Episode 28 – Exploring and Questioning Bias: A Conversation with Arthur Padilla

side-by-side pictures of Norah L. Jones and Arthur Padilla
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 28 - Exploring and Questioning Bias: A Conversation with Arthur Padilla

“Take a really deep breath, get as calm as you can. And let yourself consider just for a moment that everything you thought was right might be wrong. Just think about that for a moment.

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Here’s another quote from Arthur Padilla: How do we make good noise? Take a look at Arthur’s biography to see more about what this fascinating man means, how he makes “good noise” and invites and teaches us how to do the same.

Often in my podcasts we are considering language from the point of view of what words we use, how we learn them, how we approach understanding other cultures (and our own). Arthur Padilla goes inside culture to look at how we see ourselves and each other, to uncover and gently but persistently name unconscious bias that separates us and makes each of us an incomplete human as we do so.

Arthur is a compelling storyteller. I was moved by his stories as I heard them as we spoke during this podcast. His words, insights, and compassion have remained in my spirit, mind, and actions since our conversation. He has, in short, made an impact on my life through sharing the integrity of his journey. Even though I am a career educator and linguist — a person dedicated to learning about, including, and sharing about those of other language and cultural groups — I found myself reviewing how I learn, who I include, what my role is to share, and where I indeed may have made presumptions about what constitutes engagement and inclusion. That is, where I may have been unconsciously, at the very least, constructing barriers to a more integrated, inclusive society.

In particular I was moved by the non-profit work in which Arthur was engaged in Alaska – a powerful transformation for him, too, as you will hear. He gives us a vision of how living and working in such a way as to open the doors to people sharing from their own perspectives and cultures can accomplish amazing and positive results. You will hear much more in the podcast, but here’s a sneak peek: Arthur shares the process of an Alaskan project to improve health and well-being in a community, spearheaded by Native Alaskan youth: “We use a different language, we use a different framework, but we’re doing the same thing, we’re testing things out. We use observation, we use standard protocol. When we go hunting, it doesn’t work, we try it again and we try it again and we try it again until we find the thing that works. That’s science-based, that’s testing. It’s about language and taking responsibility. They created that framework, the Alaska ways of learning and knowing, and then they created the discussion about how those are integrated with Western knowledge. And then they started to put that into practice in their educational systems around the state.”

So, dear friend — How do YOU make good noise?

Enjoy the podcast.

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It’s About Language – Episode 28 – Exploring and Questioning Bias: A Conversation with Arthur Padilla

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Norah Jones:                     It’s my great pleasure today to introduce to everyone—if you haven’t already heard of Arthur Padilla—Arthur Padilla, a consultant that uses education and facilitation and practice to transform people and communities, businesses, nonprofits. And it’s been exciting to talk with you, Arthur, because you have a real heart as well as training for consulting and helping people to find their lives, their center. Talk about where you’re coming from with regard to improving people’s lives, please.

Arthur Padilla:                  Sure. Well, thank you so much for inviting me on and having this conversation. And I will tell you that for me, but what I really am struggling to do with folks is, honestly, it’s to talk about institutionalized racism and unconscious bias and how all of these things play into creating the world that we’re in and not so much what the problem is, but where are the solutions in walking us through all of this? Where do we find solutions?

And I’ve spent most of my time looking for the solutions, whether they be listening and being just getting to the place where people have a voice and are heard. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about that and that mostly we need to be heard. And then what do you do with all of that? How do you put policy, ideas, reports, how you put all of that into practice every day? How do you break that down and put that into some sort of personal practice or business practice? But how do you make it all make sense? How’s that for a nutshell?

Norah Jones:                     That’s a great nutshell. Very, very efficient. So give us an example please, of when you have had a story of someone who needed to be heard, needed their voice, and where you were able to find pathways to opening for that.

Arthur Padilla:                  Oh, interesting. So there’s a number of different, let’s see, I’m trying to think of what’s the best example right now. Well, I think here’s one, and this one’s more of a collective voice, but I was working for… I got asked to be the interim CEO of a youth runaway adult shelter or youth runaway homeless shelter not a youth adult shelter, a youth homeless shelter.

And it was really an emergency homeless shelter in the middle of the city of Seattle, right in the university district. It’s very busy, very congested, very tight. And it was a big shelter. And in all of this, they’d been there for 20 years. They’ve been doing their work very consistently, keeping young people off the streets and the system around them started to change. And the world started to change and suddenly they lost their building, basically.

Progress took over, the church they were in said, “Oh, look, we can make $24 million if we sell this rinky-dinky little building and keep ourselves alive for forever,” which again was not a bad thing, but in the end that homeless shelter lost their space. So we had to find our voice as a homeless shelter, a non-profit homeless shelter, they had to find their voice, they had to find their passion.

Then we had to, we really, we spent a huge amount of time even trying to figure out whether they really believed they should be going on or not. Should they continue? Should they close their doors? This is such a huge barrier to life to understand that suddenly your annual budget for your rent is now going to cover a month and a half of rent in the real world.

Norah Jones:                     Oh my.

Arthur Padilla:                  So we had to find a passion around that, we had to find a message. And so I spent a year and a half with these folks working that out, finding a new building. In the end, they decided to find their voice, they decided to fight, they decided to make noise and they got the state and the city to fund a new facility for them and they were able to buy a building and now it’s theirs.

They have their own adult agency now, they’ll never be kicked out again unless they choose to be kicked out. So it’s a very different paradigm and it’s very different. But it was that, finding the voice, going through all of the mess, and it was messy, right? I mean, nonprofits are messy and then it’s a group of almost 50 or 60 people that work there and everybody has passionate around this and at the same time you feel deflated because no one seems to care that you’re losing your building, no one seems to matter, it doesn’t even matter. And yet you know that kids are going to die if you’re not there. So how do you make that statement? How do you find that voice without starting a fire, without blowing things up? And that’s what we had to do. So that’s one example.

Norah Jones:                     That’s a fascinating example. And I go back to the fact that you have labeled that about finding voice. And voice implies words, implies vocabulary, potentially learning a language that someone is speaking that I may not understand or may not understand that I’m not understanding it. As a counselor and as someone that has worked in this type of experience over and over again, how do you train work with helping people to understand that they’re not hearing potentially because they don’t have the language, the vocabulary?

Arthur Padilla:                  Yes. I think it’s two things. And I will say that my response is one of the most important lessons I learned at this young adult shelter, this homeless shelter was in attempting to give voice to everything that was happening, what I did not understand was that I also needed to give process so that folks knew how that voice was to be delivered. In other words there’s all the power in the world is great, but if you don’t have the skills, the capacity and the system isn’t structured so that your voice is heard, then who cares?

Norah Jones:                     Yeah. Versus the syntax.

Arthur Padilla:                  [crosstalk] still screaming in a room. Yes, right.

Norah Jones:                     Yeah.

Arthur Padilla:                  And so part of that was learning how to… So being able to say, we need to teach you how to have your voice. That’s one piece of it and that’s one element that’s one side of the conversation. And then the other side of the conversation is, how do you learn to listen to that voice? How do you learn to really listen, not hear what you want to hear, but hear but is being said. And I think that’s the point you’re making.

So when a young person says, “I don’t want a house.” So what are they really saying? They’re not saying I want to be cold and addicted and frozen and living. They’re not saying that, they’re saying, I don’t want to be oppressed any longer, I don’t want people to be running my life without my voice, I don’t want people to be telling me what to do, I don’t want any more rules that are constraining so I can’t find myself, on and on and on. That’s what they’re really saying.

They don’t have the language to say that. And we want to hear that they’re refusing service. We want to hear that it’s easy, the refusing service, and we’re going to move on. And so I think those are the dynamics that play out within the homeless system, much less in the larger scheme of life. But in the homeless system, and with working with young people who are struggling to find their own language, like you say. And so my job is to work, to start to inform everybody from the bottom up and from the top down to meet in the middle and to stay in the middle so we don’t have conversations about bottom-up and top-down, and that we all are having these conversations all the time. So that voices from young people that are homeless are leading the charge. And right now they’re not, it’s adults who are attempting to save them.

Norah Jones:                     Interesting. So by finding their voice, they find their agency as well. And we’re still using this example, when you’re working with the young people and you’re helping them to understand how to express their voice, when they reflect back to you as you’re working with them, are they discovering aspects of expressing themselves, using words, understanding really the cultural setting in which they find themselves compared to those to whom they’re speaking? Do they reflect that they’re gaining an understanding of what it is that’s needed in order for them to be able to properly use their voice?

Arthur Padilla:                  I guess it depends on, I think that’s an individual thing. There are some young people at 12 who have a very concrete grasp of that process and are learning as they experience it, as they go and they’re learning and changing. And then there’s a lot of folks who are just sick and tired of having to teach us what the heck is going on, and they are not doing that at all.

Norah Jones:                     Okay. Yes, they’re done.

Arthur Padilla:                  They’re done. And it’s like you need to catch up or you watch me die, you make a choice because I’m done. And I would say for most communities of color in the United States, they’re done. I’m not going to teach you anymore. I am not going to talk to you about it anymore, you need to catch up. This is art. We’ve been assimilating in catching up all of our lives.

And I think it lies that it’s a continuum and people lie anywhere in that and they change in different ways. I will say, because I’ve been working with young people for so many years, that over time, and I see if I’ve had this conversation with a 16-year-old, and then again, when they’re 19, and then again, when they’re 26, and then again, when they’re 36, I can definitely see a progression that experience provides.

So with all of that, no matter what happens, experience doesn’t form our values and our beliefs. And so over time, they definitely get to see and understand the need to walk both sides of the conversation, to have your own voice, and then to be able to use the words that are in power, if you will, the ones that are the most impactful right now.

It’s an amazing time in our world because we’re seeing that in so many different ways. This young artists, Dojo Cat, who is a Grammy-award-winning artist who found herself on YouTube and found her voice that way. And she’s an amazing superstar. And we’re like, who are you? Where did you come from? How did you do that? Where did you find that capacity as a young 20-year-old to say, “I’m going to be a superstar,” and then you are. Who does that?

Norah Jones:                     Yeah. That’s quite an extraordinary example of finding the voice early and making it happen. Now, Arthur, you referred to communities of color and you work a lot with the anti-racism approach and so forth. Can you tell us some stories about communities of color, Indigenous folks who are also engaged with either literally or figuratively finding their language, expressing themselves, working with their voice in society?

Arthur Padilla:                  Yes, I could tell is a great story.

Norah Jones:                     Great.

Arthur Padilla:                  I had the real pleasure of working in Alaska for so many years, and it was one of those things in life where you just, it happens, you get on the rollercoaster and you say, all right, I waited in line, I might as well get on.

Norah Jones:                     Get on now.

Arthur Padilla:                  So it happened. It was just circumstance that I had the time, my life had just changed. So nonetheless, I found myself in Alaska and everything about the experience informed me, and everything was surprising. Everything was amazing. And part of that was because I found, and I will make a point.

So I found people who were struggling with the consequences of historical trauma, number one, because Alaska and all Native people in the lower 48 people, all people in this part of the world have been so traumatized in so many ways, culturally, linguistically, physically, spiritually, socially, everything, educationally. Everything we’ve done to people has just been… There is no amount of… There is no absolution for any of that.

But in that I met people who are working in their communities, very small communities in Alaska. People have… 300 people live there. They’ve lived there all their lives. They all know each other and love each other. And they’re trying to figure out how do we take responsibility for the situation we’re in? And I’m like, and when someone said that to me, I’m so angry all the time. And she wasn’t angry when she said that. And I’m like, oh my God, who are you? Number one. How do I get that? Can you put that in a bottle? Because I want to know how you walk through life, the one that has been given you, not the one you would have chosen, how you walked through life and then come out the other end with so much resiliency and capacity to say that regardless of whose fault it is, I’m responsible.

Norah Jones:                     Wow.

Arthur Padilla:                  Right?

Norah Jones:                     Right.

Arthur Padilla:                  And that was a life-changing, fundamental understanding shift for me about what all of these conversations about racism, all of these conversations about oppression are because I don’t no longer care whose fault it is because we can’t tell you whose fault it is. We are all responsible and that’s a very different role to play than being at fault. And so that, and again, it’s words.

Norah Jones:                     It is.

Arthur Padilla:                  I mean, it’s syntax, but words matter so much because it’s the best we can do to encapsulate those larger really existential understandings that I am responsible for me and for what’s happening in my life. And I need to find my power to change it.

Norah Jones:                     That is huge. And so when it’s reframed like that, responsibility, fault, when it’s reframed, wherein lies then that conversation and building out from that personal conversation to make action happen?

Arthur Padilla:                  Well for her, she was so interested in preservation of Alaska culture. And at the same time, she’s so interested in education and academia. And so she’s finding a serious dissonance in the conversation we were having that we, and we had many conversations, but one of them that we were having was, she said, I want to create a school where young people that are living in the village, their science class is they’re hunting for the winter. And that’s what we’re going to do. And everything they do is about hunting, but it’s also about academics.

And so she is putting it into practice. So she’s literally starting a school that does this. I’m like, what? Who are you? And so she wants this to be a part of the culture now that we integrate, Alaska ways of knowing and learning, which are experiential processes and we integrate them with Western ways of knowing, which are science-based.

                                                And we say to each other, they’re the same. We use a different language, we use a different framework, but we’re doing the same thing, we’re testing things out. We use observation, we use standard protocol. When we go hunting, it doesn’t work, we try it again and we try it again and we try it again until we find the thing that works. That’s science-based, that’s testing.

And so being able to articulate those pieces, and again, it’s about language and taking responsibility. And so all of those folks did that research. They created that framework, the Alaska ways of learning and knowing, and then they created the discussion about how those are integrated with Western knowledge. And then they started to put that into practice in their educational systems around the state. So they integrate this. So now for first class in a lot of places, it’s all done in their native language.

Norah Jones:                     Wow.

Arthur Padilla:                  Which is amazing.

Norah Jones:                     It is amazing. [crosstalk] And that’s got to have impact on the ways in which the experience happens, not to interrupt your flow of your story here, but even just the vocabulary of the language itself is bound to illustrate, luminate, and open doors.

Arthur Padilla:                  Yes, absolutely. Just thinking about, because you think about it in terms of the age and the time that Alaska natives have been living there. These languages are 15,000 years old. So they reflect a culture that is 15,000 years old. They reflect a way of life that doesn’t have electronic telephones and an H2O… we had water.

So the language is there, but how language informs everything especially, when you’re bringing an ancient language back to life. And I’m interested, though I’ve not had the time or the opportunity to have the conversation with folks is what happens when you learn it?

So you were an English speaker before now you’re 18, you’ve learned this language, how are you different? How are you connected to your culture differently? I’d love to know that answer.

Norah Jones:                     So you have not yet had an opportunity to experience since then, sort of like you were reflecting about watching the homeless young person continue to grow into their years. This is not something that you’ve been able to access. The interesting question is here is a very talented woman who spearheaded this kind of educational growth. It also takes, much like we talked about at the opener, training those that are not aware of this language, not aware of this cultural background, of this perspective, to be truly, as you said it at the very beginning, listening, not just hearing, but listening.

When you experience watching this, what were some of the pathways to making sure that people were listening, that this particular initiative took that might be replicated or that you might’ve seen replicated in other places?

Arthur Padilla:                  Well, So for me, I’m thinking about one particular project that I did with folks. It was a cultural immersion project in Alaska for the whole state. And it was working with young people and doing all of this stuff. And one of the things that happened was that they created projects, well, they created community projects that were going to change the world, they were going to change the… And all of these young people decided that, they chose whatever project they thought was relevant for their community, they did all of this conversation, they did communication, they did whatever, they did the whole experience of a year long experience with them.

And what they ended up doing was they ended up manifesting change in their community, like things I had never, ever imagined. You know what, I forgot what the question was. [crosstalk].

Norah Jones:                     By making sure that the folks to whom we are speaking or understanding how to listen and how to act upon that listening.

Arthur Padilla:                  Yes. Okay. Yes. My point. So I do have a point. So the interesting piece was that in a number of examples, and this was a number of them, there weren’t just one, there were many over the years, and this program had been embedded in the state for 18 years, 14 or 13 when I got it. And when I started to look and I said, oh my God, they are being heard. What are you doing?

And the reason I noticed it was one of the groups decided that they were going to do an initiative to see if they could improve the waste management system in their village. Their current waste management system at the time was take the bucket from your house and you dump it over the hill. And that was the toilet. And the kids were sick of that. And so they decided they were going to see if they could get honey buckets, portable toilets. And in Alaska village, that’s a huge undertaking.

Norah Jones:                     Yeah. I can imagine.

Arthur Padilla:                  It’s a huge, expensive project. Well, these kids made such a good case. Someone got noticed, they got on a show, on a radio show. Then someone else noticed them. They got on the news and then someone else noticed them and suddenly the governor, they were in the governor’s office and they were making their proposal to him and they got it.

Norah Jones:                     Wow.

Arthur Padilla:                  They got toilets.

Norah Jones:                     See.

Arthur Padilla:                  They were like, wow. Everybody was like, wow.

Norah Jones:                     Everybody’s got to be like, wow. That’s huge agency on behalf of having a voice. No question.

Arthur Padilla:                  Right. And they were heard. So part of what the dynamic was, that they found a way to get people to hear them. And that’s the difference, right? Because there’s two parts of the conversation. One of them is I have to learn how to actively listen, but I also have to learn to get you to pay attention.

Norah Jones:                     Talk about that part.

Arthur Padilla:                  So for them, they had to make good noise, I guess, is the best way to do it. Right now Black Lives Matters, that is one of the things, make some good noise. And that’s really what it is. How do you make good noise? How do you be… And again, it’s like finding your voice within the system that you’re working with. So these kids, they did the science, they did the research, they found out how much it would cost, they also did the science around what were the health implications of having all of this waste so close to them that was unmanaged. And what are the health implications for the long term? What are they supposed to do? And are there avenues for a solution that no one had explored before? They did all that work. So they learned the language that allowed their voice to be heard. I think it was the point you were asking about before.

Norah Jones:                     I was, and you have answered it beautifully. And it’s interesting, Arthur, because here again, we have that responsibility, not fault. We have the positive, not the anger that you brought up to being so dazzled by when you first got to Alaska. Fascinating. Now you also used a term earlier on in our conversation about unconscious bias. Can you express a little bit about what you have experienced them with people speaking into and helping to uncover and work with and potentially transform unconscious bias?

Arthur Padilla:                  Well, I think for me, the thing that’s fundamental for this particular issue is that people feel pain around bias, and people feel an emotional response to being or having bias. And when it’s unconscious, when we don’t even know we’re doing it, and yet people are blaming us, it probably feels more painful than before.

I don’t feel the pain so much anymore because I’m used to being called [inaudible], it’s over time you get a little thicker skin. But in the earlier, it’s hard, are hard and bias is complicated. It’s because, and when it’s unconscious and we don’t even know it exists, that is… All of these are layers of how do I dig into there and find the bias and how do I get people to understand it? And honestly, the truth is for me, it’s storytelling.

It really is storytelling. It’s being able for people to be able to speak and say their story. And a lot of that has to do with relating experience. It’s hard to relate our experiences to each other, other than through storytelling. And I find it one of the most effective ways for us to have conversations about unconscious bias.

Is like, okay, let’s talk about that. What’s the story. When was the last time you experienced it that you could acknowledge that someone was treating you that way? So for me personally, the way it manifests is people try to tell me to shut up, basically I’m loud.

Norah Jones:                     Interesting.

Arthur Padilla:                  They call me, I am a noise-maker, so people will say you’re very intrusive, you’re chaotic. So they use words like that to describe someone like me, who is asking you to stop and check yourself. Part of it is, there’s so many elements happening, but a lot of it is guilt and shame. And I’m like, that’s why we need to change the language. It’s about responsibility.

I’m not saying that everybody is out there actively trying to oppress people. The difference is what are you not doing? What is the inactive part? What is the part that you are responding to? So how many times do you cross the street when you see a group of young people coming towards you? They don’t even have to be young people of color, they just have to be as group of scary young people and adults will run across the street because young people frighten us.

Norah Jones:                     True enough.

Arthur Padilla:                  There’s an unconscious bias around young people. And we’re very clear about that. And people will cross the street all the time. There’s very few of us, women walk around terrified most of their lives because men do things. They don’t understand what they’re doing to women all the time, but when they ugly-googly scream at women, that’s terrifying. And the unconscious part is that they don’t know that every time they do that, even though they think it’s normal part of their culture, that they are participating in oppression. That’s the unconscious part. It’s like, now you have to bring that up. Now you know. Now what are you going to do?

Norah Jones:                     Now you know.

Arthur Padilla:                  Right.

Norah Jones:                     Where are those stories told Arthur? I mean, you engender them by your work and by where you wander into the midst, how do we make sure that story telling can become a larger picture for society?

Arthur Padilla:                  Well, I guess it’s more about how we listen. Because the stories are being told all around us, part of it is we really struggled to hear. So let me say this, rap is not everybody’s cup of tea. It’s hard for a lot of people to listen to, it’s noisy, it’s loud. But in all of that music, are all the stories that we have refused to hear.

Norah Jones:                     Powerful.

Arthur Padilla:                  Right? So the stories are out there, they’re out there all the time. The stories are in George Floyd screaming, “I can’t breathe”. There was a child who took that video. Oh my God, the cultural implications of children having to take those videos because adults will not behave. And that man’s neck, knee on the neck is the poster child for unconscious bias. He was angry and he was squelching the voice of something, but he was definitely angry and it was definitely… It was very front and center, it was very clear to those observing, but unconscious because he doesn’t see it that way.

Norah Jones:                     And it’s the listening to those stories and defining, you’ve just redefined even, or maybe not redefined, expanded the definition of how we can look at what stories are being told directly in front of us. What is your personal history, Arthur? What background do you bring to your understanding that you have developed here over these years?

Arthur Padilla:                  Well, I think that the most important part is that I live it constantly every day and it’s real. People are even for so many years, I was in denial of how much oppression played out every day in everybody’s lives. But as I get older and as I get clearer and I’m much less willing to deny to myself or to use denial as an effective tool, even though I’m not saying I’m completely denial-free, that’s not the point. But it’s not as strong as it used to be. And so for me, it’s easier to see and to understand the impacts of my life and what oppression has done. And I feel it constantly, I feel it constantly, it’s almost daily still.

Norah Jones:                     Wow. Truly interesting.

Arthur Padilla:                  And I look white. Yeah. I look white. I mean, you would assume that I would pass, but my last name has a lot, informs people a lot before they meet me or see me, the way I speak. I have a slightly feminine voice and it informs, people pass a lot of judgment, make a lot of assumptions about who I am. I’m a small person and people make a lot of assumptions about small people and the power we don’t have, much to people’s dismay, I will tell you that. I can bite a serious ankle, I’m telling you.

But with all of that… So part of it was also participating in systems because I was homeless for so many years. So I was understanding what that is like. I come from understanding what it’s like to be an oppressed person living on the street. I understand what it’s like to have to struggle against systems that do not, are not designed to support people who are homeless. It’s all of that.

So that piece was informative in my life in a big way, in a serious way. I come from a background of addiction. So when getting clean and free of addiction does not mean you get free and clean of addiction. And so it’s part of who I am all of my life and the consequences of oppression from addiction, from everybody, people that don’t want you to be addicted. I can’t tell you how many times I tell people I don’t drink, and I get bottles of wine or invited out to cocktails. I can’t tell you how disrespectful it is to people like me, but that happens all the time. So it’s a living example of the oppression that people who are clean and sober feel, believe it or not, but it’s oppressive.

And then the other piece is working in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community for many years and understanding the consequences of gender difference, cultural expectations and what the impacts are on young people now. And so all of those pieces feed me from a personal lived experience and then my own professional experience has been all around how do I take what I’ve lived and use it to fix systems that do what they do to people, because it really is, they’re married.

I am the living embodiment of what happens when you don’t fix systems. I am what happens when you don’t have mental health care readily available for young people. I’m what happens when you legislate hate as all of the transgender builds around the country. Now, for young people, it’s like, you kill young people when you do this because you are creating cultural oppression so that they learn to hate themselves. Who are you? And why are you doing this? And how can you not understand the implications of that level of oppression? It is oppression because that is, a person insight is not going to change, they’re just going to kill themselves, or they’re going to fight back like me. We have two options.

Norah Jones:                     Yes, you certainly do. And I’m thinking about how many languages and cultures you have expressed just in your very being. How many different ways than you understand, because you paid attention to that, that many others ignore by either choosing to or by not being aware. And today we can help to bring that awareness to people right here, right now. I’m going to be encouraging everyone that is listening to this podcast to be sure to check out my website, but also in addition, to be checking out your strategy works, talk a little bit about your company, please.

Arthur Padilla:                  Sure. So where I found myself after all of this work and being a nonprofit executive, I find myself doing consulting work mostly with nonprofits, working to dismantle racism in their systems. And how do you do that? And a lot of the work we were doing was in-person and suddenly COVID-19, oh my God, you had to change. Now you got to do this differently.

So it’s kind of to, again, part of it is it’s a challenge, it’s also an opportunity. So for me, it was a great opportunity to completely refocus everything I was doing and say, let’s do all of this online. Let’s just make it all online. And not for any other reason than that online suddenly created access that people didn’t have before. And now it’s normal and it created a normalization.

So if we want to do a strategic plan, now you can have your clients participate. There is absolutely positively no reason. There is absolutely no reason. Now there is no barrier left. You can have them in a conversation. I don’t care if they’re around the world, they can come and tell you how fabulous you are or you are not.

Norah Jones:                     Yeah. So either was, right?

Arthur Padilla:                  Either one, you get to hear. And because we have this virtual system now board members, there’s absolutely no excuse. Now board members from nonprofits, you can do this work. You can be the interviewer. It’s no longer okay to hire somebody to come in and do your strategic plan for you. It is no longer okay to hire somebody to say, “We’re going to go and do all the interviews and then we’re going to tell you what we hear.” No, no, no, no, no, no. You’re going to do the interviews, you’re going to hear everything and then I’m going to tell you what I think I heard. And then we’re going to come to some agreement. That’s a very different way of looking at it, but you have to do the work.

And that’s why I went online. That’s the process that I use. Everything is about, we are all doing this together and you can do this and own it. So once we walk through it, you’d never have to call me again. You can do your own strategic plan every single time, over and over and over again.

Norah Jones:                     Empowering every single time, every single time. Well, Arthur, I’m hoping that folks will do a lot of searching and thinking and listening to stories as well as telling their own. As you turn now, to those who have been listening to this podcast, what’s the last thought, the last invitation, the last warning? What do you want to share with the listening audience?

Arthur Padilla:                  Well, I meditate on this particular thought all the time. And I think the thing that I say to people most often is that before we start this conversation, take a really deep breath, get as calm as you can. And let yourself consider that for a moment, consider for a moment that everything you thought was right might be wrong and just think about that for a moment.

And one of the challenging things about having the conversation about deconstructing racism and institutionalized oppression is that it works very well for some. So it’s hard to get people to understand that deconstructing it is important and yes, some folks might lose something. I don’t know what you’ll lose. I’m not really sure what that something is, but you might lose something, power, perspective, feeling that you have some control something.

And at the same time, the power that comes from equity, the power that comes from being on the same page, the power that comes from teaching our children that they don’t have to live in a world that we lived in is immense. It changes people’s lives. So just for an instant, as you sit here just for a microsecond, think about the possibility that what everybody is saying around Black Lives Matter and institutionalized oppression and unconscious racism, they might be right. And let that be the first step.

Norah Jones:                     Let that soak in. Thank you, Arthur. Appreciate very much everything that you share today with us. And I hope that whoever listens does take that moment and sit quietly and take that wonderful advice. Appreciate your sharing your stories and that exhortation with us today.

Arthur Padilla:                  Thank you for letting me be here. Thank you, Norah, that was so great. Thank you so much.

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