Do national service — Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, City Year or volunteer work. Helping out others is huge and is a great way to reach across the divide. I did volunteer work in my 20s. I helped a young girl from Mexico learn English. Her family became like my family. Thirty years later we are still close.
As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Davis, MPH.
Lisa Davis, MPH is a lively media personality with years of experience in radio and television. She’s interviewed thousands of internationally renowned celebrities, doctors, dietitians, health entrepreneurs, chefs, and fitness gurus, bringing her listeners along with her as she explores the cutting edge of health and lifestyle on her two health podcasts, “Talk Healthy Today” and “Naturally Savvy.” Lisa is also the co-host and co-creator of “Active Allyship…it’s more than a #hashtag!” This podcast goes beyond the likes, the retweets, and the hashtags, making space for the vital dialogue necessary for racial justice. Allyship calls for self-reflection, support for other perspectives, and hearing other voices.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was raised by parents who taught me early the evils of racism and prejudice which shaped who I am today.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My mother had chronic health problems and it was excruciatingly hard to watch her suffer. She died at 57 from ovarian cancer. I got interested in healthy living as a teen and this was supported by my mother. I also knew I wanted to do something around social justice which led me to co-create and co-host “Active Allyship,,,it’s more than a #hashtag!”
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
The most exciting project I am working on now is the podcast I co-created and co-host with Sunni Dayz called “Active Allyship…it’s more than a #hashtag!” It is a weekly podcast where we cover issues like what it takes to be an ally, how racism exists in ways you don’t see, the dos and don’ts of talking to friends and family about racism, how good intentions in fighting for racial justice aren’t always enough, how racist feelings or biases aren’t just reserved for the KKK or hate organizations, guilt and the myth of the white saviors, the steps everyone must take to dismantle systemic racism in everyday life and much more.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My college professor in Anthropology, Carolyn Clark, Ph.D believed in me in a way I hadn’t felt believed in before when it came to academics. I had undiagnosed learning disabilities and unless I was really interested in a subject, I tuned out. Dr. Clark’s classes (I was an anthropology major) engaged me in a way that I hadn’t really been engaged in prior to that. She was supportive while also giving me constructive criticism.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Early on in my career I worked as a personal trainer and taught step classes. My boss called me into his office and told me I needed to eat less garlic because I always smelled like garlic after teaching classes. I told him for 12 dollars an hour I wasn’t going to change my diet however I would shower after every class. The lesson I took was to stand my ground while still being flexible.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was a teenager, the book “Go Ask Alice” about a girl who became addicted to drugs made a significant impact on me. It made me want to go into the health field and help people.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is “Expand Your Horizons.” I don’t even know if this is a life lesson quote however my mother used to say it all the time. I remember calling her my freshman year of college to tell her I was taking “Intro to Buddhism.” She was so excited that I was “expanding my horizons.”
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I like the definition that Bill Gates gives: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Having the ability to empower others is hugely important.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
I think this has evolved to the boiling point that it is at now because of the different media we consume. My friends who watch FOX have an entirely different reality about “the truth” or “facts” thenthose who watch MSNBC or CNN. They receive different information on Facebook depending on what side they are affiliated with and this has led to people living in two completely different realities.
I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?
My best friend from childhood who I am still close with, is in an entirely different reality due to partisan media outlets and Facebook. She actually blocked me from Facebook without telling me because she didn’t like when I would argue with her about her “facts.” I wasn’t willing to throw away a life long friendship however I didn’t feel the same about her. Interestingly enough, after the insurrection, she came around a little bit to my way of thinking.
In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?
On my podcast, Active Allyship…it’s more than a #hashtag!” we have interviewed David Wiley Campt, Ph.D. the founder and principal of “The Dialogue Company” and creator of the White Ally Toolkit, which educates anti-racism allies on engaging in transformative discourse about race and other polarizing conversations. For both the anti-racism work and the polarizing conversations he teaches people to use his RACE method (Reflect, Ask, Connect, Expand). This method works extremely well when trying to bridge the divide that has occurred in families. It is done one on one. Reflect means that you calm yourself down going into it. Ask is asking questions about their experiences relating to a topic that is polarizing. Connect is offering a personal experience that align with that person’s experience. Once you show that you have some alignment, then you offer a different experience and that is the expand step. I did this with my best friend and it really opened the doors of communication.
How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?
I work from home so my advice would be to implement David Wiley Campt, PHD RACE method.
I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?
Look at things that people have in common rather than their differences. Find things within yourself outside of politics that makes you, you. You are not your political identity!
Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?
I think everyone should watch the film on Netflix “The Social Dilemma.” It shows exactly how these companies manipulate people. I think that’s a good place to start.
What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?
Understand exactly how they operate and how they manipulate us.
Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?
I think people need to think national politics has as much to do with them personally because it doesn’t.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Learn to use the RACE method by David Wiley Campt, Ph.D. That gets conversations going in a positive and unifying direction. I have used this method with success.
- Read, watch shows, and listen to podcasts that encourage anti-racism and unity. Right now there are a plethora of shows, podcasts, and books that encourage white people to look at racism, privilege and so much more. You can make a difference. You need to be willing to be OK with being uncomfortable.
- Do national service — Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, City Year or volunteer work. Helping out others is huge and is a great way to reach across the divide. I did volunteer work in my 20s. I helped a young girl from Mexico learn English. Her family became like my family. Thirty years later we are still close.
- We must acknowledge the loss that the Republican voters feel. This does not mean agree with falsehoods ( the election was stolen) but instead acknowledge that they are feeling upset and need time to grieve.
- Expand your horizons. Learn a new language. Join on online group where you can be exposed to people from different backgrounds. If you are white and have no friends of color, join groups online that are diverse.
Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I don’t know if this issue can eventually be resolved but I do have hope that is people take the advice in this article and put it into action, things can improve.
If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?
Making a positive impact on society will make things better for you and your loved ones as well.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Howard Stern. I am so moved about how outspoken he has been about what has been going on in this country,.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!