Sunrise Banks Town Hall A Discussion About Racial Equity Video Transcript
Text, Twin Cities Town Hall: A Discussion About Racial Equity. Presented in partnership with: Logos, Sunrise Banks, the Forum on Workplace Inclusion, Augsburg University. Four video chat images in the upper left corner.
Good afternoon, and welcome to our Twin Cities Town Hall. We have a greeting from the CEO of SUNRISE.
Welcome to the Twin Cities Town Hall. A discussion on racial equity, presented to you today by Sunrise Banks, and the forum on workplace inclusion. My name is David Reiling. I’m the CEO of Sunrise Banks. It has been six months since the death of George Floyd. A tragic event that has sparked a global conversation on race inequality. Today we have some Twin Cities community leaders with us, who reflect on where we have been as a community, and where there is still opportunity for positive change. I would like to introduce our moderator for this town hall event, Roshini Rajkumar. Roshini is a strategic communications coach to C-SUITE executives. She hosts real talk with Roshini, on WCCO radio. She hosts a podcast called Real Leaders. She is a professional speaker, licensed attorney, and former TV reporter. I am pleased to welcome our moderator for today’s event, Roshini Rajkumar.
Image changes from David Reiling in spotlight to the four images in the corner with the opening slide in the center.
Thank you so much, David, and I am so honored to be the moderator of this special event today. Lots of events have happened in which Minneapolis was really center stage, and setting discussions not only around the country but around the world. So today we are going to talk about some solutions with some amazing Minneapolis St. Paul leaders, whose work that really has spanned the country and the globe. Let me introduce you to all of them. Michael Gove is vice president of equity and diversity for the University of Minnesota’s five campus system. Athena Hollins is senior director of Diversity and Foundations for the Minnesota State Bar Association. Congratulations to Athena. She’s also a representative elect. She will join and get sworn into the Minnesota legislature in January 2021. And Tomme Beevas has an illustrated background, which he will share with you. He is the chief strategy officer and founder of Pimento Jamaican Kitchens and has so much to share. So what we’re going to do is start by giving 90 seconds or so introductions and opening statements from each of our panelists. Tomme, why don’t we start with you.
Oh, thank you so much. I’m so glad to be here and thanks to SUNRISE and everyone for hosting this event. Essentially, a bit about my background: I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, right. And I watched my grandmother [INAUDIBLE] who had little but an elementary school education, grow to build her empire through selling imported clothing items, food, you name it. But she was also very community-minded. She was an economist without the training, and so I’ve seen personally how she’s used food to heal community and brought communities together. And that’s what we’re doing at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. We’re creating food.
Pimento was created right here in my backyard, and it was created by the community, and the communities who made Pimento what it is. And so, it’s so interesting that after Mr. Floyd was murdered, we then had the opportunity to work hand in hand with the community in ensuring that we can create lasting change. And “by lasting change”, we’re talking about liberation. Economic liberation, political liberation, and social liberation, and that’s why we created the B Corporation Pimento Relief Services. We’ll talk a lot more about that soon, I guess.
Thank you so much, Tomme. Athena Hollins, let’s hear your opening thoughts.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me here. I am really delighted to be here. I guess I always start off my introductions by saying I was born and raised in Hawaii, which is just this bizarre melting pot of black and brown and indigenous individuals which really has influenced how I’ve moved forward in my life. I consider myself a lifelong. I’m a lifelong student of culture and of diversity and how it impacts the world that we live in, and in particular because I went to law school. I’m very interested and passionate about how it affects the legal profession. Despite the fact that women graduate from law school at higher rates than men do, we know that the profession is still dominated by white men for the most part.
And so, to me, it’s just fascinating to see how we can affect change and create systemic change in the legal profession and in the legal culture. And I guess the thing that really matters, why it’s so important to me personally, it’s not just because I would love to see more people who look like me in the legal profession. It’s also because we know that the community at large, communities of color, disadvantaged communities, have less trust in the legal profession when it doesn’t look like them. When they do not feel like their stories and their experiences are represented. And so that’s really important, because if we don’t have the trust of the people in our justice system, we have nothing. So it’s a great opportunity to improve what we’re doing in the legal profession, and I’m really excited to share with you a little bit of what we’ve done.
We have such a great mix of panelists today. We have legal, business, definitely corporate social responsibility, which is part of Tomme’s past and academia and really mental health. And I’d like Michael Gove, for you to share your opening remarks.
Thank you Roshini, and it’s a pleasure and honor and humbling. I was grateful to be joined with Tomme and Athena on this panel. Like Tomme, I’m also an immigrant to this country, very much aware and very quickly learning that the social cultural fabric of this country. And the experience even going through my undergraduate, graduate education at Indiana University, and then coming to the University of Minnesota. So this is both a place in which I lived as a student experience life, and some of the inequities myself as a student.
And now, it is very humbling, I said, to be in a position as a professor of counseling psychology in intercultural education. And then to try to do the work as an administrator. Universities and higher education, as you are all aware, are microcosms of diverse people, faculty, staff, students, and administrators, spread out over five campuses. In our case, trying to do this work while also experiencing the tensions, the disagreements as well as our attempts to find commonalities and community within these tensions. We do this because it’s important to acknowledge the homelands of Indigenous people, the Ojibwe and Dakota people.
So we want to recognize the work and the inequities and the relationships we have to rebuild with our indigenous communities. The university is driven to discover, as we say. We are about enrichment from understanding. We are about dedication to the advancement of learning. We are about seeking the truth. We want to share this knowledge for the benefit of our diverse communities, and we want to apply it for the benefit of our people. But as we all know, and we have experienced the murder of George Floyd, inequities, injustices, remain. And I believe the university should and wants to be and is participating at the center of trying to remedy these injustices. Thank you.
Thank you, Michael. In preparing today’s questions, I interviewed each of our panelists, and their insight, their expertise went directly into the kinds of questions we’ll cover today. We are not going to rehash things we have seen in the headlines over the last several months. We actually want to give you content that you can implement later today, or as early as tomorrow, in your organizations, in your communities. And as I, my favorite quote from Athena, that DEI– Diversity, Equity, and Inclusio– is not a stand alone. It should be in the DNA of every organization. Before that can happen, however, at a systemic level, we have to understand the macro versus the micro.
Author Gary Zhukov says this, it is the health of the soul that is the true purpose of the human experience. Unlike an animal, humans have an individual soul. You are an individual energy system. You are a micro within the macro. So you have a lot of power individually. I’d like to start with Michael and talk a little bit about that human level Michael. What do people need to do at the individual micro level to start instituting systemic change?
Wow, I don’t want to be evasive Roshini, but I do want to emphasize that I think it’s a both and. Meaning it has it is at the macro and the micro. Because more and more, I think, when we talk about institutional racism, when we talk about systemic change, we do believe that the tone from the top, the messaging from the top, the motivation from the top match. And I think we are learning more and more that leadership creates these opportunities and the culture in which individuals, right at the micro level, are then motivated to want to be open, to be interested, to be educated, which is fundamentally the role of education.
And so I think when we talk about humanity or at the human level, I want to believe that the fact that we make education compulsory K-12, P-20, if we think broadly. We believe in the potential for human beings to learn, to unlearn, to be educated, to develop views, opinions, ideologies, and values. So I hope I’m addressing your question. That I think the macro sets the tone; the macro creates the opportunity. But I do believe and in my responses to further questions, to elaborate on why I personally also do focus a lot of the work on individuals’ hearts, minds, being educated and being able to be influenced.
And that’s really where it starts. Neuroscientist Terry Wu says that people are influenced by people similar to them. So in order to help make systemic change, we need to individually be influenced by new sources. Athena, please share your thoughts about the micro versus the macro.
It is one of those things where we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. I think there are so many things that we can do on an individual level, that help create safer spaces and create greater inclusion in our workplaces or in our communities. But ultimately, I do believe that there are some major systemic inequities that have to be remedied. And really, the problem is you don’t know what you don’t know. So if it’s one thing for me to say, OK, I understand. I’ve spent years learning this and I have a pretty good idea of where these biases are going to come in. I’m pretty good at checking myself when things like that happen, but to expect everybody in my workplace to be able to do that is really improbable. And so when we have that, it’s better to have systems in place that allow, or that prevent people from having those biases rear their ugly heads.
That being said, I do have a couple of tips that I always encourage people to take on, especially if this is something they’re passionate about and they’re just not sure where to start. My first one is I have a buddy system. I have a person who is somebody I trust and somebody I who has the same values that I do, who wants to be as inclusive and equitable as possible, and we check each other on all sorts of things. I make comments that are not terrible, but probably not the best comments. Maybe not as inclusive or not as progressive as I would like to be, they will call me out on it and I do the same thing. And I think it’s important to have those sorts of relationships, where you have individuals who will hold you accountable to things that you just don’t even notice that you have these biases.
So that’s one thing that I encourage everybody to do. And it also creates a really strong bond between you and your buddy. Because when you can be open and frank like that with somebody, it creates a trust there that I think is important, especially in workplaces where we tend to just sort of be on a treadmill.
The other thing that I will say is that when we create systems of increased awareness, we know that people behave better. So there are a bunch of really interesting studies done in sports, where we show that when somebody is aware of the fact that they’re being closely monitored, or they’re aware that this is something that people believe is happening, then they’re less likely to do it. They will check themselves more closely. And so that’s something that we can easily do. Especially in business places, is make sure that we know that folks at the top are in favor of this, that they want to work on equity, and they want the business place to be more inclusive. And so people will start checking themselves to make sure that they’re not promoting these sorts of biased or inequitable behaviors and thoughts.
Thank you, Athena. And I think it is wonderful that you give some real concrete tips that people can use, and also to acknowledge that people are naturally biased. We can’t shake bias out, we can enlighten. And Tomme, I know that you are doing this work every day. On the front of macro versus micro, as well as how do we live in our biases but expand out to bring in more people?
Right first and foremost, on the macro versus the human level, I think one example I would draw from is the week after Mr. Floyd was murdered. I was thinking, “Oh yes, it has been that great place where we brought together, we can bring together all of our friends.” Whether it’s the mayor or whether it’s the activists, bringing them together and let’s have a forum, let’s talk about this. And when we were talking to our community members about that, one of the things there like was no hold on, hold on. First of all, right now we’re hurting, secondly, we’re hungry. And so I personally have to take a step back and understand and see what the community was saying, which is one, this is not the time for simply running to solve a problem right away. Let’s take a minute to heal. And that’s where Dr. Joy Lewis would see the revolution will be healing, and so we have to focus on healing and helping each other heal through the process. Then as it relates to the hungry piece, that’s where we stepped up and we created the food distribution effort that was as a result of the community support and the community around it for themselves.
When we talk about these biases, even though the biases exist, we need to one, know that the discomfort is a part of the process. The pain is a product of the process to get there. And Dr. Joy also talks about how grandma would take the alcohol and clean up one’s wound and the pain would be there. And yet, on the other side of the pane is that healing. And so the revolution will be healing, and let us work through. And I think one of the biggest things that we need to recognize, one of the things that Michael and I would probably call out is the fact that, Athena called it out, is we had to do the work to understand the social issues we’re facing. One of the challenges is people think that black people were just naturally born to understand the system and the structures, and also Black History. I’m a Jamaican and I would like to identify myself separately from African-Americans, because the African-Americans have had a unique experience in the pain that has been caused to them, the pain that they’ve gone through.
And so it is important, it is imperative upon us to learn and understand what they’ve gone through and also the true history of America, as well as the modern world. And until we do that, our biases will always see black people as those simple people who always need help, and can’t help themselves. But that’s because one hasn’t really done the work to understand the Mansa Musas of the world and the universities of Timbuktus of the world. And also when the Moors were ruling Europe. When the dark ages were, because it was run by black people. When we don’t know our neighbors, we can then make assumptions about them. And then that’s where the assumptions become actions, and then those actions become very dangerous for all of us.
Well Tomme, you led us right into a topic that I got into with Athena during our pre-chat, so I’ll let Athena kick it off. Athena taught me about the difference between low context cultures and high context cultures. And what you just sort of gave an anecdote about it, a couple anecdotes, Tomme. Really fits into this very well Athena.
Yeah, absolutely. I think, I mean, first of all, I would like to 100% agree with what Tomme just said. There is an education aspect of this that cannot be overstated. And I think that we’ve had a lot of discussions in this space about whether it is up to individuals to educate themselves, and I definitely think it is. But ideally, I know I’m a little off topic, but ideally this would be something that is taught in schools to our children because they deserve to know. And the children who are in our schools, who are black and brown and indigenous, need to know about their history, so they can feel powerful too and know about how successful we were in different contexts. So sorry that I was going off on a tanget.
But to answer your question, yeah, high and low context communication styles are so important. And like I said, I’m a lifelong student of culture. Coming from Hawaii, where my high school was 70% Japanese, we have a very different way of communicating than when I moved to Minnesota and experienced communication here. In general, Western cultures tend to be more low context communication, and that means that there’s an understanding that whatever is said is exactly what’s meant.
As opposed to high-context communication cultures where it’s about what kind of eye contact you’re making, how you say it, what gestures you’re using, just everything around the words that you’re saying impacts what you actually mean. And I preach this to individuals because I think it is so important for us to understand those differences when we are working with diverse folks, that everybody comes from these different backgrounds. And really truly, you’re influenced by where you grew up, where you had these sorts of formidable experiences. So even though I’m black and white mixed, my experiences growing up were in a predominantly Asian culture. And so I have taken on a lot of those communication styles, which clash in a lot of ways with the more direct communication styles of the majority culture here in the United States, in the continental United States.
So I do try to educate individuals on this, so that they can have those conversations in a more meaningful way. And understand that sometimes it requires more questions, more listening and maybe a deeper understanding of a person’s background and cultural aspects than we normally give credit for. A lot of times in America, we will say if you do not conform to what the majority says is the right way to communicate or to express yourself, then you’re just out of luck. And I think that’s a totally backwards way of doing things and we absolutely need to be more respectful and more considerate about this if we want to benefit from the diversity that we’re bringing in. And if we want to make it a more welcoming place. So I don’t know if that gets to your question, Roshini.
You got it. That question has so many more Athena. And you are like a Petri dish with your background of all these different cultures, you’re your own melting pot. I will once again quote neuroscientist Terry Wu, who says that, when we think fast, we tend to introduce biases. So if we were to just slow down in considering an individual or a group of people, the example that he shared is write a short essay about them, and in those studies they’ve found those short essays actually deliver more meaning and fewer biases. Michael, you talk about reading and the tone from the top. I know that’s of importance to you at the University of Minnesota. You’re guiding those efforts. What is your advice for institutional diversity for all the organizations who are represented in our town hall today?
Thank you and I apologize in advance, because like Athena and Tomme we’re just trying to reinforce and affirm some of the things that you said. And I want to just affirm how important what Athena said about starting, educating some of these principles. It is in the academy that there would be no longer question whether biases happen, right? And it’s an assumption that it cuts across so easily it’s been lived out in our recent electoral history. Even in the United States here right now, that one should assume cultural complexities in any and every interaction. And it does not come naturally, so it has to be trained. And if I can connect that to the fact that I think for that reason, frankly search committees for the C-Suite for executives, for leadership positions in any institution, have been more, have been wiser and more intentional in understanding the importance of these racial, cultural, and social justice understandings and expertise and talents to know how to navigate and negotiate these complexities and towards the goal of racial equity for any institution.
So I think it starts with how we search for leaders. What qualifications, what preferences, how do we create such committees? If I can be practical in how we find some of these leadership individuals, I have been blessed I think at the University of Minnesota, with our current transition of a new President, a new Chief Academic Officer, and other leadership positions, that we have sought these individuals, we have found these individuals who value them. And I think it starts that way with individuals who can articulate it in their position statements, and their philosophies. And not just with words, but with experience, with a track record, with examples concretely that they have tried to address. It doesn’t mean I think my leadership at the University of Minnesota will claim nothing prepared us for what ensued in the last 10 months that we’ve all experienced as a nation.
But I think when we can find leadership that is not based on programs and activities that they have created in the past, but that is grounded on principles of what is institutionally anti-racist, what is fundamentally racial equity, and what does it mean to pursue social justice in our research, our teaching, and our service engagement. That has to permeate and start at the leadership level. Roshini.
Thank you, Michael. You talked about institutional diversity. We’re going to get into Interactional Diversity in a moment. But before we do that, another favorite phrase that came out of my pre-chats with our rock star panelists is that of Tomme Beevas, where he says everybody is an instrument of liberation. Not only do I love listening to the sound of his voice say that. Tomme, what does that mean?
I’ll say respond within the context of Michael who just speaking, right? Let’s take a step back and there’s a new show on Apple TV called Bankers. And in that show it shows two black men who are trying to run banks and open banks in the 50s, 60s frame. And at that time, it was literally illegal for them to not only own banks, but for them to even be banking at these banks. And so it’s a fascinating show. So I say that to say, we need to recognize that a lot of our systems have been intentionally and systematically designed to lock a lot of people out. And so when you talk about the view from the top what we need to recognize is we have the opportunity now to not only open the doors but take those doors off their hinges. I would challenge people in leadership to ask themselves, how many people like myself, like yourselves like or like oneself have you promoted? Have you helped groom? You’re like, Oh I see myself in that young woman, or I see myself in that young man and help them. And then the question is, how many of them have been people of color?
I would say, based on the number of, let’s say, white people I’ve mentored or helped or opened doors for our connections, and you’re thinking back in your head, that’s Oh yeah, this person and that person. Now multiply that number by 3 or four or 10 and find some black people and people of color, in BIPOC community, who you can also help get there. Help open the door. It’s about taking action. And we talk about liberation, that’s what we’re talking about. You are an instrument of liberation, regardless of the role you’re in. If you’re in banking, you have the opportunity to help take the doors off the hinges, to make it a free flow and so our economy can continue to grow. If you’re into puppet making, literally yesterday was on a call and there was puppet maker there, and I’m like, “Yes imagine how even as a puppeteer you can be out there being an instrument of liberation by educating and using your little puppets to educate the next generation on issues that they need to understand in a more meaningful bite-sized manner.”
As instruments of liberation, we talk about economic liberation. So how do we create and opportunities for black people to start their businesses? We talk about social liberation, we talk about that healing component. We talk about that academic component. So how do we help rewrite that history or her story to where we can get it accurate? So we don’t do a disservice to humanity by giving misinformation and intentionally wrong information to future generations. And then we talk about political liberation. It’s how do we get more people to either get out the vote, get active in their community, letter writing efforts. But also how do we get people to run for office themselves and have a whole office for themselves? And then the other portion of it is, how do we even create a political action committee or find ways to support those candidates. But we’re talking about candidates of all shades as long as they’re supporting the issues that are important to getting us to the next level as we grow and create a more perfect union.
And so when we talk about instruments of liberation, no matter who you are, no matter where you’re sitting, remember that your predecessors intentionally locked the doors. Now you have the opportunity to open the doors, take those doors off the hinges, and welcome others in, so we can all continue to grow together.
Tommie, I love that because you’re really calling to action. People should take this as a personal responsibility because it really does start with each individual. We have many questions coming into the chat. We will try to get to as many of them as we can. And I’ll just say for ease of reading, the tighter your question, the more likely I’ll be able to read it carefully and get to it.
On this note though, Tomme, because in your past you worked at the United States Chamber of Commerce, and you also did corporate social responsibility for Cargill, these are very precious topics for you. Ryan Murphy asks this. I’m going to start with you, Tomme, on this one. He says, are payday loans and check-cashing places a big problem? Would you want to be part of a push for reintroduction of postal banking to help that? I don’t know what postal banking is but the whole payday loans issue and I know loaning and money is a pet topic for you.
Right, if I were to talk about it, I think by postal banking they’re referring to back in the days of post offices could actually literally serve as banks. And in Jamaica, we literally have post offices that serve as banks for communities where there are no banks. Remember that when people are doing community planning, they usually think of the banks, the places of worship, and the school and probably a post office. But oftentimes what we see in that is that in communities of color, we don’t have such said infrastructure. But then we have to remember that that is also intentional. Because there are deeds right here in Minneapolis that say “Thou shall not sell to a black person.” There’s redlining that was intentionally created.
And so a lot of people who have wealth today have wealth because of inheritance, have wealth because of land that has been passed down to them, whether it’s farmland or city land. And yet, we know that a lot of people of color have been locked out of even getting access to land. We don’t even get access to capital. And I’ll say this, thank you Sunrise. Sunrise was one of the first banks, was the first bank to step up and help Pimento get a loan to build out into our physical spaces. And it actually came as a result of us partnering with MCCD and folks like MEDA.
And so oftentimes, what you see is even access to capital is hard when you have a thriving business with results, when you have your own assets and property, when you even have good credit and money in the bank, and all the right systems in place. It is still virtually impossible for people of color to get access to loans or capital. And we’re not even talking about even a payday loan, we’re talking about those who, on paper, meet the requirements. And so we need to even provide– to offset that system, take a wrecking ball to that system. Because even when you think of the concept of credit, when we think of credit, it’s interesting that we use credit to figure out who gets loans, and yet we know that credit was intended to be not just discriminatory, but more so, it is also, I’m saying you don’t have credit, but I’m not giving you credit through loans. And so it’s kind of weird that you’re saying you have to demonstrate good credit, but I’m not giving you the loans that demonstrate good credit. And that’s the system that we’re using to base how we treat individuals in society.
And I guess the final point on that too is that we just have to reconcile within ourselves, like, if not now, when are we going to really and make this a better place, not just for people of color, but we have to liberate the entire population. We have to liberate everybody to where we can also have that economic liberation where we can all continue to grow. You cannot lock out such as large population of society, which usually over indexes on every consumer reports and expect for the economy to continue to grow. So imagine where we can go as a country, as an economy, as humanity if we can just liberate ourselves.
Tomme so well said and on that note of banking, I remember when I was getting my first business credit card after I left television news to launch my consulting and executive coaching practice, getting that first business credit card from my banker at US bank, and being given a line of credit was such an emotional day. You feel like there’s confidence, you feel like someone is saying you can go out and do. And that is a very personal emotional thing. We have a lot of questions coming in. Catherine Issenberg asks this, and I’m going to address it to Athena. How can you “force a company to change their practices and company cultures, when the C-Suite leaders don’t care to address or work toward true equality?”
Yeah, that’s a really fair question. And I guess my answer would be, you can’t. I mean, it’s really difficult to force a company’s hand to do something when they just absolutely refuse to do anything, especially from the C-Suite You really have to have leadership at the top emphasizing that it’s something that’s important to them. I think that what you can do is make a case for why it should be important and why there should be a focus on it. And there’s certainly a lot of documentation about business cases and how it’s best for business practices, also what it means for retaining folks, like there’s money to be made in being more inclusive, more equitable. It is a good business practice in general.
But that being said, I think that for real change to happen, you’d have to have buy in from leadership, especially depending on how hierarchical your company is. I know that’s not probably the answer that you want to hear. And there are certainly small changes that you can implement on your own. You can certainly reach out to human resources to encourage some of those small changes that can be made. But it is truly my belief that you have to have leadership, that is willing to be open to change, take risks and frankly, be empathetic to make some of these real changes.
One of the things that I ask leaders when I’m working with them is to think about a time when they felt excluded or disenfranchised in some way. Because I think a lot of times folks don’t realize that this is the way that we’ve made other groups feel systemically. Like this is something that we have done very purposefully to disenfranchise individuals, and we have to reverse that. And sometimes it takes a while, getting in touch with how it felt to be made to feel less then, for folks to understand why it’s so important for us to move forward.
Athena I’m going to follow up with Jesse Gabor’s question. And you’re– law is so important to you when you are a lawyer. What is quote true equity? And what metrics should be used to quantify this?
Yeah, well I’m glad that somebody asked this question because that was one of the things that I wanted to bring up since this is titled Racial Equity. And I want to make sure that we’re really thinking about what that means when we talk about racial equity. And I think Tomme hit on it a little bit, maybe a lot. But there have been laws in place, laws and practices in place for generations that have systematically denied people the right to have certain things, to belong to certain groups, to engage in ways that make money that are useful. I mean, just everything. I mean it’s not an accident that there’s such a disparity in home ownership among black and brown communities. That’s not accidental, that is 100% on purpose.
And you can follow this path down almost any way you want to. I mean police interactions, it’s not an accident. There’s more police that are sent to Black and brown communities than there are to white communities. We know that a lot of these crimes are proportionally done exactly in the same amount. We know that marijuana smoking happens in the same rates in white communities as it is in black communities. But go ahead and look in the jails and see who’s in there. Because it is not your frat boys, who are clearly smoking weed, it is people in other communities where they are being over-policed.
So when we talk about equity, I don’t think that we can say that there’s just one way to do equity. It has to impact every single aspect of our cultures and communities. And I know that’s a hard ask. Like I recognize, that saying that is intimidating and slightly exhausting. But I think it’s important because there is this notion that if we just do this one thing, then everything will be all right. And that’s inaccurate.
I mean right now we’re talking a lot about the Black and African-American community, but we can talk about equity in the Indigenous communities and what that looks like. We can talk about in the Chinese community that were not allowed to marry outside of their race, because they didn’t want wealth from white communities going into Chinese families. Like there have been rules and laws in place that we’ve taken out for the most part, but now we have to do things to correct for those inequities, and that’s the real difference. It’s not just stopping bad practice, it’s how do we make somebody whole after generations of these bad things have happened? And it’s going to look different for each different community and how people have been impacted.
But I think a great start is trying to correct, seeing those where we have disparities, trying to figure out ways to correct those disparities. If that means that we give out more home loans to communities of color, that is absolutely worth it in my mind. If that means that we are looking at reducing policing in certain areas or trying to figure out alternatives to policing, I think that is something that is very necessary. So it’s a whole host of things that we have to do to reach this pinnacle ideal of equity. And I would not want to say that this is the one simple trick to get to equity, there’s no such thing.
Absolutely these issues are dynamic and deep and involve all of us to find solutions. And that’s why we have these amazing panelists today to talk about solutions, to give you ideas to implement in your world. We’ve received several questions about whether today’s town hall is being recorded. And Yes it is. Great news, you can re-watch it, you can share it with your friends, family, colleagues, everyone in your circles.
Michael, I will go to you for our next question from David Milton. Financial literacy is a multi-generational discipline. Should higher education lead the way to filling in the gap, or should it be left up to banks and community activists?
Thank you for the question. I think it starts even before high education. And continuing the conversation about equity, it’s unfortunate that we live in a state where the health, not just health disparities but the educational disparities that’s glaring in Minneapolis in particular, and for that reason, I think equitable access to high education is key for all the universities in Minnesota. But we take our role as a land-grant university, and a public university seriously in trying to connect better, do better programming with college readiness, reach out to middle school students, and give opportunities not just to visit campus but to interact with faculty. And to show that genuine, to build that genuine rapport and trust from young.
But it includes not just academic preparation for your question, Roshini. We believe that kids at that age, parents at that age considering college education should know the full slate of financial resources, grants, scholarships available to avoid debt. And that is possible. And I’m glad that the university is also looking at further ways to make education more accessible for our communities. In addition, to I think financial literacy, that we have suggested happen in preparation to apply to colleges, is one of the ways we look at the lack of educational opportunities and how some of our gate-keeping criteria may be disadvantaging some populations more than others.
So our admissions teams works really hard to not just reach out to but I think educate our so-called admissions, gatekeepers at every level. Unit, program, college as a University, how we can allow a more diverse representation on our campuses but financial literacy is also– we’ve also heard from our employers, in addition to financial literacy, career literacy and career success. And within the preparation for higher education, how does one look forward to one’s employment years in addressing debt and loans that might have been accumulated?
But I will add beyond financial literacy, I think we’re learning and we have learned about addressing racial microaggressions, climate issues that unfortunately continue beyond higher education into the workplace. And how partnering both with employers, and preparing our students to know how to be successful in these environments are programs that will be helpful.
And I’ll give an unsolicited shout out then to one of our sponsors today. Sunrise Banks has lots of information to help you with financial literacy. Check out their website, call one of their bankers, I’m sure they would love to help. A great question from Vince Terryann. What are some of the most common things that reduce racial equity within companies and organizations? What are some ways they can be addressed? And I know Tomme, you have a lot of expertise in corporate social responsibility. And since you are a business owner yourself, you have dealt with some destruction during the events of the summer. I think you’re just the guy to answer this question.
That’s a very good question and I think it goes back to some of what Athena was talking about earlier. I think first and foremost, I would say from an equity standpoint, we have to recognize that until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned. We completely need to change how we approach each other is step one. Step two the education part of it, right? So we didn’t even know. If we don’t know, then we will always have those biases unchecked. And so I think step one is getting to know those who are next to you. Your community, those who you’re working with.
Then there’s also as it relates to the business case, we talk about breaking down those racial issues. Let’s go ahead and make a business case for it. America is becoming browner and browner by the day. And if your company is not ready, you’re going to be in trouble. It is negligent for you as a corporate leader right now to not address this knowing that America is only going to become browner and browner. And when we talk about corporate responsibility, we need to take it to another level. So no longer should we provide $1,000,000 to this theater where the CEO and his wife, because that’s usually how it is, are going to go enjoy this theater. So we’ll give them $1,000,000 so we can put our name on that stage. Meanwhile, an equivalent theater, where there is great local art and talent, we’re given $10,000. So from a CSR standpoint, we need to ensure that when we’re investing we’re investing, and not just doing press release impact making.
And so by us helping to make the business case, we will help the c-suite understand the importance of addressing these issues. Because if not now when it’s going to be, it’s already too late. Because people are really surprised by a notion of Juneteenth, which is something I discovered many years ago when I came to the US. And I’m thinking if people are still being surprised by these things, it means that we really don’t know each other as neighbors or as fellow Americans. And until we address those issues, we’ll continue to have issues. And that’s why it’s important, and I call on like even the University of Minnesota to finally help have conversations around truth and reconciliation, so we can understand truly who we are as a nation.
That’s where we can even have the conversation about cultural reparation and we’re not talking about, Oh, let’s give them money for this or that, even though that was already done to the slave masters. But nonetheless, I’m talking about cultural reparation to figure out how we rewrite our story together as humanity.
Thank you Tomme, and I want to be very respectful of everyone’s time today. To reiterate, this program is being recorded. You will receive an email from Sunrise Banks and the forum on workplace inclusion thanking you for being with us today. And we know that many of your colleagues could join you due to all the things that are happening right now. Please share this recording with them after you receive the link. We’ve also had to last count nearly 40 questions in the chat. I applaud the nearly 800 of you who registered to be with us today, and all of you who were brave enough to ask a question. Sincere apologies for not being able to get to every question, but these three panelists are public figures, look them up, write them directly. And sorry guys, I you know needed to put that out there. Hopefully your inboxes won’t be too inundated. But as you can see, there were amazing practitioners in this work. They’re doing it every day. We’re getting lots of messages, thanking people for the thoughtfulness of all of you.
To that end, I want us to start winding down. We still have some more content for you all. But let’s wind down with some final thoughts from each of you. And it may be in the form of a really strong tip. And I always like to add a fun fact so these brainiacs also have personalities and a lot of fun and refresh time in their lives. We’ll start with Athena and my favorite fun fact about her is that she’s teaching her seven-year-old how to play poker.
Yes, it’s true, she has a terrible poker face, but it’s been fun and rewarding during the pandemic to really get into some card playing. So now she can do poker, blackjack. She’s got a number of skills under her belt, so we’re looking to the future. I guess for my one concrete skill or tip that I would give to folks is to really be purposeful about what you’re doing. And I want people to think through what it is they want to get out of something, like what their goal is. And it doesn’t have to be everything. That’s my concern, is that folks are going to look at this and say, “If I can’t get to total equity, I’m not going to do anything.” This is too stressful, I can’t deal with it. No, Choose something, focus on it, create a plan and execute that plan.
And what I tell folks all the time is that if it doesn’t work out, if you don’t see the results that you want to, that’s OK. You can try again. This isn’t a test. This isn’t a situation where you’re in trouble because it didn’t work out. I want folks to take risks on this topic. I want them to try new things, because we clearly don’t have all the answers but we need everybody thinking about this in order to get to where we want to be. So that’s my number one takeaway.
I do have some documents that we have that are published on the MSBA website. Especially the nudge sheet, which we have created and we have people look at it before they do interviews. So it’s really just to nudge people in the right direction when they are doing interviews to remind them about implicit biases that they might hold. And hopefully help them remember those biases when they’re in that interview, so that they don’t make those sorts of snap judgments about people. And one thing that I like to do when I do training, is I always admit some biases that I have or mistakes that I’ve made. Because I think it’s important to acknowledge that none of us are perfect and that we all need reminders. So one of the ones that I have on my personal nudge sheet that I’ve edited for myself, is a reminder that just because a woman has a high voice, doesn’t mean that she is not qualified.
I have noticed that I have a bias when somebody has a higher voice. And I have no idea why that is, but I know that that’s something that I tend to think negative thoughts about. And so it’s a reminder to me that that’s not the case and that you need to make a decision based on the facts that are in front of you and not based on your weird biases. So that would be my advice. Just being, keep chugging along and make concrete plans for what you want to do, and just try to execute on them. It’s not rocket science, unfortunately.
Thank you, Athena. For final thoughts we’ll go to Michael. A favorite quote of mine that Michael shared with me: “Millions of microorganisms within nature somehow find a way to thrive.” And I think that speaks volumes about who you are, and that you’ve noticed that, Michael. What are your final thoughts for us today?
Thank you, and that thought actually has to be credited to one of my mentors, professor Sun Ang, who talks about cultural intelligence. Because she looks at biodiversity as a way that microcosms and biodiversity have found a way to coexist in a way that humankind has found extremely difficult. I want us to, I think, focus back on where we started, which is on people. And remembering that the harsh ways this nation in particular has interacted with each other in the last four years in particular, we can definitely do better. And when it comes to people, and maybe connecting it to the earlier question of our inability to force C-Suites that are resistant. I just want to invite anybody that’s resistant to just take five minutes, maybe 10 minutes, 15, and you’ll find that an hour passes really quickly to listen. Listen actively, listen with intention to people, your employees, your staff, your co-workers, because when we do that you will hear stories that are just so poignant, that are so filled with so much hurt. And I hope our human nature then feels compelled.
So the practical thing I recommend is actually several. It’s about cultural empathy. And I know that doesn’t come easily. How do we develop an interest in others? Truly interested, without judgment, without prejudice. So that we believe that together we can build a better community that we all live in. I will end by saying, I’ve been fortunate I think in my counseling and my teacher education, experiences to have had thousands of individuals. I’ve had the opportunity to offer lenses for which they can be successful as counselors, where they can work effectively in diverse classrooms. Where they can help every child see the opportunities, the educational successes, that is possible.
And I share that because it has been full of challenges. When you see the raw biases, unconscious and conscious, that show up. But I’ve also experienced the hope in lives and minds and hearts that have changed. So that it actually shows up in the actions and the behaviors of people. That I believe will contribute to what this panel is about racial equity.
Tomme, a wonderful thing about your family is you and your wife named your now four-year-old Genesis. That says a lot. Really quickly some final thoughts from you.
Yes, real quickly, yes. I would call on everybody again to know that you are an instrument of liberation. Your predecessors in your seat created of barriers. Now it is your turn to kick those down. When we talk about when we lift up a woman, we lift up our village. When we lift up the African-Americans and the work that they’ve done to build this country, is when we lift up this nation. We have no excuses anymore. The revolution will not be televised. The world is changing and it is up to us to create that change. We have the resources, we have the know-how, we have the willpower to make this the best opportunity for humanity, to be an instrument of liberation. One love.
One love. And I want to thank all of our fabulous panelists today. Reach out to them separately. This recording will be sent to you, along with some other material, so thank you for signing up. Please share the materials, the link with your colleagues, your friends, your family. That neighbor down the street who just doesn’t get you, send to them this link. Life is as simple or as difficult as we make it. And certainly, these are complex topics, but we call you to action to be the best micro in our macro human existence.