RALEIGH — The Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast is launching a new “Ask a…” series, where we ask uncomfortable questions around all types of diversity and initiate courageous conversations that allow us to break down barriers and find aspects of connectivity as people. In this series, we’ll talk about race, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle, and more.

When Jackie Ferguson, director of Multicultural Programming at Walk West who recently launched The Diversity Movement, approached me about hosting an “Ask a…” series within the Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox podcast, I was intrigued but slightly hesitant. She described it as a way to confront some of the topics around current events, politics and experiences that sometimes make us shift in our seats and initiate courageous conversations that allow us to break down barriers and find aspects of connectivity in an increasingly diverse society.  Some of the episode concepts that will be recorded and launched throughout 2020 include:

  • “Ask a Millennial/Ask a Boomer”
  • “Ask a Queer Person/Ask a Straight Guy”
  • “Ask a Black Girl/Ask a Country Boy”
  • “Ask a Rich Kid/Ask a Poor Kid”, and others.

Well, as a white guy who was raised to completely avoid these types of conversations, this was way outside my comfort zone. But I knew that this was a huge opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself and contribute to what’s happening at The Diversity Movement.

The Diversity Movement was created by a core team of innovators through collaboration with an international group of diversity practitioners, business experts and marketing leaders to provide a comprehensive set of online courses, videos, podcasts, events and consulting offerings to both equip individuals with the cultural readiness to thrive in a global market and empower organizations endeavoring to embed D&I into the core of doing business.

Earfluence CEO Jason Gillikin

Our first episode in the series just launched – “Ask a Black Guy/Ask a White Guy,” featuring two local tech entrepreneurs, Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West (the black guy) and Grant Williard, CEO of JouleBug (the white guy). It’s such a powerful conversation, between two people from diverse backgrounds, that will make you think, and laugh and challenge your own points of view. On the episode, we discuss kneeling for the National Anthem, marrying outside your race, experiencing racism, the upcoming election, and the concept of white privilege. Easy topics, right?

Williard, who founded I-Cubed in 1984, gave Donald his first job in tech, and later sold technology to Adobe in 2005, admits his attitudes on race, equity, and privilege have evolved quite a bit over the years. When asked if white privilege exists, he responds, “Half the doors that were open to me automatically would have been closed. Whether it’s white privilege, male privilege, I’ve had it much easier than it would have been otherwise. That’s not to say that I’ve not worked hard. I’m trying to figure out, now that I’ve made mine, what can I do to help others?”

For Thompson, who is now involved in several businesses in North Carolina including The Diversity Movement, he wants the entire “white privilege” conversation to evolve because we don’t have to be white to be privileged. “We should talk about the privileges that we all share. And then people can understand the term,” he notes.  “I’m not as focused on what happened in the past, but don’t cheat me now. Just don’t create unnecessary barriers and I’ll figure it out. And that’s the opportunity I was given, and that’s why I feel privileged.”

One of the reasons that podcasting is such a powerful medium is because of conversations that stretch our thinking. Whether that’s a niche business podcast that gives actionable insights, a personal profile podcast that inspires, or a podcast that provides unique perspectives that expands your world-view, we learn, empathize and evolve through listening.

“Ask a Black Guy/Ask a White Guy” is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere you listen to podcasts.  You can find future episodes of the “Ask a…” series by subscribing to the Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox podcast.

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