After growing up in apartheid South Africa and seeing how education suppression led to systemic racism, Lara Stein thought that she would be far removed from that in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. She was wrong. But she’s doing everything in her power to change the world and eliminate systemic racism – in government, in private sectors, and even in artificial intelligence.
Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast. I am enthused today, as always, but really encouraged about hearing from our guest, Lara Stein. And Lara is the founder and the CEO of Boma Global. And I want to welcome you to the show. Welcome, Lara.
Lara Stein: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Donald Thompson: One of the things that we like to do, and we’ll get into the, the way that you are trying to make a significant impact on the way the world learns in a moment. I want to take a step back and give you some space just to share with our audience a little bit about you; where you’re from, how you grew up, family. Anything that you’d like to let us in a little bit tighter.
Lara Stein: Sure. So I grew up in South Africa during apartheid. I grew up in a white, Jewish family. My family was very actively involved in politics and student politics, my brother helped rewrite the constitution. But definitely my formulative years of growing up during apartheid South Africa, gave me this lens on how systemic change can make a big difference and how education is a key to really suppressing people and, you know, inflicting at times, great pain and suffering, and an ability to advance.
And so, a lot of the work that I’ve done throughout my career, and I spent the first half of my life in the for-profit sector, and then the latter part sort of straddling the two; non-profit and for-profit. And now, trying to work on systemic change that could bring the two together. But most certainly, a lot of what I’ve done has been at the intersection of technology and education informed by, you know, what I saw when I was growing up. And so, I really do believe that education is the key to solving a lot of our social problems and as well as a lot of our discourse in the world.
Donald Thompson: That is wonderful. And, you know, I appreciate you sharing that. One of the things that I’d be interested in, right? Because growing up in a country with that kind of system, how would you equate that to someone that hasn’t experienced that? What would that be similar to in the United States or other countries? How would you educate someone on apartheid if they’re not really familiar with the term and that distinction?
Lara Stein: So, it’s a way to systemically put down a whole group of people and not educate them and make them basically into second-class citizens. And the interesting thing about apartheid, it was very overt. But I think the sort of oppression of groups of people happens in every country, all over the world. And sometimes they’re more covert; sort of this idea that still waters run deep.
And sometimes they’re very overt. And in some ways, I think it almost makes it worse when it’s not acknowledged. And so, when I first came to America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, I didn’t think there’d be any kind of, you know, systemic racism. And so, it was really a kind of a shock when I first got here to see — to see it, but how deeply buried it was within the society.
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Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.