Find the courage to listen and reflect when you get push back on your perspective. When I do interviews and I feel that some questions are “off” I embrace the opportunity to start a conversation. The folks that move the ball forward are the ones who reflect on the feedback and use it to learn more. This happened just yesterday in a Take Notice Podcast interview and we had a great conversation!
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 Yvette Dubel.
She has been called your go to person for the perfect blend of creativity, insight and ability to connect. Yvette Dubel is a speaker, artist-researcher, and personal innovation mentor, founder CEO of WebAntiphon Group, author of “Why Brand Risk Management Innovation is a Game Changer”, and creator of the Empowered Innovation System[CFAaP]. She serves conscious leaders looking for outside box thinking with vision and wisdom to drive triple bottom line success (profit, people, planet). For more than two decades Yvette has built a reputation as a big picture thinker and social innovator that knows how to drive short term goals without letting what matters most fall by the wayside. Dubel is also Artist-Researcher in Residence Coordinating the We,the World Freedom Campaign and Founding Director of the [We] Freedom Film Fest. As part of this collaboration on MLK Day 2021 she launched “ a cure for racism” project powered by the Empowered Innovation System[CFAaP].
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 grew up in a community I never felt a part of and so early on I wanted nothing more than to escape. My early experiences with institutional racism were my first lessons in advocacy as I witnessed how my mother relentlessly fought to have my intelligence acknowledged and prevented attempts to stifle or discourage my potential.
When I started kindergarten, I think schools in the county were only 5 or 6 years into integration. Mind you Brown vs Board of Education was a 1950 ruling and I am talking about the mid70s.
At any rate, in preschool as Mrs. Smith demanded we master our basics (writing our name, knowing shapes, counting to 100, ABCs, colors etc) before graduation she drilled into me that when we (black children) went into the world good enough would never be good enough so we had to get used to being better. When I entered kindergarten the confidence this gave me made me a target for the teacher who took every opportunity to punish me (physically) for things I hadn’t done or for going to the bathroom when she wouldn’t give me permission to go. She also refused to allow me to be transferred to the gifted program. When I alerted Mom to what was happening she wasted no time addressing the matter with the teacher and the principal after she had assembled her case.
My Mom went to the library after working in a factory job to look up federal, state and county statutes that applied, she got statements from the teachers aid and teacher in the next room who were witness to my mistreatment. When she arrived it was with the threat of legal action and that teacher never hit or put her hands on me again. And the teacher’s aid worked with me in the back instead of moving me into the gifted program.
While that was the first it wasn’t the last time I watched my mother put together a legal defense on my or my brother’s behalf.
And so that put me on course to do better learning on my own than in class environments.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Noni (Andrea) was the first black woman I knew who made her living from her art. She was a dancer and mother of four that I befriended shortly before her murder. She had escaped a domestic violence situation and was starting over when her abuser found her — stabbing her multiple times before shooting himself and orphaning their four children. Our friendship helped solidify my interest in ending domestic abuse/violence because of its connection as a risk factor for so many community/personal problems.
Her dance with life the way she balanced motherhood and working gave me an example that changed how I thought about my success and my pursuit of it…not to mention motherhood and womanhood. It all came together to inform my understanding of black feminism as a humanitarian movement that is shaped by intervention/prevention orientation towards program development.
But it was performance artists William Pope L. and Yoko Ono that sparked something that made me believe it was possible and worthwhile for me to give life, in collaboration with Ron, to begin [CFAaP] and discover my SoulFood framework to follow where it would lead me with “Business as Ingredient” and the notion of building an inclusive art series/movement that would operationalize Art as Solution.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
“a cure for racism” powered by Empowered Innovation[CFAaP] System
The project is a collaboration with NYC nonprofit WE The World.
It helps those allies in the Black Lives Matter movement who want to be better allies. The project helps folks develop a more meaningful understanding of racism and it empowers them with easy to digest takeaways to begin taking action on. It also helps address some of the most challenging obstacles for allies asking “what next?” and it does so with a sense of joy and hopefulness.
“a cure for racism” project focuses on what you have to gain by putting allyship and advocacy into a new framework and it explains why doing so is important in dismantling systemic racism.
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 Mom of course, but since I shared a story about her already my thoughts turn next to my Aunt Yvette. She was the first person other than Mom who really supported my artistic endeavors. They invested in my first run of prints and my first art trade show booth when I started my first company in art publishing. Aunt Yvette was also the one who first took me to art galleries and museums when she took me on summer trips that allowed me to see beyond the place I was growing up in. She was also with me on a trip to Detroit a couple years ago when I had this intense realization that made me quite emotional. It is hard to explain but essentially I felt some kind artistic vindication during a visit to the Detroit Institute of Art Museum. There was something about reading some of the artist statements and seeing how the artist expressed their ideas or aspirations gave me the insight that I was the only one who needed to give me permission to discover my artist destiny. It didn’t matter if no one understood yet, I felt certain some day it would be.
She listened as I tried to explain, I don’t know if she really understood but it was meaningful that she was with me for that moment. She has always supported me being myself and made me feel embraced because of not in spite of who or how I am. Since feeling genuinely accepted and embraced has been hard to come by for me, having their unconditional love and support meant everything growing up and even today continues to be part of what sustains me.
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?
In my early days as a consultant I was an avid bubble gum chewer. So much so that folks would gift me boxes of my favorite, Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
It was not unusual for a colleague or client to alert me in the parking lot or the elevator that I’d forgotten to get rid of it as I blew a ridiculously large bubble that threatened to disturb my expertly applied makeup.
Well, one day no one sounded the alarm. Sitting at a conference table with members of our U.S. Congress I was startled when someone said my name just as I was about to blow a bubble but when everyone looked my way, it flew out of my mouth.
I learned I needed to stop indulging my Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum habit.
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?
Physics For The Rest Of Us. by Roger S. Jones
1.It made me realize how different my life might have been if I had had a better physics teacher in high-school.
2. It sparked my interest in quantum computers and innovative approaches to cryptography and data security
3. It encouraged me to develop a couple of ideas into proposals and explore getting patents.
4. It expanded my vision/understanding of social innovation and socio technical infrastructures
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?
Sure. The one that comes to mind is actually one my Empowered Innovation Principles. I call them EIPs.
EIP#2 — Seeing what may not be obvious but needs to be seen opens new possibilities for growth (and healing).
When consulting on a support services initiative where I was trying to increase inclusion with a resistant group I gained important clarity about what might activate this principle.
- Scattered confused thinking
- Shutting down mentally or emotionally
- Favoring blind spots or biases
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Often being charismatic is enough for someone to secure a leadership position. I think leadership is hard to pin down because there are so many flavors that depend on context. But I think we recognize it when we see it.
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?
In CFAaP we have been exploring these kinds of things through the lens of Attention (as a personal intangible asset). This kind of boiling over aka Attention:Conflict has to do with both staking claim on the same thing, The Truth. Since both believe there is only one then one has to be right and the other wrong. Meaning one has a rightful claim and the other does not. And so with this view Conflict is the only option.
This rift however is not new it is the continuation of the divide that led to the Civil War and it is the same “partisan divide” that destroyed the progress and potential Reconstruction
offered to live up to the American ideal The Constitution describes as our United aspiration as a nation.
And failure to acknowledge this rift as part of our national historical legacy that was cemented by the decision to forgo accountability for treason and the domestic terrorism that followed for the next hundred years, demonstrates more than tolerance but complicity.
Continued denials or enthusiasm to make excuses only make matters worse.
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?
I have unfriended and unfollowed colleagues who have been radicalized. Some inlaws that have gone that route are less of an issue since their racism led me to cut ties just prior to the 2016 election. As things have gotten worse I felt clearly my call is to help those who want to be allies and help build those bridges, but I lack the patience to focus on overcoming the resistance of those that are stubbornly stuck in a pool of lies or loyal to systemic bigotry and racism. I think it is a mistake to coddle them or indulge their alternative reality. It seems this enabling is discouraged with addicts for example but treason, insurrection and domestic terrorism have always found those with the most political power and influence eager to forgive national sins or even crimes against humanity as long as the offenders are white and the victims brown or black.
At this point I think when you compare response to any black led resistance to institutional racism and city/state sanctioned murders to what we are seeing with rioters and seditionists that attempted a political coup when they besieged and desecrated the Capitol building the difference in police force/security response and much of the rhetoric by politicians is noticeable. The repeating of history, support not to hold the inciters of sedition/treason and domestic terrorists accountable does say that is who the U.S. has been and is choosing to be. It is time to face this and finally do something about it and stop looking the other way.
Here’s a personal story….
While on vacation in Minnesota one morning, out of the blue, my father in law (a loyal Fox News viewer) said Lincoln shouldn’t have won. Instead he said his opponent should have been president because he wouldn’t have pushed the country into the Civil War. After over 25 years it seemed he wanted me to know where he stood on the issue of the war fought to end the enslavement of black people. Did my presumption of my equality offend him?
I was stunned then angry and hurt before getting angry again. The next day in an email after cutting our visit short I presented my case drawing a parallel between WWII and the Civil War to end the brutalization, torture and murder of human beings. I asserted that the humanity of my ancestors was equal to that of the Jewish people liberated from concentration camps as my ancestors were from plantations.
He chose not to respond. When asked about it, I was told he said he didn’t know what to say and would not discuss it further.
I haven’t spoken to him since and my life (and marriage) have been better for it.
In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?
If you can find compassion extend it with a bit of tough love. I think a mix of the kind of accountability required of a recovering addict plus applying lessons from parenting since what we have is the equivalent of a tantrum in the face of changing reality where the majority favor progress and inclusion. Unwilling to adapt, grow or evolve some have preferred radicalization to find validation aka a place where the tantrum is indulged. When my kids had tantrums they had two choices…1. Use their words to separate facts from feelings and I will do my best to help find resolution and some peace or 2. Cry and scream until they got tired of denying reality in a world that will move on without them.
In How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk it encourages natural consequences.
When my boys were young they were careless with their aim in the bathroom. I would complain every time I cleaned their bathroom until one day I decided to let them deal with the consequences. When they had to clean their own bathroom their toilet aim improved dramatically.
Failure to hold folks accountable after the violent tantrums that ended Reconstruction is why we continue to struggle with this unresolved karma and pain. So a more honest or informed understanding of the divide may be needed. This means the necessity of accountability for reconciliation to be meaningful and avoid repeating past mistakes.
Why is there so much longing for fake unity rather than truth (based on facts) and accountability that can lead to understanding needed for collective progress? There is something essential in the framing of the issue that needs to be seen as the perpetuation of historical bias, a willingness to excuse the inexcusable.
Why is what the nazis stand for and things they’ve done, treated with recognition for accountability and disdain but the same accountability was not required of confederates (domestic terrorists united by commitment to racism and bigotry as law of the land) and their supporters — then or now?
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?
While I understand the desire to move on and let by gones be by gones. I see that being a repeat of past failures because failure to hold folks accountable after the violence and domestic terrorism that ended Reconstruction is why we continue to struggle with this unresolved issue of our national identity (see White Rage by Carol Anderson) So a more sophisticated or informed understanding of the divide may be needed and folks need to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations if there is to be any real bridge building.
Again I don’t think ignoring the problem so folks can play nice is the answer. That attitude is the problem because it expresses the persistent blindspot that has created national complicity required for systemic racism to continue. It is the reason I launched the “a cure for racism “ project with We the World, a non-profit working to amplify global voices and organizations working towards a better world that works for all of us.
However businesses would do well to provide training and events to increase and encourage self awareness and mindfulness. I favor personal innovation because unlike personal growth/development it includes impact on others in evaluation of successful outcomes.
And so personal innovation mentoring can help people develop holistic strategies for owning and processing their feelings and beliefs without projecting blame for their failures or problems while still addressing practices of inequity and bias and getting better outcomes from their goals.
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?
Again I point to my previous answers. Because politics is a driver and protector of injustice for some this can’t be set aside as a non issue but agreed it doesn’t have to be central to every conversation.
However, it may prevent deeper connection or deter them and I think folks may just need to be willing to let it be what it is until its ready to become something better. As mentioned prior, understanding the historical context and not denying the connection is progress.
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?
Exploring personal Innovation as a lifestyle to get folks to stop using social media like a journal you make public….encouraging them instead to keep a real private journal and take personal inventory so they come to understand you don’t need to share every thought or opinion.
Somethings need to be expressed and explored privately for reflection
What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?
Stop relying on them to digest information and policy and instead cultivate a more inclusive socio technical infrastructure that increases community capacity to aggregate and digest information…and focus on how to cultivate more intellectual vigor at the community level
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”?
Summon the courage, the heart, the vision…whatever is needed to understand systemic racism and how it dominates, limits and shapes the lives of black people in particular but POC as well.
Questions like that feel like they have something embedded that feels like willful ignorance or lack of compassion/care about the PTSD we live with and face on a regular basis because racism is something we are expected to tolerate despite paying taxes and voting for better, this most basic acknowledgement of what “taxation without representation” has meant for us for generations gets pushed aside and overlooked. As if we don’t have the right to expect better and should just shut up already and vote your agenda.
My (white) husband and I were followed and had a gun pulled on us last year while looking at lakeside properties for sale. After filing a report with Wilson County Sheriff’s dept where it happened and several follow up calls a deputy laughed and told me I had been watching too many tv shows, insisting it was on us to identify the individual and there was nothing they could do with the description of the car, the gun and individual.
This attitude is well known about that dept when it comes to dealing with black and brown folks.
Now why should our tax dollars be used to enforce our subjugation? Would white people be expected to tolerate that?
Again let’s look at the nazis and Jewish people, after they were liberated can you imagine asking that question if over a hundred years after the nazis were still essentially in power shaping the culture/laws to embody their antisemitic views and allowed to just go on living like nothing happened?
Why is this considered reasonable when it comes to black and indigenous people?
People who are struggling to survive still…fighting for their right to LIVE after so many generations have done the same only to still be told to get over it and help us save the nation/world whatever that means at the time…by people who seem oblivious to the fact that it comes across as….No we don’t care about you but you should care enough about “us” to help us save the planet/nation/ etc. And never realizing the hornets nest they kick with the request/plea/demand.
Now if you or anyone wants to be more effective, educate yourself about the history of environmental racism to understand that BIPOC have been in that fight for a healthier planet but the media didn’t really pay attention until white communities were directly negatively impacted.
See Janica Barrett’s post Books about Environmental Racism, White Privilege, and Climate Justice
So who is noticing how this bias gets perpetuated in current initiatives intended to address climate change challenges?
Hopefully my response to your question helps clarify why the battle for the soul of our nation persists
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.
1. Find the courage to listen and reflect when you get push back on your perspective.
When I do interviews and I feel that some questions are “off” I embrace the opportunity to start a conversation. The folks that move the ball forward are the ones who reflect on the feedback and use it to learn more. This happened just yesterday in a Take Notice Podcast interview and we had a great conversation!
2. Learn to be ok with uncomfortable moments and be willing to move through them with greater understanding.
EIP #5 Your choices express what you are (really) saying not your words.
Some people freeze up when “real talk” starts or they get defensive. Instead this is an opportunity to reflect and witness. This is part of the problem my We the World collaboration “ a cure for racism” project aspires to help folks who understand they benefit from systemic and institutional racism to address.
3. Developing a better understanding of what racism is and how to recognize it.
This was another part of why my “ a cure for racism” project is a fundraiser for We the World FreedomCampaign. It is accessible because it is free or with donation to qualify for bonuses — supporters get a more meaningful understanding that actually chips away at why systemic racism persists and what to do about it.
4. Build a practice of peace and compassion by building momentum in that direction.
I posted a video for MLK 40 Days of Peace that shared the strategy of focusing on the path of least resistance (like with my dogs featured in said video) to get compassion momentum going instead of trying to force it on a path of resistance.
5. Learn about cultivating more adaptable mental models.
There is a segment of folks who can’t or refuse to imagine a future unlike our past. That is the result of not knowing how to access new mental models to allow them to conceptualize a more flexible identity and sense of self. Instead for too many their sense of self relies on political whiteness and a distorted historical narrative that justifies it. Cultivating new mental models would allow such a people to develop a more truly humanitarian identity.
Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?
Find opportunities to be kind but that doesn’t mean excusing the inexcusable. Those espousing and upholding racism and bigotry should not be made to feel comfortable in their beliefs or attempts to make them policy.
Kindness can be given freely but respect and trust are earned. This approach keeps interactions superficial and eventually that becomes problematic if we don’t develop skills for deep work.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Yes, most days. I launched “a cure for racism “ because I saw the same thing President Biden expressed in his inaugural speech. “Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward. And, we can do so now.” — President Biden Inauguration Speech (2021)
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?
If you think about how your success impacts others now you can avoid a mid-life crisis confronting an unwanted legacy when you’re older.
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. 🙂
Jenifer Lewis…increasingly in recent years her truth she brings to her work and activism has been a guiding light for me. When I decided to go all in with my “a cure for racism “ project she served as a major inspiration as I worked out how I could do this without relinquishing my own joy and agency.
How can our readers follow you online?
Folks can also tag or DM me on most social media platforms
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!