writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
February 2019 Vol 4 No. 2
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
I define “inclusivity” as the extent to which someone feels that they “matter” to an organization or group of humans. If a person feels that they matter or are valued, they’re more likely to engage and stay; if not, the person is apt to quit or disengage.
I recently had an experience where a total stranger made me feel as if I “matter.”
Last month I was at a community center to train City of St. Paul team members. As I was preparing for my talk, a woman approached and said, “Hi Ellie!” I replied, “Hello, how are you?” having no real idea who the woman was. She volunteered that no, I didn’t know her, but she knew me from my radio show and other work. “Lynn” was a City team member who couldn’t attend my training but wanted to stop by anyway.
I then saw Lynn holding a take-out coffee cup. “Here, this hot chocolate is for you,” she said. “I know from listening to you on the radio that you don’t drink coffee but love hot chocolate.”
Lynn shared that she enjoyed my radio show (Ellie 2.0 Radio—about idealism and changing the world) and that I inspired her. There were other nice things she said too— all of which so warmed my heart!
After a couple minutes, Lynn hugged me goodbye and left. She had made a special trip (on a snowy, bone-chilling day) to bring me hot chocolate and kind words.
Lynn’s generosity of time and money made me feel as if I mattered. Also, what Lynn didn’t know was that her kindness came on a sad day for me—the 29
anniversary of my father’s suicide—making her gesture even more meaningful.
At times, my work is very solitary, even draining. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making any difference at all. Yet, Lynn’s simple act of kindness bolstered my resolve hundred-fold.
Be kind to someone; let them know they matter to you. It can make a huge difference to them and you!
PS: My March 16 public Gray Area Thinking training in Minneapolis is coming up. The event is kid-friendly (ages 10 and above). Click
for tickets. Here’s the
Please share about this! Thank you.
Black History Month: Artists as Change Agents
Earlier this month, I spoke at a conference in Los Angeles hosted by the local Association of Legal Administrators chapter. I added two days to my stay in LA, which led to visiting a couple art exhibits that reminded me of how artists are often idealists working to change the world by making the viewer think of things that are often missed. It happened that both exhibits were about the marginalization of Black people.
One exhibit, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, featured hauntingly beautiful photographs by Sally Mann, a rural Virginia photographer who uses an antique photography process known as “wet plate collodion” that utilizes 8” x 10” glass negatives. Her collection of photographs in
A Thousand Crossings j
uxtaposes the physical beauty of the South with its history of scarring generations of people with black skin. Among the items photographed was the bridge over the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi from which 14-year-old Emmett Till’s beaten and mutilated body was thrown in 1955. (Read about Emmett Till
The second exhibit,
, at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, by conceptual artist Cameron Rowland, underscores how America has historically treated Black people as taxable property and a source of revenue generation. The exhibit features two groupings of bicycles, along with a baby stroller and two backpack-style leaf blowers—all items seized by law enforcement and then sold as part of current-day criminal or civil forfeiture processes that help to fund many of the nation’s police departments.
The most powerful items in
are three framed mid-1800’s property tax receipts from Southern counties. Each receipt lists commonly thought of property—“livestock” “horses” carriages” “gold and silver.” Yet, each receipt also lists
another item of property
—“slaves.” One receipt specified “3” slaves, a second, “13” slaves.
An eye-opening and heavily annotated
that accompanied Rowland’s
exhibit notes that, “In 1860, slaves comprised 20% of all American wealth, including real estate.” Think about that—160 years ago, a fifth of America’s wealth consisted of enslaved Black people. I had no idea.
It’s incredibly important that we learn about all aspects of America, including its historical treatment of Black people and those of other skin colors, along with American Indians. Artists like Mann and Rowland are helping us with that learning.
A Story of Holocaust Survival, Love, and a Father’s Message
Recently, a dear east coast friend who is Jewish reached out to tell me how afraid she’s become due to the upswing of violence and anti-Semitic commentary that are occurring across the world. She related that at her synagogue, they have needed to install car bomb barriers and have hired 24-hour armed security. Can we all remember that this is America?
I think it’s incredibly difficult for those who are not Jewish to understand how Jews feel right now. Certainly, the phone conversation with my friend helped to enlighten me; it also reinforced that I must be more alert to code words and symbols that denigrate religions and people. On top of that, I need to better educate myself about the groups of humans to whom I am an ally.
As coincidence would have it, on Holocaust Remembrance Day last month, I bookmarked this
The Atlantic video
of 92-year-old “Klara.” As a young woman, she survived the Holocaust by jumping from a train that was transporting her, her husband and her father to Auschwitz. This 14-minute video (yes, it’s long but I guarantee you it is worth every minute of your time) reminds us about how cruel humans can become if other humans allow it. Yet, the video touchingly—as in grabbing-you-by-the-heart—demonstrates the power of love, the strength of the human spirit, and how compassion from strangers can change the course of one’s life.
Jewish people urge us to “never forget.” This unforgettable video will help with that precisely.
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
D&I as a Trigger: How to Handle in the Workplace
Last year, out of 170+ trainings, luckily there was only one occasion where I encountered a visibly recalcitrant audience member. At a mandatory training of county employees, I had barely started Gray Area Thinking
when an older White man in the back row shouted, “I haven’t heard you say anything about White men. Doesn’t sound too equal to me!”
I briefly engaged the man and then when he didn’t relent, I said, “I’m not going to allow you to hijack my training,” and offered to meet with him afterward for as long as he wanted. At that point, the man got up and stormed out of the room. I never did get a chance to talk to him one-on-one.
Most workplaces have a handful of recalcitrant team members who refuse to even consider diversity and inclusion as worthwhile. Additionally, there may be many others who are afraid to talk about race or gender or LGBTQ topics—not because they’re intolerant but because they don’t know how to do it and are worried about saying the wrong thing or about hearing something that might offend them.
How do we handle diversity and inclusion as a trigger? What should you do with the team member who just refuses to accept D&I as important? Answering these questions could consume an entire newsletter, so my quick response is that we need to consider each person separately.
For the folks who are simply afraid or uncomfortable hearing/talking about D&I topics, try to create a safe space for them. Thus, lay down some ground rules—“We’re here to simply have a discussion”; “This is a judgment-free zone; no one will be judged by their comments or reactions”; “This is a learning process for all of us.” Make it clear that you understand not everyone will be on the same page and that changing how we see the world is an incremental process.
For the recalcitrant, no-way-am-I-doing-this team member, a different approach is needed. They should be told that D&I is an organizational value, which they’re expected to uphold. If you think they’d consider it, offer a book or article on unconscious bias or the historical marginalization of groups, and then talk with them about what they’ve read. Finally, if necessary, bring in an outside coach to work with the team member and bring them along.
Assuming none of these ideas works, then your only option may be resorting to the organization’s discipline process. Otherwise, you run the risk that the recalcitrant team member will infect others and set back your larger D&I efforts.
If the above strikes a familiar chord, hang in there. This D&I stuff isn’t easy, but it sure is worth the hard work of pushing people along!
Odds & Ends
There is a lot to this month’s Odds & Ends. I wish I could do feature pieces on everything here, but I can’t—so you’re left to clicking (and please take the time to do just that!):
Your heart will melt with this Canadian
about how to be inclusive of others with disabilities. Phenomenal!
Second Darn Wonderful:
Here is another Canadian
about getting past our fear/discomfort to be inclusive and the power of using a meal to create familiarity. Love it!
Darn Big Reminder of Nature’s Power:
Check out this
time-lapse video of flooding
in northern Australia—it demonstrates how really, nature can trump anything humans might build.
Best Movie Quote:
I recently saw
, starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson, which wonderfully reinforces how human familiarity can break down stereotypes and prejudices. A great quote from the movie, “You never win when you lose your dignity. Dignity must always be preserved.”
A Classy-But-Pointed No Thank You:
For those who’ve ever felt demeaned in a job interview, here’s a young woman’s
of how to turn the tables and perhaps teach humanity at the same time.
Awakened Living in Bloomington MN:
Last month I got a chance to learn more about Awakened Living, a mind/body/spirit holistic center that’s doing incredible work healing people suffering from trauma or the battle to survive the Human Condition. It appears they are doing incredible work—visit their
Compassion in Chicago’s Deep Freeze:
of a Chicago woman of average income paying for 30 hotel rooms to house the homeless during the recent deep freeze, proof that one doesn’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference.
Legal Profession D&I Challenges:
By now, many have seen
of a major NYC law firm (Paul, Weiss) welcoming its next crop of new partners, who are all White and predominately male. This is representative of the long road that some law firms must travel toward achieving true diversity and inclusion. If the profession needed any further reminder, here’s a
by 170 major corporation general counsel attorneys making it clear that the lack of D&I progress in law firms is no longer acceptable and a reason to sever business ties.
Kindness in North Fargo:
Here is a wonderful
story of compassion
by a Little Caesar’s store owner who posted a sign to let the homeless persons rummaging through the store’s dumpster for food know that they are welcome to have a couple pizza slices for free, no questions asked.
Quinn Cummings, a writer and mother in Los Angeles,
posted on Twitter
that she’d be the “mother” of any LGBTQ youth who’s suffering as a result of intolerance. Before she knew it, she had an entire family. Social media at its best!
Justice for Transgender Humans:
Here is a groundbreaking
verdict out of Iowa
(my home forever) finding in favor of a transgender man/prison worker who was discriminated against by his employer, the State of Iowa corrections system. And, here is a
of a transgender woman who succeeded in suing prison authorities in NY for refusing to provide her hormones. Wow.
Nationwide Children's Hospital Video about Implicit Bias:
This short but-to-the point
teaches what unconscious bias looks like.
Phenomenal Exercising of Gray Area Thinking
As you read
about a teenage woman who became aware of another person’s health emergency, think of the courage that it took for her to act. It was Gray Area Thinking
to the Nth degree.
My 28-year-old daughter Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
where she reviews books--recently two of her reviews were listed in the top 15 reviews of
100 most popular reviews for 2018. She also has an entertainment-book review website that’s fun and smart,
Snarky Yet Satisfying
She regularly reviews books on her blog; check it out! Her book pick for this month is
Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds.
Chances are, you've at least heard this title and trust me, this book deserves all of the attention it has garnered. Still reeling from the death of his brother, Will is on a mission. And it’s a mission of revenge. His anger in his grief carries him to take a gun of his own and set off to find justice for Shawn. But as he gets on the elevator on the seventh floor, he begins to meet ghosts of his brother’s past, all leading and connecting to a bigger story surrounding Shawn’s untimely murder."
“Ellie 2.0 Radio” Shows:
My show, “Ellie 2.0 Radio,” airs on Twin Cities-based AM950 every Monday from 7 to 8 a.m. CST and can be live-streamed by clicking
. Ellie 2.0 Radio highlights various historical and contemporary idealists and my work as a “practical idealist” trying to change the world for the better. This Black History Month I did a show highlighting the Rev. Howard Thurman, an important mentor to Dr. King. I also shared about Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and aired this
piece of Dr. King speaking about institutional racism.
Also, my Feb. 4 show included an interview of William Doherty, one of the founders of Better Angels, which is working to heal America’s Red-Blue divide. Check out the list of the show’s 50+ podcasts
Stuff Worth Reading (assuming you think like ellie…):
I am little more than halfway through Robin DiAngelo’s
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
; it’s a very easy read that explains in concise terms how Whites and Blacks view the world differently. (I’ve already started to incorporate some of DiAnegelo’s ideas into my trainings.) Also, I recommend another “why” piece—“
Why Are We So Angry?
” by Charles Duhigg in the January/February 2019
—it’s a great explanation of why anger serves its purposes but not to the extent that our country currently experiences, especially when “anger merchants” make a darn good living off getting us incensed at each other.
“A Tough Crowd,”
about me training police officers, appeared in a January issue of
Ellie in the Media:
Here is a recent
piece by Gretchen Brown i
re: employment discrimination against LGBTQ folks in which I’m quoted; here’s also last month’s
interview I gave to ABC 6 News
in Rochester re: the transgender military ban. (I think it’s among my best TV interviews.)
Please Follow Me on Twitter:
This year I have a goal of doubling my Twitter followers (from 502 as of Jan. 1). Would you please follow me @elliekrug? Thanks!
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
I’m just back from speaking to the Los Angeles chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators and revisiting Lands’ End in Dodgeville WI where I trained 500 team members. Coming up at the end of the month and early March will be two trips to VA and other places to train Williams Mullen team members on human inclusivity. While in Richmond, I’ll do a pro bono “Transgender 101” training at The Spark Mill (my thanks to them for sponsoring and organizing!) with donations to benefit
Side by Side
, a LGBTQ youth support nonprofit. See my Upcoming Engagements
Public Gray Area Thinking
In case you missed it, here’s the
for my March 16 public event at Open Book in Minneapolis. I’m hoping for a great turnout! (But I’m pretty worthless at event promotion…)
is a work in progress, so please, I welcome your suggestions and comments! Please share this newsletter with others, too!
Thank you for helping to make the world a better place! I'm at your side, cheering you on, I promise! Please have compassion for yourself and for others.
Encouraging Open Hearts and Thriving Human Spirits
Human Inspiration Works, LLC: We make "inclusion" an action word