Changing Lenses: Diversify Your Perspectives

Ep309: White Supremacy Culture from a White Man’s Perspective, with Jeff Akin

April 12, 2022 Rosie Yeung Season 3 Episode 309
Changing Lenses: Diversify Your Perspectives
Ep309: White Supremacy Culture from a White Man’s Perspective, with Jeff Akin
Show Notes Transcript

If you were emotionally OK enough with the episode title to click on the link, thanks for making it this far! I’m only partly kidding. The words “white supremacy culture” are definitely triggering, and not just for white people. What that phrase even means is hard to explain.

So when fellow podcaster and white American male Jeff Akin told me he was (gently) raising awareness about white supremacy culture (“WSC”) at his workplace – and he works for the government – and he’s a high-level executive – I was super curious to know how he felt about WSC.

Besides being an executive leader, Jeff also teaches about leadership in his podcast, The Starfleet Leadership Academy. I admit, I had preconceived notions about what yet another white man would have to say. But Jeff changed my lens when he shared his own learning journey and struggles with WSC, to now being a champion against it.

Join me in hearing this high school educated, ex-Navy, pro-wrestling-TV-broadcaster-turned-executive-leader share how he’s helping dismantle white supremacy culture!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Ways white supremacy culture manifests in Western workplaces
  • How Jeff gradually changed in response and understanding of white supremacy culture
  • The difference between white supremacy culture and a white supremacist
  • Jeff’s primary weapon against white supremacy culture
  • How to speak up on controversial issues when you can’t speak freely

Link to episode transcript here.

Are you looking for job search and career coaching?

As a racialized, recovering recruiter, I'm here to 👉🏻 "Help you survive the search!"👈🏻 Click the link to learn more!

Find more support and resources, and contact me directly at:

Guest Bio and References/Links

About Jeff Akin:

Jeff Akin is a 20-year veteran of the public and private sectors. He has extensive experience in both media and entertainment, as well as over two decades in management and leadership. Jeff specializes in listening to others, helping them unleash their true potential, and giving feedback that is authentic yet kind.
This pro wrestling TV broadcaster turned executive leader is never afraid to get his hands dirty when it comes to improving lives!

Find Jeff on:

Podcast on Apple (or wherever you listen): The Starfleet Leadership Academy


References and resources in this episode:, curated by Tema Okun and other anti-racism educators.

Support Changing Lenses✨

👉🏼Buy me a Bubble Tea! 🧉👈🏼

Ep309: White Supremacy Culture from a White Man’s Perspective, with Jeff Akin


[intro music begins]

Rosie: White supremacy culture. Have I lost you or are you still listening to this episode. Either way I'm not judging you. I know people who aren't even white, who are triggered hearing those words. And as a Chinese Canadian woman, I would struggle if people said Chinese supremacy culture to me. So I totally get it if you're not able to continue from here. If you're still with me, thanks for choosing to change your lens. You're part of a growing community who envisioned a way of working that's more just, equitable, decolonized and inclusive or JEDI for short. In this podcast, we shift our worldview on business by looking through a JEDI lens.

I'm your host, Rosie Yeung, a former finance and HR executive turned JEDI coach, keynote speaker and podcaster. Over my 20 year career in corporate Canada, I've taken leadership programs, professional development courses, and read business books. And almost all of these were led or written by white people. White men actually. And I never thought twice about it. I mean, there was good stuff in those programs. I definitely learned a lot and found helpful tips in what they taught. At the same time, I felt I needed to filter what they were telling me. Their advice on how to climb the corporate ladder or succeed as an entrepreneur, didn't always feel a hundred percent right for me. I found myself questioning if I could or should do all of those things when it didn't align with my personality or cultural values. And when I became a JEDI coach and speaker myself, I didn't want to hear from white corporate trainers anymore. Now I struggled with this because this is also bias and I don't want to blanket exclude an entire group of authors and coaches who have lots to offer. Racialized people listening out there. Can you relate to this? Please tell me I'm not the only one, cause I do feel bad for thinking this way. But if I'm being honest, I am craving the perspectives of people who aren't white on how they see leadership and how racialized people can succeed in Western business culture while being true to ourselves. This is a perspective that has not been widely available to date because we live in a white supremacy culture. 

So when I learned that my fellow podcaster and now friend Jeff Akin, who is a white man, is hosting a podcast about leadership. My immediate reaction was not another white man telling me how to lead like a white man. And when I heard his premise was leadership development told through the lens of Star Trek, I rolled my eyes and thought, great, another gimmicky way to teach leadership, but still from a white perspective. Of course, I never told him what I was thinking, but then he DM'd me about my podcast episode on second chance hiring for people with criminal records. And I learned that he advocates for this through his job. And then he DM'd me on my Instagram post about white supremacy culture and shared how he's using his position and privilege to educate other white people about this. So now I have to confess that I held biases and stereotypes about Jeff and his podcast that were not true. And I'm really thankful that he had the courage to share his personal views and his work to break down my barriers. I am so happy that he is a JEDI visionary working to change his own and other people's lenses. And so when I decided to do an episode on white supremacy culture this season, I thought who better than an American white male, Star Trek superfan and pro wrestling TV broadcaster turned executive leader to be my guest. So listeners let's give a warm, Changing Lenses welcome to Jeff Akin, host of the Starfleet Leadership Academy Podcast. Hi, there, Jeff.

[intro music ends]


Jeff: Hi, Rosie. Thank you so much for having me and thank you for that really warm welcome. I'm really excited to be here with you.

Rosie: Yeah, I appreciate your grace. And just listening to my honesty and my thoughts about, you know, what your podcast is, and I'm so glad to have the chance to get to know you and to hear your true perspective, not the one that I assumed. And I also want to say before we dive into this incredible discussion we're going to have about white supremacy culture that I recognize it is a sensitive topic. It could be triggering to you, it may be triggering to the listeners. So I do want to try and make this as safe and open a conversation as possible by committing to you that I am listening and sharing from a place of love and respect. And that your story matters, and your truth is welcome here.

Jeff: I appreciate that. It is hard, right? And I think I'll tell a really quick story. It kind of opened my eyes to this was it almost 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to go through a leadership academy, right? A lot of organizations will have, you know, a nine month kind of focus thing to develop leaders. So I had the opportunity to go through one of those and it was great, but we had did a module in there on microaggressions. And this is back in 2012. So this was kind of a new thing. You know, especially for me as, you know, a white American dude. It's like, whoa, micro what, but it was really eyeopening. I had a hard time kind of understanding and accepting some of the things that the trainer was talking about. And so I raised my hand because I'm a white dude and I'm not afraid to raise my hand and say things in public places. But I said, I said, look, I'm having a hard time understanding some of this because I've literally built a career off challenging and breaking rules. That's what I've done and is how I've built my personal value. And he looked at me and he said, well, of course you have. Your white. And I, for the first time in my life, I had, I was speechless. I didn't know how to respond. And I had a lot of classmates who kind of stood up and they were like, that's not fair. You can't say things like that, but really like I reflected on that a lot. And I was like, wow, I, I think he's right. And it took me a couple of years to like, figure out what to do with that, you know. But yeah. I openly admit right. That I, I, I live a different life than many people do as a result of, you know, my zip code, where I was born, the color of my skin. And that was one of the big moments for me that was like, I, I need to do something about this.

Rosie: Wow. That sounds like a really powerful transformative moment for you. So you said you took a couple years to figure it out and then you figured it all out, right. You had all the answers. 

Jeff: Oh yeah. All of them. Cause, cause that's what I do, right? Yeah. 

Rosie: Yes. Obviously it is a continuous learning journey, but in sort of semi seriousness. Cause I know we're going to do a lot of joking around on this episode. In semi seriousness what did you end up with that like, well, after you've reflected over time and even up to today, where are you at with that? 

Jeff: I think it really, you know, I landed in a place that I think a lot of people are and fragility, right. You know, and, and really kind of pushing back on, what do you mean I have privilege you know. I grew up in a large family and we lived in poverty. You know, we got food stamps that back in the day where like the little paper monopoly money things. And and that was my lived experience, right. And I never saw that as being privileged. And so I had to kind of work through that and understand that privilege isn't just about financial status or the life that you had. It's really, in a lot of ways. It's just, when I think of it, in terms of like, when you walk into a room, nothing said, just walking in. What cache do you immediately bring to the table? What agency do you have just by virtue of walking into the room? And what I know as I'm a six foot, three inch, 220 pound white male that is not afraid to open his mouth and talk. I bring a lot into that room without anything, but I came to this, not just through self-reflection, but in talking to colleagues. I'm very fortunate that I work primarily in the public sector. And so I work with a lot of people of color um, and people from varying backgrounds and people in the LGBTQ+ communities where I'm able to ask questions, you know, and just really kind of put myself out there. And I think for me, what I learned on reflection there is I was able to ask those questions and have those conversations because just kind of the privilege I bring to the table, it's step one. I didn't feel threatened bringing that forward. What are you going to take away from me, right? I can ask this, you know, and I don't have a lot to lose by asking it. Now I say that tempered in my journey through white fragility and that I think a lot of people who are still in those early stages do feel that they have something to lose, right? I didn't do anything wrong. Why should I have to this? Well, yeah, you, you personally probably didn't do anything wrong, but you know what happened for like a couple of thousands years? A lot of people did a lot of things that were wrong. And kind of where I landed with things is what I call the Peter Parker principle of privilege and that, and that is that with great privilege comes great responsibility. The acknowledgement of privilege isn't me losing anything. In fact, it's me gaining a lot, right. And then having that realization that I can ask questions, I can walk into conversations that others can't and I can create space for others to have a voice and be an active participant in things. I feel like I really veered off of your question, um, on there.

Rosie: I Actually, I feel like you open the doors to many avenues we could take this conversation to and I I'm like a dog chasing a squirrel, right now. I'm like, oh where, where should I go? Where should I go with this? Um, okay, let me backtrack a little bit because some people listening might even be at the place of what even is white supremacy culture. And I'm not, I don't stand here with pretending to have all the answers or got everything figured out either. I haven't been wrestling with this since 2012 like you have Jeff either. So with neither of us say we have the perfect answer or definition. Um, I will share with our listeners and with you, Jeff, some things I have been reading from a resource that I think you've been following as well, which is Tema Okun's website. Tema is a white woman who has curated a lot of information around white supremacy and white supremacy culture. So I will have the link to her website in the show notes for anybody who's interested, but I'll share with you some quotes now where she has described what she considers white supremacy culture to be. So she suggests that a definition is that it's the widespread ideology baked into the beliefs, values, norms, and standards of our groups, communities, et cetera. Teaching us both overtly and covertly that whiteness holds value and whiteness is value. And then more specifically, she says later on that white supremacy culture is reflected in the current reality that 22% of Black households, 18% of Latinex households and 9% of white households do not have enough food. So kind of to your point, Jeff, earlier that yes, there are white people who are poor and that privilege isn't just tied to your income level because 9% of white households don't have enough food, but 22% of Black households don't have enough food. And she goes further to say that this means our culture accepts this level of hunger and food insecurity as normal. She says, because white supremacy culture is the water we swim in. We inevitably internalize the messages about what this culture believes, values and considers normal. We absorb these messages as individuals and as a collective. And as a result, white supremacy culture shapes how we think and act and how we make decisions and behave.

Now, I don't know if this helps you or anyone who's listening to really understand or grasp what that is, but I'd love to hear your perspective and specifically around leadership, because that is what your area of expertise is in. Like what does white supremacy culture mean to you, Jeff? 

Jeff: Yeah, no, my goodness. Dr. Okun's resources are so fantastic and I find it just so great how I just kind of landed on a lot of her stuff. And then you had posted online. I'm like, oh my goodness, like we're in the same head space, this is wild. But for me, it really hit, for me in terms of leadership.

So, uh, I'm an executive manager with the largest public sector organization in the state of Oregon. My role is to manage administrative programs as part of the Chief Administrative Officer's office. So I report directly to our Chief Administrative Officer and manage a number of programs within there. I had taken over management of this program, the prior leadership was removed for creating a hostile work environment. And so there's an exercise that I go through that I just call critical, urgent, routine. Where you start taking your tasks that are there and you categorize them. Is this critical? Will lives be lost if we don't respond immediately? Is it urgent? This is an important thing that I need to respond to within a few hours, maybe a day, or is this a routine activity? And in, in parsing through all of the things that come across our program in there, it kinda hit me. Well, it hit all of us that we had nothing that was critical. But everything was treated like it was critical. There was this constant, false sense of urgency that we needed to respond now and immediate. And we had to always be available. And so that kind of happened, right. And we started making leadership decisions and management decisions to reallocate people and priorities in a way. But I couldn't get out of my head like why? Why do we do that? And what I found is that people were placing their personal and professional value on how critical these work tasks were. I do very, without me, the whole world will collapse and fall apart. Oh, could you imagine, right. Could you imagine that kind of

Rosie: pressure? 

A different kind of Peter Parker. Spider-Man principle there. I am the superhero. 

Jeff: Yeah. Exactly. So I started just reading articles and looking places to see, you know, why do people feel this way? And that's how I learned about white supremacy culture. I don't remember the first article I read on it, but I remember my reaction and it was a mix of, this is everything I've been looking for and who were they to tell me that I'm a white supremacist, right? Like I think that's where I still wrestle with that. Just really, you know, really honestly, I get it. I believe deeply white supremacy culture is baked into our society at the deepest levels, but I still have this piece in my mind where I'm like, I'm not a white supremacist. Why, why is it this? And that's kind of my own personal journey with white supremacy culture right now.

Rosie: Okay. Oh my God. There's so many things I want to follow up with you on that one. I'll start with that last piece that you talked about. The I'm not a white supremacist, and this is honestly part of my admiration and respect for you willing to even engage in this conversation, let alone do it on a podcast. I'm totally being sincere in that because like I said, at the beginning, I would have a very strong defensive reaction if it was Chinese or Asian supremacy culture, or you're an Asian supremacist or something like that. That would be hurtful. And I would really be challenged by that. So I understand also that people who are really kind, you know, my friends, white guys, who are like, oh, I just can't, can we use a different word? Like, I think I know what you're trying to say, but just, can you use a different word because that is such a pushing people away type of word. And so when we spoke about it and we spoke openly together, one-on-one about white supremacy culture. I didn't feel the same. Like I felt like you had worked through it and we're past a certain point that you could at least hear it and not be pushed away. And I'm wondering how, like is that what you're hearing that when I say white supremacy culture, you hear Jeff, you're a white supremacist. Like, what is this bringing up for you as a response? 

Jeff: I did. Like if we were having this conversation even three months ago, I would hear not that explicitly, but I would hear that in the tone. I think like again, like so much of this is personal reflection, but personal reflection fueled on listening to podcasts like yours or, you know, reading articles and resources like Dr. Tema Okun's and just being open to this and where I've landed is white supremacy culture isn't about me. It's about everyone. And it's about our society. And it's about things that are just much deeper than any one person, but acknowledging that. It is me and each individual person that will make the change about it, right. So I'm able to hear you say white supremacy culture to me and me not hear you say white supremacist because I understand you're not talking to me. But I also understand that I, as a person, very specifically as a white male person, cis-gendered male, heterosexual male in this world, it's my obligation to talk about it, openly talk about it and do something about it. But that's an obligation we all share because it impacts all of us and we all through choice or not, or conscious choice or not, we all buy into this culture, right. You know, the person who places their, I had 16 meetings today and I closed this many deals and I did all this great stuff and you know, or, well, we have to do it this way because it's written this way. And it's like, we, we all know that person because that person is most all of us at some level. And that's what the white supremacy culture is, is just that, I mean, it's, gosh, it's just that horrible, toxic, terrible culture that values the appearance of productivity and busy-ness over anything else, you know? And I mean, like, and I think a great example of that was. like when you, and I took time to connect as people, right. And not, not have, uh, an outcome or a goal, just like, Hey, let's talk about this thing. Oh my gosh, we had a great discussion. We came up with cool things because it wasn't about getting another meeting in. It wasn't about, you know, any productivity thing. It was just, we're going to have a human connection here and prioritizing that over those other things. For me, that's my primary weapon against white supremacy culture is just as a leader, enforcing, creating, fostering environments that prioritize and value human connection over anything else.

Rosie: I just want to affirm what you said too, about the once we had that human connection totally agree. And it, it was one of the things where I think if anyone's looking how to break down some of these barriers as a white person as well, what broke down my bias barriers was when you opened the door to have a conversation about white supremacy culture, like you brought up the words and not to say that I only want to talk about white supremacy with white people. That that would be really awkward. But the fact that you saw what I posted, you brought up the conversation, used the words. And I was like, oh, he's okay with this. Like, he wants to, he's open to talking about it and he's not pushing me away. And that was a very different and welcome feeling too. So I feel like it's by all the gestures and you being, just an open nice guy really allowed this to progress. Whereas, you know, if we, if we don't do that, it's not that we wouldn't be friends, but wouldn't maybe have the same depth of idea exchange and, um, you know, faster breaking down perhaps of barriers between us. So that was really cool too.

Jeff: Cause I think, I think we put up those barriers. And we don't do it intentionally. You know, I think it's just part of it's. I don't want to take away from it. I think everything that we do is a choice, right. But I do believe there are conscious and unconscious choices that we make that are informed by our culture and our environment and our education and all those different aspects.

But as a result of those, we put barriers in place. And I think that like the new leader is someone who's actively looking for those barriers that they've put up and then actively questioning them and then breaking them down. You know, why do I think this way? Do I need to keep thinking this way? And how do I stop thinking this way? And sometimes stopping and thinking this way is as simple as saying, Hey Rosie, this is great. I need to own that I have this thing that I'm thinking right now, right. Just openly saying it. And I think a thing that the people I work with get tired of hearing, which tells me that I'm doing almost enough talking about it. Is the, in our interaction if we start from a place of assuming positive intent it changes the dynamic. Now that can be weaponized and is weaponized, you know, in, in a lot of places. And so I don't, I don't want to minimize that. People do do bad things and have negative intent towards people. It does happen. But if we start from an assumption of positive intent and then allow people that either prove us right or wrong, I think it just opens those doors for me to be able to say just, I mean, gosh, I, I can't tell you how, how much my respect for you skyrocketed when you were just like, I have to own that this was my bias about you coming into that. And, and when you did that, like, it was not ,that wasn't easy to hear. But I was so glad to hear it. And I welcomed it because I, I want to question myself to make myself, I want to say better, but it's not about making myself better. It's making myself more open, right. And a better resource for the people that I work and live with. I'm a leader by trade, by job and just as a person and I'm not alone, there's a lot of people that are that. And when we can live that, like walk that walk, you know, or live that life where we're actually doing these things, then people, then that's why other people do it you know? I think, I think it's so important for us to do.

Rosie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And you know what that makes me think of in Canada, we've been talking a lot as a country around truth and reconciliation specifically with Indigenous peoples in this part of Turtle Island and what truth and reconciliation means. And I feel like exactly what we're doing right now in this podcast episode and in the conversations we've had is truth and reconciliation in its purest or in the nature that it's meant to be.

It's about understanding each other, speaking our truths, being heard and building relationship and finding a way forward in relationship. So, yeah, so glad. So really, you're making me cry, Jeff, you're going to make me cry. 

Jeff: Oh, but oh, you know, and I. Rosie I so appreciate the work that you do around decolonization specifically to kind of grab a piece of what you said and run a little bit, because I, you know, I live in the Pacific Northwest and we were for tens of thousands of years, uh, such a, a trading post and a destination for Indigenous people. And so we enter into some of these conversations as a white person, right? Sometimes we walk in and where I think a lot of white fragility comes from is we'll enter into these conversations feeling like we have something to lose, right. But I think acknowledging and raising our hand and saying, I might think I kind of have something to lose, but the reality is that what I have to lose is something that we stole from you a long time ago.

And maybe I should lose that thing because then together we can share it and actually like, it can be better, right. And I think it's, it's, it's breaking that binary thinking of either, either I have it, or I don't have it, or it's yours or it's mine and acknowledging really what so many Indigenous tribes and people have professed for so much longer than any of us have lived on these continents that it's all ours together. And together, we all make it better and richer. You know, and I think that's like what I've been able to translate into my workplace cultures. Yes. I'm going to focus on a specific population that I want to help have opportunities to have employment. And yeah, that means I might not be spending as much time here with you, but guess what? We're all going to be better. And we're going to have a much richer workplace experience and culture because we'll have true diversity of experience in everything in our workplace. And we all, we all win, right? It's not about me winning or losing. It's about all of us winning. And I just, ah, I wish more people could see that for what it is. Cause it's like, it's literally magical, you know, when it happens.

Rosie: I'm on that train with you. I'm on board. Uh, and, and actually what you said there also touches on, I think, a nuance like this is maybe some of the difficulty of white supremacy culture and why I can't even, I don't think we can put it in a box because people might associate that with being a supremacist and, you know, KKK or Nazi symbols and stuff like that. It's not necessarily an action or a series of actions. It's a way of thinking about things. So from my non-Indigenous perspective, as I've been learning from different Indigenous friends and different Indigenous nation worldviews, I understand that the idea about ownership about land. Many indigenous nations or perhaps all do not see that land is something that can be owned or possessed. And that is actually part of the white supremacy culture is looking at land as a piece of property. As something that can be possessed. And therefore either you own it, or I own it because somebody has to own it. And if it's not owned, then I'm going to get it or I can, I'm entitled to it. And so that concept you brought up about sharing, nobody can own it. It is something that is a gift to us from the Creator and as part of the Earth and Mother Earth. And therefore it is meant to be lived on in mutuality and in community together. 

Jeff: Yeah, mutually beneficial. It's supposed to make us all better in there. Yeah.

Rosie: So Jeff, I, want to ask you, and this may be something you can or cannot answer actually. So feel free that you, if you can. What saddens me and I think is another symptom of white supremacy culture, because it's also, it's about fear and it's also about respecting the hierarchy. Lots of people I'll have one-on-one conversations with them. And then their like, I can tell you this, but I can't say it to my boss. I can't say it publicly. I couldn't come on your podcast to say something like that. And my honest question is I know you're not representing your government organization, but you don't seem to be so worried about what if they hear you talking about white supremacy culture on a podcast. Like this is public. And you're a public servant. So I don't know, like how are you navigating that?

Jeff: So I came up with a framework because I'm a leadership person. That's what we do, right? 

Rosie: right. Here's strategy. 

Jeff: The 24 irrefutable or the, yeah, the 

Rosie: Powerpoint slide deck. 

Jeff: Yep, exactly. But I came up with a framework that and I won't do a deep dive into it, but there's four aspects to it. And this is how I kind of navigate that piece.

As a leader, you should add value to people in every interaction that you have. You should put the mission ahead of yourself in your own personal gain. You should always bring your true and authentic self forward, and you should always work to allow other people to thrive. And it was four key pieces.

And that one about putting the mission ahead of yourself personally. That's how I'm able to deal with this. I asked myself the question. If my boss or my bosses boss or my boss's boss's boss, who's the Governor of our State, heard this podcast and was like, step in my office Jeff, we're going to have a conversation. I'm going to look them in the eye. And I'm going to say, if you're going to fire me for talking about white supremacy culture in a public way, I don't want to work for you. 

Rosie: Whoa. 

Jeff: Yeah. And I think that's a thing that for a lot of reasons, people won't go to this place, but gosh, I just, if our values are truly values, personal values or principles, we should be willing to put it all on the line for that. How many of us work for an organization that we don't believe in what they're doing, or we don't believe in the way they're treating people or whatever, yet we still keep showing up. You know, I think we hear horror stories about different large employers and, and we see the power of organized labor where, you know, people come together and they go on strike and then things change. But what if you just didn't go back, right. What if you were just like, you know what, you're a jerk and I'm not going to work for you anymore. I'm going to go find something else. If we were able to collectively do that as a society. Oh man. Things would change fast. I think. I think.

Rosie: Jeff, you know, maybe if a lot of people quit their jobs over something like this, there might even be some kind of like a great resignation or something that. 

Jeff: it could be a term for it of some kind. Yeah. I'm so excited about the times we're living in. And I work with a lot of people who are not of retirement age, who were like, I'm going to retire. There's stuff in my life that's more important to me than this. And I'm like, yes. It's going to be horrible to not work with you. And it's going to be hard for me to fill that hole, but you do, you. Let's make this happen. Oh. But kind of going back to what you were saying again, I say this for leaders, but I wish everyone would do this. If you are called on the carpet for doing the thing that you truly believe in, and it's important to you and it's valuable to you, and you're told you can't do that thing. You have to ask yourself. Do I want to work here, does my personal mission align with my organization's mission? Cause if it does, you can do amazing things and I'm able to do stuff like this because my mission does align with my organization's mission. But if it doesn't align, I'm held down, I'm held back. I can't bring my whole self to work because I'm always having to self-censor. And as I'm describing these things, I'm thinking about what people of color and people in the LGBTQ+ community and others have to do every day, where they feel they have to censor a piece of themselves and can't bring their whole selves forward. And that's where here I'm going to soap box a little bit, but if we can address white supremacy culture in a meaningful, real, operational way, then these people can bring their whole selves. And guess what? When someone can bring their whole self to anything. It's better. Period. And I just, I, I weep, I'm going to get melodramatic. I weep over the lost potential that we've had as a world because people can't be themselves and it's a solvable problem, you know? I don't know. It's just frustrating.

Rosie: I am right there with you. When I think about that. If this doesn't align with what I believe in. And if people are actually going to say that I'm in trouble, because I'm standing up for something that is right. And not just, I think that that many other people think that then I don't really want to be around that person or want to be in that place long term. 

At the same time, there's a woman that I love to follow and her book has been life-changing for me. Her name is Luvvie Ajayi Jones, and she wrote a book called Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual. She is originally from Nigeria. She's been living in the States for a long time. And she says similar things to what you're saying. Like stand up. Fight for what's right. We are going to be afraid in these situations, that's okay. And we can push through it. And she also acknowledges that people are not always in the position to do that and we have to survive and it's all well and good to say, well, you know, tell the Governor of whatever State that you know, I'm, I don't believe in what you believe in. So that's it fire me if you want to, but not everybody can do that. And even not every white person can do that, right. In all fairness. So like what advice might you give to someone who might be in a position where they genuinely, hey I want to stand against white supremacy culture, but my workplace or my particular bosses are not in a position. I can not say anything. I really think I will lose my job and I can't afford that. Do you have any suggestions for that? 

Jeff: I do. And, you know, there's being an ally and then there's being an accomplice. And I love that differentiation, right? So an ally does great things and they really help, but an accomplice they're willing to like, you know, get in there, you know, and really like disrupt the apple cart for lack of a better analogy there. But I think part of it and I'll be honest, I have employed some of these tactics here. So what I know is, if I walk in to any group that I work with, and I start saying, we're going to talk about white supremacy culture, go ahead and take out your notepad and write these things down and whatever. Boom. You know, 90% of who I'm talking to is going to shut down. And so it's about doing small things and asking small questions and then being persistent, but also not being afraid to kind of be like, okay, I said my piece, I'll come back and say my piece. And you know, what's the term? Death by a thousand tiny cuts, sort of a thing. What I've done is I just recently gave, um, we do a winter celebration every year because our organization was formed in November. And so in November we do a big birthday party sort of a thing. And I use it for kind of state of the organization speech. And what I did is I walked through and I talked about how we're going to change things. We work in a place where almost everybody feels included. Almost everyone feels like they belong here. And that's great. But what we're going to do in 2022 is we're going to focus on the almost. Because everyone should feel this way and no longer are we gonna, you know, we're not going to create a false sense of urgency. We're not going to value quantity over quality anymore. And so I kind of just hit them with what the thing is, right. This is white supremacy without saying that. So these are the things that people are like, yes. Yeah. I agree. I love everything about this. And then I slow play it in and I say, because this dominant, toxic culture is really hurting us and it's this and this and this. Oh yeah, yeah. It is awful. It's awful. And that's why no longer will we be part of a white supremacy culture. And it stops people like what? But then if anyone asks anything, you're just like, well, you agreed that we didn't want to place that value quantity over quality. Oh yeah. Yeah. We don't. You want a place that allows people to do things in their way and not just have a single single. Well, yeah, that's what I want. Cool. We all want that.

Those things that we're not going to be anymore. That's white supremacy culture, and we're not going to be that anymore. And so I almost like reverse play it through. And I think that people in any position can do that. Maybe not just such a grandiose level, right. But just kind of by asking those small questions. And then having the ability, the self-awareness to, I asked my question, I pushed a little, now I'm going to back off. But don't stop, right. Keep asking that question. Until you get shut down completely. And then, then you start asking your question, you know, gosh, do I really want to. And I always encouraged people. This is awful. Here's the total accomplice in me. Start looking for other work, right. Just be like, Hey, I got to take a longer lunch today because I'm going to go look at some job postings. 

Rosie: Yeah. Well, I love what you just gave as advice. And shout out to anybody who follows or watches Kim's Convenience. And if you don't know, go just Google it, but Uppa on Kim's Convenience has a little thing he calls sneak attack and I feel like your technique was sneak attack. To sneak in some, here's actually a characteristic of white supremacy culture. And you said you don't like it when you didn't know that that was a white supremacy culture characteristic. And so now that, you know, does that mean you like it now? I don't think so. So that is, that is very cool. I love that Jeff. 

Jeff: It's been super effective, right. And I recently did an episode where I'm addressing white supremacy culture. And I follow that same model where I just talk about, Hey, they're doing this awful thing. They're doing this. I call it the dominant, toxic culture. I get there. I reference Dr. Tama Okun, and then boom. This was white supremacy culture. But again, just like, I'm not afraid to look my boss in the eye and say, if you don't want me talking about this, I'll walk. Well, if people don't want to hear that on my podcast and they never download it again, it's fine. I didn't want him as a listener. Like, you know, this is there's other people out there that do want to hear this and want to be a part of it.

Rosie: Well, and on that note, how can people who want to hear this and hear more from you and all your great leadership lessons and thoughts on white supremacy culture. I can't wait for that episode. How can they find your podcast and find you? 

Jeff: So the podcast is called the Starfleet Leadership Academy. It's available anywhere you get podcasts out there, or you can go to my website, It's A K I N. And I have a blog on there that I write and then my podcast episodes as well.

Rosie: Awesome. Great. Thanks for sharing that. And yes, listerners we will have that in the show notes. My show notes are on my website, So you'll get all of the references. Tema Okun's website. Links to Jeff and all the ways you can get in touch with them there. Before we close things off, Jeff, this is all about changing our lenses. My lenses have been changed by you, and I would really love to hear from you any final, I guess, parting thoughts on how you would like us all to walk away from this episode, seeing leadership and white supremacy in leadership differently. 

Jeff: First, thank you. It means so much to me to know that I've had any impact on you at all. It's very humbling, but, um, and in fact, I'm tearing up a little bit, so I'm sorry. It's sorry. It's just always, it's just 

Rosie: It's genuine leadership. It's authenticity. I love it. Yeah. 

Jeff: Exactly. It is. And it's, I dunno. I think for me, I, I heard someone once use a term that I love and it's called ego surrender. And when we can surrender our ego and understand that it's not all about me. But it's actually about we, then that's when great things can happen. And we all benefit from that. I think and I've said a couple of times, even here that it's not a win or lose situation. It's a win. It is a win situation for everyone. But what it requires is for us as individuals to serve, especially very specifically us as white cisgendered heterosexual individuals, I want to be very clear that we are a unique group of people that really need to surrender our egos. I'm not gonna look any less by stepping out of the way and letting someone else thrive and do amazing things. In fact, we will all benefit from doing that because people have so many great things to offer. So stop thinking that it's about me and start thinking that it's about we, and when you operationalize that thinking, you will automatically start dismantling the pieces of white supremacy culture, because that's the only way to truly make it about we and we all do so much better in that world.

Rosie: Boom. Mic drop. I have nothing. I can, nothing to say after that. That was powerful and inspirational. And just, you, Jeff, like, this is why you are an amazing guest on this podcast. Thank you for coming. Thank you for changing my lens and lens of all of our listeners. I appreciate you so much. Appreciate the work you're doing and your courage and openness. And reversing the tides of toxic masculinity, white supremacy culture, everything. You are awesome. And I'm so thankful to be part of your community and have you in my community. So thank you, Jeff. 

Jeff: You're welcome, Rosie. Thank you.

[outro music plays]

Rosie:That’s a wrap! This episode of Changing Lenses was produced and hosted by me, Rosie Yeung, with associate production by William Loo, on land that was taken from many Indigenous nations, including the Anishinaabe, the Huron-Wendat, the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Today it is still the home of many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, with whom I seek to reconcile by learning the true history of colonization, including things that seemed legal and honourable – like treaties – but were often marked by fraud and coercion. I’m Changing my Lens by learning to see land, creation, even business and economy through Indigenous worldviews. And I’m making new friends and building relationships with Indigenous neighbours, cousins, aunties and uncles, in a genuine desire to know, love, and honour them, and live together in peace.

This podcast is one way I’m sharing what I learn to help settler-immigrant folks decolonize our thinking, and respond to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Miigwetch, 多謝, 謝謝, Merci, and Thank You.

[outro music ends]