This is Becoming Inclusive from The Kaleidoscope Group, where we’re thinking differently about diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more empowered people at work. We’re committed to real change and that begins with real conversations. Welcome in.
*to request the transcription, please email email@example.com*
Sometimes it’s necessary to have uncomfortable—even painful—conversations about race and ethnicity. And these conversations are not specific to any country, people, or culture. The common denominator in the equation is our humanity. We all basically want the same things: opportunity, security, a sense of belonging, and most importantly respect.
In this episode of the Becoming Inclusive podcast we actually “went there” in an open and honest conversation between co-hosts Kat Potts and Reggie Ponder, along with two guests with varying life experiences in South Africa, namely: Hanlie Van Wyk, a global engagement leader for the Kaleidoscope and Samkelo Blom, one of The Kaleidoscope Group’s global partners and owner of his own DEI Consulting Firm in Africa.
We All Have a Story
In the podcast, both guests shared their experiences growing up in Africa; one White; One Black. One privileged, one oppressed. Obviously, these experiences shaped their lives, beliefs, and values. The surprising aspect of the conversation hinged more on the necessity to sometimes “unlearn” those things to learn anew and challenge themselves to consider new perspectives that help with reconciliation and progress in terms of racial and ethnic relations. And that extends far beyond the workplace.
The impressive thing about this particular episode was that the guests relayed stories that many might consider painful. Why re-live those painful experiences? The answer is simple. Because in order to grow we need to confront our metaphorical demons head-on. When we do share, it’s much easier for people to empathize, although not everyone will. That’s okay too, and to be expected. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share, according to Hanlie and Samkelo.
Listening to Hanlie and Samkelo’s stories, the honesty of both of them strikes you. They may have had different life experiences, but they’ve found commonality both on a personal and professional front. It’s inspiring and gratifying to see two such different individuals coalesce around a shared value—a passion for diversity and inclusion. For example, Samkelo described, in great detail, the impact of the Apartheid regime on his family, community, and people. Justifiable resentment and anger toward the oppressive majority resulted in deep divisions that remain to this day. However, he had to unlearn those beliefs as a student and professional realizing that staying stuck in that place of anger was doing nothing other than perpetuating deep divisions and even more anger and resentment. That didn’t mean he had to soften his story to make it more palatable for White audiences. He doesn’t. As a result, he finds that others are more willing to share their stories and challenges as well; even the “so-called” privileged. When we share, others will follow suit and commonalities soon come to light, leading us to focus on similarities rather than differences. And that’s how we broaden the conversation—and the work—as we start or continue our diversity, equity, and inclusion journeys.