Skip to content
Follow Us

Get the best of Capacity Interactive delivered to your inbox.

Is Your Organization Anti-Racist?
Episode 60

Is Your Organization Anti-Racist?

CI to Eye with Cardozie Jones

This episode is hosted by Erik Gensler.

0:00 / 0:00


Cardozie and Erik talk about the societal influences that inform how we experience the world. They also discuss how to distinguish between diversity and representation and the protocols that keep us from having productive and meaningful conversations about race.

Erik Gensler: So, in preparing for this interview, it crossed my mind of something that I’ve heard, which is you’re not supposed to ask people of color to teach you about race and racism. And I’m acutely aware of that’s what I’m doing here. So, let’s talk about that.

Cardozie Jones: I tell people who I work with that there are people of color, there are researchers, there are philosophers and novelists, who are giving themselves, giving of themselves, as it relates to the experiences of being a person of color or the experiences of systemic inequity and those people who are creating works and studies and white papers and putting them out for people to engage with, they’re doing the work. I’m doing the work. Is there a burden? For sure, but it’s also … I don’t believe this work can happen without risk and kind of putting yourself out there, but I do it so that people and organizations and companies don’t need to rely on the folks of color who are working alongside them for the answers because that is an undue burden. It’s not healthy, it’s not helpful, and it certainly doesn’t lead to the kind of equity or equality we’re looking for, I don’t think.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, I feel like this work that you do is recently in the ethos in a good way. And I’m just curious, in your mind, what is happening, sort of, on a larger societal scale that this has become so much a part of the dialogue? I feel like when I talk to my friends who work in organizations, they’re … A lot more people that are doing the work.

Cardozie Jones: Certainly in the nonprofit realm, race equity in particular has been a focus, to different degrees of effectiveness, but I think that, particularly because we are in an age of social media and instant access, we are using that as, kind of, a great equalizer and so, things that are happening that have always been happening as relates to inequality and injustice are now being immediately broadcast—again, to the point of it can be harmful for a lot of folks of color and traumatizing, I think.

Erik Gensler: Mm (affirmative)

Cardozie Jones: Now, I think even in the larger idea of the equity and justice for people who have for so long been marginalized to now have that be much more public or maybe even accepted. I don’t know what is exactly, but I think that the idea of social media and technology have really been an integral part in what has now become what you’re saying, this idea of, like, it’s in the ethos because social media is part of our ethos now.

Erik Gensler: Right. So, it’s like this stuff has been happening all the time of the police shooting innocent people of color, but now, when you see it, it’s undeniable.

Cardozie Jones: Right, right. And I think the bottom line is that the police who are people and who are biased and who are carrying those biases to their work and have been given a tremendous amount of power are … I think it’s less about shooting innocent people of color and more about who do and don’t they give the benefit of the doubt in the moment, whose life or lives are inherently more valuable to them in any given moment … And we’re not talking about just white police, right? We’re talking about police as an institution and officers, the agents of those institutions, who are part of this white-supremacist, paternalistic sauce that we’re all swimming in. And for me as a man of color who does this work, it’s also … I have to consider the way those biases pervade my own consciousness and the way I speak and the way I … when I speak with groups as a teacher, as a theater person, like it’s not, I’m not immune in any way to the virus as it were.

Erik Gensler: In terms of how it impacts how you see the world around you?

Cardozie Jones: Yeah. We live in a society that is anti-Black, so I’m not immune to that society as a Black person, which is part of the craziness of internalized racism. But again, to the point of police officers or any kind of agent of an institution, we’re seeing anyone who is really susceptible to really harmful values and belief systems that are old and ancient.

Erik Gensler: So, I want to take a step back and I would love for you to talk about your story in terms of coming to do this work. And let’s start with … I know you studied media and I wonder if your study of media sort of set you up to think about evolving to doing this kind of work.

Cardozie Jones: So, I moved to New York from Philadelphia to do theater and I was a musical theater student at NYU for a year before I recognized I was paying a lot of money to be a part of an industry, a business, that, like I said, was steeped in historical and systemic racism. And so, once I left NYU and kind of also became, I think, disenchanted with theater, I stumbled upon a media studies class at Hunter College, where I transferred to, and it was in that class where I recognize kind of an awakening of myself when the professor began showing us … and this wasn’t even the theme of the class. It was, like, Media 101, but the professor took it upon herself to focus on representations of race and gender in the media, which for me is, like, that’s the gold. Like, you’re doing it yourself because the system doesn’t support you doing it. But for me, I think realizing how much … what I felt like I had been lied to for eighteen years, I’ve been not only lied to, but, like, fed a slow poison that kind of made me very passive, made me insecure, made me, I think, judgmental of people who look like me. And with that awakening, I realized a passion that I had had for this work and for, I think, this kind of critical thinking and that just kind of, I’d say, set me off into a path of education. I didn’t want to do media in the traditional sense. Actually, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I found a school that was hiring and I began working at the school and the first real class I taught was kind of a media studies class for freshmen in high school. And I swear to you that those, when they were seniors, like, they remembered everything we talked about in ways that I think what I learned about education was we can be teaching all the things, but if it’s not relevant, if it’s not transformative, if it’s not tapping into young people’s ability to question the beliefs and values and more of a society—and for these students were mostly black and Latino student, the values that really put them on the outside of society—and if we’re not questioning that, I’m not sure what education is for. And that turned into me realizing, “Oh, the young people are not the problem. It’s the adults. (laughs) The adults are the ones who desperately need kind of a reeducation,” and that is what set me on the course of, I’d say, professional development in adult teaching spaces and that transformed into a more general education, nonprofit, philanthropy, for-profit world.

Erik Gensler: Cool. I pulled these stats around media: People who decide which TV shows we see, 93% white. People who decide which books should we read, 90% white. People who decide which news is covered, 85% white. People who directed the top 100 grossing films of all times, worldwide, 95% white.

Cardozie Jones: And this is when people who get so agitated with the word white supremacy and I say, “Do you … Let’s talk about what that means,” cause because they think we’re talking about people that are in like Charlottesville, marching through the streets with Tiki torches. And it is not that. That is the most egregious and blatant form of white supremacy, but what you just said is what white supremacy is, is the centeredness and the supremeness of whiteness. White perspectives, white views, white values, white experiences. And for me it’s … I don’t do a lot of work around statistics because I struggle with, like, convincing people that racism exists. But what you said are just, like, surface-level discoveries that really speak for themselves.

Erik Gensler: It’s undeniable. It’s like, once you see it, you cannot un-see it.

Cardozie Jones: You can try. (laughs)

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Cardozie Jones: People try or they go into fragility, right? They started defending why that is. They start blaming folks of color for why that is. They start pointing to history. I mean, Mitch McConnell, right? “We’re not responsible for, you know, what people who are long dead have done,” and don’t get me wrong, I believe white supremacy was designed and created by folks who are long dead, but we’re the ones who are maintaining and constantly be building that system.

Erik Gensler: 100%. So, you created the organization, True North EDI.

Cardozie Jones: Yes.

Erik Gensler: So, why “True North?” What does that mean?

Cardozie Jones: So, a lot of my work is around culture and the definition I use, culture comes from a woman named Zaretta Hammond, and she talks about the way our brain makes meaning of the world, makes meaning of everyday events. And what that ultimately alludes to is the fact that our brains, based on our experiences, based on our families, based on our generation, based on, “Are we a middle child?” All of these, or gender, all these things. Certainly, our racial identity informs the way our brains make meaning of the world. And I often say this isn’t—and I get a lot of pushback on this sometimes—that for me this isn’t about morality. For me, this isn’t moral work because morality has been used to justify really terrible things over the millennia. And so, what this is about for me is, like, I just, I’m here to make a commitment for what I believe in, what I believe is right. And you know, when you look at those statistics you just shared, we can see there is an imbalance. And with the imbalance, we see a lot of injustice. So, when I talk about culture, people will say, “So, you’re saying if my like racist uncle is a rude jerk, he’s not wrong. He’s not wrong at all. He’s just being his culture,” and so (laughs), in response to that, I say, “Quite frankly, I’m not here to say your uncle is right or wrong. I am saying that for me and for you, we need to decide based on the information that we have, that historical context, what we know about power, what we’re learning in whatever session I’m facilitating, what is your true north? In other words, what are you committed to? It’s less important to start pointing fingers at who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s evil, who’s good, and for me, far more important to take what we know, take what we’ve learned, take what we’ve experienced and heard and decide what are we committed to. And that can change from moment to moment. It can change from year to year, but it is in those commitments for me that the greatest work gets done, not in determining who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s bad, and who’s good.”

Erik Gensler: So, how do you work with people and what does success look like? I’m curious how an organization says, “Okay, we want to explore this.” What do they do? (laughs) Solve this for us.

Cardozie Jones: Got It. So the solution is (laughs), I think, obviously, success is relative. I think a better question is, “Where on the continuum are we looking to move toward? What is the continuum? What is the conversation we’re having? To what extent is the conversation focusing on race? To what extent is it on gender? To what extent is intersectional? Who is here, like, who are the bodies in the room?” And there are so many factors for me that determine “success” or we’re even imagining what that area looks like, but for me, the reality is that … to your point before, in a lot of ways we are just beginning to have complex conversations about this. We’ve been having very superficial conversations about diversity for a long time because, I think, when we think about this idea of desegregation and how the civil rights movement really supported the integration of schools, we often forget that so many thousands upon thousands of Black teachers were fired when schools integrated. So, the idea of just numbers became important, but when we actually look at the values in place, we can put Black students in white schools, but then we’re closing down Black schools and firing Black teachers. So, the conversation over the years, over the decades, I think in many spheres had been very flat. So, for me, what I really value is how do we complicate the conversation? And by complicated ,I really mean, really look at how power is placed and where power is placed in the conversation. What does it look like to go beyond basic diversity to really defining what we mean by diversity? How are we defining what we mean by diversity as separate from representation?

Erik Gensler: What is that?

Cardozie Jones: So, I’d say people will say, “Well, we’re not racially diverse, but our racial demographic matches. Our constituents are benefit … “ Like, so, if I go to a school in the suburbs, they say, “Well, most of our students are white. Most of our staff is white, so we don’t really need to have a conversation about diversity. The problem is that, again, once we learn about how the suburbs were created in the first place, we can’t meet one injustice with another injustice-

Erik Gensler: Or schools. I mean, school districts. (laughs)

Cardozie Jones: Every, literally every, every institution and our whole public school system is based on property tax, right?

Erik Gensler: Yeah, I just learned this in the last six months and it’s insane because I grew up in this neighborhood that was like known for its “good schools,” which is slightly … that’s a problematic term because what is a bad school? A bad school is where there’s less white people. And it never made sense to me because in my area it was like the “good” school surrounded by a bunch of schools that were “not good” and then I learned six months ago that that’s on purpose. They organize the lines of the property in order to include all the white people and exclude all the non-white people-

Cardozie Jones: Yes.

Erik Gensler: … and then give all the resources because that’s where the tax money’s coming from to the schools within those boundaries. What’s the word for that?

Cardozie Jones: Red lining.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, red lining.

Cardozie Jones: Yeah, so several systems we call structural racism. Several systems, agencies, come together to create essentially create blockades. So now, we use the word “ghetto,” when white supremacy created the “ghetto.” We created walls, right? When we really identify what our true north is beyond the organization, beyond just, how do we as an organization, how do we as a company become more equitable and diverse and so on and so forth? And before we get there, we have to really look at, how did we get here? So, when we think about representation and we say things like these schools in the suburbs say, “We’re mostly white,” then why are you mostly white and first place?

Erik Gensler: Yeah.

Cardozie Jones: Right? Let’s ask that question. Why would this be a mostly white space? If you come at it as though this just happened, this just from the earth was a white place, was aw hite space, which we actually know about American history, that it’s not anything like that. And that to your point, this was very intentionally designed. And so, the thing with organizations, and I think this is as close as we can get to for me right in this moment as a definition of success, is how do we begin to redesign, intentionally redesign; before that, reimagine new systems that create equity in spaces where the traditional systems—that is the ones that we’ve inherited—create inequity. So, how do we as organizations, as companies, create new systems, new policies, new practices that deal with those statistics you read, that deal with what we’ve now learned about the history of how we got here? Because we are not in any way sufficiently taught about the history of race in this country, in any anyway. And that is again, very intentional and by design.

Erik Gensler: it makes me angry because I feel like I was duped. I was taught … I took AP history because I loved history and I liked it because it was a story. They told stories that made America into this hero and I don’t really think I understood American history until I went to the civil rights museum and saw that story of America and I was like, “Oh, this makes a lot more sense from what I actually know.”

Cardozie Jones: Yes, there is a feminist theory—I believe it’s called standpoint theory—and it speaks to how any truly useful academic inquiry should come from the point of view of the marginalized.

Erik Gensler: Mm (affirmative)

Cardozie Jones: That’s where you truly learned about history, where you truly learned about power, because from that point of view you’re seeing a very big picture, whereas those were most privileged are at the center of it. They can’t see. They can only see their feet, essentially.

Erik Gensler: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, so I think what I’m hearing is just the importance of relearning the systems that we take for granted. And so, do you feel like that’s a lot when you’re doing workshops with people? Is that where you start?

Cardozie Jones: Yes. I think we start thinking about how we, through our identities and experiences, intersect with those systems, particularly the systems that we’ve all been part of, which is education, health, right? Systems that we can’t really escape. So, how do we … Or the law, you know, I often ask people, “Did you grow up being taught that the police would protect you or retaught to stay clear the police?

Erik Gensler: Yeah, you did that really powerful … and I’ll never forget-

Cardozie Jones: Human barometer.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, where you said, “Okay, if you feel like the police were there to protect you, stand on this side of the room and if you don’t agree with that, stand on the other side of the room, and it could not have been more clear along racial lines of all the white people are on one side and all the POCs are on the other side.

Cardozie Jones: And that 1uestion particularly, you know it’s a continuum, so you see you can really stand wherever you want to. But I think that question you do see a more stark difference in where people are placing themselves and then at different points in that activity, when you see where people are standing, you get to really test your assumptions and you get to really question, “Oh, I’m surprised to see that person there,” or not. And so, what I like about that activity—and I think it speaks to how I do the work—is A, I want to make sure that the spaces that I hold for groups are physical spaces. We so over-emphasize the intellectual and for me, that’s part of the problem and if we’re overemphasizing the intellectual, then we’re not making room for the physical, the emotional, the spiritual. And activities like that where people are moving around the room, they’re sharing stories with one another. For me, bringing that spiritual, bringing that emotional, and bringing that physical until they … we could have actually, like, a holistic experience.

Erik Gensler: 20:07 Another thing that you did when you worked with us that I thought was really helpful was talking about some of the protocols that keep us from having meaningful and authentic conversations about race. And I would love, just cause I thought it was super interesting to spend a little bit of time addressing those.

Cardozie Jones: Yeah, so that’s Derald Wing Sue, who is a professor at Columbia, I believe, wrote the book Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence and so, I pull from his work and looking at those protocols with our ways of being that we subscribe to you sometimes, often unconsciously, this idea of politeness in our country, in our organizations, our institutions, is, I think, one of the most harmful ways of being, protocols, that we subscribe to. Not because being polite is bad, but we’ve used politeness as a muzzle and that is something that is so harmful because we A, often don’t know we’re doing it because we’re taught, it’s impolite to talk about “these things,” it’s impolite to stare, it’s not polite to do all these things and we are unable to have actual authentic conversations. Particularly, we are unable to if we are folks who are on the marginalized side, folks of color, queer folks, who aren’t given space to not be polite because this is not polite. And so, one of the things that I was thinking about earlier is that, you know, we point fingers at the blatant racism that we see and yet, we’re not taught that schools are funded by property taxes and that property lines and neighborhood lines were designed to keep folks of color out. And so, the ways that racism are actually literally built into our laws, no one knows about; therefore, no one’s mad about. But when it comes to, I can’t say that I feel I’ve been discriminated against in my workplace without being called angry or sensitive or a snowflake, that’s what we point to and that’s the area, I think … the intersection of those two areas is where I work. We’re looking at the big picture, but we’re also looking at the micro.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, but people say, “That’s racist,” and it’s like, well yeah, let’s have a more nuanced conversation about it and point out what’s really wrong. I just had an “aha!” moment and you’re saying that and it’s like, what are the three things you’re told not to talk about for being polite? Politics, religion, and race. What are the three things that are keeping the powerful in charge? Politics, religion and race

Cardozie Jones: And money.

Erik Gensler: And money, right!

Cardozie Jones: That’s the fourth.

Erik Gensler: That’s the fourth. And money. Yep. All the things that are keeping the very few in charge. You can’t talk about the systems that are making it that way.

Erik Gensler: Next, you talked about the academic protocol.

Cardozie Jones: Yeah. The academic protocol, I think, really speaks to this idea of, like, rational, objective discourse and there being no space for intense emotions. And so, when we think about who would be the most emotionally impacted by oppression, by racism, and then, that’s the same person who can’t talk about it because that’s not allowed in the space, right? So, as a Black man, for Black women, for Black folks in general who deeply feel, in this country specifically, the impact of racism, because for Black folks, it’s so old and part of the tapestry, being emotional is almost criminalizing. It’s beyond being a victim, it’s being like a criminal, to being, “You are … you need to calm down.”

Erik Gensler: “You’re hysterical.”

Cardozie Jones: “You’re hysterical.” Right? Which is … hysterical is very much a word that we associate with women, but it’s the same thing. It’s the same idea of who, who gets to be emotional in the space and who doesn’t get to-

Erik Gensler: Who has this disrupt power.

Cardozie Jones: Exactly. And that’s the other thing, too. So, with the academic, it’s all about that thing you’re talking about, about being duped. We are taught that being professional means being objective and irrational. And yet, there are certain bodies, right? The white, old, male CEO, when he’s emotional, we just don’t use that word when we talk about him. He’s a leader. He has conviction. And so, there is a “duped-ness” happening where we don’t want irrational or emotional behavior, but that depends on what body you’re walking in the world through. Right?

Erik Gensler: Totally. And then the third protocol, which was really eye-opening for me, is the colorblindness protocol.

Cardozie Jones: Right. It’s, this one is funny because … Actually, it’s not funny at all (laughs)-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Cardozie Jones: … but the colorblindness protocol … and the way Dr. Sue talks about it is this idea that we should be judged by our internal attributes and not the color of our skin. And if any of us were raised in this country, we remember learning about Dr. King, probably in February, and his “I have a dream” speech and talking about, you know, his four little children being judged by their attributes and not the color of their skin. And so, it’s hard to reconcile, “Well, then how is seeing color helpful?” And the reality is that colorblindness is just a lie. We’re not colorblind. And the other reality is that we don’t need to be colorblind. The color, like, the brown color of my skin is not the problem, right? Just like my ears aren’t the problem. But my skin has been … value has been attributed to my skin in this country, in this world, where my ears haven’t. So, there’s no need to not see parts of me, A, because you’re then making invisible. All of my experiences, all the important parts that are about my racial identity. And also, I love being Black. Right? I love being Black and Puerto Rican and those are the parts of who I am. There’s no need to not see that. And when you don’t see that, you’re, you’re definitely not seeing me. But if you’re a white person, you’re also not seeing you. You’re making yourself not complicit. Right? And if race isn’t real, if I don’t see color, if I don’t see race, then racism can’t be real either. And then, that means, “Oh, you’re just lazy and not working hard enough because I don’t see color.”

Erik Gensler: Yeah, it’s not systematized. It’s individual.

Cardozie Jones: No, there’s no system. It’s individual.. And you know, I think those protocols are three big ones that are talked about in that book, Race Talk. But you know, we know individualism, you know, which Robin DiAngelo talks about, is a huge one.

Erik Gensler: That’s a hard one. Can you talk about individualism?

Cardozie Jones: I think with a lot of these, it’s not that the thing in and of itself is bad, right? Individualism is not bad. The idea that if I work hard, I will succeed is not a bad way to think. I think it’s very useful way to think, but when we center individualism and we make individualism the only thing, the only way to be, the only way to think, we are leaving out a few things. We’re leaving out the ways that we are not a meritocracy, right? That hard work looks different for different people in terms of what it gets you. We leave out the ways that systems are designed to keep certain people out and keep certain people in. And we also miss out on the fact that a large part of the world operates in a more collectivist way. And so, a lot of this, again, it’s a very American context when we think about how this country started through this, like, “Go sail the seas and find and pillage and rape and you can do it,” you know? And so, we begin to, again, make invisible, quite frankly, the majority of the world that operates in a more collectivist way and many of the communities that are most oppressed in this country, particularly through like ethnic and racial identity, have originated from more collectivist communities. So, if you tell me that I’m working, this is my test, I get a grade, my homework, I don’t do it, whereas I was actually taught to do things with other people and in a more communal space, then I’m not going to fit into this room very well. But because of the way power works, I’m the problem.

Erik Gensler: Right, right. Well, and I could be misunderstanding this, but, like, also individualism says … it allows white people to point to like, “Look at Oprah. She’s super successful. We don’t have a problem. There’s individual people of color that are doing great and it just allows them to not understand the system because it allows them to point out individuals who have sort of been successful in spite of the system.

Cardozie Jones: Right. Well, that’d be like saying, “Look at that woman. She survived breast cancer. Breast cancer is not an issue.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) Right.

Cardozie Jones: Because she survived.

Erik Gensler: Right, right.

Cardozie Jones: We don’t use that logic for anything else unless we’re protecting power and literally makes no sense.

Erik Gensler: When we first met, I said to you, “Cardozie, like, you have a hard job. You have to go in and convince people to pay you to say things that they may not want to hear,” and I loved your answer.

Cardozie Jones: What did I say?

Erik Gensler: You don’t remember?

Cardozie Jones: No, not at all.

Erik Gensler: You were like, “I don’t work with people that I have to convince.”

Cardozie Jones: Oh, yes. That’s what I said.

Erik Gensler: I thought… I was like, “Great. There’s enough people that are just wanting to do the work.”

Cardozie Jones: Yeah. This is my exact point. I have my own line of what I’m willing to do and what kinds of rooms I’m willing to be in and it is not healthy or fun … Actually, my work is really fun. Like, my work comes from a very strong place of joy, as in joy being like human and whole, so if I’m in a room where I’m not feeling human and whole, which is typically rooms where I have to convince people that racism exists or convince people that white supremacy exists, just God bless people who do that. Like, there are people, facilitators, consultants, who can go in, they can pull out really convincing numbers and statistics to prove the existence of these things. For me, it’s just not what I enjoy doing. I enjoy people who are ready to engage in a conversation—and varying degrees of ready, you know, everyone’s not the same place—but at least as an organization, the organization is coming from a place or the company’s coming from a place where we’ve agreed this is a problem and we don’t know what to do.

Erik Gensler: Right.

Cardozie Jones: Right? That’s a place I can work with, but there are just so many better-equipped people to do the convincing work. If anything, once folks are convinced, at least on a cognitive level, then for me, the work I think I enjoy doing is the kind of emotional, physical, spiritual work. How do we like move our hearts, minds and souls in a direction of humanity? That’s what I liked doing, which is not the same as me bringing in all the statistics about how folks of color and queer folks and women have been oppressed …. and there’s a little bit of that that’s not, it’s not, not present-

Erik Gensler: And it’s not wrong.

Cardozie Jones: … and it’s not wrong. It’s just not my joy.

Erik Gensler: Right, right. And it just goes back to why we’re at work and I think we’re taught by the broader culture that work is about being professional and work is about creating profit and work is about these various strict things and, like, I think the older, certainly I get, the more I realize work is about magic between two people. Work is about going home at the end of the day and feeling good about the connections you made or the change you made or the excitement you’re bringing to a project or the change you saw someone overcome. I don’t know.

Cardozie Jones: Yeah, and I think it can be about … not about, but I think professionalism and profit can exist. The question is who gets to decide what those things mean? Who’s in the room making the decisions about what is professional? Who’s in the room making decisions about what profit looks like and more importantly, what are we doing with the profit?

Erik Gensler: Yeah, and what do we spend our money on?

Cardozie Jones: Right, what are we spending our money on? What are we investing in? Where can we make change? Where can we cultivate and honor, our commitment to equity and inclusion and all these big ideas and what does that look like for me today when I go to work? For me today, when I take the subway? For me today, when I vote? I’m not expecting everyone to burn down the entire system. And then we’re left with systems like racism, which we only relate to as this, like, interpersonal mindset, kind of “bad person” way, where, like, that’s the least of it. And maybe the most, like, on-the-ground impactful, but really, it’s not. It’s just what you say. It’s like, this is what you see the most, but everything else is happening to you. It’s just like smog.

Erik Gensler: It’s the good-bad binary. It’s like, “That’s bad because that’s racist,” and it’s like, “Well, if we’re focusing on that, then we’re not focusing on …”

Cardozie Jones: Right. Of course, let’s just give the caveat, it’s all going to be racist unless it’s anti-racist, right? Seriously, like it’s all gonna be racist unless you’re doing something that is actively anti-racist. Everything else is either explicitly racist or just going with the flow, which is racist.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Cardozie Jones: So, let’s just, like … the caveat is, we are living in a racist society and most agents of that society are racist inherently because there’s no other way to be, unless you’re actively anti-racist.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, which requires talking about it. It requires education. It requires recognizing where you’re supporting that system, and it requires a commitment to undoing it.

Cardozie Jones: Correct, which comes with action and work and a really hard time, quite frankly. Right? It’s really not … I think things that are worth doing are really hard. And in the end, and this is beyond me, beyond when I’m even alive, I think of a world where things are just far better than they are now and far more human than they are now.

Erik Gensler: So coming to your last question, which is your “CI to eye” moment. And the question is, if you can broadcast to the executive directors, leadership teams, staff, and board of a thousand arts organizations, what advice would you provide to them to help them improve their businesses?

Cardozie Jones: I think the advice I would give is to long for truly human and holistic environments where people can come to the office, come to the workplace, and be their full, authentic, cultural selves and recognizing that for that to happen, we have to have real conversation and ultimately real action around … when it comes to the kind of environments we are creating, the kind of systems that we are producing and reproducing, the kind of beliefs that we put forward … and considering in what ways are our mission and beliefs aligned with our actual outcomes? I think it requires really hard conversations. So, how are we having conversations around what power looks like, how it’s being used and monopolized, and what would it look like to get to a more human, a more holistic, a more communal place? I’m not saying where everyone is making all the decisions, but I’m saying everyone gets to come together and decide how we’re gonna make decisions, at the very least, and collaborate. And yeah, I think diversity as a general term is important, but I want to make sure that we’re not thinking that diversity as the answer. Diversity is a thread in this very, very complex tapestry that we’re looking to address. And the big things I’d say, start thinking about other words other than diversity. Diversity is not the problem. We’re diverse. We’re here, we are diverse people. The question is, for me, in addition to diversity, what does power look like? What does sharing look like? What do communities look like where those communities are for everyone?

Erik Gensler: Thank you so much.

Cardozie Jones: Thank you.

About Our Guests
Cardozie Jones
Cardozie Jones
Founding Principal, True North EDI

Cardozie Jones is the founding principal of True North EDI, a consulting firm committed to equity, diversity, and interdependence. Cardozie has worked with the Capacity Interactive team as well as many other organizations on the practices, policies, and systems that have the potential to create inequity and exclusion in our workplaces and society.

Read more

Related Episodes

Staging Classical Works for Today’s Audiences
EP 126
Apr 16, 2024
Staging Classical Works for Today’s Audiences

What do we do when “the classics”—those canonical treasures that embody the rich traditions of our genres—start to feel outdated for today’s audiences, or even at odds with our missions?

In today’s episode, we take a close look at celebrated works from the classical Western canon that include harmful portrayals of non-Western cultures, and hear how one artist is taking action to prune and preserve the art he loves.

Decolonizing Classical Music
EP 122
Feb 20, 2024
Decolonizing Classical Music

Join us as we journey deep into the world of classical music—how we define it, how we enjoy it, and how we ensure everyone feels welcome and represented in our concert halls. This conversation is just the start of breaking down barriers to attendance and ensuring classical arts organizations connect with audiences for generations to come.

Don’t Miss an episode

Don’t Miss an episode

Subscribe to CI to Eye and have your insight and motivation delivered on demand.