Don’t judge: This is one of the more challenging steps. But we should stop judging and substantially generalizing based on apparencies and stereotypes. We don’t know what each individual has been through their life, so unless we truly get to know them we can’t have a realistic perception of who they are. Judging goes hand in hand with respect. Let’s learn to celebrate and respect one another’s differences.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel de Castellane.
Daniel is an American philanthropist, socialite and entrepreneur. He is the Founder and CEO of de Castellane Collection, a corporate machine composed of three smaller companies and trying to make a positive impact in the world. Daniel started his first charity when he was only ten, and he hasn’t stopped since then. Daniel’s ultimate goal is to promote understanding and compassion through education and conversation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Daniel! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Iwas born in a very creative, multicultural family, and from a very young age was exposed to art. My mom was into fashion and I remember my mom wearing these amazing outfits, and to me, she looked so glamorous, she was the most beautiful person in every gathering, and that’s where my passion for fashion roots from. My parents loved traveling and I grew up seeing different countries and cultures which really played a big role in whom I am today and has given me so much perspective on the world, and I’m really thankful to my parents for that.
When traveling I would try to absorb and understand every culture, and the more I learned about different cultures, the more I understood how similar we are to one another. But as a kid who grew up in the late 90s, witnessed 9/11, and the Iraq war I couldn’t understand how we can be so similar yet treat each other with such cruelty. And that question really stuck with me and I tried to find an answer in every corner growing up.
In school, I was fascinated with sciences and particularly to the human body and psyche, so naturally, I gravitated towards a clinical path and studied clinical Psychology and Socioecology. A big part of my education was researching and writing papers, that really taught me to have a subjective view of the world and ask questions.
After school, working with multiple NGO’s, charities, and even working stepping into the corporate world, I still didn’t feel fulfilled. It was during that time that I witnessed discrimination, misogyny, and unfair resource allocation.
So, I decided to build my own organization where people evaluated and compensated by their merits, no matter gender, sexual orientation, race. And that’s how de Castellane Collective was born; a combination of three truly inclusive spaces where people with from different backgrounds and talents gather and work towards common goals and try to make a positive impact in the world. We created a space that it is built on acceptance, respect, and communication. Today more than 70% of our teams and managerial staff consists of women and LGBTQ members.
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?
One of the books that really impacted me is “The Velvet Rage” by Dr. Alan Downs. The book explains what it’s being raised in a heteronormative society looks like, and substantially what are the effects of that on an individual’s personality and character development.
I’m so happy that our society is becoming more accepting every day, and our media finally is getting closer to representing the whole society, and not just a small portion of it. Now more openly LGBTQ individuals are in positions of power, and our LGBTQ kids can feel like they’re not alone and can have role models that they can relate to. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but comparing to the 90s when I was growing up; we didn’t have any gay characters on TV and our society wasn’t as open as it is now.
So back to Alan Downs, he addresses how as gay men we have a different developmental path and we basically have to forge our way through certain developmental stages. He also addresses internalized guilt, internalized homophobia, and their effects on our lives. It’s definitely a book I’d recommend every gay person, parent, or friend reads.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote?
Yes! “I remembered that the real world was wide and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst it’s perils.” -Charlotte Brontë
Sometimes when we face difficult situations, we might feel like there’s no way out, we might lose hope, and we might think that life is meaningless. This quote reminds us that life has so much to offer, it tells you that if your willing to fight your way through this and you will feel everything that life has to offer.
I truly believe in that quote, and if there’s one thing that I learned in life, as someone who has dealt with depression all his life, is that no matter how hard a situation is it will always pass. And a day will come when you look back, and as my therapist used to say, that event will look like a “fly on a horse’s butt”!
How do you define leadership? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is awareness and as a result the ability to create a path to guide their team based on their information.
Awareness is one of the biggest part of leadership; a leader without a team to lead is just a person. Organizations without their members are just an empty name; therefore, as a good leader we must take the time to understand our team, their backstories, their needs and desire. In addition to our own organization, as a good leader we have to be aware of the society, and substantially have global awareness as it can affect our organizations.
A good leader is very similar to a good parent, loving but firm, not afraid to admit to their mistakes, not afraid to admit they might not know something, willing to learn, caring for everyone on their team, and not being afraid to take actions when they need to be taken. A good parent doesn’t just care about their goals and what benefits them, but it is about the whole family, and that should be a leader’s mentality, to work towards a common goal that benefits the team as a whole
Just like any human, a leader also makes mistakes, but owning up to the mistake, and willingness to learn and change is what differentiator of a good leader from a bad one.
Let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. Many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our country in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today and why does that resonate with you so much?
You’re absolutely right, as a country, we are dealing with environmental, societal, health, and leadership crisis. And each and every one of them deserves time and attention.
With that being said, today I would like to focus on the issue of inequality which is the foundation of many of our today’s problems. Social Inequality is a very broad term and can be categorized into five systems: wealth inequality, treatment and responsibility inequality, political inequality, life inequality, and membership inequality, these categories then can be broken down in race, age, gender, and more. Today my goal is to briefly touch on some of these issues and help the reader understand why each aspect is important and why we should care and take action.
What all five systems have in common is that Social inequality happens when resources in a given society are distributed unevenly, based norms of allocation. Norms of allocation is how the society believes recourses should be distributed based on power, class, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and sexual orientation.
Societies are made of smaller unites, and after dissecting those unites, we understand that root of each society is its individual members. So, to change something like norms of allocations o any other issue, as Mahatma Gandhi famously said, we have to “be the change that you wish to see in the world”
A very important factor that contributes to social inequality is our internal biases. Growing up we are affected by our communities, parents, and teachers, and all of us have internal biases and beliefs that are have been carved deep in our unconscious and are not necessarily based on reality. A couple of examples of these biases is thinking that darker skins are not as pretty as a lighter skin tone, or two guys kissing is disgusting or unnatural.
Our internal biases don’t necessarily make us a racist or a homophobe, but we need to be more than just not racist, or not homophobe, we need to be anti-racism, anti-homophobia and so on, and recognizing that we have these internal biases and then educating, and addressing them is the first step to the path of becoming an anti-that issue.
We usually don’t have any control over the first thought that comes to our minds about a certain subject, this thought is often influenced by our upbringings, social norms, and internal basis. Now we can either examine our thought, and if needed correct and redirect ourselves, or we can choose to build upon that biased thought. By recognizing our internal biases, by not making them the foundation for our behaviors we will break the chain, we will not pass it on to our children, and it ends with us.
Now, if we choose to build upon that biased thought, and as a result have a negative reaction or behavior (these behaviors don’t have to be big, they can be as subtle as a microaggression) you are choosing, and yes I’m using the word choice, to be ignorant.
We are responsible to educate ourselves, and in the day and age of technology ignorance is really a choice.
The second basic step I would like to encourage everyone to take is to keep an open mind to ideas that necessarily don’t align with their beliefs and simply listen. We shouldn’t look at different opinions as an attack, in fact, it is ok to not have to have an opinion on certain matters, we don’t always have to have a solution (especially in cases where we know nothing about), most marginalized communities are struggling to even be heard.
If we are willing to listen to one another and have the difficult conversations, we can collectively come up with a solution. When we start listening we’ll see that we didn’t even know the other person and our perception of them was simply an assumption based on what our society has told us.
So let’s all dedicate a time, to meet with the individuals whom we have a difference of opinion and have productive conversations. In academia, we learn to emotionally detach ourselves from our beliefs and have an objective view rather than a purely emotional view. This allows us to not only be able to have a conversation, but it also requires us to fully understand and examine each side’s beliefs.
If we can learn to listen, soon we’ll realize how similar we are.
Our lack of conversation only leads to radicalization of ideas and more divisiveness within our societies. If we’re surrounded by people who think just like us, there will be no diversification and our ideas no matter right or wrong, will get reinforced and we’re less likely to accept new ones.
I actually always bring up this issue with my fellow peers and Gen Zs, I encourage them not to block the people whom they disagree with, but instead to try to have a conversation with an open mind. If, and when, a certain group abandons a platform because it doesn’t deliver to their specific ideas, we get we start seeing the current situation with Facebook and Tiktok. Facebook has become a mostly conservative platform with an older demographic, and Tiktok a more progressive platform with the majority of its users being younger. This lack of conversation and divisiveness opens both groups to being easily influenced by radical agendas.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that people should all think the same or follow the same ideology. But I do believe that we should all have the ability to hear, and respect on others we need a bridge.
But when it comes to issues such as equality, these are not a matter of difference of opinion or political party. Equality is a human issue. Equality is not an issue where you can be in the middle. There is no “but” inequality, you either believe all humans are equal and should be treated with dignity and respect or you don’t. And let me say that I have yet to hear a reasonable argument that says that “this person is not equal to the other one”
Can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at right now? If we’re looking at equality, Is there anything that you think has led up to the crisis that we’re having with equality?
Our country has been dealing with social inequality and more specific systemic inequality for a while, major examples include racial inequality, income gap, gender inequality, health care, and social class.
To better understand the depth of these issues and their effect on our society we have to look at the data: Based on the data from the Institute for Policy Studies and Forbes, an estimated 41.4 percent of the total U.S. population — 135 million people — are either poor or low-income.
The same study suggests that one in four African American families have a net worth of zero. It also states; the median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. More than 30 percent of black children and over 26 percent of Hispanic kids live in poverty. Last but not least U.S. men have three times more than women in retirement savings.
The above data shows that inequality is affecting nearly every member of our society, so a “not in my backyard” approach to inequality and taking action about it just doesn’t work.
Every once in a while an incident brings one of these issues to the surface and it helps people understand and recognize that the system is broken and that it needs to be fixed. The most recent incident was the tragic murder of Mr. Floyd and as a result, the black lives matter movement.
I remember when President Obama was elected, a lot of people including myself naïvely thought that racism was over, not realizing that in reality racism was just not being expressed outwardly. Racism at that point was a hidden virus and the symptom of that virus was the election of president trump, when President Trump was elected and openly talked about race in a derogatory manner, openly slamming people from certain races, it then gave people the green light to publicly be racist. It was after the 2016 election when the air was filled with “build the wall” and “go back to your country” cries that I understood exactly how racist we are as a country. Trump’s election was like opening a messy closet and all the clothes falling on you, in this case, the clothes are racism, sexism, homophobia and so much more. Those issues were always there, but not they’re out in the open.
Racism never went away, as a matter of fact, systematic racism and our actions in the past are still affecting communities of color. To understand racism, we have to understand that it’s not an individual, isolated incident. It is actually embedded in all layers of our society; Although informal discrimination and segregation had existed in the United States, the specific practice called “redlining” began with the National Housing Act of 1934, which established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Redlining is the systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices.
Let’s remember that racial segregation and discrimination against minorities and minority communities predated this policy. redlining is the systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices.
The implementation of this federal policy aggravated the decay of minority inner-city neighborhoods. With resources being withheld, these neighborhoods were impacted financially, bringing down their real-estate prices, access to healthcare, and more.
Some people might say, well this was in the past, those practices aren’t around anymore, but the truth is that even to this date, this is happening, we just don’t call it “redlining”. Now for the sake of the argument, lets imagine that these practices ended in the 50s; we have to understand that our actions don’t just affect one generation, but the generations after as well.
We have to remember, that lower property values mean, a lower property tax, and therefore a decline in quality in public services that are funded through the tax money. Underfunded schools mean overcrowded classrooms, less access to resources such as books and lab materials, and a lower quality of education. So just from an educational standpoint, a person living in a redlined neighborhood is at a disadvantage comparing to other kids. With a lesser quality of education, kids are less likely to peruse higher education, and as a result end up in lower-paying jobs. And that is just a very small, very simplified example of systemic racism.
But taking a step back, of course, George Floyd was the boiling point for this issue and it really brought police brutality back into the public eye. We’ve had police brutality since the inception of police, but now we have cameras capturing it. If there was not someone there filming what happened to Mr. Floyd, no one would’ve ever known. What happened to Georg was a terrible, terrible incident and it shined a light and brought global awareness to a broken system desperately needs to change.
Can you tell our readers about your experience; either working on the cause of equality or your experience being impacted by this? Can you share a story with us?
Just like many members of the LGBTQ community, I have experienced some sort of discrimination, but I don’t see it appropriate to focus on my personal experience as a white gay man living in a progressive state of California, while the members of the LGBTQ community both nationally and internationally are harassed, abused and even beaten to death simply because of who they are.
But witnessing and reading about discrimination has only made me more determine to do something about it; For the past few years I’ve been involved with NGOs and nonprofit both nationally and internationally working on equality for women, children, people with disabilities (mostly international), and the LGBTQ community both socially and on a policy level.
I have made inequality one of the main focuses of the de Castellane Foundation and currently we’re in the process of developing three LGBTQ focused programs;
1- focusing on LGBTQ who have been incarcerated, with the goal of rehabilitation and career development
2- LGBTQ youth education and support groups, with the goal of focusing on academic success, by tutoring, providing safe space, providing school supplies and support groups.
3- Our third program focuses on LGBTQ health and more specifically addiction. We are partnering with addiction recovering centers and creating a scholarship to support individuals dealing with addiction with both their treatment and career development.
Here’s the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your five steps that each of us can take to proactively help heal our country?
1- Practice Compassion: If we had compassion for one another, we wouldn’t be facing most of the problems that we are today.
We have forgotten that as humans we’re all the same. The famous Persian poet, Saadi has a that says:
“Human beings are members of a whole
In the creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain”
Today we’ve grown immune to other’s pain and it’s as if we’ve accepted poverty, discrimination, and pain to be a “normal” part of our society. As a result, we’re able to mentally distance ourselves from ourselves from the issues. We’ve developed an “us” vs “them” mentality justifying our actions. Otherness is the result of a discursive process by which a dominant in-group (“Us,” the Self) constructs one or many dominated out-groups (“Them,” Other) by stigmatizing a difference — real or imagined — presented as a negation of identity and thus a motive for potential discrimination. I would like to encourage you to extend your compassion and empathy beyond your family and friends. When you see others as yourself, when you understand how they love the way you love, experience pain in the same way that you to, it becomes almost impossible not to have compassion and not to want to help.
Our society is at a stage where, when see a homeless person yelling in the street, another human who is clearly suffering, instead of helping them, we pull out our phones, send that to our friends, and make them an object of ridicule. So basically, treat others, and by others, I mean everyone, the same way that you’d like to be treated if you were in their position.
2- Practice listening: As mentioned earlier as a country we don’t know how to have productive conversations that lead to positive outcomes, and one of the most important factors in communication is listening. Having a conversation, especially with someone of different beliefs and values really broadens our perspective. We all have a set of values and beliefs that we go by every day. Let’s take the time to sit down and write down each of them and what they mean to us. Why do we think this is a value, why do we believe in it? I encourage everyone to dare to question their own values and beliefs. Ask how you got that value, is it something that was passed down to you, or did you develop it yourself, and last and the most question, is it based on the truth.
Clearly knowing what and why stand for the things we do, allows us to have a productive conversation based on facts and not purely.
3- Examine your Internal biases; This is something that I do every day… We first have to acknowledge that we are naturally biased about certain subjects. Then examine each of them, what is the thought process, where does it stem from. After understanding it, when you have that biased thought you can correct yourself instead of building and act upon it. Then really re-evaluate ourselves. If we say that we care about the environment, what are you doing for the environment?
4- Don’t judge: This is one of the more challenging steps.. But we should stop judging and substantially generalizing based on apparencies and stereotypes. We don’t know what each individual has been through their life, so unless we truly get to know them we can’t have a realistic perception of who they are. Judging goes hand in hand with respect. Let’s learn to celebrate and respect one another’s differences.
5-The last step that I think we should all take is accepting our mistake and owning up to them. We’re humans, we all make mistakes and the notion of being perfect just doesn’t exist. But when we do make a mistake, let’s take a step back, understand why it was wrong, how you can prevent them from happening in the feature. And then take an extra (but necessary step) to apologize and also fix what you did.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
The first steps always start within the induvial; we have to work inward and correct the wrong processes that has been engraved in us since we were born when we fix our thoughts and as result behavior, then we should start working on the outside, and do what we can to get to the desired outcome. Help in whatever capacity you can, if you can donate your time to an after-school program that works specifically with kids do it. If you can’t give the homeless person on the sidewalk a dolor, at least be kind, smile, make them feel like they matter. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter what you do, or how big or small it is, as long as you’re doing something.
In a larger scale, at our foundation, we have expanded our scope of work with specifically addressing the community’s lack of compassion. We’re partnering up with universities, schools of ecology and psychology, and individuals in these fields to come up with a formula for compassion, we are examining every aspect, from sociopsychological to physiological and are trying to really understand what compassion is and how can we promote it. The goal is to develop a training program where we go into schools, police stations, hospitals and other public areas, and promote compassion in areas where suffering has been resynthesized. People can educate and spread the word through social media, volunteer, and of course join our team of experts to contribute to the program and write this research.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved?
I am optimistic.
I’m optimistic because of our younger generation.
Younger folks are really doing things differently, breaking our of outdated social molds, and speaking their minds. Looking back our parents’ values or even some millennials’ values, and definition of success– are things like getting a job, buying a house, having a nice car, having a family, settling down or traveling.
But the gen Z is different. They care more about the world they live in and their values are less individualistic and more collective. Gen Z values are equality, climate change, and global poverty. They are wanting a world where everyone can enjoy life’s offering, they care about things that our past generations wouldn’t really think about, or if they did, oftentimes those values got less important as people got older and prioritized comfort over ideals.
Thanks to the accessibility of information, and by rejecting traditional, they have forged goals of their own; they don’t care if they ever had a home. They don’t really care if they drive a nice car. They care more for human life and our environment
I think most of the country looks up to our younger generation, recognize how active they are, just how much they’re willing to sacrifice to achieve their ideals. and how much they care. Yes, sometimes they lack the experience that they need to make change happen, sometimes we might think they’re misinformed, but instead of stopping their activism, let’s try to pass down our knowledge of our experience and help them achieve what they’re fighting for.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society like you, what would you tell them?
The younger generation is doing great and I encourage others to follow their lead!
But If had to say something, as a young millennial I would tell them I understand how they feel. I know that everyday we’re bombarded with negative news and I know that it can make us feel hopeless and intimated.
I know it’s much easier to say I don’t care and move on, but we should care.
As humans we’re all linked, every individual’s action affects all each and every member who is living on this planet. Our environment is where we can make a multilateral difference. It is the one thing we all share, and each individual’s actions affect the whole. So, for the sake of humanity and our future, we need to stand up and take action.
So, I would encourage our younger readers to direct their feelings towards something good. Find a case that your passionate about and based on your schedule dedicate a certain time to contribute to that cause. We often forget how powerful we are. We all have the power to create change. I know the is so much happening, and it can be intimidating, but we don’t have to tackle all of them at once. Let’s isolate an issue, fully understand it, come up with a solution and move to the next one.
Is there a person in this world or in the United States 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:)
Daniel: I would definitely say Malala Yousafzai. First of all, I first do have to mention that I envy her, I wanted to be the youngest person who wins the Nobel peace prize [Laughs].
But jokes aside I would love to sit down with her and talk about her inspirations, her goals, and what she hopes for this world to be. She is an incredible icon. She turned her suffering into something much bigger than herself. They shot Malala hooping to silence her but what happened to her not only didn’t silence her, but anything made her more determined to use her voice for change.
One of the most important things about Malala is her passion and understanding the importance of education. The more educated society the less problems they have. And by education, I’m not necessarily referring to systemic education, but the right and accessibility to information so that one can learn.
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