The Wonder Dome

#35 Diversity is All of Us (with Di Ciruolo)

December 08, 2020 Andy Cahill / Di Ciruolo Episode 35
The Wonder Dome
#35 Diversity is All of Us (with Di Ciruolo)
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The Wonder Dome
#35 Diversity is All of Us (with Di Ciruolo)
Dec 08, 2020 Episode 35
Andy Cahill / Di Ciruolo

My guest today is Di Ciruolo. She's a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility consultant with an incredibly inspiring personal story. She helps individuals and organizations look deeply at the cultures they're creating and how to shift those cultures towards a place where true diversity becomes possible. 

She's the author of the forthcoming book Ally Up, which is designed to go deeper into her process and methodology for helping individuals and organizations become allies for a more diverse and inclusive culture. Di's life and work stand as a deep and heartfelt commitment towards making the world better for people who have been on the receiving end of the violence and brutality that our society enacts onto too many of us.

Sounds pretty heavy, right? But Di is able to engage with it all from a place of humor and love. That's what struck me most about this conversation: the "both/and." This is both really heavy, and we are capable of living with the same compassion, joy, and love that Di brings to the world. We don't have to choose.

This conversation is for anyone who has the privilege of being identified as white in our society and who is ready to do more as an ally for people of color. I hope that it opens possibilities for where we go next and how we might get there together.

The Wonder Dome Newsletter http://bit.ly/3dTfdPi
Follow Andy on Twitter http://twitter.com/cahillaguerilla
Like us on Facebook http://facebook.com/mindfulcreative.coach

EPISODE #35 NOTES
Ally Up by Di Ciruolo
jambb.com
DiCiruolo.com

Connect with Di on linkedin.com/in/di-ciruolo-she-her-ella-🏳️‍🌈-43259556

Show Notes Transcript

My guest today is Di Ciruolo. She's a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility consultant with an incredibly inspiring personal story. She helps individuals and organizations look deeply at the cultures they're creating and how to shift those cultures towards a place where true diversity becomes possible. 

She's the author of the forthcoming book Ally Up, which is designed to go deeper into her process and methodology for helping individuals and organizations become allies for a more diverse and inclusive culture. Di's life and work stand as a deep and heartfelt commitment towards making the world better for people who have been on the receiving end of the violence and brutality that our society enacts onto too many of us.

Sounds pretty heavy, right? But Di is able to engage with it all from a place of humor and love. That's what struck me most about this conversation: the "both/and." This is both really heavy, and we are capable of living with the same compassion, joy, and love that Di brings to the world. We don't have to choose.

This conversation is for anyone who has the privilege of being identified as white in our society and who is ready to do more as an ally for people of color. I hope that it opens possibilities for where we go next and how we might get there together.

The Wonder Dome Newsletter http://bit.ly/3dTfdPi
Follow Andy on Twitter http://twitter.com/cahillaguerilla
Like us on Facebook http://facebook.com/mindfulcreative.coach

EPISODE #35 NOTES
Ally Up by Di Ciruolo
jambb.com
DiCiruolo.com

Connect with Di on linkedin.com/in/di-ciruolo-she-her-ella-🏳️‍🌈-43259556

Andy:

My name is Andy. I help people live life on purpose. This podcast explores the mystery, beauty and complexity of life through conversations with an array of incredible practitioners, all of them working at the edge of what's possible. This is a place for big dreams, bold creativity, and fierce hope. Welcome to the Wonder Dome. If you're inspired by this conversation, and you'd like to see it reach more people, you can help the Wonder Dome take flight by sharing it with friends and colleagues, subscribing, giving us a high star rating, and best of all, leaving a glowing review. If you'd like to go even further, consider becoming a monthly supporter. You'll help me keep the lights on and support a wide range of charitable causes. You can learn more at MindfulCreative.coach. Thanks in advance for helping us inspire the world. My guest today is Di Ciruolo. Di is the head of Inclusion and Diversity at JAM, a crowdfunding platform designed specifically for musicians. And she's also a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility consultant who helps individuals and organizations really look deeply at the cultures they're making, the cultures they're creating, and how to shift those cultures towards a place where true diversity becomes possible. She's the author of the forthcoming book Ally Up, which is designed to go deeper into her process and methodology for helping individuals and organizations become allies for more diverse and inclusive culture. And her own journey through the foster care system of Massachusetts, and the places that took her to, and the challenges she had to face is one of a deep and heartfelt commitment towards making the world better for people who have been on the receiving end of the violence and brutality that our society enacts onto many of us. And that sounds pretty heavy, right? But she's also incredibly willing and able to engage with that from a place of humor and love. And that's what I love the most about this conversation, the "both and." This is both really heavy, and we have to live with compassion and love that Di brings to this work. I'm really excited for you to get a taste of that today. I know that speaking for myself, this journey towards being a white man in a world where that hat comes with all sorts of privileges and benefits, and also all sorts of blind spots. She really helped me lean into that conversation with a lot of fun and playfulness and a sense of what it is to change and grow, without feeling like I have to destroy who I am in the process. So if you have any inkling like you want to do more as an ally, for people of color in this particular moment in our collective history, then this conversation is for you. And even if you're like Nah, that's not for me, then this conversation is definitely for you. So I hope that it resonates. I hope that it opens possibilities for where we go next, for where you go next, and where we go next collectively. It was really a joy and a lot of fun. So let's get settled in and hear what Di has for us. Hi, Di Welcome to the Wonder dome.

Di:

Andy, how are you today?

Andy:

I'm doing really well. It's nice to get grounded in with you, kicking off this- What is it Tuesday, this lovely Tuesday morning in October?

Di:

Yes, it is Tuesday. Oh my goodness, one more Tuesday.

Andy:

So there's so much we could talk about. And you and I have now had the chance to share space a few times, thanks to our mutual friends and ally and partner, Christina Frei, who by the way I just interviewed yesterday for the show, which was awesome.

Di:

Yeah, yeah.

Andy:

She's really special.

Di:

She is, she's really awesome.

Andy:

But you are too, which is why I invited you on the show. And you actually said something that really made me lean forward before we started recording and I thought maybe we could start there. And you said, You said that you try and be, I might Mangle this a little bit. So tell me if I'm not getting it right, but that you try and be who you needed when you were a child.

Di:

Yes, that's exactly true.

Andy:

Yes. so say more about that.

Di:

Yeah. As you know from previous discussions with me, I came up in foster Care in Massachusetts, and not the good kind of foster care that people imagine from ABC shows, but like the bad kind of foster care, unfortunately. So when I was coming up, I didn't see people like me. I didn't see people like me aspiring to do the things I wanted to do, to having the dreams I wanted to have. I always thought adults tried to make me smaller. Be grateful, things can be worse for you, you know. This is not, this is not for you to want. This is not for you to hope. This is not for you to dream. You need to survive, you need to worry about surviving. And I just never fit into those boxes. And they always made me feel like I was you know, bursting at the seams. Until I got to a place where I was like, Okay, I can step out of this. I can just be who I'm supposed to be without everybody else's understanding of how things are supposed to happen for me. So yes, every single day, every time I do something like this, every time I speak to someone outside my own family who's tired of hearing me talk, I'm sure, I try to be exactly who I needed to see out in the world. And that's why I do this stuff to make sure that someone, somewhere some little person has somebody to say, Okay, I can do this, I can get through this, I can have dreams. So.

Andy:

I'm so touched by that. And it strikes me that that is a really powerful force for purpose. And, like, tell me a little bit more about what it's like to anchor in that in your everyday work and your everyday life to really say like, somewhere, some little person might need to hear exactly what I have to say. And I didn't get to hear that

Di:

Some little person or some big person or some person that's still searching. You know, we're all at different levels, we're all at different levels of life. So it's not even just little people for me, but definitely always little people, as a mom, I think about it a lot. But to be anchored in the fact that you have come from a place, like where I came from, it gives me this sense of, it gives me this sense of power, that I can never go back there again. I don't need anybody else. Therefore, I don't need anybody else for my survival. Therefore, every relationship that comes to me, every person that comes to me, everything that comes to me, is all just, you know, meant to grow me as a person, you know. And that's, that is- that sense of power, that sense of self has helped me get to where I am today, just knowing that I can always you know, I can always buy enough food. I can always likethose basic, basic things that we take for granted as human beings. Those were very real things for me. So every day, I know that I've got enough food in my cabinet. I've got enough money in my bank. I've got enough clothing on my back. I can take care of my kids. Everything else is gravy, right? This is so much more than I ever anticipated for myself. So this is almost more than I dared to dream. So every single day that I can afford to buy like peanut butter and jelly separately. I'm just I'm delighted to be alive, I guess.

Andy:

Yeah. Yeah,I felt that delight, even before I knew that story in our other other spaces that we've shared. But if it's okay, I'd maybe like to look a little bit more at that journey. Because you- would that be alright?

Di:

Of course. Please, I'd be happy to. What would you like to hear about? Since I know the story.

Andy:

Yeah, I'm just really drawn to- there's two things you said that I'm drawn to. One was that, it sounds like there is some part of you even as a child who recognized that you didn't fit in the boxes that people kept trying to put you in.

Di:

Yes.

Andy:

And we could maybe look at that. And then the other thing I heard you say is that there came a point when you realized that you had- Like you It sounds like you got some clarity on who you really were. So it was like first there was the awareness that the boxes you were trying to be put in weren't right. And then there was another moment or perhaps an arc of moments where you started to really see what was the space you belonged to. And I just wonder if you could unpack that for us a bit more?

Di:

Yeah, sure. I can try. So I would definitely say it was not one moment in particular, so much as many moments over my life, where I would have someone usually a person with some authority over me letting me know that I was shining too bright, letting me know that I was getting too big, letting me know that I was wanting too much. And it occurred to me, much later than I would like to admit, that people don't really- How do we want to say this? And I think I've said this to you before, But it's really important to remember that if somebody tells you you can't do something, it's not because you can't do something, it's because they don't think they can do it. And they are putting that on you. So I found myself, especially in the Massachusetts foster care system surrounded by very small people. So I went on to relationships with very small people. And then when you start kind of growing out of that, that's not what people want for you, when they love you. That's not what people want for you when they are in relationships with you. They want you to grow as big as you can, and shine as bright as you can. And all of that toxicity I sort of carried with me, over over, you know, most of the years of my life. Until each time, I would realize and each time I walked away from something, I would realize it was because I had fallen into that pattern, again, of letting people tell me how big I could be, how much I could shine, how much I could do. And I'll be very honest, I let the rage drive me, the rage of being told what I can't do. I mean, it's probably not therapeutically great. But I am very, very much driven by the need to show that I can. To show other people that they can, to show other people that there's more that they could do beyond what they've set for themselves.

Andy:

Hmm, yeah. So it sounds like you've always had a part of yourself that if someone said, No, you're like, I'm gonna prove you wrong.

Di:

And I have a daughter exactly like that now. I mean, I know it comes to- It came to me naturally is all I can say about that, because I have a three year old that is exactly in that place. So yeah, that's exactly true. Yes. If somebody tells me, you can't do this, I don't think you can. I'm like, I am definitely going to do this. I wasn't going that direction. But now I will die on that hill. So

Andy:

Oh that's awesome. I'm imagining kind of a funny scenario where your partner or even your kids can be like, Oh, I know how to motivate mom to do stuff.

Di:

I'm just gonna say my partner Jay absolutely uses that against me. Sometimes I'm aware of it, but not always. Not always. I'll be honest.

Andy:

Yeah. So there's so much I want to ask about. But I guess one thing I'm tuning into, and this is maybe saying more about my orientation than yours. I don't want to feel like I have any expectation around this question. But I'm just, I'm just noticing that- I had a mentor for many years, who always said hurt people, hurt people. Right? And it sort of feel like small people want to make small people. But like those small people that were doing unto you, there is some sense, like how did they end up with that smallness? And you can start to just trace back this chain of- So I just wonder how do you relate to- How are you relating to that sort of generational passing on of smallness and hurtness that we all in some ways are inheriting? It just sounds like you've got a really distilled intense version of that, because of your upbringing. And I just wonder how you're relating to that now and how you're working with it now?

Di:

Well, I would say, you know, it damaged me a lot as a child, of course, you know. I had my birth parents who weren't able to take care of me, you know. And I had my, my birth father kind of left. He was dealing with some emotional and mental issues. And then my birth mother went on to have several very dangerous boyfriends. And as you look back at that, as an adult, when I look back at that, I can see where my birth father stuff comes from. I can see where my birth mother stuff comes from. I can see why they were unable to stop that progression from being you know, from poisoning me. When I went into foster care. You can see like my foster father, he was an abusive alcoholic. His family were abusive alcoholics. My foster mother, she was abusive and racist and awful. And her family- like you can just see the lineage and the lines as an adult when you're outside of it. But when you're inside of it, you think this is about you. You think this is about your worth, your value, you brought this on yourself, because that's those are the messages you're receiving. That's what you're being told, but as an adult, I mean, and I cannot recommend therapy enough for everyone listening I really can't. But as an adult, you can definitely look at that and say I know exactly where that came from. It stops with me. So this is not going any farther. And I worried when I was thinking about having kids. What if, what if it's just crouching inside me? What if it's just waiting for an appropriate situation? What if it's, you know, and of course, that's not the case. It's not something that's just hiding in there, Unless you I mean, unless you're not willing to deal with it, and then it very much might be. But for my purposes, I mean, I just, it was exactly the opposite for me. I felt like the way I felt about my children, I suddenly, in those moments, when I became a mother felt so much less forgiving than ever I had about, you know, people who had failed to love or take care of me. Suddenly, I was like, oh, wow, you guys are- You guys got some- Like, when I didn't have kids, I was like, Well, you know, they came from a long line of abusers. And now that I have kids, I'm like, you need to stay away from my vicinity, or bad things are gonna happen, you know. Like, I'm much less, much less forgiving.

Andy:

Yeah, I'm hearing like, there's a way in which you have a wider and deeper perspective on that history and lineage, so you can understand it, and even have compassion for it. But you also are really clear on and that doesn't make it safe or right. And I know, and I know how to create the right boundaries around that to keep Myself and my kids from that lineage.

Di:

That's exactly right. So you cannot control what happened before you. You can't stop it from happening to people after you. And that's, I mean, that's crucially important for basically everything. Like, a lot of systems exist in the world that didn't start with me, but I am going to, they are going to stop with me. So that drives me too. That drives me too. That, you know, that's done. I'm not participating in that. This is over. Yeah. So

Andy:

So we were also talking about before we started, this, this theme of fierce hope that helped give birth to this show. And, and I'm really encountering, like a version of that fierce hope in you. This sense of like, it's not about like, oh, everything's gonna be great if I just think positively and let go of my past. It's like, No, I'm gonna take a stand. Because I believe in a better future for myself and my kids. And this is what it looks like.

Di:

This is work. It's work, too. It's work to have hope. It's work to be fierce. It's, it's not just going to happen, nothing is just going to happen. We need to be working for what we want the world that we live in, the world our children live in to look like. The idea that, Oh, this is just the way it is, we've passed it down. I'm not you know, the next generation will fix it. I don't feel that way. I feel like everything is my responsibility. And it's surrounding me and if I can impact it, I'm going to. I know a lot of people right now are like, I'm protecting my peace, and I'm happy for them. And I'm happy that they can get there. I can't. I was born to fight. And that's just, that's just all I'm able to do in these situations.

Andy:

Mm hmm. Thank you for sharing that, Di, really.

Di:

My pleasure. My pleasure. And I hope if anybody was like me, and hears that, fight. Fight, you're worth it. You're worth it, and it gets better.

Andy:

Mm hmm. Yeah. I really hope that, I really hope that in the spirit of what you shared, that you're showing up, in the way that you needed someone to show up for you, I really hope that that ripples out. And I trust that it will. I want to- I'm feeling called to connect the dots between what we're talking about, which is anchored in your past, but really showing up and how you who you are in the present. And this commitment that you have both professionally and personally, around eradicating racism and making a more just and equitable place for every human on this planet. And, and the fact that you're really leaning into work around racial justice and diversity and equity and inclusion.

Di:

Yes, yep. You can definitely make that connection. It's very, very clear if people know where I came from, how I got here. If, you know, if people don't know, sometimes I get asked, you know, what are you doing here? Why are you here in this fight, you know, very clearly light skinned lady? So, I do have that conversation quite a bit. But on the other hand, if you see where I came from, you can see that this has been a fight going on my entire life to make sure everybody has a seat at the table, to make sure that we're having these conversations, to not allow our past to dictate our futures. So yeah, no, this is who I've always been. So, you know, I'm psyched that there's a job that, you know, that just allows me to be me, you know, I think that's tremendous.

Andy:

Yeah, yeah. What a gift, that just as an aside, what a gift. That's a rare thing in our hyper productive oriented societies, outcomes oriented society to just actually find work that lets you be you. It's really cool.

Di:

I would have been having these conversations anyway. Basically, this is already what I'm the most passionate about, like, now you're gonna pay me to be the most passionate person in the room. Okay. I got that. Yeah.

Andy:

Yeah, there's one thing you're you're modeling right now that I want to underline, which is, you know, you just honoring that when people encounter you, or when any of us encounter anyone. We are, of course, on some level encountering this whole history that the person brings with them. But actually, for the most part, we're just kind of encountering our projection of who they are based on how they look. And that's just like, that bias is baked in. And so people were like, hey, okay, light skinned lady, like, why are you worried about racial justice, right? Like, that's, I want to underline that you're like, yeah, cool, I can have that conversation. And then that's a powerful stance to say, like, I totally get why you're asking me that. And I'm not going-

Di:

Well, two answers, right? Firstly, when we encounter someone for the first time, we're not encountering mostly anything about them. We're encountering what we think about the things we see. So that's not really the same thing as encountering what that person is, in that moment. That's your version of them. That's your lens, which is important to remember. However, to answer that question, honestly, my birth father is a brown skinned Hispanic man. My mother, my birth mother, is a very, very light Irish woman. This is this is how that looks, you know, typically. It does not mean, and I've had to have many, many conversations about my identity, for those reasons. And when I was coming up in foster care, all of my paperwork said Hispanic on it. And the reason for that, for folks who don't know, Hispanic is not a race, Hispanic, just in case you don't know that. Latinx is not a race. This is a culture, this is a, this is, you know, people can be Hispanic or Latinx very, very light skinned. There are very, very dark skinned Hispanic and Latinx people. So our awareness of how a person should look with those identities are very much based in what we see in media representations, and not actually where they are, in terms of what, you know- They're not based in reality. So, you know, I do end up having that conversation quite a bit. But it also makes me sort of question my identity quite a bit, because I have to be able to sort of walk both sides, because I neither want to say, I neither want to say I don't benefit from white privilege, which I very clearly do. And I don't want to say, I'm entirely a white woman, because I don't want to lose any of that. I don't want to lose any of that which had already been taken for me, and is really taken for me in foster care, and is really so important to, you know, who I would become. So that's those two pieces. And I know I said only two things, but it's actually, I'm going to make it three. But also, it's important to ask who has the microphone when we're having these conversations. Whose perspectives are being centered when we have these conversations. So now, people of color, when I talk to them, they recognize pretty early on who I am. And that's and I've never had a person of color say you don't belong in this conversation. The only people who ever tell me I don't belong in this conversation are people who present as white. So that's always been very interesting to me. Because it lets me know that they don't feel like they have a place in this conversation. They don't feel like they have a responsibility in this conversation. It's not that they don't feel that I do, it's that they don't feel that they do. And Andy, I'm here to tell you today that literally they do. As people who benefit from systems of oppression, they also have a responsibility to help unmake these systems. So three part answer to your very easy question there.

Andy:

Love it. I love it. There's an analogy here. There's something about the sort of small people making small people. Like there's a way in which the idea of whiteness, which we could dig into the history of and how it emerged, was explicitly designed to hurt, to shrink, to make, to create boundaries between certain people.

Di:

Of course.

Andy:

And it just seems to me that you because of your commitments, because of your upbringing, because of your awareness of your identity, and also the way people meet what they think about who you are the first time they meet you. Like, there's just all this stuff happening, right at the moment that you step into these conversations. It strikes me that you're sitting in a really unique position to say to someone like me, who presents in this way, as a white guy, and maybe who hasn't had any of these conversations to actually say, when I say Why are you talking about this stuff? You can actually bring me in, in a certain way, because of all of my baggage that perhaps someone else isn't equipped to. That's an instinct I'm having, is that right?

Di:

Absolutely true, I regularly experienced the feeling that I am in fact, a Trojan horse being brought as the comfortable looking woman into these businesses to have these conversations with folks. And then, too soon, they realized that they have, you know, made a mistake in terms of my safety and comfort. But yeah, absolutely. And that's absolutely a responsibility I take seriously. I have friends, especially women of color, who will say to me, this is your responsibility, because we aren't allowed in the room. We aren't allowed to come into these meetings, to have these conversations. You have to be educated, you have to know. You have to teach other people who look like you who are invited to these meetings, who are invited in the room, what they need to do, what they need to say, what they need to be looking for, to make sure that the door eventually opens to us. And I'm like, I take that so seriously, because who else was left out of these conversations when their future was being determined? Me. So I literally like, it's not even just like an intellectual thing for me. It's like who I am in my heart. So yes, every single time that I am invited to speak or I'm invited to talk, I am always making sure that there are other opportunities being presented to other people who don't look like me. You know, whenever and wherever possible. I've never sat on an all white person panel. Like, even if I am half Hispanic, I've never ever been like, Oh, well, I'm half Hispanic, so I don't count as a white person. So everybody else you can all be white. You know, it's crucial that we understand whose voices are being heard. Who's got the mic, who's got the platform, when we have these conversations, but it doesn't mean we don't have work to do, if that makes sense.

Andy:

Oh, yeah. It does to me. Yeah. I'm really drawn. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in that moment where someone who hired you realizes like, Oh, shit. She's not who we- Our first impression was not quite right here. Yeah, so tell me more about that moment. I imagine that can be disruptive, uncomfortable, upsetting, like, there's probably lots going on there.

Di:

It can be. There are a lot of people who think of themselves as progressive, who think of themselves as allies. And it's important to- and that can be just as toxic as people who don't realize that there's anything going on, that there aren't systems of oppression that we all deal in every day. Because both people are blind to their roles in propping this stuff up. So sometimes I will run into people who call themselves allies that are very much anything but, and I would say that sincerely those are the hardest conversations, because those are the people whose identities you are questioning, right? Those are the people who at their core, feel like they're doing everything they can do. Or something I hear a lot of, I'm a good person, why isn't that enough? It's like, why aren't they thanking me? Why aren't they? And it's like, okay, so much toxicity at a time. So, yes, when I enter a room, and I start having these conversations, it can be jarring. But it's always important. And it's hard. It's hard fought. I guess I would say that people kind of shift, like whereas before they might have been leaning forward to listen to me talk. Now they're leaning backward, and suddenly their arms are slowly crossing around their chest. You can sort of see all the going into protective mode, you know, in conversation.

Andy:

How do you- So you wouldn't be able to stay in the business you're in if you couldn't keep those people in the game and keep yourself in the game. So someone starts to lean back, maybe the majority of your crowd starts lean back, or maybe someone influential in the space starts to lean back and cross their arms.

Di:

All the time.

Andy:

Yeah. How are you, internally, How are you responding to that so that you- You know, because I could imagine lots of us, we're so wired for acceptance that anytime someone gives us body signal that's ambivalence or unreadable, that can really trigger our defenses. So how do you stay open and focused when that happens? And then how do you bring them back? Like how do you get them to uncross their arms and lean forward again?

Di:

So in my mind, I'm always calculating, right? In my mind, I'm constantly calculating. So I'm thinking, Oh, that's Plan A gone now we're on Plan B, you know. And so but the way that I bring folks back is, I track back to what put them in the state that they felt like they needed to pull away and find what's at the root of that. If you've been doing this as long as I have, you can see where the kernel is that sort of pulled them back. And you can address that for them. So sometimes I will, for example, use and I hate this language, but it's absolutely true. The business case for why diversity matters, why inclusion matters. And I will give examples of real companies that have had these issues and just sort of pull them back into the conversation. You know, I'll give the YouTube example where basically YouTube did not, when they first started all of their videos, and sorry, excuse me, 10% of their videos were being uploaded upside down. And they couldn't figure out why this was happening. And they were just like, it's not a bug. It's not a glitch, what's happening? And it turned out that people who are left handed, were holding their phones a different way than people who are right handed. So 10% of their videos in the early days were being uploaded upside down. And they couldn't figure it- Their entirely right handed team couldn't figure out what. And it's a very, very simple case study. And it doesn't really assign blame. It's not really about race. But it definitely demonstrates that if you are not thinking about diversity and inclusion, you are going to be out innovated by people who are. So I kind of bring that back to look, this is not even just good. This is also good business. And if you're not thinking about it, trust me someone else is. If you don't think you can be out innovated, I'd like to introduce you to blockbuster, you know. Like I will go full, I will go full, you know, full business, full let's talk about it. Let's do case studies. Let's talk about the science. And I love the science. So I'll just lean into it. I have to do it all the time. I'll be honest. Yeah, yeah, I just lean in, I lean into the science, I lean into the science.

Andy:

So you start speaking their language. You start sort of meeting them where they are in terms of what they care about. But like there's a shadow. I sense that there's sort of a an underside or a shadow side to that approach in that at some point- How can I put this? Let's say I run a business, and I buy in and I'm like, you're right. We are not diverse enough. And that's hurting our bottom line. And that's like, pretty material motivation for me. And so I say, Yep, I'm going to make this. I'm going to shift this. At some point in that process, I suspect I'm actually really going to have to look at what I actually mean, when I say diversity versus what you mean, and what we really mean when we say diversity. Because there's sort of a risk of trying to get to the most pragmatic shortcut to that solution, as opposed to the really true, rich, diverse variable. Yeah.

Di:

Of course, that's absolutely always the case. Well, not always, I'll be like, it's the case, often. It's the case often that they will try to end road around it. And it usually goes into hiring, oh, we just need to hire more people of color. It's never hiring. It's never hiring. That's not the problem. I mean, even if you wanted to pay me 11 jillion dollars to keep finding new people of color, they're going to leave immediately, because your culture is crap. Your culture is toxic. And that's why people are leaving. You know, I work in tech. So we always think of, you know, and this is a very famous quote from, you know, the book, Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In, where we think about, you know, how women need to be doing more and getting seats at the table and be asking for more. But as a, you know, a counterpoint to that we think of women in tech as canaries in a coal mine. And we keep telling these canaries to lean in and be like lean in canary, even though you're dying in the coal mine. And when the canary dies, there seems to be this idea that we just need to get more canaries rather than deal with the toxicity in the environment. So it's almost never, it's almost never hiring. Hiring isn't the issue. The toxicity in the environment is the issue. I could bring in as many new hires as you want. They'd all leave. So what's actually more crucial is leadership, how leadership thinks about inclusion, and how that gets translated into the culture of a team. It's almost never hiring. Hiring is actually the last step when we talk about diversity and inclusion. But Yeah, they oftentimes will try to end road and go directly to hiring, of course. But I don't work with teams that I don't feel like share my vision for where they need to go. Because I don't like the idea of somebody stamping my name on bad work. It really matters to me that they commit all the way with me or they go find someone else. It's pretty straightforward. Plenty of work out there, you know?

Andy:

Yeah. When they commit, part of me is really curious about the people who refuse to come in, but like, I can sort of see there's a way in which I just want to, like, be a spectator in that.

Di:

Everyone.

Andy:

Yeah, but like when they go shit. Wow. Because I mean, toxicity is, and maybe you don't use this language. But that's like kind of a harsh blow to the ego to realize that how you're showing up and how you're asking other people to show up, is at best, perpetuating the status quo, which is like pretty mediocre, and at worst, really harming people. And, you think you're a good person, right? And so you're like, really starting to be like, yo, you need to look at this. And I imagined that that can be really hard for people to like, shoulder the truth that they have contributed to or made choices that have harmed other people and made their culture unsafe, and unproductive, and un motivating.

Di:

Of course, but you know, you just use a little bit of human psychology, unfortunately, which is me saying, Andy, I know that you're an ally, I know that you care about this stuff. So as you know, this is really the most important thing. And who's going to challenge me at that point? No one, everybody's going to be like, yes, I'm an ally. I care about this, you know, let's agree. And then I have, I have allies in having these conversations. So it's always about finding folks who already think that they're good people. And they are, and then giving them the proper tools to get the work done. It's never me coming into a company and saying, All right, all y'all suck. And you're terrible people, your workplace is toxic. That's why you can't hire anybody. It's always so much smoother than that. It's a very practiced. It's a very practiced conversation that I have with folks. Now. That being said, that's on the dealing with white folks, you know, side. Dealing with people of color is a very different situation. Because when I walk into the room, suddenly, it's like, Oh, you've got to be kidding me. And I recognize that, and I feel that and I'm just like, let me Please show you that I can be trusted, that I know what I'm doing. And that the way that I work matters. We are going to change things. And if we can't, you are welcome to shout it from the rooftops that I'm terrible at my job. And just that chance, after all of the times that they have probably been burned in the past means so so much to me, that I carry that weight in all the work that I do. So I mean, I recognize it, I have to address it, I have to talk about it. And I have to show up the way- I have to put my money where my mouth is 100% of the time. Yeah.

Andy:

When you describe that, so one thing I've- I love that. And I love that distinction. And one thing I've experienced which now there there are many names and useful names for like, this phrase of white fragility, right is one way we might describe. And of course, some some people, white people hear that word. They're like, I'm not fragile, right? Right. So there's sort of just- what am I trying to say here? There's a way in which I really sense that you trust yourself. And that trust in yourself allows you to hold steady, when either your mostly white audience is like leaning back in their chair and being like, what is she trying to say about us? Or you're mostly people of color audiences saying like, look at this light skinned lady, what does she have for us? Right? How can we trust her? It's just sort of like, You're grounded enough. You're not fragile. Like there's a sort of solidity and that just seems like a really fucking awesome skill, mindset, way of being to develop. And like the thing is, I just want- My wish, if I had a wish, or a fierce hope for myself and all of my white friends is to actually see that all of us, in our own way, are capable of that level of solidity. That we can with humility and vulnerability say, like if I'm a CEO, like, I just want to come to you and let you know, I realized that our culture is really unhealthy. And I'm willing and I'm committed to finding a new way, and I don't know what that looks like. And I want and I need you to come with me on this journey. Like that's not weakness that's actually solidity. That's actually strength. And you're modeling that. And I just want to hear you talk more about that.

Di:

Literally the point. Yes. So that's literally the point. Thank you for underlining that. That's literally the point. So, me showing up, the way I show up, I hope demonstrates to other people who look like me how to show up the way I show up. And that's, I hope to be seen as somebody doing the work. I hope to be seen as somebody who's in these rooms, having these conversations, showing up in an authentic way, but showing up in such a way that I am being real with folks. And not sugarcoating anything and not letting anybody off the hook. And I'm hoping that by demonstrating how to have these hard conversations, what the science is, what the information is, what the examples are, that it shows other people that they absolutely have a role to play in dismantling systems of oppression. And if people can see that, if one person walks away, who looks light skinned, walks away and says I have work to do, that's literally everything for me. I don't even care. So like that's literally everything, I will stand mired in this for my life. So a few people can look at me and say I can do better. That's what matters. So,

Andy:

Yeah, there's this. I'm getting this like, really wonderful image of- Earlier when you were talking about seeing the lineage and then like drawing a line in the sand. Or maybe I'm almost imagining like the lineage like water, and you're just sort of creating like a basin. And it's like, okay, the water can flow here, but it's not flowing any further. And to do that for yourself, and your history is a gift. But then to say like we as a team are going to do that for our company. Or, we as a community are going to do that for a community. And that means that more of us need to just recognize that this is where we draw the line in the sand. We take ownership over the past, even though we weren't the ones who were there, when it happened. We just say we have to own it now, otherwise, our kids are going to get it. Right. And, and that doesn't mean- like, there's no moment where we have to say I'm a shitty person because of my past. I just say like, wow, we can do better. And if we all of us do better together, we could actually change this. This place could actually be more awesome. And we could actually reach a future where people from different cultures can not only communicate with each other, they can actually stand side by side with each other in our common humanity. Like how fun would that be?

Di:

Exactly. Having that vocabulary, having that- doing away with that white fragility, being able to put that down, not feeling like you have to participate in white solidarity or any of those things. Being able to say, I know how to have these conversations now. I know why they're important. It stops with me, I don't assign blame. There's no reason to assign blame. It doesn't make any sense. All I'm asking folks to do is see that there are systems of oppression, and that they have a responsibility in dismantling them. I don't assign blame. I don't say, You're the reason. I say this stops here. And here's how we move forward. Here's how we move forward. Because Science. So like, there's really not an argument to be had at a certain point in the conversation with me. So you know.

Andy:

Yeah. And what's cool about that invitation, actually, and maybe you're using a responsibility, which I really love and use with my clients a lot, but there's also- Even beyond responsibility there is- And maybe this is, quote, unquote, the business case for for responsibility. But like, there's actually way more fun and joy and connection. It's actually, when you take that stance and start to build that capacity to stand steady, Even when you're in a difficult conversation, life starts to become easier. You start to have more fun, you actually start to feel less afraid, like the scarcity mindset that we've all inherited starts to sort of lose its hold. And, and it's just like this wonderful surprise. I think that a lot of people are afraid of giving up, quote unquote giving up ground because it feels like a loss. They feel like Oh, if I start to change how things are now which like, by the way, if I'm honest, as a white guy, things are pretty good right now.

Di:

Yeah, things are going great.

Andy:

If I start to change how things are now that means I have to admit I'm a bad person. That means I have to give up my power, that means- like there's all these, even if I'm not conscious of them, there's all these reasons why I wouldn't change. But actually what you're inviting people to is like, No, actually, you're going to become stronger. You're going to become more flexible. You're going to start to have more fun. Your company's going to start making more money. You're going to like, you know, like all of these like really cool things open up. And you're not going to like, you're not going to catch on fire and explode if a person of color says like you're being really fragile right now.

Di:

That's the other thing, I remind people that they are safe in their bodies, so that if they have to receive feedback, it's not going to kill them. I've said a million times, I've been checked, so many like so, so many times by people of color, women of color, who feel that I am trustworthy enough to receive feedback on my behavior, on my personhood. And I can't imagine a greater statement of trust than I have come to you who I feel like are in maybe a position of some authority over my job, potentially, and I am bringing this to you. I try to receive my feedback in public wherever possible, so I can model how to receive feedback. It's so so crucial, not only that you get to do the fun side of the work, that you have to do the hard side of the work too. And never, ever, just never ever use failure, as a reason to keep you from doing something like this. Because everybody's going to fail, everybody is going to fall on their face. The purpose here is to fail forward, always be failing forward. So that's, I mean, don't let the fear of messing up stop you. Mess up all the time. Always mess up. That's how you get better.

Andy:

So could you take us into- I'm feeling, I feel like in the spirit of making that public for people listen`ing, as best as you're able, could you take us into a moment where you are on a public stage, and you received the kind of feedback that we're sort of describing generally. It might be nice to make that more specific, so people can hear that and feel that.

Di:

Sure. I was giving a talk a couple of weeks ago, which I felt like was going pretty well. I was the only person on the talk. And I had, basically this person came on to, these were all virtually by the way. Because it was two weeks ago, a person came on about halfway through my conversation. I had kind of given all of the information that I have sort of given to you over our talks. And she just like, at the very end of the conversation they were like anybody have any questions? It was like 50 seconds left. And she goes, why are you a white lady? And I was just like, oh, here we are, here we are again. And I was just like, Well, you know, like, you know, and like basically the moderator's like you have one minute and I'm like, perfect. Like I both want to address the fact that Thank you. Good question. You should be asking who you're getting your information from. But I also want to note that if you would listen to the previous, you know, 90 minutes of my conversation, I've talked quite a bit about this, but you know, surpassing all that, and then people messaged me afterward. They were like, why did you even answer her question? That was so cringy. I was like, it's fine. And let me be clear here, it was not a woman of color. It was a white woman. It's always a white woman who's asking, you know, what business I have here. And as I said before, it's always that they don't feel like they have any business. Not that I don't truly have any business. But obviously, I definitely think that it's important to be able to receive that feedback. And, you know, answer the question that everybody's asking themselves, if you haven't gotten to it already, I actually asked the moderator to ask, just in case it didn't come up, but it always comes up. So it's okay. You know. But yeah, the ability to receive feedback, even if it's about your identity, can be important sometimes in these conversations. However, I never feel like it's important to need to defend your identity. That's not what this is about. If somebody tells you because I've also had people be like, Oh, you don't look like a Hispanic person. And it's like, what does a Hispanic person look like? What do you think a Hispanic person looks like, other white guy? Like, okay, you know, like, all right, well, thanks for that. You know, I mean, I get all kinds of feedback. I get all kinds of feedback, and when I was in college, actually at Georgia State taking my racial studies classes. Georgia State had a program at the time, and I think they still do, where basically if you are over the age of 60, you can go to school for free. So I had lots of people in Atlanta who had like you know, marched with Dr. King. Amazing, amazing people just in my classes, checking us regularly about things that we thought were reality and I just, I remember one woman in particular just be like- sometimes she'd say something and I'd be like, is that necessarily true? But I realized, hmm, this is not my place to have anything to say on that. If she says that's true, that's true. Like I'm not about to question history from this woman. Not one bit. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, getting checked is just part of this work. Getting checked is part of this work, being able to receive feedback as part of this work. And as long as you are centered in who you are and why you're here, and you don't need to be here as a white Savior, then it's important that you stand strong in why you're here.

Andy:

Yeah. Mm hmm. I'm conscious of the fact that we only have a few minutes left. I think I want to-

Di:

That went fast.

Andy:

It went really fast. Yeah, this has been fun. I'm sort of sitting with this- One of the most common dividing lines that I see. And it might, it's not maybe the most common, but it is certainly a common one, at least from where I sit- is the argument, or the belief, or the fear maybe, that by talking about our differences, and all the ways we've been talking about it, like white versus color. Whatever it is, whatever difference you want to bring in, that by naming it and talking about it, we're somehow perpetuating it and worsening it, right. And so there are people who say, like, we just want everyone to like- we're never going to get to a place where we're one human species if we keep talking about our differences. And I wonder if you could speak to that argument, because it just seems to me that the only way through, like the only way towards that future is through. You can't do that- And we can't do the end runs. That someone- like the analogy on a social level is that like leader who's like, Okay, got it, I just need to hire more people of color. Like we can't just do the end run around these conversations. And I would love- I like really believe in a future state, where not in a way that we've kind of made everyone gray and paved over difference. But in a way that we are both totally in our unique identities, and also inclusive of the larger human identity in a way that is really beautiful, and really sustainable. And really, instead of harmful and oppressive and shrinking. It's uplifting. So I really believe in that future possibility. And I don't think we should end run around it. And I just wonder how you deal with that, that pushback around- you're making it worse by talking about this, Di. Like, why don't you just you know?

Di:

I do get that a lot. And it's basically two schools of thought that exist within diversity and how to deal with diversity. One of those is the colorblind approach, which is I don't see color. Everybody sees color unless they're literally colorblind. And if you don't see how I'm different than you, you don't see how different systems affect me differently. You don't see how laws you vote for affect me differently. You don't see how anything that's out in the world impacting me, affects me differently. When somebody says to me, Hey, I voted for so and so because you know, some stupid reason. I'm like, did you consider how that impacts everybody else who doesn't look like you? Just because things don't impact you, doesn't mean they're not real, or they're not important. So there's the difference between colorblindness and we need to think about who asks us to be colorblind, typically? Who asks us that we all just be one human race? I've never had a black woman say to me, oh, we're all one human race. It's never happened. Because people who don't experience the world the same way as the person asking, feel very, very dismissed, and very, very unseen by people who are asking for that model of dealing with the world and our differences and our diversities. So the colorblind approach has been largely, you know, largely let go by, by social scientists. And what we're seeing instead is this multicultural approach, which is where we know about differences. We respect differences, we build equity around differences, we give people opportunities based on- We think about opportunities in different ways to make sure that they're equitable, and that not only one type of person is getting to our hiring pools, or one type of person is getting to other kinds of opportunities, or one type- So a multicultural approach gives us this understanding, and is largely driven by self education. And all ally ship is driven, or should be driven, largely by self education, and that willingness to be a lifelong learner, which is something you have and something I have, and probably something that a lot of your listeners have. So if you are a lifelong learner, this is something you can do. This is something you can take on. You can educate yourself and have that be something that drives you forward. There's a lot of gatekeeping around this where like, if you don't have a PhD in literally every single culture and every single language- But if you think about why the gatekeeping exists Nobody has everything that would be necessary, right? So sometimes people say to me, Di, you don't have a PhD. How can you do this? And it's like, anybody who says to me I need more, is someone who would keep moving the goalposts further down the field before they were willing to listen to me anyway. So I never have questioned myself and say, Do I need more, you know, more degrees in order to be doing this work? No, I'm good where I am, you're good where you are. Pick up a book, take down some systems with me, you know, like, we can do it. Here we go. You don't need to be anything more than what you are. You can be in progress and do this work. Yeah. That's so so yes. To that it comes up to systems. There we go.

Andy:

Lovely.

Di:

Anytime.

Andy:

No. Yeah. Here's to the power of lifelong learning to the sort of power of just being solid with uncertainty and imperfection. To just like, let us be right where we are right now. And rather than use that as an excuse not to do anything, use that as the ground we're going to build from.

Di:

Right, you are great as you are. In progress is how everybody is. Get started today.

Andy:

Yeah, yeah. Thank you, Di. You just really-

Di:

My pleasure.

Andy:

You are- I encounter you as someone who is absolutely, not only being who It sounds like you needed as a kid, but also being who a lot of us need as kids and adults right now in the world. And, you know, I really am grateful for you. I'm grateful our paths cross. I'm grateful for all that you've taught me and just psyched that you're out in the world doing what you do.

Di:

Well, I deeply appreciate it. I appreciate the opportunity to you know, reach more people who maybe need to hear it. So thank you.

Andy:

Yeah. If people want to check out your work or find out more about you online, where should they go?

Di:

So you can go, you can catch me online diciruolo.com, which is d-i-c-i-r-u-o-l-o.com. I have my books available for pre order. My classes are up there. If you want to reach out to me, you can get me through all of that. I'm also on LinkedIn. And you know, all the other usual places.

Andy:

And tell me the name of your book again, I'm forgetting but it's really cool what you've written.

Di:

Ally Up. The book is called Ally Up. Yep. And very much discusses what we've just discussed today, which is you're great as you are. Here's how you get better.

Andy:

Yeah. Brilliant. I can't wait to read it.

Di:

I will find you a coffee for sure.

Andy:

Yes, nice. Beautiful. All right. Thanks so much. Thanks for tuning in to the Wonder Dome. This podcast was produced by me, Andy Cahill, with support from Kaleigh Cerqua, and audio editing services from John Nolan at Middle Mountain studios. The theme song was written and performed by Todd Marston. You can find the Wonder Dome wherever pods are casted. If you dig what we're doing here, please share widely, subscribe, and give us some love on the review boards. And if you feel called to support this humble offering to the worlds, while also making an even greater impact in the lives of others, consider becoming a monthly supporter. Not only will you help me keep the lights on, and keep the show going for as long as I'm able, but 30% of all member contributions go directly in support of causes, like the Black Lives Matter Movement, United Nations Refugee Agency, and the National Resources Defense Council. You can find out more at my website, mindfulcreative.coach, where you can also sign up for my newsletter. Learn about my transformational coaching work and get plugged into exclusive offers and community happenings. In the meantime, I'm wishing you a life of purpose, power, and presence. We need you now more than ever.