Episode 349: Not Being Racist Versus Being Anti-racist With Tali Lavarry

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Episode 349: Not Being Racist Versus Being Anti-racist With Tali Lavarry

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Table of Contents

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Worology.com, as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now, here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Episode 349: Not Being Racist Versus Being Anti-racist With Tali Lavarry (@yourtoken_black)


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:26.67] Black people account for only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large organizations and hold just 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions, all of which are men. If we want to see racial equality, true racial equality, then we must promote people of color to leadership positions, and we also need to start by getting uncomfortable and committing to change for our organization and also for ourselves in this area. I have talked to so many HR leaders about allyship and what it means to us as allies, and I know that many of us are struggling as to how we can support our colleagues and also our companies diversity efforts. I know that so many of us are in HR and we are being asked and tasked to oversee DEI efforts without being fully comfortable or even having a full understanding of what DEI really is. And that’s why we’re here today. I want you to know, and what we’re going to talk about today is that it’s not up to our black colleagues or coworkers or friends to educate us on what it means to be a good ally. So where do we go for answers? That’s what we’re talking about on today’s podcast. This podcast is sponsored by WorkologyCouncil.com. Today I’m joined by Tali Lavarry. She’s an Anti-Racism Coach and bestselling author. Tali is the founder and owner of Yum Yum Morale, a workplace diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy. Following the release of her bestselling book, Confessions from Your Token Black Colleague, she also released a debut TEDx Talk from TEDx Seattle Women, and it’s titled Dear Aspiring Ally. Tali serves as a designated Equity Coach and Consultant for JustLead Washington and has been featured in Forbes, New York magazine and CNBC, to name a few. She’s also a contributor to Ask an Expert by the Harvard Business Review. Tali, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Tali Lavarry: [00:02:27.12] Thank you. Hello, Jessica. Happy to be here.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:30.24] I was telling you before we started recording that I am so excited about this topic. I feel like I have had so many HR leaders reach out to me and say, how do I do better and and where do I need to get started? So we’re going to be covering that and so much more.

Tali Lavarry: [00:02:47.19] Perfect. Looking forward to it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:48.99] Let’s start with your book and I’m going to link to that in the show notes, but talk to us about it. Why did you write it? What’s it all about?

Tali Lavarry: [00:02:56.52] Yeah. So my book came about as a result of me hitting what I like to call rock bottom. After working in the events industry, corporate events management industry for over a decade. I experienced what I didn’t even realize then was microaggressions and just a lot of discrimination in the workplace. And I, all, I remember, I was always a token. So I was either the only black employee or one of two, maybe after a decade and going through a very heartbreaking experience where I spent three months working to plan an event where Barack Obama would be the speaker and getting there that day and told not only will you not be one of the people that get a photo with him, you better not even use your cell phone to capture an image among lots of other things that was just this big lead up and this build-up that just broke my heart, just broke me to the core to I just didn’t even want to live anymore. It was that and a number of other things. But, you know, all of these incidents have piled up. And over the years I had been told, you should write a book. The things you go through. Oh, my gosh, you should write a book. You should write a book. And so when you hit rock bottom, you get to this place where you just don’t even know your purpose anymore.

Tali Lavarry: [00:04:10.38] It’s like, okay, what do I have to lose? I’m going to pin it. And so my book is filled with three, is broke up in three different pieces. There are personal stories about what I encountered in corporate America and how it made me feel. And then there are these ally contributions. So there’s white people that work in management, executive roles that attest to what it is that I’m saying. So they speak about times that they know that they have done things without knowing so or they’ve indicated times that they’ve talked to people or seen incidents that kind of back up what it was that I’m saying. And then the third part is actual confessions, where I’m actually speaking to groups of people that I’ve worked with. So that would include other marginalized groups, other black women, white male CEOs in particular, who the message is very important to white women. And so these confessions were this opportunity for me to really speak to my perspective, what it is that I went through, how I perceive them and how I believe they were perceiving me. And finally, how I think we can work together to create a different scenario for those that should come behind me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:20.94] I hope every listener that is tuning in right now says, Wow, this is really powerful. Well, it doesn’t matter to me who you are. I think that you can get so much value out of the personal stories and insights and just resources that you’re sharing in this book, but especially for white men, white women. This is a way for us to learn and better understand struggles, situations, things that different marginalized groups from your voice have experienced.

Tali Lavarry: [00:05:57.63] Yeah, and I always say that in leadership in the workspace. It’s just kind of this known thing that you keep emotions out of it, right? It’s not about emotion. It’s not personal. Business leaders are always focused on their return on investment. Are you getting the work done? And I remember going through some pretty egregious, very obvious situations. And it would never fail, especially the top leaders in charge. They want to know, ok, are you getting things done? Are my customers happy? They don’t want to hear about the personal side of that. But sadly, as a marginalized person, black women in particular, in my situation, this stuff can have some major implications, lots of ongoing problems, and my book gives leaders an opportunity to just stop for a second and tap into their empathy to say, you know, to turn away from their normal goal to which is always, okay, well, what are the numbers? What are the stats? Did you do the work? You know, and so this is my opportunity to ask that you hey, just stop and read or hey, while you’re on the plane, listen to the audiobook and truly listen to the voice that you you’re not going to listen to when I’m in corporate America. So when I decided to do this and start my business and all of this, I said, I need to become the woman that I needed when I was in corporate America. I need to be that voice that can speak for those that are in corporate America and feel like they’re silenced and stifled. And so every day I’m out, you know, yelling from the rooftops, hey, please listen to me, because this message is just so important.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:30.85] I’m stopping for a second because I’m just thinking about all my friends who are minorities, women, just different marginalized groups and how I’ve heard stories they’ve shared with me. And they’re probably not even sharing with me the worst stories or all the stories. So something like this, I think it’s not just about empathy. It’s about taking some time to understand your employee population, your teams, that you are leading your individuals in an organization so that you can better support and serve them. And I love that you are doing this for you and the person that you wished, that the kind of support that you would have gotten when you were in corporate yourself. You released a debut TEDx Talk at TEDx Seattle Women, and it’s titled Dear Aspiring Ally in December. Can you talk to us a little bit about it and give us a summary?

Tali Lavarry: [00:08:28.51] Yeah. So in my work I am always meeting white people in particular that are saying, tell me, what can I do, how can I help? How can I be a part of the solution? And so I when I was given the opportunity to do a TEDx talk, I thought, what a better time to speak to those that are aspiring to be an ally. So much of allyship, it can be very complex. Racism in general can be very complex. Approaching this thing can be very complex. And so my talk is just talking directly to people about how they can go about doing this, how they don’t want to do things and just how important it is. And so I shared a great deal about how a lot of white folks have this savior complex and they have this belief that they are all knowing and that they understand what minority groups need. And so they’ll go out into their areas and try to help, you know, with the best intentions. But they’re messing up because where they’re messing up is, is that they’re not listening to the marginalized person. They are believing that they have the answers and they know what the person needs and it just makes things worse. And so I spoke in this talk about the value and importance of actually getting to know the people that they seek to serve and to actually look at it as service, which is humbling. It’s a very humbling position. So I think allyship, a lot of people, it feels good, it feels warm and fuzzy. Oh my gosh.

Tali Lavarry: [00:10:02.35] I went over and did this for these poor people. And that is not the approach. It is about truly empathizing, listening, getting to know. And I’ll tell you something, in my work on the professional side of things, I have experienced people that say to me, Hey, I would love to introduce you to my clients, but your Southern accent, they’re not going to want to hear from you. You know, where is your PhD? You know, all of these things. So they’re looking for these specific accolades. And I think it’s kind of a slap in the face because much of this came as a result of the George Floyd murder. And so while everybody’s, you know, rallying around George Floyd and what happened to him and how, oh, my gosh, we shouldn’t allow this to happen, I find that a lot of people wouldn’t still to this day, even as they’re talking about diversity and doing all of their conferences and bringing in their speakers, they still have not realized that you’re not even comfortable talking to people like George Floyd or the people that are around George Floyd. You are still looking for that kind of speaker with that kind of look and tone and delivery. That is the average status quo. And the average status quo has continued to leave us in the position that we’re in. Discrimination. A study has shown that for 25 years, people in the workplace have been dealing with the same discrimination. It hasn’t changed. And so it’s like, oh, you know, all of this stuff. Oh, wow. You know, police brutality, if that’s one thing we’ve been ignoring, well, maybe there is something in the workplace, but we still want to keep talking to the same people about it, and they’re just going to type die on top of it and make it the topic.

Tali Lavarry: [00:11:41.05] Allyship. True allyship, you know, is about getting to know the actual people that you’re seeking to serve. You’re seeking to serve the people that are in your companies that are working. A lot of them look like me. A lot of them have a certain accent like me. A lot of them speak like me and walk like me and move like me. And true allyship is about moving through your discomfort, doing something that you’ve never done. And most importantly, it’s about opening doors for the marginalized that they cannot open for themselves. And so what I try to tell white people is they’re startled by words like white privilege, right? They’re startled by, by words. It’s like, oh, I don’t have that. What I try to tell people is or they say, oh, I’m not racist. They’re even startled by the word anti-racism because it’s like, I’m not racist. That’s not good enough. You got to be anti-racist. And what that means is, is that you’ve taken the time to listen and learn with, with a full, open mind, a full heart, truly wanting to have something to switch, to click in the brain that says, Oh, I get it, because it’s a subconscious knowing. In the United States, we have been born into centuries of, of this. A lot of white people say, oh, my ancestors, they might have done that. I didn’t do that. I never I never did that.

Tali Lavarry: [00:13:00.13] Well, the thing is, your ancestors died without having ever fixed the problem. And you were born into a system that causes you to do things that are harmful. And it could be something as small as you saying, I’m not racist and not listening. It’s harmful. It continues to perpetuate where we are. It hurts. We’re going into the workplace hurting. We are at an extreme deficit. As black people in this country, the average white family is worth $117,000. The average black family is worth $7,000. And I understand that we walk around looking proud and pretty and we’re smiling. We’re very proud, proud people. But we are at a deficit. And until the white people today say, okay, I didn’t do it, but my ancestors did it, and they died before they could get the knowledge and they die before they could grow. I want to be a person that is an ally. I want to be a person that does well. And here’s the other thing that I tell people. Even if you don’t feel like you want to be an ally for whatever reason, you’re not there yet. You’re scared to make the move. I need you to at least be willing and desire to listen and be knowledgeable, be aware so that the, so that at the very least, you do not cause harm or you cause as little harm as possible. And that’s what this message about allyship is about.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:19.99] I know you talked a little bit about this, about not being a racist, the difference between not being a racist, and I’m using air quotes here, versus anti racism. But can you talk a little bit more about why this distinction is so important?

Tali Lavarry: [00:14:32.74] Yeah, you know, if you’re just like, I’m not a racist, it tells me that you don’t know enough, right? It tells me that you are still oblivious. And that is how a lot of harm is caused. That is why we’re talking to you about it when, when we know it was your ancestors. However, there are some. You’re moving in a way that is just. Oh, I’m just living my life. That way of living continues to cause us harm. And until I get you on board with being anti-racist, we have a problem. It is stated that it would take the average black family 228 years to get on the same playing field financially with white families. 228 years. Do you know how many, why there’s this urgent push or call for me to rally all the white folks up and say, Come help us, come help us be an ally, be anti-racist, open doors for the marginalized that they cannot open for themselves. And those doors are things that you’re taking for granted. Those doors are things like access to certain events, knowledge of certain circumstances and books and, and writers. Those, those, those doors are things that you’re not even. It’s just everyday life for you. No big deal. So, you know, becoming aware, understanding those deficits, understanding why we are in this position that we’re in today. That’s what creates good allies and that’s what we need in this country.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:09.99] I found this so interesting, this comes from your website, is that US companies spend an average of 8 billion in DEI training and 60 billion in discrimination lawsuits. We’re barely at the beginning stages of working to recognize, understand and eliminate racism. What about maybe what HR can do in terms of the bigger and longer term picture? How can they help?

Tali Lavarry: [00:16:35.22] Companies have got to start being proactive rather than reactive, and it’s a scary thing because it’s like, Oh, we’re proactive. We’re bringing up racism ourselves and we’re, you know, we’re opening this can of worms. I assure you, it’s already been opened. And ignoring it is what’s creating the problem. Also, when it comes to DEI training, a lot of companies are it’s a one and done check box sort of thing, and that doesn’t work. It just is not enough. This stuff is long, hard, complex and is pretty much a lifelong journey. And what I find is that, again, we’re in our corporate mindset. We have a deadline, we have an objective, we want to move through that and we want to get there. And I think that people have unrealistic ideas about that. And then there’s frustration. People are overwhelmed. And so I always tell people that this is something that you’ve got to be realistic about and you’ve got to be realistic and creating a sustainable plan. And so that’s taking this in bite sized pieces over a longer period of time. Also, I don’t believe that things like critical race theory, DEI in general is something that can be necessarily forced onto people. I think that there has to be a certain level of give and take and that this should be done with the idea of completely shifting the culture of an organization.

Tali Lavarry: [00:18:02.82] And when shifting that culture, the goal should be that the culture continues to change. Right? And so a lot of companies are like, oh, this is how we are. This is our culture. Your culture should be built by those that are being introduced into the organization. It should change based on what it is that I bring in all of this. Again, this is long term, ongoing stuff rather than this end-all be-all result. And I think that it just, it takes that sort of a mindset and I try to help companies to understand that. And, and no matter how many times I go in and I go on sales calls and I tell them, hey, you know, these are the steps and this is the process, it’s like, okay, but we just need this one training. And a lot of times, you know, you try to just give them that one training and hope that someone can hear it. But the truth of the matter is, I am always looking for leaders that are like, all right, I’m on board with a total intrinsic change and it has to be slow and steady and it has to embrace all parts and all, all of the moving pieces. Everybody has their feelings about it. Of course, the marginalized love these love these, love the idea of the majority white folks getting on board with treating us fairly.

Tali Lavarry: [00:19:14.61] But the white folks have their things, too. You know, the white women come to me, I don’t want to be called a Karen. I don’t want to be you know, white men are like, oh, my gosh, people hate us today and they’re going to, you know, pounce on us. And, and so I think that all of the pieces need to be considered because the goal is for all of us to be able to work together and to grow together. And it’s going to happen at different paces. Right? And so yeah, I think that’s one part. And then when it comes to the, the lawsuits, when these issues come up, we, you know, HR can’t keep handling it the way they’ve been handling it. And it’s typically been fear based. Get them away. Oh, my gosh. Get this way. This can’t, you know, we don’t, we don’t get this out. Let’s just be honest and open about where we are. Let’s be honest and open about our differences, our cultural differences, the misunderstandings. Let’s get some coaching and for our management, right? And let’s create plans to promote people that are marginalized and putting them in leadership positions. That’s what it’s going to take. Otherwise, you’re going to keep spending on these courses, keep doing these one-offs, and you’re going to keep going through these discrimination lawsuits.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:21.21] I mean, this is great and it’s so true that, what you’re saying. You can’t just check a box. It doesn’t fix everything. We need to start addressing this now and thinking bigger picture. Otherwise, the racism, the discrimination, people feeling marginalized in the in their workplace, in the place that they spend more time than any other place is going to continue.

Tali Lavarry: [00:20:45.24] Mm hmm.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:45.96] And as HR leaders, business leaders, it’s our responsibility to make our workplaces fair and equitable and accessible and inclusive to all. And I think that’s part of why we’re seeing for a number of reasons. But we’re seeing people leaving jobs right now. It’s not it wasn’t a good place for them. And it is not just about pay. It is about a lot of other things.

Break: [00:21:07.68] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell and you are listening to the Workology Podcast. Today we are talking with Tali Lavarry about anti-racism and DEI in the workplace. This podcast is sponsored by WorkologyCouncil.com.

Break: [00:21:22.49] The Workology Council is a mastermind community for HR leaders. We are a group of HR professionals with a common goal to succeed by leveraging the influence, resources and expertise of others on an annual basis. This will be the HR business tribe that you’ve wanted to be a part of for your entire career. Learn more and apply at WorkologyCouncil.com.

What Steps To Take Towards Anti-racism


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:49.48] Can you talk to us a little bit about how you work with clients through your consultancy? I want to know maybe what a typical client looks like and maybe how this is structured.

Tali Lavarry: [00:21:59.41] Yeah, that’s great. So I typically work with organizations when I’m working with a smaller organization, 500 or less employees or members, we do an equity audit and that allows me to sit with the board or leadership and kind of get a feel or gauge for what do you think you are? How do you think things are going? Where do you think you’re doing great, you’re doing bad? And then I’ll say to them, All right, give me a couple of people that I can reach out to via email. And we send out an anonymous survey. And that survey we ask questions to kind of get an idea of where people think. And I mean, this is people that work in the company. I want to talk to vendors. I want to talk to volunteers, interns, board members, if it’s some sort of an association, members, all of these things. And I want to get an idea of what they think. And then when we gather that data, we generate a report, a very detailed report that tells us where we are. And then I come back and I meet with leadership and I say, hey, this is what we have. This is what I found. And we talk through the next steps, what I suggest, right? And then we have a number of different trainings, microaggressions, and biases and why DEI work is so important, and systemic racism, just a number of trainings that we can work through over a series of time. In addition to that, well, one of my favorite offerings is anti-racism coaching, one-on-one coaching with leadership in particular. I also do this for people in general that will reach out and say, Hey, I want to go through coaching, coaching sessions.

Tali Lavarry: [00:23:29.62] And so what I do in those coaching sessions, and I should say that I can do it one on one, and sometimes I work with small groups as well. But what we typically do is we go through a number, a certain amount of time that we set up and then the underlining of that. It’s always systemic racism and that’s showing people how racism is going on all day, every day, all around us. And it’s always this eye-opening thing like, wow. And so while we’re going through that, we’re talking about sometimes very specific situations. I’ve worked with managers who are working with marginalized people, and they give me the, you know, specific scenarios and we talk through it and I help them to try to understand it. But most of the time they come out knowing, okay, what can I do? What can I actually do to be better? To do better? There’s been times where it’s been, I remember having somebody say, I hire this black woman because we really needed to hire black people. And, you know, after some time she said to me, I never thought that the black person was probably ideal for the job anyway. And so we discovered that subconsciously you didn’t believe that there was a black person out there that had the talent. That was the first mistake, because there’s plenty of people out there that are brilliant that can do the job. So when you hire this person, this person was already not set up for success, right? And they were able to admit that.

Tali Lavarry: [00:24:46.48] And it came down to, you know, you messed up here. Here’s what you can do next time in the hiring process and here’s how you can support someone and be better the next time. So there’s a variety of things that can come out of that work as well. So yeah, my work, I’m just typically digging in and finding out where the problems lie, coming up with a strategy on how we can start to work through that. It’s never fixing it, just how we can work through it and become better and doing a lot of one-on-one coaching, also doing some mediation. A lot of times there’s a need for mediation when there is this threat of a discrimination lawsuit. Oh, my gosh, what do we do? I can sometimes come in. Somebody with my team can sometimes come in and stop that from happening. We can open up those, those conversations that have those tough conversations that people are avoiding. A lot of times the employee can handle a third party better than somebody that they work with, a non-biased third party. And so we come in and we work on that as well. I’ve also worked with attorneys who are working with clients and, you know, helping them to prepare for cases. And I work side by side with them and the investigators, and I say, Hey, here’s all the DEI perspective. Here’s, you know, where the management could have done something better, and then we can offer coaching as well. And so we’re trying to prevent those discrimination cases from moving forward. And so that’s typically what we’re doing within my company.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:14.74] I think everyone who’s there listening can see a need or a, definitely, an opportunity for them to engage in, in your services, whether as an individual or in supportive of what their organization. One of the things I wanted to ask you is talk about a little bit about the pandemic and maybe some things that you have had surprised you over the last couple of years.

Tali Lavarry: [00:26:39.76] Should I be honest now?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:41.41] You should be honest. Like, I want people to be able to listen to this and say, no one ever told me this or I didn’t know because. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to have a real honest conversation.

Tali Lavarry: [00:26:53.99] This pandemic has truly shown me how fragile we all are. I think it has just, it’s really hard to put into words, but. I have witnessed a lot of what people would call bad behavior during, during the pandemic. I think that many of us are struggling with our mental health, are fighting harder than ever to keep it in shape, because these are just some very unprecedented times, and we were not prepared. We, I think we walked in thinking we knew things. You know, I remember being like, oh, okay, by next month, I’ll feel this way or I’ll see this or this will happen. You know, you kept trying to predict it. And then it got to the point where you’re like, You can’t even predict this. And then we were kind of yanked around like, All right, it’s over. And then it’s like, Nope, not over. And I just think emotionally we’re all going through all of these things and there’s been a lot of heartache and heartbreak. I’ve seen so many friendships and families break up. You just, just not be able to communicate. And then obviously the large amount of death and sickness, and it demonstrated to me how fragile we all are. Because even those that seem to not by booing and crying, some of those bad behaviors, or some of the reactions, or lack of reactions, I just believe it shows how fragile we are and how disconnected we are.

Tali Lavarry: [00:28:33.55] You know, it doesn’t even matter about race or, we’re just really disconnected. And this situation really shined a light on that. And it really showed me how, again, how important it is that we get to know each other, how important it is that we have empathy, how important it is that we listen, and how hard it is to get to make that happen. And so it further emphasized for me that this one and done checkbox is just a waste of time. And, you know, I think people always feel this drive to be. A bit of an evangelist. Come my way, believe my way. You know it’s my way. And this creates more friction. I’ve learned that in my business. I do not believe in forcing things onto people. I always say, Hey, I’m here, and I know there are some people here that may not want to hear anything, I have to say. And the best part about it is that I’m not here to force it onto you. I believe that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. But I also believe that in communicating, in attempting to shift hearts and attempting to shift minds, even if you’re not ready and you hear me, you just accidentally hear me. Perhaps along the way in life something will happen. And then you will remember my voice and remember that thing I said and say, Oh! And then that may create more curiosity and have you to turn towards a way that I believe is better for all of us. That is better for all of mankind.


Tali Lavarry: [00:30:01.97] Everybody doesn’t believe that right now in this pandemic has shown me how vast we are in our different opinions and thoughts. And it’s complex and it’s messy and it can be hard. And so good relationships, good communication, amazing the sharing of theories, the brainstorming, working together, and collaborating. It’s all so important and I think that’s all we’ve got. I think that’s all we’ve got. And that pandemic, the pandemic continues to show me that. And I also you know, it’s like, what has the pandemic shown you in two years? I know that just for tomorrow, the pandemic can show me something totally different. It has just shown me the need for us to be flexible and communicative and collaborative, and it needs to be ongoing. And I think much like I was talking about, there’s no deadline, there’s no cutoff point. I think that this is showing us like you can keep trying to plan it if you want to, but this needs to be something consistent and ongoing, which is, you know, listening, empathy, talking, all of that. It’s ongoing and ever-changing. And we’re always growing and evolving. And, and that’s just what it is.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:15.54] I’m shaking my head as you’re talking like, yes, yes. Because I was talking to my team like we were hoping to have an in-person event in March. And now it doesn’t look like that’s happening. And so you have to be ready and prepared and open. And now we’re continuing to train and develop and engage our workforces and hire virtually remotely for, for many of us anyway, or some sort of hybrid version. So building those relationships and being able to do it with, within a distance maybe. It’s, it’s really a challenge because you’re not in that person’s personal space. So you really don’t know what their life is like every single day. So it takes a lot of intention to be able to do that and engagement like I have to, I have to follow up with you and just to make sure you’re good and send a text, maybe schedule a video call. I’m thinking this is a leader of an organization. It’s not just, hey, let’s accidentally see each other in the kitchen.

Tali Lavarry: [00:32:16.35] Right.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:17.13] And I’m going to walk by your cubicle. It’s it’s a lot more complex. And if you have a large team that’s all over the place, it is across time zones and, and really complicated. As a leader, if we see discrimination happening and we know or we’re concerned that we see this happening and we know that it shouldn’t be, how do you suggest we approach this? Do you, do you think we should call the person out personally, take them by the side, or do something else?

Tali Lavarry: [00:32:51.96] I love this question because it allows me to demonstrate the mindset, the typical mindset that I’ve been talking about. And so our typical mindset, especially as business people, is, here’s the problem, give me that solution. And this particular question, it says, okay, we see discrimination. What do we do? And this goes back to I don’t have that for you. I don’t have the finite checkbook answer for you because there’s so many other variables in this. Who was discriminated? Are you sure it was discrimination? What kind of discrimination? Was it your boss that did it? Was it your child that did it? Did your mom do it? Was it your friend that did it? Was your friend hurt? Do you know the people? I mean, there’s just so many variables to this particular question, which speaks to the variables of discrimination in the first place. And so this is why learning systemic racism, spending time being an anti-racist is important, because what happens is you don’t gain answers and solutions to problems. You gain empathy and understanding of what’s happening, and then that helps you to better respond in these in a variety of different situations. So because you learn and understand that there’s this preschool to prison pipeline where little black boys are typically already seen as problematic, and then they’re going to schools that are underserved. And maybe in the wintertime, there’s no heat and they’re freezing and they don’t have computers, and then they have this disciplinary problem and their mom has undiagnosed bipolar and they’re doing drugs, and then they, you know, move on to the other rate and they don’t have anybody to help them with their studying and their schooling and they’re failing their test.

Tali Lavarry: [00:34:48.48] And then, you know, they go up and then they could skip school and then they got someone pregnant and then their dad, your cousin was shot. And then here they are. So you’ve understood all, you understand that because you’ve spent time learning and understanding and you’ve spent time understanding that, you know, when the slaves were freed, many of them were not freed and they were still being slaves. And that, you know, you were taught in school that when the vets came home, they were given homes and that only maybe 100 out of 67,000 actually got a home loan in that so many people left slavery and they weren’t given homes and they weren’t given real opportunities to make income. When you start to understand all of that, when you witness discrimination happening, you’re reacting based on a feeling and your knowledge rather than, okay, here’s the thing that I’m supposed to do. You’re able to ask specific questions, maybe to an authoritative figure, Hey, I noticed that you said so and so and so to this person. Why did you say that? Because it’s my understanding that, you know, maybe, you know, the scenario could be so vast. But because you spent time understanding and learning it and truly seeing the source of where all of this comes from and how the system is working and all of these different ways you become this real ally where you’re able to move in these situations and it doesn’t make you perfect. Here’s the other thing. There is still, I don’t even care how much you study it and know it. You’re still not going to always be perfect, but you’re going to be better at this. You’re going to be able to move better at this.

Tali Lavarry: [00:36:28.44] It may be that you saw something happen and you were shaking and thinking, Oh, I need to say something. Maybe you didn’t, but at least you were shaking and you went home and thought about it a little more, and then the next time you’re better able to address it, right? And so that’s what I want people to understand. I don’t want you to seek what do I do in this situation? What is the perfect answer? Because your personality, your, your position, who you are, all of this plays a part. What I need you to do, instead of focusing on that, is I need you to focus on understanding racism, being anti-racist, systemic racism. What are the marginalized people going through when you began to understand that you will move and be able to address discrimination and issues and you’ll shock yourself, but you’re moving because of something that you know, because of something that you’ve researched and learned for yourself. And then it just becomes second nature.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:29.49] Thank you. I feel like this answer is amazing because we are drawn to I want a script, I want this, I want a box to check. I want a course to do that’s going to make all things better. But that is not what the solution is here.

Tali Lavarry: [00:37:51.14] And if you continue to do that, if you hang your hat on that and you believe that that’s what it is, this is why people get frustrated because it just doesn’t work. And then they think, Oh, I just can’t do this. This is too hard. And that’s not true. Right? Like I always tell my clients when I’m when, I’m coaching them, give yourself some grace, you know? She’s like, I was at the grocery store and I saw somebody do something wrong to the man in the line. And I feel so bad. Why should you feel bad? You should feel wonderful because you were able to see it and you knew something was up and you’re able to go and think about it. Now you’re talking to me about it. You should feel wonderful, you know, because the person could say, Oh, I feel bad. I just don’t know how to do it. I’m just going to stay out of it. I’m just, you know, no, this is an ongoing matter. And we just got to keep working at it and keep learning and will become better and better at this.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:38:39.68] I want to link to your book and I’ll do that in the show notes and, and your website so that folks who are listening are like, yes, I need, I need resources, I need information. I want to learn more. They can, they can be able to go there and learn more about the work that you’re doing. I wanted to ask if there were any other resources that you would like to recommend for HR leaders to look into, either for themselves or also for their teams? I think that I’m hearing a lot from HR leaders who are looking for information and ways to educate themselves, their employees, and their managers. So where, where do you recommend they go?

Tali Lavarry: [00:39:16.87] In addition to all of the offerings, recently I published a workbook called Allyship and Me and it is a self-paced workbook that allows people to create their own strategic plan. And so I would love to suggest that people grab that workbook or grab that workbook for their management team or their leadership team. There’s a lot of resources out there. It’s the mindset. It’s the mindset. It’s the shift of the mind and the learning that needs to take place. So I do believe that that’s why I wrote, produced the Workbook, because it helps people to work through their own personal things and kind of be sustainable, and it talks about the importance of that. And so that’s the resource that I want to suggest.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:59.86] And is that available on your website?

Tali Lavarry: [00:40:02.11] Yes, it’s available on my website. If for some reason you don’t see it, you can just put in Allyship and Me and it is available at any place that books are sold.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:40:11.17] I will link to that specifically to because this sounds like something that everybody should pick up for their teams, for themselves, for friends, people they care about, managers, whoever as a way to, to really maybe think through and get started.

Tali Lavarry: [00:40:28.87] Mm hmm.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:40:29.95] Well, Tali, I appreciate your time so much. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about the work that, that you do?

Tali Lavarry: [00:40:41.20] Yeah. So my site is YumYumMorale.com or YourTokenBlackColleague.com. Typically, if you put in Confessions From Your Token Black Colleague or Your Token Black Colleague, you can find me online fairly easily. And I look forward to chatting with anyone that wants to, to chat.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:03.86] Amazing. Thank you again.

Tali Lavarry: [00:41:05.69] Thank you so much, Jessica.

Closing: [00:41:07.67] I so much appreciate Tali’s time and candor. I asked her for candor when we had our prep call, and boy, did she bring it. This is what we need. We need honest feedback, information, resources and candor in order to move forward. My hope is that this interview inspires you to have conversations with your leadership about what you as an employer need to do to be part of the solution and the change. As an individual, I hope that this conversation inspires you too. Allyship starts with seeking information, resources and educating ourselves on the experiences of underrepresented groups, especially people of color. We can’t just read a book and check it off our to do list. We can’t just attend a training and say, Oh, we’re done for the year. It is ongoing. It is continuous. Continual learning and growth. Just because protests die down and the media stops, maybe reporting on racism doesn’t mean that racism is done. It is solved or it is gone. It is not. This moment is important because as a society we’re talking about a topic that many have ignored or shut down in the past for hundreds or maybe even thousands of years. Keeping the dialogue going at a leadership level, at the management level, and at the all-employee level is important. Dialogue means growth. We learned from Tali about that today. And the more we talk to one another, the more we are able to break down our internal, conscious and unconscious biases. Not just for ourselves, but for leadership and everyone in an organization and more. Thank you so much for taking part in the Work oLogy Podcast. This Workology Podcast is sponsored by WorkologyCouncil.com. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell, and thank you for joining us. Until next time, you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous Workology Podcast episodes.

Connect with Tali Lavarry.



Tali Lavarry on LinkedIn

Tali Lavarry on Twitter

Confessions from Your Token Black Colleague

Allyship and Me


Episode 322: Executive Buy-In For DEIA With Kim Crowder

Ep 239 – How We Can Help Eliminate Systemic Racism at Work

What HR Can Do About Racism and Microaggressions at Work

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