Soledad O’Brien answers our questions about diversity at work
During our second-annual Living Color Gala, Soledad O’Brien gave a keynote speech about the state of diversity and inclusion in America today and answered questions from Living Color Utah regarding how we can make Utah more inclusive. Here is a complete transcript of the event.
Soledad O’Brien: Hi, everybody and welcome, which is always weird to say when I’m in my bedroom and you’re all at home as well, but truly it’s an honor to be able to be invited, to talk to you about diversity, which is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. And also a topic that I have covered as a reporter, both in breaking news and in documentaries for a long, long time.
So I thought maybe I would share some stories from some of the opportunities that I’ve had in telling diverse stories, tell you why I think it matters, and also how I think we can leverage inclusion better for the entire community. I started working in TV news in 1987 because I love stories and I was pretty good at telling them. My first job though was to remove staples from the top three floors of WBZ TV in Boston.
And my parents would spend around $100,000 on my education. To say that they were disappointed does not come close to how they felt, but I loved it. I loved being part of a team, obviously, whose bigger mission was to tell stories, even if I was removing staples, answering the phone, and getting people coffee. And I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to tell really some of the big stories that I’ve had the chance to tell in my career up to now.
However, I pretty quickly figured out where the power lay, and it wasn’t with our morning anchor team, which is kind of what I think the sense is, that the anchors are in charge. In fact, that’s not the case. The power is with the producers, and they have the power because they’re going to be able to decide the narrative, right, who gets to talk and for how long and what the point of view of the story is and what is the story today, and what is the driving narrative that everybody’s going to focus on. They would decide how much time people got and whose views, frankly, would be left out all together.
And so I quickly figured out that [if I became] a producer I’d have an opportunity to influence those stories. But when I started back in 1987, I was a woefully underpaid intern. And I’d go on to work on every single presidential election as well as some of the biggest stories of our time: the Japanese tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina. I mean, the list goes on and on. And then documentaries that I started doing, mostly when I was at CNN, like Black in America and Latino in America and Gay in America. I did not name them. I don’t think they were very creatively named, but what they did do was give a voice to a usually under-covered community and also hand the mic, if you will, to that community, right?
The story has got to be told from the community’s point of view. It wasn’t someone airdropping in to tell their story. And so when I started, I was terrible at doing live shots and really messed up a lot of stuff, but over time, I figured it out. And by the time I became a local reporter in San Francisco in 1993, I did all the things you do in local news. I would cover a giant mamba snake on the loose in San Francisco. I think that was a hoax, but we covered it, a lot of breathless coverage. The fish market opened, and I’d hold a fish, that stuff never comes out of your clothes by the way. I did a story on a guy who believed that his roommate who had passed away had been reincarnated into his cat. My husband calls this entire phase “not my best work,” but we did that story.
I stood on the Bay Bridge and told people “It’s windy. Don’t stand on the Bay Bridge,” because that’s what we do in local news. Most of my stories were me-centric, right? They didn’t really think about the point of view from inside the community out. They were my take on a point of view. In fact, one Christmas when I was the lowest ranking reporter, I was working a story about a little boy who had gotten a BB gun for his present and shot his sister. And so we were all camped out on the mom’s lawn. And I remember she came out of the house and she said, “Could you please go away?” And I just remember thinking like, “Go away? Lady, we’ve got 11:00 live shots, and there’s a whole new news. And they were going to do cuttings at one and two and three and four. And then we have 5:00 news and 6:00 news, like go away? What are you talking about?”
And in fact, they had already created the animated graphic, which meant it rolled and had music. And I look back now and I’m very embarrassed and ashamed, frankly, because I know that I was reporting to that dramatic animated graphic and not trying to get in the shoes and in the point of view of this woman who was dealing with a tragedy. I wasn’t really trying to understand anything about her and at the time, I think that was very normal. But just because it was typical, I don’t think that excuses anything. I don’t think I began to really understand about covering race until I started covering Hurricane Katrina because it became very clear to me very fast that this story was not just a story about a big storm.
This was a story about failure. This was a story about leaving people out of the conversation and leaving people out of the bigger conversation around who matters. And that if you thought Hurricane Katrina was about a storm named Katrina, you were going to fail in your coverage. And so we spent the week in the studio reporting and doing stories and interviews with federal and state and local officials, but it wasn’t until we got on the ground that we really began to understand. I really began to understand the context.
What does it mean when people don’t have the opportunity to leave? What does it mean when people aren’t considered valuable by the greater community? We would spend a couple of months following the Coast Guard as they would basically, as you remembered, pluck people off of their roofs. And the mayor of New Orleans said,”Grab a freaking axe.” That’s a quote telling people, like, “If you’re going to be stuck in your house, you probably will have to cut your way onto your roofs, so you can wait to be rescued.”
I mean, it was insane. And so I think for me, I began to understand the intersection of race and class and opportunity and the lack of opportunity. And then what all of that would mean, when there was a disaster. And I think we’re seeing elements of that frankly, today as we look at what’s happening during this global pandemic. And so for me, witnessing that as a reporter, it seemed like there was a sense of urgency to start telling these stories and not just my take on their story, but their take on their story. Why were these things happening and what was happening in communities from their own point of view? And so I knew at some point I’d start reporting on race because I guess it just started getting very clear to me and that that conversation wasn’t really being had even as America was becoming more diverse. Frequently, reporters were missing it.
My parents used to tell me the story of how they met. My mom passed away last year, my dad as well, but my mom was Afro-Cuban. My dad was white and Australian. And they met because they both attended daily mass. So all the Catholics who are listening know that the bottom line, the takeaway of the story is you should go to daily mass. Anyway, my dad had a car, so he would drive and he would, he would basically hit on my mom on the way to church. He would roll down the window of his car, lean over and say, “Would you like a ride to church?” And my mom, as she would tell us in the story would say, “No, thank you,” because you don’t take a ride from someone you don’t know well, and so day after day, my dad would roll down the window and ask my mom out.
And she was like, “No, thank you.” And then one day she said, yes. And they made a date to go on a date, but because it was 1958, and it was Baltimore, Maryland, every single place they tried to go to dinner wouldn’t serve them because my mom was Black, my dad was white. Restaurant after restaurant turned them away. And so my mom brought my dad back to her apartment. She was an amazing cook of Cuban food and whipped him up a meal. And the rest is history, as they say. They started dating as a couple. And I used to ask my mom, like what was her takeaway and all of that, thinking it would be around segregation or discrimination, or even what it was like in the US in the late 1950s, and her whole thing was, “Girls, if you can cook, you can get a man.”
So I like to say, “I can’t make it because I can’t cook it all. I can’t make it, but I can make it happen because I can order in.” When my parents decided that they would get married at the end of 1958, interracial marriage was illegal in Maryland and 16 other states. And so my parents decided that they would drive to Washington, D.C. in my dad’s car and get hitched and then drive back to Baltimore and live illegally as a married couple.
I used to ask my mom, “What was that like?” And she said, “Our friends would tell us whatever you do, don’t have children because biracial children won’t fit in this world.” I’m number five of six. So my parents were terrible listeners, every step of the way. And she said, by the time the Supreme Court overturned the ban on interracial marriage, which was 1967, my little brother was born.:
My parents had six kids. And my mom used to say, “If you wait for people to get with what you’re doing, you really might be waiting a really long time.” My mom said that one day, they were walking down the street in Baltimore with my two older sisters who were born there. And I said, “What was it like?” And she said, “You know, people used to spit on us as a family.” I was shocked. I was so surprised. I said, “What did you do?” And she said this thing that I think really framed for me how I started thinking about reporting. She said, “Lovely, we knew America was better than that.” And I always loved that praise because I felt like the way she was framing it was you had to opt in to make things better.
I think you didn’t really have an opportunity to just sit this one out, that it was a really important. And I think we’re in a time right now where a similar thing is happening, but it’s really important actually to be part of a movement toward a thing that you think is just and fair and right. America is better than that. And that means we have to work toward making it better. And so pretty early on, I learned that you could impact the narrative and the point of view and things like that, and that improving things could be intersected with that, right? If you wanted to make stories better, then you had to think about impacting the narrative, you had to be part of pushing conversations in sometimes an uncomfortable direction.
You had to challenge people. I mean, especially in newsrooms where the status quo was a very comfortable place to sit and at the risk of sounding cheesy, I think this idea of “how do you get there” to some degree became my guiding mantra. It informed how I thought about reporting. For me, it was literally about the kinds of stories that I would take on.
Often I picked the very non-sexy stories because they focus on people who were left out. Black in America, Latino in America, Gay in America, trust me, I was not bumping into many of my colleagues while I was reporting these stories, but these were all big, important stories that were under-covered and under-reported and really mattered. And I think the reason it mattered, my point of view was about handing the mic off to people, right? Because I think representation matters and who’s in the story and who gets to voice the issues is actually really important. And I think it also is important at engaging employees. I now run a small business, and I have a small number of employees, but when I was an employee working for a big company in San Francisco at KRON-TV, I remember one day I was the East Bay Bureau Chief.
There was only one person in the East Bay, and it was me, so I was the Bureau Chief in Oakland. And I remember one of the bridges or something was down. So all of the executives had to drive through Oakland to come in for the morning meeting. Now the morning meeting was when we’d have conversations about the direction of the coverage of the day, what would the point of view be? What was the narrative going to be for today’s coverage? And so we’re all- I was coming in to do something else, I was a low-level reporter, but all my bosses were coming in and they had to drive through Oakland. And driving through Oakland meant actually going down a massive six-lane highway. So no one was driving through the back streets of Oakland.
But the joke was when they came in the door was, oh my God. I just risked my life driving through Oakland, which no one had really done. And it was like, “Get it.” “It’s a joke,” right? “Ha ha.” “Oakland is so dangerous” and “Oakland’s so scary,” and “Oakland’s so terrible.” “I just risked my life driving through Oakland.”
And I remember thinking one, no one even understands how that would be offensive to me because I live in Oakland, but also, I get the joke, right? The joke is that Oakland is terrible, but you guys don’t seem to care that you’re responsible for the coverage of all the stories that are going to come out about everything in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. And so we probably shouldn’t be surprised when all the coverage from Oakland really matches this joking take that you have, right? Oakland is scary. Oakland is dangerous. Oakland is awful.
And listen, Oakland has clearly and always has had its fair share of crime and issues. And Oakland also has amazing stories, but you didn’t get the sense that anybody was going to dig for amazing. And anybody was going to glom on to a narrative of hope and positivity and opportunity because that’s not how anybody felt about it. And in that moment as a low-level reporter, I decided that I would leave. I didn’t complain. I would smile at the joke because I was entry-level. And, and I would just think like, “Oh, this is not a place that I want to be.” And I think businesses do risk their best employees leaving because they don’t particularly feel included, right? The idea that no one would even realize that that was a terrible thing to say to someone who lived in Oakland was kind of a big tale and it’s not like, “Boo-hoo. I’m so sad for me,” it was much more like I have opportunities elsewhere.And this is what people think. And since this was probably not the environment for me to do my best work, I left.
I interviewed a CEO a couple of years ago, he ran a shipbuilding business in Virginia. And he was telling me about how he hired his employees. He took them from the greater population locally. So a lot of the local high school students and maybe even college students would kind of come and work in his shipbuilding business. And an interesting fact, becoming a shipbuilder takes about eight years to become an expert at it. And he told me as a white guy who was a CEO that he had never really thought about diversity and inclusion. It was sort of irrelevant to him and not even relevant in the bad way, just never something he thought about.
He said he started noticing that three years in he was losing employees. He would put all this energy and this money into training people, but they wouldn’t get to the eight-year mark. They get to the three-year mark and his pool of his employees was becoming more diverse because America is becoming more diverse. And he was investing and he was losing people. And he said only then did he start thinking, “What’s happening?”
And only then did he start thinking, “Is there something going on in this culture of this organization that’s making my employees, who are increasingly diverse, not want to be here?” And he started thinking about not just company culture for him, as a white guy but company culture for everyone in the organization and would they want to stay. And he’d be the first to tell you he did it because it affected his bottom line, right? If it were something happening with a specific ship that was causing financial issues, he would investigate it and solve it.
And it seems to me, frequently that CEOs don’t necessarily want to dig into that uncomfortable question of what’s not working. And part of that is introspection. He had to examine the really uncomfortable thing, which is your own blind spots. Who wants to do that? Where are my biases as a boss? I remember pushing back on another CEO who I interviewed, who when I asked him, “Don’t you want to understand why your female employees are quitting and minority female employees are quitting?” And he just kept dodging the question. I never remember saying to him, “But if these were refrigerators that were having a problem, you’d care. You’d investigate. You’d be mad. You decide a team to fix it and understand it. It wouldn’t just be, I don’t know.”
So I think that’s the job of a leader, right? But when it becomes those uncomfortable conversations about why your Black employees or your Latino employees, your native employees, your gay- well, whoever does not feel like the workplace is working for them and they don’t always say it. They just don’t necessarily want to be there. There’s got to be curiosity about inclusion and a lack of inclusion.
Why are these numbers what they are? Why are there no people of color in these particular positions? You have to ask that uncomfortable question and research sort of shows us certainly in many ways that diverse teams do better. Literally many measures in research over many years. I asked a neuroscientist the other day this very question like, “Why do diverse teams do better? Why?” And actually said, it was so interesting. He said, “It’s discomfort.”
When you’re surrounded by people like yourself and people you’ve worked with and you know well, you tend to be more comfortable, which sounds great. He said, “But discomfort frequently makes people raise the level of their game. Discomfort makes everybody walk into the room saying, ‘I don’t know all these people here. And so we’re all going to bring our A-game.'”
I thought that was an amazing takeaway. Like not being cozy actually ended up making organizations better. They did better. But he said, “The caveat was that these organizations had to have people who around that table who were participating equally, right?” You couldn’t have people in the room who were diverse, but the power structure didn’t match that diversity. So how can organizations do better? I think it’s both very simple and very hard.
Personally, I think you have to track measures of diversity. I mean, if it’s something you care about and CEOs know this, that means you have to measure it. You have to track it. You have to push for it. You have to state it. You have to have everyone understand that the CEO cares about this issue. On my show, Matter of Fact, we centered our values around that very thing, stories as diverse as America, but the work of it is the tracking. Literally, we have a spreadsheet of who’s on our show and who are the experts. It’s uncomfortable to every single day map out who you’re thinking about elevating, but if you’re going to say “stories as diverse as America,” then you need to do stories as diverse as America, right? Or stop saying it. I mean, I think that’s the answer.
So I think the fix is actually quite easy, but it is just deciding to do it. When we cover stories, for example, on Native American reservations, we don’t send a white guy reporter in to do it. We find someone in the community who can be the voice of what’s happening in the community. It’s a little bit harder, but I think if your point is stories as diverse as America, then you have to do that. America is diverse and our default guest on Matter of Fact doesn’t always have to be the 60-year-old white guy because America is diverse. It’s as simple as that. And sometimes it is the 60-year-old white guy because America is diverse, but only when you track and only when you measure do you know what you’re getting wrong. Or maybe better put, only when you track and only when you measure, do you know in the community who you’re missing out on.
I grew up in the North Shore of Long Island and a town that wasn’t diverse at all. And there’s a great picture of my family from the 1970s. I was probably 10 years old. And when we moved into our community, people wouldn’t sell my parents a house because my mom was Black, but my dad was able to get property and they built their house in the 1960s. And when we moved in, my mother said, “No, one’s to speak any Spanish” because she wanted us to kind of assimilate in. And so to this day, my Spanish is terrible.
There’s a great picture of my family from the 1970s. My dad is white. My mom is black. She has a giant Angela Davis Afro in which she kept her pick, six brown kids, all of us with Afros in the 1970s. Some of you will remember that Danskin made this material that you could not tear. And it was striped this way on our tops and stripes the other way on our pants. And we’re all leaning jauntly against our white VW bus. And I remember looking at this picture. My mother has a pick in her hair and thinking like, “This is not the picture of a family that’s assimilating, right?” We’re not like sliding into our 99.999996 percent white community. But I always think of that picture when I go into communities and think about reporting, like that’s everybody’s story. That’s everybody’s story, and whenever I tell that story, everyone gets it regardless of their family background, regardless of where their grandparents came from and their parents came from, right? This is certainly not a photo of blending, but it is a photo of what the American story is.
And what I love about that story is that my family, too, has a weird, interesting American story. And I always thought that that was the thing that made America interesting, that leveraging that was a tremendous positive. And I think it’s because of the sense of shared humanity, right? Like the reason it’s funny, because we all get it. We were all in on that joke. We have commonality when that story of trying to do a thing in our American narrative that doesn’t work out or sometimes does work out. It’s shared ground, but figuring that out can be hard work. I don’t think it’s easy. And I don’t think it’s a hashtag. I wish it were a hashtag if a hashtag we’d be done, but it’s not the hashtag. And the start isn’t even a hashtag, right?
The start is deciding that you’re actually going to measure it. The start is deciding that you are going to create an environment where everybody has an opportunity to move ahead. That’s it. But that “it” can be challenging. Listen, for us, this change in narrative, I mean, giving the mic to different communities was incredibly valuable. Our demographics and ratings are higher and younger, right? So that’s a giant win for us. But the only way we get there is by being constantly held accountable, and we mess it up sometimes, but by constantly circling back and say, “are we doing it right? Are we doing it right? Where did we get it wrong? Are we doing it right?”
Because I think you all would do the same thing if you were making refrigerators. You’d set a goal and then you’d hold yourselves accountable for hitting it. Or you’d have a bunch of terrible refrigerators. I think leaders have this amazing opportunity because this is an issue that requires tremendous leadership and an environment that right now is angry and hostile and dismissive.
You might say, “Well, that’s not us.” You know, like “That’s not us. We don’t have to be angry and divisive and hostile.” We can say, “We as an organization do this over here. That’s not us.” We can say, “I think America is better than that.” And here’s what we’re going to do to move that direction. And we’re not going to sit around and nod our heads and say, “Oh yeah, it should be.” And we’re not going to hashtag and say, “Ooh, my work is done.” We’re going to actually work on giving people more opportunities, and challenging ourselves around what inclusive really means for my specific workplace?And how do we make sure we’re meeting those goals day in and day out. It’s not magic, but it is work.
I know you guys have sent some questions, so I thought I would tackle some of them for you below.
From the nation civil unrest, what has given you hope?
You know what’s given me actually a lot of hope, I think there’s two things. Number one, the number of young people who are very involved in politics now and who are thinking about policy. When I was in college, I just don’t think people my age were really all that interested in understanding policy. And I think now there are so many more young people who are very informed. I look at my kids and how they think about information and kind of what’s unfolding in their own communities, whether it’s local policy or national policy.
And then also I think that we’re having conversations now around voting. Right now, some of that’s because of voter suppression, but we never talk about voting. Americans do not value voting. And I hope that when we start talking about the rights of voters being taken away that people start valuing this very important things, their vote, because we really, as Americans, have do not do a good job in turning out the vote and then valuing our own vote.
In a non-diverse community, what would be the first step in creating an inclusive environment?
I think the first step is always to get people around you who can give you good advice, right? So step one is signaling, “We’re going to talk about this.” And some of the most successful strategies I’ve seen is organizations and companies, in one case of a big law firm, just starting to have conversations, starting to set up groups where we can have an open conversation.And there’s no takeaway. There are no goals that we’re going to hit at the end of this conversation.
We’re not solving anything at the end of this conversation. We’re just going to talk about this issue because this issue is messy. It’s sometimes uncomfortable and we actually need to bring everybody along. And I think the organizations that have best started with “Let’s start by talking about it and then slowly work towards what are our goals? What do we want to get to? And how are we going to get there?” Do a better job than, “We’re going to do a one day hashtag, going and painting a school. I don’t think that, I think those things are very nice, but I don’t think they move the needle on the real issue.
How do you encourage a diverse community leader during these challenging times?
I’ll tell you a great story: I was at a dinner once with Andrew Young, like a big fancy, giant, a 100-person dinner. And I said to him, something like I was complaining about something we’re in the middle of doing Black in America, our series. And I said to him like, “Oh, I just can’t believe how hard this is.” And he looked at me and he said, “Well, I guess you’re not getting hit by fire hoses, are you?” And I was like, “Oh, wrong guy to complain to.” I think for me, the answer is always other people have done this and they fought for things and it’s not easy. I think we often sugarcoat history and winners and losers and how it went and it’s actually messy and it’s hard.
And so I tell any leaders who are diversethat this is a really good time to start reading biographies because you have to understand what people really, really, really went through and what was at risk for them. And I think when you start understanding that, you stopped feeling woe is me. And you recognize like, this is a very tough time, but there have been other tough times and you can take your inspiration from other people.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an ally but doesn’t know where to start?
I think there is nothing better than being very transparent. “Hey, so I’d like to be an ally, but I also have a little nervous about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. Can you help me do that?” Just find the person there’s nothing more annoying than an ally who doesn’t actually understand what you’re going for than an ally who doesn’t really want to listen. And so my experience has been allies who just say, “I’m just here to listen for the first time. And I’d like the space to ask stupid questions.”
I remember this has happened to me going out and doing interviews and kind of getting it wrong, and I’d go to people and say, “What am I missing? What am I getting wrong? What am I not understanding?” And it was because of their generosity in sitting me down and saying, “Well, let me give you some history in this community. Let me explain something to you.” That was really helpful, and I really appreciated it.
What does it mean to have a commitment to diversity?
You know, that one’s pretty clear. It means a commitment to diversity, that’s it. What does it mean to you? I think we all know what that means. I think we sometimes feel good when we hashtag or retweet or post something. And I think we all know that’s not a commitment to diversity. It’s doing the hard work. So what is it for you to do the hard work or support the people who are doing the hard work? That to me is the definition of a commitment to diversity.
What new challenges working with diverse community has this racial climate brought?
You know, in some ways I think there’s been some opportunities, which is a weird way to put it. But I’ve had a lot of friends who have been so surprised by these videotapes. And I’m like, “I’ve been reporting on this a long time, just nobody cared.” So I actually think there are lots of opportunities because I think people understand it. People understand it. They really are starting to get it. People who are not in these communities are beginning to get it.
When you look at the number of Native people who are dying from COVID-19, you don’t have to be a doctor or live on a reservation to say, “Oh my God, this, this data is horrific. What’s happening here?” And so I believe, I truly believe that people are beginning to understand inequities and inequality because they can now see it very clearly, certainly in a crisis. It’s terrible.
Sometimes there’s a belief that a commitment to diversity conflicts with a commitment to excellence. Yeah, and this is a great point and I really would encourage you. And I’m also happy to send you the NeuroLeadership Institute, NLI, has a fantastic reports on this idea that diverse teams do better. And it’s a bunch of scientists and I think it’s really worth reading.So I would encourage you to get that report.
There’s one in the Harvard Business School literature, and I can easily send them to you. It’s really worth reading about how they think about this discomfort that diverse teams creates that brings excellence because it forces everybody to bring their A-game. It’s fantastic. It’s a nerdy study so carve out a lot of time to read it, but it’s really worth reading and anybody who wants access to that study, I think that’s a really important thing to read and understand if you want to make sure that people aren’t immediately saying, “Oh, so you’re saying quotas, and we should just hire any people of color.” That is obviously not what anybody is saying for any organization.
What kind of conversations have looked like for you when discussing diversity since June?
They haven’t changed a lot because I’ve been singing the same tune forever. I really have been. I just think people care more. I guess what’s changed is that there are many more executives, white executives, who are really genuinely trying to figure it out, who understand that a commitment to diversity means the entire community improves. You cannot have people of color in your community who are unable to access opportunity and expect the community to thrive. You cannot have a hole in your boat on one end and be like, “No, the people on this end are good.” It does not work. And so I’m really finding that people are now very interested in this conversation and understanding it. Question number nine.
How would you advocate for diversity education and diversity initiatives with people who don’t see its value?
This is a great question and this is a real challenge. Some people I think will eventually come along, but I think it’s in finding those―the CEO of the ship building company, he is not a “Hey, kumbaya. I just feel like this is the right thing to do.” He is a guy who’s like, “Here’s how it made my company better.” And I think if you can find those people who feel like, “Yes, I do believe it’s the right thing to do.”
But I think if you’re running a business, you’re very focused on how do I have value in my business, right? How do I make sure I can keep everybody employed? How do I make sure I’m growing my business? And any argument that doesn’t include that I think you’re really going to have a challenge in getting people on board. So I think you constantly have to show a return on investment for these things, always.
And that for me has meant getting CEOs on board who can say, “Here’s what I saw.” In TV news this happened all the time, we had a lot of, “Oh, it’s kumbaya.” And I’m like, “Our show wins.” That’s my ROI. My show wins. We win. We make a ton of money. We win, we win. We win. That’s it. That’s the argument. That’s it.
From your perspective, how do you see diversity changing the nation in the next five years?
The nation is becoming more diverse. That is happening. That is a fact. We know we’re going to be a majority minority country and we already have, here, for example, in New York City, public school students are majority minority already.
So we’re there in this conversation. So I think we’re seeing some of these challenges. You’re always going to have people who are threatened by this, and you’re going to have to think about how do you make sure that you’re creating spaces that don’t ignore the difficult questions. I think it’s a mistake to ignore the people who say, “I feel uncomfortable. I don’t like this. I feel like what I’m saying is right.”
I think you have to make sure you’re hearing those folks and walking through those difficult questions because if you’re not, you just have people on either side who aren’t listening to each other, and I’m not sure that that’s a country you want to have. You know, my mom said, “America is better than this,” and it takes work to get there. Thank you guys. What a pleasure and what a great opportunity to have this discussion with you.