Three months ago, we brought you “Ask a Black Guy / Ask a White Guy”, where we asked some uncomfortable questions on race relations in the United States. Obviously things have changed quite a bit since then with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. So we brought our guests back (Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West and Grant Williard, CEO of JouleBug) for round 2.

Donald Thompson and Grant Williard Ask a Black Guy Ask a White Guy Part 2

Jason Gillikin: All right. Well, today we have part two of “Ask a black guy, ask a white guy” with Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West, entrepreneur, husband, dad and all around great guy, and grant Willard, CEO of Joule Bug, entrepreneur, husband, dad and all around great guy as well.

Donald Thompson: There you go.

Jason Gillikin: Guys, welcome back to Diversity Beyond the Checkbox.

Donald Thompson: Thank you for having us.

Grant Willard: Thanks, Jason.

Jason Gillikin: Things have changed since we did part one, so –

Donald Thompson: That’s true.

Grant Willard: We got it rolling.

Donald Thompson: We – yeah!

Jason Gillikin: I was actually talking to somebody over the weekend, who said I listened to that podcast and you guys were ahead of the curve. And so people are listening to this and there was a lot of engagement and we started the con – we didn’t start the conversation, but it was a start of a conversation that has been amplified over the past month or so.

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Jason Gillikin: So let’s start by delving into current events that have truly shaken up the country here. The recent deaths of black men and women, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor among others at the hands of law enforcement.

Along with other racially charged events, you know, with the protests, with the riots, with all that, what are some of the conversations that you guys are having about these events? Don, we’ll start with you.

Donald Thompson: Lots of them. Right? One of the things that I’m seeing is that there is an awakening, a transformation, a tsunami of change on the racial lines in our country and people more than I’ve ever seen in my life and now being close to 50 have lived long enough to see a lot of different trends and fads and different things. But, people that I’m talking with are seriously wanting to know how they can impact positive change because I think what’s happening in our country is the decency barometer we’ve dropped below.

And where a lot of white  America was OK with kind of ignoring some of the things that they heard, not really digging in, it’s being overblown. Right? We’ve had a black president. We’re good. Right? Those things were shockingly altered. Right? When they saw for eight minutes and 40 seconds, a white police officer with his knee on the neck and murdering George Floyd on basically live TV.

Right? And so that forces a series of conversations, and then it forces you to think back and relook at all the assumptions that you made for the last five years, 10 years, 15 years, a hundred years, and people are more open and that’s a good thing. It’s a tragedy what happened, but if you have a tragedy, at the minimum you owe it to the people that lives were taken. Not gave their life, ’cause they didn’t do it voluntarily, that their lives were taken, right? To make some good come of it. And I think we have that opportunity.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah. I agree. Grant?

Grant Willard: I’m just kind of looking at this and say, how do we keep the momentum going?

Here and now, it’s – we’re making some progress. It’s hard for me to say great progress, but we’re making some progress. But, I’m just afraid that it’s, like other movements, it comes and goes. This is things that we have to, to keep going. And there’s still a lot of, even today, if you read the headlines of NASCAR, it’s just like, “Oh my, how does that happen?”

And it’s just, this is deep rooted. I t may not be a large population, but it’s big enough to where it’s – we’ve got to keep the momentum going for a while to get rid of this.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah, absolutely. And you’re referring to the noose was found in, um, the, black NASCAR driver’s locker room.

Grant Willard: Yeah.

Jason Gillikin: I mean, it’s just unbelievable, but, so Don –

Donald Thompson: or even there was two African American young people that were found hung. And then first thing out of people’s mouths is “it was self-inflicted,” right? They hung themselves to bring more focus to the movement. OK. I’m gonna, I’m going to have to call bullshit on that.


Jason Gillikin: Well Don, you’re a diversity and inclusion consultant, diversity and inclusion leader. So you’re having these conversations all the time, but Grant, you’re not in the diversity and inclusion movement per se. You’re a leader in business and you run a gaming company, Joule Bug. But, so what are the conversations that you’re having as a leader in, in running your company?

Grant Willard: Well, it’s a small company.  We talk about it, the few of us, we bring it up. And I’m struggling with what to do. I mean, what has happened is wrong. What has been happening for 400 years in this country is wrong. We’ve perpetuated it, and it’s wrong. I know that, but I’m struggling and looking for how to help, how to make it better. And it’s, I’m somewhat at a loss of what I can do, but I’m hoping to learn something today.

Jason Gillikin: Well, I think we all have a voice. And just being on this podcast, you are showing your voice. Being on part one also, you talk about white privilege and I thought that was a very powerful part. Of the conversation and me, as a white man, I was looking at my white privilege as well. And starting to realize that over the past year in working with, with Don and inherent conversations and especially over the past month or so, it’s really been amplified.

Grant Willard: I saw an interview with Trevor Noah and Anderson Cooper. Trevor really lived through some horrific things. And I think that one of the things that, that he said, and this just makes so much sense, is that just acknowledging that we’ve done something wrong and looking people in the eye and saying, “We’ve done something wrong. I’m sorry. Don’t know what we can do about it -”

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Grant Willard: “But just letting you know, we did something horrifically wrong and we’re going to do better.”

Donald Thompson: Sure.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah.

Grant Willard: That’s the start that gets a dialogue going. And then we’ll figure it out. We always have.

Jason Gillikin: Yep. So we on this podcast have a voice, you know, other people have a voice in their own platforms as well. A group that’s, that’s bigger than us right now, the NFL, you know, we talked about Colin Kaepernick on the last show. Right. And, you know, we talked about his silent nonviolent protests. So, there’s been a shift in the Colin Kaepernick conversation over the past month. Why do you think that is? Why has there been a shift in that conversation about who Colin Kaepernick is?

Grant Willard: Video’s is going to be big.

Collin from the beginning, said it’s not about denigrating the flag of the country. It’s about I want to give a moment of silence for some injustices going on for a long time. And that’s what Collin said. The media, there’s a certain media that wanted to make it about the flag and other things. And then when we see the video, eight minutes, 40 seconds of video, then all of a sudden you – that narrative that media was running is like, “Ooh, that’s, that’s a bold face lie.” And all of a sudden we’ve just realized, “Oh, This is really happening. These aren’t just words.” It’s eight minutes and 41 seconds of pure horror.

Donald Thompson: Yep.

Grant Willard: That people – I don’t think people believed before.

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

I mean, the first time Donald told me that some of this stuff was going on in his life. You’re full of shit.

And here are 20 years later.

Here we are in. No, no, it’s not. It’s not, it’s been going on for a long time.

Yeah, I mean, like we would use big words years ago, like racial profiling and different things like that. And, you know, a term that white people use a lot is, “Well, I’m not racist.” You not being racist doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist.

You not being racist doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact people of color that, you know, live with, work with.

Grant Willard: You ignoring your racist friends comments, gets you pretty close to racist.

Donald Thompson: Right.

Grant Willard: You’re not a racist, but you’re kissing him right up to it.

Donald Thompson: And it’s like, so back to what Grant was saying earlier is that acknowledgement that something’s wrong gives you a foundation to move forward. And to your question on the NFL, I think that the evidence became so overwhelming that they had no choice, but to apologize for stealing a man’s career over a silent protest in the United States of America. Like if you, if you slow down and think about what happened to Colin Kaepernick, now he’s fine. He’s making like, he’s going to come out OK. But what if not that video, right? He’s being in his life proven to be correct and a hero in this day for taking that stand. But for not that video, we were allowing the media and politicians to hijack a narrative to make something about a totally different thing, which is the flag. And one of the things that is always interesting to me is I stand for the flag and I always I will. I just, I believe in believing for what the better can be, but I also believe that freedom means freedom.

So if it’s okay for the KKK to March and get a permit, then it’s okay to silent kneel for the flag. I’m a pretty simple individual, right? But the thing that sticks with me is this: the hypocrisy is now on full display and no one can run from things they said on video that are now being proven to be totally manipulative hypocrisy.

And that’s a good thing. Yeah.

Grant Willard: But I think there are two points there. One is the flag, but the other is he went to the super bowl. Was he going back again and again? I mean, his career was stolen and he said, “Yeah, he’s going to be OK.” You’re right. But he might’ve been great or, I mean, he – any quarterback that takes the team to the super bowl is great.

He might’ve gotten a ring. He might’ve  gotten two rings. You look at as offensive number eight, he was different on the field and off the field. Very different. Finding a team that worked with it, he was just, his career was robbed.

Donald Thompson: In broad daylight, right? Like in broad daylight. One of the things that was, I was on a webinar before this, and this is unbelievable, right? There’s people within the Trump administration – this is unbelievable – that went on television and said, what’s that guy is the head of the DOJ Barr? Whatever, his name is. Right? But he’s the department of justice. Right? What was the name of that? What does that mean, like, what is his job? So he’s the head of the department of justice, right? Our attorney general. ” I don’t believe there’s systemic racism.” The head of our treasury. ” Yeah, I don’t really believe there’s systemic racism.”

And so what happens, and this is really important when people are able to perpetrate a hoax they keep us separated, even on points where we agree. And so let me give an example. I have a friend of mine, his name is Jeremy, and he is a hardcore serious Republican and still to this day. But Jerry and my friends, so we’ve maintained a relationship, facebook, we call, we talk every now and then. He was on the ground at the rally in Oklahoma, in Tulsa. Okay. And so they were talking about all the reasons for the small crowds or big crowds, whatever. And I said, “Jeremy, what happened on the ground?” He says, “Well,” he said, “I think the city of Tulsa didn’t want there to be a big crowd.

So they kind of held us in line a little bit longer so people would go home. Like, there was some shenanigans going on.” I said, “I can believe that, right? Does – that makes sense. You’re on the ground, this is what happened. And I said, “Jeremy, were there radical protestors?” He said, “Nah, man,” he said “Everybody’s full of shit.”

He said “There weren’t any radical protesters.” He said “There were people screaming Black Lives Matter just like we were screaming Make America Great Again. But like, we were all representing our troupe or whatever we wanted to do, but there was no radical protesters.” The point is what we’re all being fed from all these different networks is designed to keep us at the most heightened sense of anger towards one another so we forget that our leadership in Washington doesn’t even work for a living. They don’t even work except genning us up to stay pissed off.

Grant Willard: In the last few weeks we’ve used the word riots. I was coming of age in the sixties. I remember Rodney King.

We’ve not seen riots. We’ve seen a little bit of – I’ve seen isolated vandalism limited breaking and entering because folk were letting off a little bit of steam or some horrific things that have gone on recently and for 400 years. Letting off a little bit of steam. Not riots. Not destruction . Burning cardboard in the street.

Big flames is not destruction. It’s just what –  we’re just – the media, which is supposed to be the fourth leg of the democracy, is just feeding us this stuff to keep us at edge ’cause they sell a lot of stuff that way.

Donald Thompson: Sell a lot of stuff, and people are lapping it up. And here’s the, here’s the thing that’s interesting because the black and white issue, the racial tensions in different things, our leadership institutions, right?

Our educational institutions, our government institutions, our business leaders, we all have a responsibility to make our world better. And one of the things that is being done is we’re letting our leaders off the hook to actually put things in place to help us because we’re joining the chorus of the verbal food fights that are keeping, they’re keeping in motion.

And here’s the example: 80% of Americans believe term limits is a good thing. You can’t get 80% of Americans agree on anything. Eighty percent of Americans believe term limits is a good thing, but it is one of the least talked about things in our government because people in power on both sides have no interest in doing what would be good for the people, right? Another example and I’ll hush, watch this, think about all this – and this is just my thing with black guy, white guy is also this third entity that’s just keeping us opposed to each other for no reason, except for their power grab. Think about the wall. I’m gonna build a wall and Mexico’s going to pay for it.

Just think about that, right? Why didn’t we get a wall built when the Republicans had all three chambers of Congress? They had complete control because it’s never about the thing people are shouting about. It’s just about the power narrative and they’re using the thing of the moment to just create the distrust and the animosity, just to keep the power moment.

And we’ve got to slow down and really listen to each other enough so that we don’t let that dissuade us from now what our point is to talk about here, is how do we improve, right, the plight of African Americans in our country. But if we’re fighting over things that nobody even is really going to get taken care of, then we actually don’t address the real problem.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah. And so back to the, the protest then was – we’re the protests heard, or was the message obscured by what the media was calling riots and by the administration? You know, was the message heard? Was the protest message heard?

Grant Willard: I feel like it’s beginning to be heard. I don’t think it’s been heard, but it’s – there’s a dialogue, there’s a group of people that are beginning to listen. They’ve seen it. You can’t run from it. It’s there. Video’s going to be big. I mean, I mean, I don’t want it. I’m not trying to make light of it, but I am trying to, the point is that Colin Kaepernick was talking about social injustice.

Those are just words. Now we’ve seen video. Now people can visualize what? What? That’s what? Oh, that’s what? And it’s like, it’s not just once. This goes on, and on, and on. So yeah, I think it, I think people are coming around. Some people are coming around and that’s how a movement – there’s never going to be this light turns on and all of a sudden it’s over because there’s so many little things we’re still, I’m still doing.

And it’s systemic, and getting that, weeding that out’s gonna take a while, but acknowledge it. I mean, yes, there are some idiots in the cabinet that don’t acknowledge what’s going on and we need to – hopefully in January, we’re going to figure that out.

Donald Thompson: Yep. We’ll see.

Jason Gillikin: Hopefully. All right. So you hear a lot of, in certain corners of social media and on TV, you’ll hear, when people say Black Lives Matter.

Well, no, it’s all lives matter. How do you, Don, how do you rebut that?

Donald Thompson: Alright. I’ll keep it, I’ll keep it brief. It’s really semantics and it goes to my other narrative of keeping us apart. Saying that Black Lives Matter is does not in any way denigrate that all lives do not matter. It just means there’s a certain group of people that are experiencing a horrific experience and we’re trying to shine light on that. Period.

That’s all. And so to try to create a counter narrative that all lives matter is really changing the point of the injustice that we’re talking about, right? If you say that women deserve the right to vote, you’re not saying that all people don’t deserve the right to vote. It just happens that there is a certain group of people in our history, women, that did not have the right to vote.

You’re speaking about a very specific instance of injustice. That’s it.

Jason Gillikin: So do you think it’s people that are being naive to the conversation or do you think there’s, there’s an altar – alternate motive, ulterior motive to that?

Grant Willard: It’s just hard to understand that a counter narrative is offered up, it sounds like my grandchildren in the back of the car arguing over a candy bar. It’s just, how do people listen to that and not laugh? it’s like, we’re playing grade school opposite day.

How silly is this stuff, right? You can’t make it up! Unless, unless you see it just promoted by the media.

Jason Gillikin: I think it goes beyond the media. I mean, I think some people are, you know, really want to shift the conversation away from Black Lives Matter because their thing is not all that important. But, you know, to your point about the media amplifying that I think you’re absolutely right on that.

Grant Willard: But from the white guy, it’s really uncomfortable.

I mean, just, it’s just uncomfortable. You don’t know what to do. You’ve seen like, this is bad and you don’t know what to do, so, yeah, it’d be great. It’s great to have a distraction. And it’s great to make Colin Kaepernick a bad guy, right? Don’t have to think about. Really bad guys, like people that put, put their knees on people’s lung for so it’s, it’s, it’s a distraction that people welcome ’cause the alternative is

Donald Thompson: And the history that has got us to this point is so egregious that I don’t actually blame white America or educational system. Like, I actually understand why the full history of our country is not taught. Because it is so agregious what has been done to a group of people, it would be fifth grade, it would be R-rated. Does that makes sense? Like, you couldn’t possibly tell the truth of what America has done to become the nation that it is. And so, the hiding of those sins of the past is human nature.

You don’t want to look at your problems like that. The challenge is that if we don’t do that, then we’re going to kill ourselves from within. It’s worse.

Jason Gillikin: Well, you talk about history class and I’ve got a seven year old daughter and a five year old daughter along with a two year old. And, you know, we decided to have a conversation with the seven year old and five year old about these protests and what was going on.

And, boy, that is a difficult conversation. Like how do you, you can’t say everything like I can’t, I’m not going to, I could, I’m not going to show the video of what happened. I’m not going to say that, you know, that a police officer killed another human being. I’m not going to say that just yet. But, I talked about the conversation about, you know, black people have to worry about police officers and, you know, maybe there’s.

You know, 1%, 2%, however many it is of police officers that are not, you know, that could be racist and that’s a difficult, difficult conversation.

Grant Willard: How do you get to be 63 years old and not hear about four, five, six, 700 people being massacred in Tulsa, Oklahoma. How does that happen?

Donald Thompson: Right.

Grant Willard: Just stop. Think about it.

How does that happen?

Donald Thompson: Right. And it’s – the thing about it is like, people now, back to the present day, are now hungry for where they know and feel they’ve been misled. On the, on the call I was on today, and I try to use – I want to use a quick thing to talk about systemic racism. Jackie Ferguson, our director of multicultural programming said, “You need to watch this doc documentary on Netflix called the 13th.

And they talked about the 13th amendment and the 13th amendment is where slavery was abolished. But within that amendment, you could still enslave felons. So that became the start of police officers and the system the judiciary overcharging African-Americans because if you think about it, they went from a free labor force to then a labor force you have to pay. How do you economically overcome that? You now put these people in jail, so now you overcharge them and now you’re getting 10 years, 20 years, 30 years for petty crimes. And now all of a sudden you reinvigorate the workforce and there was, there were several comments in this thing and they were like, “You have got to be kidding me. I went to school, high school, college, I’ve never heard that.” And I’m just talking about what is the real history. That’s systemic racism. So, for someone to say it doesn’t exist is just ridiculous. You not wanting to admit it, just like you not wanting to admit you’re an alcoholic or have a drug problem is understandable.

I get it.

Jason Gillikin: Wow. That’s unbelievable. What’s the name of the documentary again?

Donald Thompson: 13th.

Jason Gillikin: 13th.

Donald Thompson: It’s straight fire. And the thing that is really good is it just factual. Newt Gingrich’s on there, like they, they did a really good job of balancing the viewpoints and just – and watch this just so we’re clear, because certainly I’m no fan of 45, right? But just to be clear in that documentary, they talk about Bill Clinton and the judicial reforms that he put in that actually took Black people backwards.

There used to be a law called three strikes, and so there’s people in jail for life on petty crimes ’cause of the third strike.

So it’s not Republican or Democrat, it’s just systematic racism in our government and in our society, right? And it was very good because it was very balanced. It just was factual. That’s what I like. That’s why I liked it. If you don’t want to watch it, that’s great. But it was factual. That’s good stuff.

Jason Gillikin: Wow. Yeah. That’s the things that they don’t teach us in school. So, Grant, what are your thoughts on defunding the police department and how do we police the police?

Grant Willard: So we got another hour, I guess.

Yeah. Police budgets have just become so large, we ask them to do so many things, and then, you know, probably one of the leading things on a resume is you fought in a war that we have endless Wars. And then when some of this equipment becomes obsolete for our Wars, we sell it to our police departments and then we’re surprised that police departments act like armies, and that’s what they’ve been trained to do. And when people, free people, have armies surrounding with them wielding batans, people get a little edgy. So yeah, we just, we need to ask what should our police be doing? Showing up for a domestic dispute with guys with guns. That doesn’t make sense. T he city of London police officers don’t carry guns. London does OK. So, getting rid of some of these weapons, some of this stuff they had, I mean, you looked at it, you looked at it here in Raleigh, looked at hundreds of folks dressed in black, masks, knee pad, all kinds of warriors.

What are we doing here in Raleigh with that kind of stuff? So, yeah, we need to – we need to determine what their role is and any time there’s something going wrong, we don’t need to have a police cruizer roll up. And then if we ask what their role is, we’re not going to need as many, they’re not going to need to be weaponized, and then we take those roles and give it to people that can solve problems.

Donald Thompson: Yeah,  I think words matter. And I think that people that are talking about defund the police are trying to rally the troops with that, kind of that conservative right element that is looking for a reason. Like, you’re trying to take my guns and just, they’re looking for a reason that somebody is trying to take something.

And I think the way I would describe it is we need to reform the police. And I think that’s what Grant was talking about, right? We just need to look at their role differently. And there are times where a SWAT team is needed. There are times where they need to be geared up, but it’s not every time. And here’s the most important thing in my opinion: is we need to be able to hold accountable bad actors.

That is to me the most important thing. And we look at the person that murdered George Floyd, he had seven to eight to 10 different instances of brutality. How does that stand, right? Like that’s the, to me, that’s the problem, right? We’re going to try to fix this whole big thing, which is our policing system.

I want to fix this one thing, which is how do we hold accountable the bad actors within the department, they can’t work. They need to go into some kind of national registry. They can no longer be police officers. They got one strike, go to council and fix it. Two strikes, whatever the third strike you can’t work in law enforcement.

Something that creates an opportunity for, yes, somebody makes a mistake, whatever you don’t ruin their life or career, but there’s a pattern. Most people that do egregious things, it’s not their first time out. You know what I mean? Like it’s not their first rodeo of roughing somebody up and going too far.

And that’s the thing I that think needs to be stopped. And it’s so difficult to remove a police officer. The unions are very strong and powerful. So even if a mayor or police chief wants to get rid of them, they’re so lawyered up that the truth doesn’t really come out. It’s really the system  protecting people in the shield of blue.

You shouldn’t protect people that dishonor the shield, but we should uplift and pay more to those that do. It’s similar to our teachers where as a country, we talk a good game, right? But we don’t really mean it. We talk about education’s important. We talk about taking care of our law enforcement, our first responders, but they’re the least paid.

And so I think we’ve got to fix some of those things. When we’re talking about all these tax cuts, why don’t we not do those tax cuts, right? And why don’t we put some of that money with the people that do have to serve us and protect us for the ones that do it well?

Grant Willard: Don, you started by saying words matter, and I think if we kind of go back to some of the words, if we wake up with riots destruction, it scares me. I had family members that texted “Are you guys okay,” right? I really seriously, I did. Do you know anybody that got scared? Right? So, but we read headlines, riots, destruction, glass was broken, you know, and insurance probably paid for it pretty quickly. There was nothing to be genuinely fearful of, but if we’re led to believe that we should be scared, then people will police guns and batons. Well, we don’t need that.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah, no, I totally agree.

Don, you talked about reforming the funding. Can any of that money be used for education on bias?

Donald Thompson: I mean, it could. But I am a firm believer in something that’s large, right? Large enterprises. You’ve got to figure out how you can get small wins and build.

And I think one of the things that we collectively do in large organizations, we try to do too much at once. And so you end up with nothing. And that frustrates me about the way our country’s led. So personally, I want us to focus on the bad actors, and I don’t want to try to make 57 different changes and have big focus groups.

If you use excessive force, you cannot do this job. If you go through an audit of all the police departments in the country, and you have a rap sheet like this guy that was a murderer, you have to have a more detailed review.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: You have to go on a ride along with a diversity officer, somebody that is trained in dealing with that, so that we can handle something quickly. And if you make it too big, it’s just a way for nothing to actually happen, is my

Jason Gillikin: Yeah. So we just passed June 19th and that was recognized as Juneteenth, which is something a lot of people hadn’t heard of before. Grant, from your perspective, should Juneteenth be a national holiday?

Grant Willard: Yes. Done. Finally, finally, a softball, softball.

I mean, making light, yeah, sure. It’s easy. Absolutely.

Jason Gillikin:  I think so, too.

Grant Willard: And it’s – I’d be in favor of adding another holiday. But if we don’t plenty of white guys to take it away from them, right? I mean, we should have Juneteeth and not Washington’s birthday, right? I mean, it just makes sense, right?

Jason Gillikin: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: We typically do holidays, like one-offs. Like, you know, are always chuckled, right? Christopher Columbus discovered America. There was people here. You get a lot of street cred for discovering something where people was already here, right? So I think his holiday should be under review. And then after we got to get rid of some of the bogus ones, there’ll be some room for some other good ones.

But you know, for me personally, I want to see us look at things to where we create honor where there truly is distinction. That honor and distinction, and I think that if we educate in our schools more about our history, where it is age appropriate – do you know what I mean? Like, I totally feel like that I think that’s, to me, equally as important. The day off work is symbolic, and I’m really much more focused on things that have some substance.

So I don’t really care that may make me the weird black guy, right? Like I don’t really care if it’s a holiday or not. I actually want to see some other things done that can push the envelope.

Jason Gillikin: No, that makes sense.

Grant Willard: Let me ask a question here.

Donald Thompson: Sure will man.

Grant Willard: So, how you feel about our first president who accomplished something who owned 173 slaves?

Donald Thompson: George Washington?

Grant Willard: I mean, how do Blacks feel about that cognitive dissonance there of good guy, bad guy.

Donald Thompson: Yeah like, this whole thing with this whole narrative of our founding fathers  ike, they’re revered and this perfect entity.

Grant Willard: And no mothers.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, exactly, right? And so, how I feel about George Washington or the narrative of our founding fathers is back to your earlier point, right? People aren’t perfect, when you make a mistake, you need apologize. It’ s what we teach our kids, right? And then you need to pay your price, right? If you were out late and you weren’t out late, there’s a certain punishment, right?

If you wreck the car, you got to work in the summer to fix the car. It’s relative to what was done, but the point to answer your question is that I’m fully aware of the imperfections of our country, and that doesn’t keep me up at night. I just don’t want it to keep staying the same, and I don’t want our country to keep chasing the past.

That’s what bothers me is that we’re chasing the past defending how great we once were, which is again, it’s just not true. Versus taking that same energy and figuring out how we can be great, which I do think can occur. I’m hopeful of that. Like I want it to be that I’m I refuse to let somebody tell me different I’ll be ate up with anger and fear and won’t be able to be productive. So, I have to believe – that’s why I still stand for the flag. But I don’t want a hypocrite saying that somebody that wants to kneel can’t kneel, and I don’t want somebody giving me shit if I want to stand. That’s what’s America, right? But I stand for the hopefulness of the future, not the lie the past, of how great we were.

I stand for a different reason. My personal reason, right? Of what I believe that we can be. And, you know, but for as far as the holidays and stuff, I’m good. I want some substance.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah, that makes sense. So, Grant, earlier you were asking, you know, what can we do as a white person? And so for Don, for the white guys in the room and the white people, listening –

Donald Thompson: So let me talk about Grant for a minute, and then white guys in general.

Jason Gillikin: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: Right? In terms of what they can do. And Grant’s super humble and honest. Like, I’ve done pretty well in my business career, and Grant helped open that door for me. And he mentored me and he pushed me and he was a little out of control with me, just like he was with every other employee, like he – same or worse, right?

And then I was like, I remember one time, like, I didn’t think he was like, race – like, he was a good guy, knew Laura, like I said, this is a decent person, right? And met his kids, and I was like, “Why are you like, so hard on me?” Like I just asked him one time. I didn’t care. I just wanted to know. Grew up in an athletic family. He said, “‘Cause I think you can be excellent. I think you can be great. So I’m not going to let you be lazy.” Well, oh. To me, that was love, right? But I almost took it as a negative, but he was trying to lift me up and grow. So what do I say to middle aged white guys? What I say to white people in particular, use your privilege and your talents to help somebody else out.

That’s it. What am I supposed to do with my financial privilege? What am I supposed to do with the privilege I’ve had supposed to help somebody else out? That’s it? That’s, that’s it just don’t take to your grave your talents without using them to help somebody else out. To stand in the gap for them. One of the things that Grant did that was powerful – because we saw it here in North Carolina – I would go to meetings with Grant, and people would treat me one way and I would see those same people without Grant and they would walk right by me. No, I didn’t care. I knew what it was. I got it. But Grant took me to those meetings. He took me to meet these different people. He let me be a fly on the wall, even if the instructions for the meeting was “Don, don’t say anything. I got this.” And then sometimes you’d take, if you’ve got a couple of questions, man, just jump on in.

But sometimes we’re like, this is really, really, really – don’t say – right? And I wouldn’t follow that direction, but he gave me those experiences, and that’s what he did so that I then could take that opportunity and work as hard as I could to be some level of success to then now I can give back to other people, right? And so I think that’s really important in terms of what people can do.

There’s people out there that need a helping hand, a cup of coffee, with somebody that’s successful, that doesn’t look like them and be open to do that. Would be my thing.

Jason Gillikin: Grant, what are you going to do?

Grant Willard: There’s some us who have been lucky to be running a race that, your race is downhill and the winds at your back. When you’re running race, you feel like you’re really running and you are running, but you’re running downhill with the wind at your back.

I think we have to at least be aware of that, admit that, and whenever we can, look for places where we can help folks where we can fill up their sails. And that means we have to be on the lookout for that.


Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Grant Willard: I don’t know. Yeah. We can protest, we can, there’s certain things that we can do here in the now, but I think that really, we have to walk the rest of our lives with an awareness, a keen awareness looking for those opportunities where we’re lucky enough to have a leg up, where we can use that to help other people.

Jason Gillikin: Well guys, before we wrap up, what other thoughts do you have about our country, about race relations, about anything that’s on your mind?

Donald Thompson: So one of the things that I want to share is a lot of people are asking me, you know, what can I do to help? And again, if you go to www.the, within the blog section, there is a very good blog by Jackie Ferguson “How to be an Ally,” and it talks about what you can do.

And within this blog, there’s 10 to 12 free resources that can get you started with how to think about this very, very tough problem. White guilt is real. The stress on African Americans and people of color is real. The stress on our country because of all this change is real. And I do believe more than ever that people are trying to figure it out.

And that gives me hope, but we need to provide people with resources that can give them a good, fundamental set of information versus just kind of, you know, clicking the remote control for cable. So, is a great place for free resources, as well as some things for your company that can help you build out a path for diversity and inclusion.

The last thing that I would say is that don’t let the media narrative, determine whether or not we disagree with somebody because a lot of it is built to create discord, and it’s just not true. And we have more in common than we do different, and we need to make sure in our various circles that we focus and fight for those points of agreement so that we can really make some change in our country together.

And I’m very, very hopeful, even though I’m very angry and depressed sometimes with what’s going on, but I’m very hopeful – that’s the overriding emotion – that there are groups of people in mass that want to see our country be better. That are disappointed with where we are and want to be a part of making change.

And that is encouraging.

Jason Gillikin: Now’s our chance to do it.

Donald Thompson: Now’s our chance to do it.


Jason Gillikin: final thoughts?

Grant Willard: America, the brand, is taken some hits right now. And it should, but America the brand is still pretty strong. You know, I was raised to believe that you worked hard, had a little bit of luck, but really worked hard. You could do good things. And that, that happened to me. but when I was doing that, I just said last on our last one, I didn’t know that half the population had been kind of kept out from competing. I think America’s doing has been doing good, but we can do so much better. It doesn’t mean that we’re bad people. The opportunity to do better doesn’t mean that we’re bad.

You can feel very guilty about what has happened, but the guilt can be debilitating. This is an opportunity for us to start fixing some things that have been wrong, and we can only fix things if we have a keen eye and look for the littlest, the smallest of things and do that. I don’t know, but just seems to me walking by Black people, looking them in the eye and smiling is a start.

Donald Thompson: Hmm.

Grant Willard: And that’s where we begin, and it’s that opportunity of looking for the smallest of opportunities, and then when you get beyond the fear of doing that well, it’s kind of unusual. And you do that, then you look for the next bigger thing you can do.

And we just have to have keen awareness and trying to do better, and that’s how we will get to be great again.

Jason Gillikin: That is a great place to end. Thank you, Grant. Thank you Don, for coming back to “Ask a Black guy, ask a White guy” on the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox podcast.

Donald Thompson: Thanks for having us.

Grant Willard: Thanks again.

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