professionals, corporate leaders to understand more about how to deal with the criticism, skepticism, and negativity of people who would just to see us stop talking about all of this.
Jackie - 00:41:25:
Absolutely. And it's so important to have those conversations about those terms. And we've talked about two of them. We talked about privilege and bias, which make people feel defensive and critical race theory is something that even without fully understanding it, a lot of people's reaction is, oh, no, that's bad. Right? No, we can't have that in the schools. But really, we need to teach the history of our country, the history of marginalized people and what happened and how those things that happened still affect education systems and healthcare systems and financial systems and housing systems. How did those things that were put in place affect us now? And understanding that, rather than just skipping by it, is just part of our history. Right? And so by not teaching that, it doesn't validate the struggle that so many of us have to endure through our life or the things that are harder for me, Jim, I want you to understand those things that are hard for me. And if they're not taught in school, if they're not understood by your parents, then you don't learn that until much later, if at all. Right? And so by having those conversations early, it levels the playing field enough to say, wow, different people navigate the world differently. They have different experiences, and how can we bridge those gaps? And so I love that you wrote this book. I think that it's a great foundation for understanding what CRT is and then how to think about it, how to talk about it as it applies across education, across business, across community conversations. So I think it's great.
Jim - 00:43:37:
Well, thanks. And a couple of things about it. So critical theory, as you know, is actually just the study of how things happen in societies at a systemic level. So there's critical race theory, there's critical gender theory, there's critical all of that was a bunch of studying that started in the with mostly white Western educated philosophers and psychologists, but they came up with some good ideas, which was, we need to look at things holistically and systemically. So critical race theory is just talking about, as you said, it's looking at the original reason everybody got together to work on the theory was like, discrimination has been illegal for 20 years in the United States, almost 20 years, and it was still rampant. So they're like, what's happening? Well, what's happening is it's baked into our system of governance. It's our mindset. So how do you unbake it? How do you get it out? One of my collaborators and a person I want to lift up here for a moment is a guy named Rann Miller who's got a book coming out, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids. And I was telling somebody about that book, and they said, well, that would be a great book for black kids to read. And it was like, no, you missed the point. Black kids are our kids. It's our story. Let's all talk about the French Revolution didn't involve me, but that doesn't mean I don't learn about it because I'm not French. It's like it's part of American history, right? So Resistance Stories for Black Kids is like a phenomenal way to approach it. We're talking about historical literacy here. We're talking about preserving historical literacy. It's as simple as that. We can't decide which parts of history we're going to leave out, particularly when it's real history. It's not made up history. It's real. Anyway, enough of the soapbox on that one.
Jackie - 00:45:33:
Absolutely. It's American history. That's right. And we've got to understand that it's American history in order to do better. Jim, what is the message that you want to leave our listeners with today?
Jim - 00:45:47:
Listen to you. Listen to people like Jackie. Listen to people like Jackie who got it going and who have the grace and patience and love and spirit and intellect to make this work. But I would say other than that is give yourself permission to not be perfect. Don't make perfection the standard by which you set yourself around taking action. Take action first and figure out how to deal with whatever the ramifications of that are second. Let's continue to work on how we create workplaces that are fit for everybody, where everybody can belong and be themselves so that people can you want to help the gross domestic product of the United States. You want to help us recover from whatever economic woes we are. Make a workplace so that everybody can spend 100% of their time doing their job instead of trying to fit in?
Jackie - 00:46:40:
Absolutely. Such great advice, Jim. How can people learn more about your organization and get in touch with you.
Jim - 00:46:48:
So I have a modest website, jim-morris.net. It's jim-morris.net, and I'm a pretty frequent contributor to a number of different blogs on LinkedIn. And I do a lot of work there. And I also have a pretty robust blog sorry, blog that people can sign up for. It's a blog. And I don't do podcasts like this, but I do a video. I've done a series of videos with folks. So that way those are the two ways. Yeah. Thanks.
Jackie - 00:47:18:
Perfect. Jim, thank you so much for spending some time. I have learned so much, gotten some great insights. I know that our listeners have gotten some great insights as well. And I appreciate the work that you're doing, and I thank you for spending some time with me today. I really enjoyed it.
Jim - 00:47:37:
Thank you, Jackie. And thank you for the work you're doing, and thank you for the opportunity to do some of it with you. I'm honored.
Jackie - 00:47:52:
Thanks for joining me for this episode. Please take a moment to subscribe and review this podcast and share this episode with a friend. Become a part of our community on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. This show was edited and produced by Earfluence. I'm Jackie Ferguson. Join us for our next episode of Diversity:Beyond the Checkbox. Take care of yourself and each other.
Join Jim Morris, a Senior Strategist, and Inclusionist, on his journey of discovering his social identity as a cis-hetero White man and how it informs his work in inclusion. Jim discusses transformative moments in his life, including a conversation with Bernice Johnson Reagon, a founder of the women’s singing group “Sweet Honey in the Rock,” and an early childhood experience of witnessing a cross burning on his grandfather’s property.
This episode sheds light on the essential role of empathy and action in achieving a world that works for everyone through exploring the power of inclusion and recognizing our social identities. Jim, a leading expert in the field, shares insights on DEI work and the essential qualities of grace and patience required to succeed.
Whether you are an educator, parent, corporate leader, or DEI professional, tune in for practical guidance on approaching and advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion. This episode offers valuable tips on making diversity and inclusion stick in your organizations and communities.
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