Episode 56, 18 min listen
As part of this work of equity and inclusion, we are each on our own journey of growth. Sometimes, a moment of growth is structured and intentional, but sometimes, it catches us completely unaware. After it happens, we’re never the same.
In today’s episode, I asked three of my previous guests to share about a moment they grew in their own journey of equity and inclusion. We hear from Rose Lane of Conserving Carolina, Jerry Hawkins from Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, and Dr. Kathleen Yang-Clayton from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Listening to their responses can inspire a moment of growth and learning for us all.
I really want you to be able to hear each guest as they speak from their heart. As a result, you'll hear me refer to this as "our unplugged series." Their responses are only lightly edited. You’ll hear more pauses and ums, and the sound may not be quite as polished. These episodes will be shorter as well to give you a little more room to sit with and reflect on each of the stories you hear.
Want to hear more from these guests and learn more about them and their work? Here are the links to their original episodes and related show notes.
Ame Sanders 00:07
Hi, this is Ame Sanders from State of Inclusion. Welcome to this episode of the State of Inclusion Unplugged Series.
In my regular podcast interviews, I have the pleasure of speaking with people who are making a difference in a community, working to make that community more inclusive and more equitable, and working to make it a place where everybody who calls that community home can thrive.
My guests represent nonprofits, corporations, city governments, coalitions, and even university partnerships. They are leaders, they’re change agents, elected officials, educators, poets, artists, and storytellers. They typically speak from a professional role and talk about the work they are doing on a professional level.
In this series, I take a minute to ask my guests a more personal question.
While the theme of this podcast is about community change, we know that, in the end, all change is personal. We also know that working for change at the community and societal levels involves being willing to examine our own behaviors and lives. It means being willing to change ourselves.
We also know that as part of this work of equity and inclusion, we each have our own journey to take. Admittedly, some of us have bit farther to travel than others. But, for each of us, the practice of self-work is distinctly personal and takes many different shapes. Sometimes, a step of personal change or growth is structured and intentional, but sometimes, it catches us completely unaware. However, it happens, we’re not ever the same after.
In today’s episode, I ask 3 guests to share about a moment they grew in their own journey of equity and inclusion.
So, in today’s unplugged episode, we hear from
Rose Lane of Conserving Carolina,
Jerry Hawkins from Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, and
Dr. Kathleen Yang-Clayton from the University of Illinois-Chicago.
In keeping with the unplugged theme, their responses are only lightly edited. You’ll hear more pauses, some longer pauses, maybe some more ums, and the sound may not be quite as polished. But, I really want you to be able to hear each guest as they speak from their heart. These episodes will be shorter as well. And, that’s intentional, too. It gives you a little more room to sit with and reflect on each of the stories you hear.
-Rose Lane, They Came With Guns
Here’s what Rose Lane of Conserving Carolina shared when I asked her about a moment she grew in her personal journey of equity and inclusion.
Rose Lane 03:02
From a young age, my mother taught me not to be racist. So. I had that instilled in me as a value. So, really, before I even understood what racism was, it was instilled in me that you should treat everybody equally as a young child. And so I appreciate that that was part of my early moral foundation. And then, as I grew up, I had some deep friendships and relationships with people who came from a different background than me, and I feel like that level of personal connection is a big part of why I care, why it doesn't feel abstract, but it feels real and important. In my life, still today, there are people who are part of my family and people that I care about deeply, who are a reason for me to be deeply and personally invested in the work.
So I can also share about a moment. So, some years ago, in 2017, I was on vacation with my family in August, so this month and my brother and sister-in-law were talking about something that was going to happen in our hometown of Charlottesville. So, we’re from that area, and that there was going to be a rally, there was going to be a demonstration, and that Nazis and white supremacists were coming to town. And they had been there before. So, it began when the community decided to take down its Confederate statues and that riled up white supremacists. And so they decided to come to Charlottesville and take a stand. And take the town, honestly. They weren't, they wanted to take back the town. and make it stand for the values of white supremacy. So, they knew this was gonna happen, and they knew it was dangerous. And I didn't think it was that dangerous, right, like, I took it a little more lightly. But they understood that it was going to be going to be dangerous and they were part of some brave resistance that planned to deliberately stand in the way.
So I knew that this was going to happen, and on August 12th of 2017, I had been out in Pisgah National Forest with my husband, my partner at the time. We had the most wonderful day, and we went out hiking and we had the most delightful day and we went out to dinner. And we were just coming back at the end of this perfect and beautiful day in high spirits. And I was like, oh, today's the day that that that event was going to happen. So let me just check the news and see how it affected. So I thought, I'll check the Charlottesville paper. But I've got the New York Times on my phone, so I’ll just check the Times and see if it made a footnote at the bottom of the news. So I opened the New York Times app and made this huge gasp. My husband is driving. He's like, what is wrong, what its wrong? And I couldn’t talk. So I opened the app, I opened NPR, and let, and it was Bluetooth so then the app could talk and hear the announcement of what had happened. It said a car drove into this crowd and somebody had been killed.
So first thing, that was, that was very distressing, because my family was there, right? Like they were there. And so it was a very traumatic time. And, and also, my family did survive, and they were not hurt. Except that a young woman who became my foster niece, and was my foster niece for three years, had been injured in that attack. So in that sense, my family was directly injured, and certainly their lives. And to see the news later and to see like, like, not only did they drive into the crowd with a car, but they came with guns, they come with assault rifles, and it’s legal. And like the law allowed them to march into my community with loaded machine guns. It was a clear threat of death to anyone, civilians. So, you know, it's very traumatic experience, and very, um... You know, it just… it brought some things home to me, right? So it…I’m thinking before that time, I think I had been naive about where we are in this country. I had been innocent about how deep-rooted the history of racist violence really is and the willingness to use violence to reinforce assumptions of racism. So I think…[words are unclear]…and I had to start seeing our country in a different way. And I need to commit to the work in different ways. So I can recognize that we do have …you know, that racism is like really, very deeply a part of who we are as a country, unfortunately. And also to recognize that there's more than that, of what it means to be an American. Like there's also a strong tradition in this country of creating equality, and fighting for equality, and making a society that does allow everyone to be a free citizen. So both these things are part of who we are as a country. And when I hear that, a good part of the work of the environment is equality.
Rose Lane, thank you so much for sharing that personal experience, very personal experience with us.
-Jerry Hawkins, I Know My Value
Ame Sanders 10:07
Here's what Jerry Hawkins from Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation shared when I asked him about a time he grew in his journey of equity and inclusion,
So, I think it is really important for us as individual people to recognize that we all have very important things to give to the world, that we all have gifts, that we all have a very unique skill set, because we're unique individual people. And once we realize that we have that inherent value, it gives us the ability to move without fear. And, you know, I learned that personal experience in a lot of different ways.
The first time I was working for a nonprofit, here, I was in middle management. I had like 30 employees, but I had a couple of people above me. And we would always do site visits where people come and visit us and learn about our work. And a couple of people came to visit, and they would say, “Oh, I like the work that you all are doing in this area in that department. And we need us a Jerry at our own organization.” And my ED would say, “Well, you can't have him.” Right? And that was a little strange to me. Because, you know, they weren't like saying, “You're doing a great job. This is really cool.” You know, until we got those site visits. So we had another site visit, and someone else came, and they said, “We need a Jerry here.” And they did the same thing. “You can't have him.” So, this gentleman did not take that no for an answer. He started to recruit me, sent me postcards with little boys, and said you can go back to doing this work. This is more important work, come work for me, you know, and to make a long story short, he gave me an offer during the third time he recruited me that I couldn't refuse. But I tried to call his bluff. I said, I'll come if you wait for me three months when my work is over here. And he said yes.
And so when that two weeks was up, I gave my letter. And the ED received it and was surprised and tore it up in my face and said, “Go home and come back to lunch with me tomorrow with the board president.” I did that. The Board President put my name on this piece of paper and circled it and said, “What do you value?” I said, “I value God, my family, PhD, a better salary.” He said, “I can't do nothing for God or your family, but we’ll pay for your PhD, we’ll pay for your salary.” And a light bulb clicked. What I realized is that they valued me more than I thought I valued myself in some ways. And all it took was for me to say that I wanted to work somewhere else for them to show me the value that I should have, you know, recognized in myself. And I was never the same after that. And it was funny because six months after that, they called me into the office and told me my department was closed and that the board is going in different direction towards what I was doing. And I just smiled, and I said, “Thank you all for the opportunity.”
I finished off my work with them. I had a party, and I cashed in my retirement. And I said, “I will never be in this position again.” I'm going to be in a leadership role. Because I know I'm ready now because I know my value. So that's kind of my story towards like personal, my personal practice of valuing ourselves. Because having no fear led me to being in equity work. Because this is a very hard place to work in, particularly in a state like Texas. And if I'm fearful, it'd be very hard for me to be in that change that I want to enact. Because I know my value. I know what I bring. And I know that our work is righteous, you know, and we're seeking justice. We're not doing the wrong thing for communities. We're trying to seek more justice and more just and equitable..as Martin Luther King says, “The beloved community.” And that is a community where everyone has what they need.
Jerry, thank you for sharing that.
-Dr. Kathleen Yang-Clayton, I Could Be Easily Targeted
Ame Sanders 14:46
And here's what Dr. Kathleen Yang Clayton from the University of Illinois, Chicago, shared when I asked her about a moment she grew in her journey of equity and inclusion.
Dr. Kathleen Yang-Clayton 14:53
Yeah, so I grew up on the far north side of Chicago. You know, my mom is Korean my dad married her. And he's actually Italian. Well, he passed away a few years ago, but he's Italian American, but both of them I would consider very limited English just working class. I grew up that way, a lot of the privilege that I feel I have right now is through education. Right, I just went to the University of Chicago had a very elite education. And I was very much on the track of sort of, kind of swallowing hook, line and sinker, this idea of being a model minority. And for whatever reasons, I mean, it's really random. I didn't like sit there and be like, I will intentionally start working for an Asian American advocacy organization, I was more like, I was really tired of endless grad school, right, and seeing the best years of my life go to just reading countless articles.
And so when I started working in the community, it really was the learning experience that I had needed to come to grips with the fact that, you know, I grew up in a blended family, so half of my family was white, half of them are Asian or Korean. And, you know, I'm 100% Korean. And I think that the, the moments that I experienced, sort of the realization that you know, there was more that I needed to consider and provide was when you get lumped into like, you know, your phenotypically I look Asian. And, you know, especially in this day and age where we see ourselves on camera so much, you realize, right, especially during Coronavirus, but even prior to that, hate crimes against Asian Americans, and the pressures that Asian American women feel often in terms of higher suicide rates and all this.
It is, it's a startling reminder to me that when I speak out into the world, I'm just Kathleen, I speak English perfectly. I have advanced degrees from very elite universities. But if you just see me, and I'm not talking, walking down the street, I could easily be targeted as a foreigner, as somebody who's not wanted here, as somebody who's easily targeted, easily turned into a fetish into you know, whatever it is. And once you start realizing that, you know all of that privilege that you think you've accrued isn't going to stop that from happening to you, or people who look like you, then I like saying this because it's true, you start if you have some of those values, and you're in a space where you can really think about this, you should really start thinking about what are some of the risks that I need to take with all this privilege that I've accrued. And that can lead you to working with a mission-driven salary at an advocacy organization or taking on a rather tenuous position like just you know, it's a non-tenure track, but you know, taking a position at a large public university to doing this work, right? And, you know, of course, you can think of other ways that you could be working, but this is the choice that I made based upon that realization.
Kathleen, thanks so much for sharing that with us.
Dr. Kathleen Yang-Clayton
Ame Sanders 18:23
So, as we wrap up this episode, I'll simply end this with a question for you.
What is a moment you grew in your own personal journey of equity and inclusion, and how did it change you?
Guests: Rose Lane, Jerry Hawkins, Dr. Kathleen Yang-Clayton
Host: Ame Sanders
Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson
Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski
Sound: FAROUT Media