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ERICA COURDAE: “If you aren't clear, again, on what you stand for, what you stand against, what it is that your business is set up to support, then when it comes time for you to have to take a stance on something and to actually release some kind of a statement or something, you don't really know. You're not really clear. Because everyone that did things last week, then what happens now? What happens this week? What happens next month? What happens six months from now? And so if this is just a check the block because this is the hot thing of the moment, what happens when this is over, and then if it happens again, which, sadly, I hate to say it, but it probably will, are you just going to rinse and repeat and do the same thing, and then go back to what your normal is when the dust has finally settled?”
“And so if your intention is to make this a part of what is actually happening consistently, how actions are taken—your buying practices, your hiring practices, your company culture, your values, the responsibility of the entity itself, the responsibility of the people that are working in there, what support looks like, what type of space is being held—if these things aren’t baked in, then yes, you are going to be on that hamster wheel of ‘Oh, no, we talked about it. No, let’s go back to normal. Oh, no, we’ve got to do that again,’ panic mode.”
“And so if you bake it in from an intentional point, an actual ‘this is doing the work,’ and we’re making that progress, then there isn’t a question when this happens what that’s going to look like. There isn’t a question of the people that are listening to your message where you stand on this and how you feel about this and what it is that your actions look like and what you’re doing. People don’t have to question these things if you are upfront and transparent about them. And so, therefore, it makes you navigating what is never an easy conversation to have a lot easier because you absolutely are clear of what that conversation’s going to look like.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-million-dollar business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, money, and time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and helps you create a life you love, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
AMY PORTERFIELD: When it comes to contributing to racism and lack of diversity, I am definitely at fault. And worse yet, I have been severely late to the conversation and the Black Lives Matter movement, and for that, I am deeply sorry. I'm also very grateful for my guest today, as well as the black women and men in my community and beyond, who have called me out and challenged me to show up in a bigger way and to be a part of the change and the Black Lives Matter movement. I am in this. I am here. And more importantly, I'm here for the long-term change. And I wanted you to hear that from me directly.
Now, today, I had the honor of sitting down to have a conversation with diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, Erica Courdae. We talked about how to show up as an imperfect ally, the power of listening and apologizing over defending and deflecting. We talked about tone policing and why it's harmful to the Black Lives Matter movement, how to diversify your business and adjust your values to support equality and inclusion, what burnout is in relation to the movement and how to avoid it, and so much more.
Erica has dedicated her life to expanding how others interact with the world through powerful conversations. Her work as an entrepreneur and coach has taken her across the country, onto stages, and into communities as a keynote speaker and educator. She also has a podcast that features open conversation and dialog on the topics of her work, which is called Pause on the Play, and I highly recommend it. I also want you to know that I paid to have an “ask all the things,” one-on-one session with Erica yesterday, and it was part of my personal work and truly eye-opening. And I'm so glad that I paid to have this session because it allowed me to get clear on so many areas that I want to work on and where I've made many missteps, and it really has allowed me to bring the conversation onto the podcast today. My commitment is that I will be honest and vulnerable, and I will be learning alongside you throughout this entire conversation. So please help me welcome Erica to the podcast.
Erica, thanks so much for being on the show. I’m so delighted to have you here.
ERICA: Thank you, Amy. I really appreciate you having me. Thank you.
AMY: It's going to be a really needed and insightful conversation, I already know this. So before we dive in, I shared a little bit about you in the intro, but I'd love for you to tell my listeners more about you. Like, what do you do? A bit about your entrepreneurial journey and how long you've been doing this work. You have a good story here, so will you share that?
ERICA: Absolutely. So, my name is Erica Courdae, and I am a coaching consultant, and the lens that I approach them with is DEI—diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I say that because at some point, all of this kind of really goes into life in a lot of ways, because this is the initiator for how you show up in your business and your leadership. And so guiding people through what it looks like to actually step into that space with intention is a large part of it.
And I really kind of began this journey—it initiated going on about four or five years at this point, when I really started my coaching courses and getting into that. And what happened was, I have been in the beauty industry for well over twenty years. I own a salon, Silver Immersion, and that beauty brand takes on a few different lenses. There’s the actual in-person salon that is ramping back up after quarantine. And we also do weddings and styling for events and photo shoots and things like that.
And a few years ago, I went to rebrand, and really wanted to have the types of clients that we really love to serve and really focus on be a part of that. And so those were the individuals that weren't readily focused in the wedding and the beauty industry. And so when it came to weddings, it was same-sex weddings, which is a huge thing that we’re a proponent for, and I personally, that is where my allyship shows up. And so really being able to support same-sex couples; couples that were not on their first marriages—they were not getting married at twenty-two—that were getting married of different faiths; being able to just kind of allow love to be the thing that led and really helping them to step into how they felt the most beautiful on this day, but still like themselves. And from me being behind the chair, it was really guiding women through different aspects of life and having conversations around things like, I want to, as a black woman, wear my natural hair, and being someone that is in a high-ranking position in a government agency, also not wanting my professionalism questioned because someone now looks at me differently because of my outward appearance. And so it felt very natural to step into coaching with that because it's something that I've been doing for years. It was something that was not new to me.
And so it just so happens that we're at this point now that everything is really—it was almost the perfect storm of how things lined up and, so to speak, kind of blew up, with quarantine and the lack of leadership that we have in the White House and just not being able to do what needs to happen, and then, Ahmaud Arbery and Nina Pop and Breonna Taylor and then George Floyd, and the floodgates opened. And we can’t go backwards, and we shouldn’t go backwards.
And so having these conversations with people about what it looks like to actually take ownership of what you want to do to step in to that from an intentional place and how that positions your business to be able to actually create more equity and to allow people to work on creating generational wealth and to break generations and generations of just not being able to have the access. And so I am doing my contribution to make things better for my children and the world that they inhabit. That was a lot.
AMY: No, it was so good. Yes and yes. And before we dive into all my questions in this conversation, I just have to start out by saying thank you so very much. I mentioned in the intro that I had paid to do an “ask all the things,” one-on-one session with you, which was incredibly eye-opening. I'll talk about some of the things I learned there. But I just want to thank you so much for educating me and my audience.
ERICA: It is my pleasure. And the greatest thank you that I get is for someone being willing to listen, even when it’s uncomfortable and you want to run, and to then be willing to just actually take that knowledge and to put it into action. And so that willingness is not something that is lost on me, that you don’t have to do it. But the right thing is usually not the easy thing. So, there’s that.
AMY: I heard that quote again yesterday: the right thing is not usually the easy thing. And I’m like, I need to embrace that, for sure, because when we were on our one-on-one session, you know at times you gave me some tough love, and I was like, “I don't like to hear that, but I hear you.” Like, that wasn't easy to hear, but I hear you, and I need it. So we'll get into some of that. But before we do, one of the things you said yesterday on our call was that this work is a process. And can you talk a little bit about the importance of looking at this as a process or something progressive? because I feel the urgency because of the fact that I have been late to the conversation. And I know you must feel from white people specifically the urgency. We want to know all the things. We want to do it right, right now.
ERICA: Well, first off, what you said is one of the reasons why people stop doing this work, and it's because there is no right way to do this. There is no perfect way to do it. And so that idealistic, perfectionist side of us that wants to come out has no place because that's just not a reality. There are just generation after generation after generations’ worth of deprogramming that has to happen. There are so many systemic pieces put in play in order to have each of us play our part to keep things where they are. And so perfectionism and that wanting to do it right, it is the exact thing that undermines any of the work and the effort. And that is why imperfect action is such an important thing for me and the imperfect allyship being within that, because you're not going to do it all perfectly. You don't do anything in life perfectly all the time, especially not the first time, when you're really stepping into it.
And so giving yourself the space to own that is a huge part of starting, because everybody is coming in with a different set of learned experiences, a different family of origin, a different perspective, and with that, you're at a different place in your journey. And so you're learning more and more with everything that's happening, and you’re allowing yourself to receive, in a way, of, okay, how does this support where I’m going now? and being able to just kind of continuously step into it and letting it evolve.
And that entire piece of that urgency, yes, I understand that there is definitely this place of “I don’t want to do any more unconscious harm,” and there is no one workshop you’re going to take that is going to fix it. There is no x, y, z amount of time or sessions or books you're going to read or any of these kind of check-the-block concepts that are going to fix it. There's a lot of unlearning that has to happen in order for you to even be able to see it. And the more you see, the more you see.
And so there has to be this place of understanding that there's a lot that you have to let go of in order to make space for the things that you need to let in. And even with that, there is no end point. There is no end point. This is a continuous thing. And it's all about just starting and being willing to acknowledge when you have done it in a less-than-stellar way, and anti-racist tendencies are not yet in effect, and learning what it looks like to not censor yourself and to figure out how to put your delicate sensibilities on the back burner and understand that you're doing that could possibly and likely save lives.
AMY: Can you explain to us what it means by not censoring yourself? I am pretty sure I get it, but I just want to make sure.
ERICA: Absolutely. So as you step into allyship, nowadays, you'll hear “allyship,” you’ll hear “co-conspirator,” you’ll hear “accomplice,” and I just tend to be in this place right now that I don't want to worry about the semantics of it. I don't want to be so worried about what it's called. I want you to call yourself in action. I want you to actually do something.
But what can happen is as you begin to do things, particularly when you are either just starting your journey or you are not at a point where you really understand that you haven't gone deep yet and your allyship could be performative at this point, there is a place to where you are becoming, hopefully, hopefully, becoming conscious of where you are saying, “Well, I didn't mean to do that, and you misunderstood me.” Or, you know, “Oh, my gosh. I can't believe you would think that of me. I'm not that person.” And so at this point, you're so focused on how this reflects on you and how you feel about the actions that you took that you are not being aware of the harm that you did. You are not being aware of the impact that diverged from the intent that you thought that you had in your head. And this is where, for some people, it can take some time to be able to allow that guard to come down, to be able to simply say, “I messed up, and I was wrong, and for that I apologize. And I will do what I need to do to do better,” and to not put the ownership on the receiver, almost victim shaming in a way, of “You didn’t understand.” “You didn’t know what I really meant when I said that.” “You don’t know me well enough to pass that kind of judgment, and how could you feel that way about me?”
AMY: Mm, that’s powerful. You mentioned imperfect allyship, and really, truly this episode that I wanted to do with you is like a 101. And so I apologize for the questions that you've probably had to answer over and over again. And this one's going to seem very beginner, but I just want my audience to hear, what does it mean to be an ally, especially if you are a white woman or a white man?
ERICA: So I want to also say that it's okay to be a beginner, because I would rather you be a beginner than someone that's not willing to be a beginner, because then that means that you are being silently complicit and allowing the system to continue to go on its merry way. So it’s okay. And it has to start—
AMY: Okay. Appreciate that.
ERICA: Absolutely. It has to start somewhere. It essentially is you saying that I know what I take for granted as a white woman or a white man. I know what I have easy access to. I know the things that I have been able to have in my life that seem pretty simple, pretty commonplace. And I am realizing that this is not common for everyone, that what I think is the norm is not the norm for everyone, and that the access that I have, the ability to take advantage of certain things and for someone to not limit that based on the color of my skin, based on what they have assumed about me, my work ethics, my credo or anything, all of these things that I take for granted, you can't. And I am not okay with it. And so therefore, I want to not only acknowledge that that is true, but I want to begin on the path of making that difference. I want to change the access that you have. I want to contribute to the view of you as a person being simply based on you as a person and not because your skin is black or brown, and being able to say that I am going to actively do things to make my norm become more of the norm that you can have access to, to choose what it is that you want and need to achieve what is going to be fulfilling in your life and beneficial to you and those that you look to support and serve.
AMY: Thank you for that. And this phrase I keep hearing, which is imperfect allyship, am I right to say that that is all about being willing to be an ally, but be willing to make the mistakes and not defend or deflect or not take responsibility? Is that what imperfect allyship means?
ERICA: Yes. And imperfect allyship is really you stepping into a place of acknowledging that I am doing this and I do not know everything and will likely screw up at some point. And so I am acknowledging that this is where I don’t know, and I have made a transgression, and I’m going to do what I need to to take ownership of what I did, make amends, and figure out how to move forward without putting the responsibility of what I did and my education of doing better the next time on someone else.
The tricky thing about imperfect allyship is that what I'm seeing right now is that there are some people that are using it as a shield. And what it is not meant for is for you to hide behind it to okay bad behavior and to use it as “Well, I'm an imperfect ally, and that's why I messed up.” And this is a constant conversation, or this is a blatant white supremacist type of action and mindset that is showing up, and you are not doing the work, and you are constantly hiding behind the shield that, for a lot of people, this is something that they are doing because they know that it needs to happen, and it's being diluted. And it's becoming—it can become toxic if not careful.
AMY: Okay, so, I'm glad you brought this up, because as I'm making my way—and it's so very early in my baby, baby steps—but I have made missteps. I've said the wrong things. I've looked at things the wrong way. And I have been publicly criticized for it. And what I want to kind of confess here is that when that happens, I'm overly sensitive. I'm well aware. I'm not defensive, but I am overly sensitive. So when it happens, some of my peers will say, “Just be quiet right now. Just be quiet right now, because you keep putting yourself out there, and it's like you're doing it wrong. So just learn and be quiet.” And I feel as though, with this big platform I have, that is not what I should be doing. Can you help me? I grapple with this.
ERICA: I’m going to agree with what they said, but I’m going to give my context on it.
AMY: Okay, great.
ERICA: And I say that because I’ve seen this happen, and I've been addressing it because people are hitting this place of “That wasn't what I meant. And I didn't want that to look that way. And I don't want to leave that. And this is what people really think of me.” And that's still very focused on you. That's still very self-centric, and it doesn't actually matter what people think about you if we are talking about a case when your actions caused harm to a number of people.
And so what needs to happen when something is done or said that is harmful, there is a place that—there is nothing to keep saying if there isn't clarity on what actually happened and where the roots of that are. And so, for example, if something is said and you don't really know why that was harmful, why that was problematic, why it is a systemic problem that planted the seeds for this to even be able to flourish the way that it did. And so to continue talking without that knowledge is going to undermine the entire point of what we're trying to gain by continuing to talk, because you're not negating the harm or the transgression; you're actually just amplifying it.
It's kind of like if you think about if you're in college and you're having to talk about something to a professor and you don't know, but you keep trying to ramble it all. That’s not going to make him convinced that you know. He’s just going to say, “Okay, you better stop talking like that. You didn’t read it. You didn’t get it.”
And so there is a place where if you don't know and you're determined to keep doing damage control, but you don't know what the damage is, you've just amplified the damage.
AMY: Okay, so that's great advice. I recently sent out an email where I missed the mark, and I'm well aware of where I missed the mark. And so with that, I want to tell my audience where I missed the mark because I think many of them would have not known either. And so when I get clarity, I want to speak up because I want to be a part of this, and I said, I'll do the work. But if I don't know or if I literally am just sitting with it, thinking like, “Holy cow, there's so much I need to unpack here, so much I need to learn,” I need to be silent and learn before I start speaking up again.
ERICA: Agreed. And I think that there is a difference between being silent to actually pay attention to and examine and acknowledge your part in something versus truly going mute. It is another thing to just say, “I'm just not going to say anything, and I'm just not going to acknowledge this because I don't want anyone to come after me for this, or I don't want to deal with the backlash of it.” Because the reality is, is that there are going to always be people that are not going to agree with the way that you did something. This just happens to be a larger scale and a more life-threatening case that we're talking about. But the reality is, is if you think about it in the context of business, everybody doesn't do things the same way, and so there's going to be somebody that's going to say, “Hey, I wouldn't do it that way.” And so you can't take every piece of opinion and try to hold yourself to it because you'll run yourself ragged, and at the same time, you have to do your work, acknowledge you're doing your work, and then be able to kind of be front facing with it.
I tend to feel like it is helpful when you have a platform to let people know that you are doing your work and what you're working through. However, I think that being transparent is not the same as being in the messy middle and having verbal vomit of just too much. Don't overshare. There is a point to where you want people to know and you’re setting an example, which is the benefit of you having a platform of being able to show people you can do this, and it is possible for you to do it, and it's necessary, and this is not all meant to be on display, because then that's just simply performative. That's for show.
AMY: You know, I took a picture. Let me look if I can find it, because what you just said is exactly something that I'm learning. And it's in my phone, so it will take just a second. But right exactly what you said was—I don’t know if I'll be able to find it. But basically the point of it was that do—oh, here it is. “Unlearning white supremacy isn't Instagramable. It's deeply personal, existential, and difficult work. It often feels horrible. It will make you cry. You might become depressed. It can be very lonely and isolating. It will shatter your ego and your belief system. Do it anyway.” That’s Sonia Gupta. Would you agree with that one?
ERICA: I will 150 percent post on every piece of that because I’m going to be honest with you. If I have a client and they don't cry at some point, there is something terribly wrong happening here.
AMY: Right? Exactly.
ERICA: The tears are a part of the letting go and the shedding and the space making for better pieces to come in. And to have this kind of undoing on a cellular level, you have to be a sociopath to not feel this. It is virtually impossible to care enough to make this change and to not understand that it is an undoing of everything that you have known up to this point.
AMY: I appreciate you saying so. Yesterday I had a rough day because of the email I sent that was a misstep, and I cried so much yesterday—personally, I'm not getting on Instagram, crying my eyes out about this stuff—but personally, it affects me, and I appreciate you saying that, because I don't want to cry because I’m like, “Be strong, Amy. Get it together,” but I just feel all the feelings. And I woke up this morning with the puffy eyes and I'm like, thank God this is not on video today. But I keep reminding myself instead of beating myself up, I am in this. I'm doing the work. No matter how wrong I get it, I'm not going anywhere. And so I just—this is so helpful for me to hear of, like, all of the emotions you go through and everything that that looks like.
So speaking of emotions, I want to bring something up that we talked about yesterday that was, like, ooh. Like, it was a big learning for me. I can't stop thinking about it now. And in private, I shared with you that at times I struggle with hearing the message when the delivery of it feels really angry or—and these are my words—mean spirited or attacking. When the delivery, in my mind, those are the feelings I'm feeling, and so I have a hard time with hearing the message. And I told you this, and I'm calling myself out here because you taught me about a concept called tone policing. So t-o-n-e, tone policing. I literally had to have you spell the word because I’m like, what word are you saying? This is how foreign it was to me. And I'm totally guilty of this. So can you share with me how tone policing is detrimental to the learning here? And can you explain what it is and why it's harmful to the Black Lives Matter movement?
ERICA: Tone policing is this concept of you have to say things in a very specific way in order to make them acceptable. You have to convey your messages in a kind, soft-spoken way. You can't be angry. You can't be “aggressive.” You can't—any of the things that you could think of. People say, “Oh, but that was too loud. That was aggressive. That was mean. That was hurtful.” And the reality is it's a white-supremacist way of thinking in that when someone is literally saying, “Can you please stop kicking me?” there's no nice way to say that. There is no nice way for a woman that is a victim of domestic abuse to say, “Can you please stop hitting me?” There’s no nice way for her to say that.
And so if you wouldn't look at a battered wife and say, “Oh, I mean, you could have asked him a little nicer to stop hitting you,” then to ask a black person, or to even in your head to think, “Wow, they really said that mean,” you have to think about the concept of someone whose entire existence is an act of resistance; someone who simply walking down the street while black is enough of a reason for you to die; you just being here is enough to anger people because they don't want you here, and you are a problem, and you are no longer in a position of being controlled in a way that they feel good about; and so when you are saying there have been generations of lack instilled because of what I can't have, because you told me I can't and you took it from me and you set up every system possible to keep me deficient, and I have to continuously pass this down and to give birth to additional black children and to know that you are being born at a deficit because you are black—and this is the world that we live in and that we have a nine-minute video of watching a man murdered on film, and yet they're still “Well, I mean, is it that bad?” tone policing comes from when people are conveying strong messages in whatever way that they need to, and yet someone still feels as though it is too much, and they are not willing to actually listen and hear what is being said because all they hear is the tone, when black people are already at a point that they are considered loud and aggressive and over the top and too much before we even open our mouths. And the minute that we say, “I don't want to fear for my life simply by existing,” and then to be told, “Well, I mean, is that how we have to say it?” do you understand what it means to be black? And I live in America, so I’m going to say, “Do you know what it means to be black in America on a daily basis?” And as a black woman, you can't understand my experience, and so to tell me that I said something in a way that you didn't like what I've said and then you didn't even hear what I said, and then you wonder why the system continues this way, all you're doing is perpetuating the cycle and not heard. And so therefore, at some point, there is no legitimate way for me to be heard if no matter what I say, you can't hear me.
AMY: Ah, I just got chills. Yes. That was the biggest lesson I learned yesterday that I didn't even know what the phrase meant, and then to realize, holy cow, I am so guilty of that. And so what I told Erica was that so it doesn't matter how I feel about how it was delivered. Right now, in this moment, what matters is me understanding the message and learning and unlearning. And so, I mean, there's so much ego tied with this, I've realized. And I need to leave it at the door, for sure.
So, I hope those of you who are listening right now, you just also had that aha moment like, holy cow, how many times have I dismissed the message through the Black Lives Matter movement because I didn't like the way she said it, or I didn't like the way he said it? Let's put down our ego there, and let's just listen. So thank you for that.
Another thing that we talked about was you had asked me right when—I have a DEI consultant as well. And you had asked me, is she going to help you work on the personal growth as well as diving into the business? And I realized, oh, wait a second, there is a separation there. Or I guess my question is, do you agree there's a separation of the work we do personally and the work we're all going to do on our businesses? How does that look? Like, talk to me about that.
ERICA: There’s a separation, but there's a lot of overlap and intersection because of the fact that when you are the leader or if you are someone whose business is really kind of modeled after you as almost the figurehead of it, you are starting that trickle-down effect, and so you are setting the tone of what is happening. And so therefore, if you are not working on your own deprograming, your own anti-racist work of digging into what needs to be changed, then you are simply trying to fix something on the outside, but you didn't kind of fix the bones of it. Like, you don't buy a house that's dilapidated on the inside and just simply put up some shingles and some paint. You actually have to work on the foundation, and you are that foundation. And then what happens is it then trickles down, and it's going to fuse itself into the organizations that you're in because you are now going to approach them differently. And you need to be able to have those values that matter to you in our cornerstones begin to be communicated, so those people within the organization, so that everyone understands and is on board in any of the company culture that needs to be shifted and changed or even dismantled and started again because of that can actually be addressed so that people can not only be able to be there, have a seat at the table, but also have a voice in the decision-making process and the way that the outcomes actually come to fruition. Because if not, what can happen is you can inadvertently create mechanisms for discrimination within your business when it comes to, again, access, visibility, and when you don't think about these kinds of things and you don't address what the roots are, you leave a lot of space where these things will just continue to perpetuate ongoing.
AMY: That makes sense, definitely. And with that, especially doing the work inside of our businesses, you also spoke about a contingency plan, and I like this. You were saying if this, then that. And that was huge for me because I like a good plan. Can you talk about a contingency plan and what that might look like inside of a business?
ERICA: Absolutely. So I think whenever you come to that place of identifying what the beliefs, ethics, and values are of your brand, of your organization, at this point, you have identified your own as well, and you can clearly see what the intersections are and where they are different and what the specifics are for the business. And at that point, you want to make sure that everybody is on board, everybody is clear, that it is baked into the culture how things are done, what it looks like to hire, maintain, to manage, even let go, if it comes to that point. And with everybody being on board, then it then means you can create a plan so that when a situation comes up and statements need to be made, it is clear what you stand for, it is clear who is going to step in and craft and release these statements. Because the reality is, is that, using you as an example, Amy, you're at a point to where you are not the person doing every single piece of your organization. So therefore, it's important that your support system understands what happens and what needs to be put in play. What happens when you hit that panic button? Who does this go to? Who begins to actually go into what your values are, what you stand for, what you stand against, and to be able to say, “This is what's happened. This is our stance on it. These are the actions that we're taking,” make sure that everybody is on board, if there are any adjustments that need to be made within the organization, if there's anything that needs to be communicated, and any space that needs to be held for the people that are there, any conversations that need to actually happen to make sure that there aren't these random gray areas kind of hanging around.
But it helps so that—last week everybody just was kind of scrambling. I have to put up a black screen, or I have to amplify black voices. And there were a lot of people doing it wrong because of the fact that there was this action under duress. And so the duress likely may have still been there, but if there was an understanding of where you stood on this, and there wasn't this “Oh, crap. I have never talked about this before, and I do not want everyone coming after me because I don't say something, so I have to say something. But I’m not ready to talk about this. I don’t know how to say it,” and enter the verbal vomit. It goes wrong.
AMY: Really wrong.
ERICA: And there were a lot of cases where it felt like there was this—and there’s no offense meant—but to put it bluntly, there seemed like there was this white-woman handbook floating around of let me pull out a page and put up the stereotypical response. Let me put out the standard release. And it did not have anything to do with what actually mattered to you. It had absolutely nothing to do with what you actually stood for, what your business actually wanted to contribute to when it came to the change. It was simply, oh, please don't come after me. I said it. I'm here. See, here's my BLM square. And that’s missing the mark. That is performative. And so that is coming from fear. That is reactive. You are not able to react from a place of, I know what's happening, and I'm taking action. This is reactive because there is panic involved. That is not helpful. And then you end up having to do damage control.
And from a PR standpoint, that is a nightmare. And it is a well-earned nightmare because you have positioned yourself in a poor place. But if you wouldn't wait for your business to fall apart from a financial standpoint, this is another aspect that needs to be addressed in the same type of way, and there needs to be understanding on what happens and not just from a check-the-block place, but from a place of, what does this mean within my business? What does this mean to the people that I want to work with? How am I standing for the people that are giving me their attention, their money, their time? That is their collateral, and they are paying me with that. So how do I pay them when it comes time for me to step into my values?
AMY: Oh, so good. And that idea of these values, one thing that we are doing inside of my business is, we have our set of values. We've had them for years, and we don't have a value around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Believe me, we will very, very soon. I want to be mindful of it. But you had mentioned when we talked that when you have values in your business related to why this means something to you and why it's important, all the decisions you start making, you go back to that value and you check against it.
ERICA: Absolutely, because if you aren't clear, again, on what you stand for, what you stand against, what it is that your business is set up to support, then when it comes time for you to have to take a stance on something and to actually release some kind of a statement or something, you don't really know. You're not really clear. Because everyone that did things last week, then what happens now? What happens this week? What happens next month? What happens six months from now? And so if this is just a check the block because this is the hot thing of the moment, what happens when this is over, and then if it happens again, which, sadly, I hate to say it, but it probably will, are you just going to rinse and repeat and do the same thing, and then go back to what your normal is when the dust has finally settled?
And so if your intention is to make this a part of what is actually happening consistently, how actions are taken—your buying practices, your hiring practices, your company culture, your values, the responsibility of the entity itself, the responsibility of the people that are working in there, what support looks like, what type of space is being held—if these things aren’t baked in, then yes, you are going to be on that hamster wheel of “Oh, no, we talked about it. No, let’s go back to normal. Oh, no, we’ve got to do that again,” panic mode.
And so if you bake it in from an intentional point, an actual “this is doing the work,” and we’re making that progress, then there isn’t a question when this happens what that’s going to look like. There isn’t a question of the people that are listening to your message where you stand on this and how you feel about this and what it is that your actions look like and what you’re doing. People don’t have to question these things if you are upfront and transparent about them. And so, therefore, it makes you navigating what is never an easy conversation to have a lot easier because you absolutely are clear of what that conversation’s going to look like—
AMY: I love that.
ERICA: —and what the intentions are.
AMY: The clarity, so important.
You know, as I’m listening to you talk—this is not one of the questions I had written down, but I can't help but keep thinking about it—as a black woman who not only does this work, but is an entrepreneur out in the world, making things happen, how do you reconcile your—you've got to be so frustrated with women like me. Like, seriously, just so frustrated, beyond devastated by everything that has happened. How do you show up in this place of support and understanding when I'm sure every—not me, but I'll use my example—every step I take, I'm messing up right now. Until I know that I'm going to get better at it, how do I not just frustrate you that you throw your hands up and you're like, “I'm not going to deal with this.” I mean, I can't help but think that you must feel that way.
ERICA: It's not an option to give up. Black people tend to have this—we have this feeling of wanting to be a good ancestor. And what that means is when it comes time that we are no longer here, we hope that we can contribute to the legacy that we leave in a positive way, that helped to make the next generation be a step ahead from where we were and to be able to kind of give our nod to everyone that set the stage for us, that it wasn't all for nothing, that we are taking the opportunities that they made headway for us to have, and we are utilizing them to the best of our ability.
As much as I personally feel as though as a black woman, I am seen and heard much less than I want to be, and I'm going to use voting as an example. I could very easily say, “Well, my voice doesn't matter, so I won't vote.” But as an intersection of two minorities, being a black woman, there are a lot of people that fought and died for me to have that right. And so I choose to not feel as though I’m being disrespectful of that and to own that and to step into that and to censor that as a way of not only using my voice, but a platform for speaking up.
And so the work that I do is my contribution to the world that is going to be here when I am no longer here. So the world that my children have to step into, to the world that other black people have to inhabit, and I want to be a part of the change. And I don’t care how minute that piece is, I don't know who it is that I may come in contact with, that I can actually have some type of impact that can create a ripple effect. And I cannot do nothing, even when I get frustrated, even when I get tired, even when I feel the urgency put on me because there was a lack of urgency prior to this, or I just feel like, how can you not see this?
And, you know, kind of the place of Maya Angelou, and still I rise. I refuse to be quiet. And for me, I mean, Maya Angelou has absolutely been an inspiration for me since I was young. And I remember reading all her books all the way through, and phenomenal women always stuck with me. And I have to take everything that I have that makes me less than in so many ways based on the way that people process me and to utilize that as my power, as my weapon against what I am not willing to allow to continue to perpetuate and to be harder for those coming up behind me. I won't be silent. I refuse.
AMY: Full-body chills. That was so well said. And I told myself I wasn't going cry through this episode because I want to get through it. But that was powerful. Thank you for that. I hear you on that. And it helps me understand at such a deeper level.
Okay, so, I need to take a sharp turn because that was so beautiful. But I do want to ask you about hiring. And with that, I shared with you that I want to be more inclusive in my business. And I don't have a lot of women of color on my team. And I told you I wanted to hire and I wanted to fix that. But you said slow down a moment here, because do you really have a safe environment on your team for a person of color? Can you talk about that before people rush out and start hiring or trying to attract people of color to their businesses? What needs to be done first?
ERICA: When you want to create that diversity, you first want to dig into, why am I doing this? Is this because I want my team to look more diverse? Is it because I want to say that I have x, y, z demographic as a part of my team? Is this because if I don't, then I am going to kind of appear to be a dirty racist, and I don't want these things. I don't want to fall into this category. Is it self-serving? And I feel like that has to happen first because you need to first acknowledge, am I'm doing this because of how this reflects on me, or am I doing this because I want to be able to have the knowledge and capacity and ability that someone that doesn't look like me holds to be able to be a part of this team and for them to know that they are welcome and they are safe here and to know that they are seen and they can bring their entire selves here?
And that is where you have to pause because if you are just simply doing it in a way that kind of feels more like affirmative action—like, yes, we checked the black. We hired a black person. We've hired a lesbian. We've hired a woman, and say, oh, yeah, we're good now—that's not a safe environment. When you hear women talk about safe work environments from a feminist standpoint, if the misogyny that runs rampant and the sexism doesn't allow them to be safe, if you then pop a person of color, a black person, into an environment that does not consider their feelings, you are not considering what is going to constitute a safe work environment for them. Are they seen? Are they respected? Are there going to be micro aggressions that they have to deal with that no one else can understand, so it's going to be written off as “Well, I mean, I don't think that they really meant that,” and so they have to endure a toxic environment. Do they see themselves represented in the people that you want to work with, the people that you are working with?
It's a bit of a cycle in that you can't just kind of plop it in, whether it's the people that you're working with or the people that you want to work with you, because at some point that representation needs to be there, but you also need to know what comes with that. And it's really difficult to have that happen if you haven't taken the time to begin to understand this person, what makes them who they are, what unique challenges could they have run across up until them coming in contact with you that may inhibit them being able to fully be open in who they are and bring their skill set and opinions and personal view to this position. Are they able to know that they can actually—so last week, when things got hard, could they say, “Can I just have a day off, please? This is a lot. And I just need a moment.” Is it possible that they could have that conversation and it be understood, or is it going to be the type of environment where you are kind of forced to have to talk about this with someone that you don't feel comfortable with, which just exacerbates the exhaustion and discomfort.
So there are things that are layered in on a number of levels as to whether or not you can bring in someone, and if this environment is safe for them, if they can speak up for themselves and advocate for themselves and step into their own responsibility in this organization to be able to ask for and receive what it is that they need, and you're able to see what their needs are and to be able to meet that demand.
AMY: Okay, so that was really helpful to me because there's some work that needs to be done before I really can be inclusive in my business. So that's one of my commitments, for sure, that we are focused on A.S.A.P.
Now, I want to ask you some resources, some of the resources that you think are really important to share for my audience. But before we get there, can you talk to me about this concept of burnout and what that might look like? Because one thing I want to make sure is that this is not a trend for me, and I'm praying— it won't be for me and my business. I know that to my core—but I'm praying that my listeners also are committed to that. So I think so that we do not make this a trend, burnout is important to talk about.
ERICA: Burnout, when it comes to you stepping into your anti-racist education, uneducation almost, like you’re deprograming, it's really this point to where, what I've seen firsthand when this happens is someone steps in and they say, “Oh, my gosh. How was I blind up to this point? How did I not know this? What have I done?” So it starts with kind of the shame spiral of, “Oh, my gosh. I had no idea I have screwed this up. How long have I been doing this?” And so you really sit in this kind of negative loop of what you've done that you can't undo, and you sit in that shame.
And then you kind of can dive headfirst into, “I have to read all the books. I have to watch all the movies. I have to listen to all the podcasts. How many articles can I read? How many people’s webinars can I attend? How much money can I give?” And the next thing you know, you're like, “Oh, my gosh,” and you are exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. You will feel it on every level. Your body will be shot. Your mind just feels like mush.
And so when you hit this point of, I have taken in so much information and tried to do all the things with this immediacy, and now I'm spent. Now I'm done. Now I am at full atrophy because I don't know what to do now. And I'm overwhelmed. And this is harder than I thought. And some people are like, I'll just go back to the safety and security of my privilege. That was so much easier. And it's not that it's easier. It's just that that's familiar, and you don't have to put in as much work. You already know what happens there. But that also means that now you know what happens there. And so you can't go backwards.
And so what happens that I see often is you’ll hit this point, and you can get out of it, but it can derail your efforts because you just go so hard that, I mean, you can't. And so just like any other long stretch, any marathon, anything that you know is not going to be over quickly, you have to pace yourself. You don't go on to say, “I'm going to run a ten-mile marathon, and I am going to run full out the whole time.”
AMY: This girl can’t do that.
ERICA: No. And we know where—you're going to end up in a place that can be physically dangerous. So you have to think about this in a way that you want to be able to acknowledge if it happens, because I do feel like you will likely feel some degree of this because you don't know what you don't know. So you don't know when it's coming until you know. That's just like, “Oh, yeah, I'm fine. And I'm working,” and then burnout actually hits in a work capacity, and you're like, “Oh, this is what burnout means. I didn’t get it.” And then you know.
And so it can happen. And you give yourself space to heal, and then you start again. But now you understand that you can't fully put your head underwater, like you're bobbing for apples, and stay there long term and not wonder why, “Gee, I’m kind of blue. Something’s wrong.” So there has to be this space of you being able to step in and do your work.
But you also have to understand that you are human, and you likely, at this point, if you’re someone that’s listening to me, you probably are an entrepreneur, and so you have a business to run. You may even have family, a personal life, and friends, that you're trying to maintain a life. And so when you go so far that everything else then falls to the wayside, and the point is really to let this be integrated into all of these other aspects of your life, it can feel very disconnected. It can feel very alienating. And so that was similar to when I shared some resources with you. And I'm like, “Wait, wait, wait. This is what I don’t want you to do. Don’t go grab everything. Don’t go headfirst into ‘I’m going to watch five movies a night, and I’m going to read ten articles, and I’m going to order these eight books.” And it’s like, wait, wait. That’s too much. Because you are not going to actually absorb and put it into action at that point because it doesn't help to just simply take in the information and you're just a container in a holding space for it. The whole point is it needs to have action.
And so when I think about the movies and I have lists of things that I share with clients to be able to support the things that we talk about. However, I would never send somebody my entire bank of articles. That is a good way to have somebody be like, “Yeah, I can't do that.” And so, like when I work with people one on one, you have access to me through calls, you have access through Voxer. And so, if all of a sudden three weeks go by and it's radio silence, it's like, okay, what's going on here? And it's usually this place of, I tapped out because I didn't know what else to do when it got overwhelming, which is why you have to be cognizant of that, because it doesn't help the collective goal of what we're trying to do if you can't be present and you can't be a part of it.
And so if all of the people last week that were like, “Oh, crap. This needs to be different,” all of a sudden jumps in headfirst and then they burnout, okay, so what happens in a month? How many of you don't come back? How many choose to not do this work? How many of you then can't truly see it anymore in the same way? Your vision's gotten cloudy. So that’s a piece of kind of that undermining that—it helps to keep things in place. And that's where that perfectionism and that need to just consume, consume, consume, it isn't helpful if you overdo it.
AMY: Such an important message. I really wanted you to talk about that, so that was perfect.
Okay, so in light of that, what if you were to give us three resources? I know this is a challenge because there are so many good ones out there. But if you gave three resources for my listeners to really get started, and they’re in the baby steps like I am, what would you suggest?
ERICA: I'm going to give some simple ones that I think might be easy to approach. And I'm going to give them, and they're kind of different media formats. One is going to be a book. One is going to be a podcast. One’s going to be a movie. And I think that for kind of three easy ways, you can kind of pick how you best take in information.
The book is So You Want to Talk About Race, but you Ijeoma Oluo. And one of the things that I found—first, I think it's a very approachable book for you to be able to take the message that she’s giving you, and it is written by a woman of color, in which case, I think that that's important right now. I think that if you are trying to hear the black experience and you want that context, it needs to come from a black voice. So her book was great for that, and her book also gave some space to—my son actually overheard me listening to it, and so that gave us space to talk about Tamir Rice, who was the twelve-year-old black boy who was killed for playing with a toy gun. And so I think it can provide some spaces to have important conversations with some of the other people in your life and for you to really see that this is a large-scope thing, which is why that integration into all areas of your life is important. And it's not just isolated to, “Oh, it's just me,” or “Oh, it's just my business.”
Another one is there's a movie called The Banker, and this was one of the ones that I gave to you. It's currently on Apple TV. And it really talks about the story of a black man who was a real-estate investor and specifically went in to California to break down redlining. He specifically was buying property in white areas to have black people move in to shift those boundaries. And redlining is something that is still alive and kicking nowadays, which I would suggest that you look up to begin to see what that is and how that plays into where people live, what the lines look like when it comes to voting areas, lending practices, and everything. But it's a great movie to really be able to see what this looked like. It was a true story.
AMY: It was incredible. Hobie and I watched it last night. And at the end, I looked at Hobie and I said, I can't believe—well, I can—but we're having the same discussions that they were—it was in the ‘60s, right?
ERICA: I believe so, yeah.
AMY: Yeah. The same discussions, the same fight. It was just really sobering in that respect. But the movie is excellent. I highly recommend it to everyone.
ERICA: And then the third is going to be a podcast, and it was put on by the New York Times, if I’m not mistaken. But it’s called 1619, and it goes into a few different areas. So there's one that actually talked about music. There was one that talked about health care, one that talked about the sugar-cane farming industry. And the powerful thing about it is, is that it is really painting the picture of what is happening and what the racist structures are that are in place to limit black people specifically and the way that white people are weaponized to keep that in place.
AMY: That’s a new one for me, so I’ll be listening to that, for sure.
So I love that. We've got three resources here. I highly recommend that we all dive into all three. But just be mindful of that burnout so that we don't make this a trend.
Okay, so I know that there are some people listening right now who would love to work with you. And as I mentioned, I had paid for a one-on-one, ask-you-anything session, and I think that's a great place to start, but there's also people on here that want to dive in even beyond that. They want to work with someone long term. Specifically, they want to hire a DEI consultant. So with that, can you tell us where can people learn more about you? What it might look like to work with you, just so they have a really good understanding?
ERICA: Absolutely. So my website is ericacourdae.com. That gives some information about the one-on-one services that I do with individuals, how that can branch into your business, how we can work on things like company culture. And again, it all starts with you, so I'm always going to recommend doing your own personal work alongside that. And I also do workshops. I'm a public speaker as well. I've been on a number of stages. So there’s a few different ways that I can support you and your organization and the organizations that you intersect with in order to begin to make far-reaching shifts begin to happen.
I also have a podcast. So if you want to begin to get to know a little bit more about me and my particular stands and the way that I approach things, that is Pause on the Play. And the website for the podcast is pauseontheplay.com. And Instagram for both are @ericacourdae and @pauseontheplay. So it'll give you some information about me, but I always try to remind people that this is not a one size fits all, which is why I don't kind of have this plug and play of like, “Oh, you can do this, and I'll just give you this framework. And this is exactly what we need to do.” And I need to know you, where you are, what you want to do, what the overarching goals are. And from there, we can actually create a plan to getting there. And for me, that usually starts with, again, calls with your team, if we need that. But it’s also going to be on-on-one calls.
I really love using Voxer because Voxer support gives an opportunity for you to not have to wait to your next call to be able to actually work things through with me, to have that sounding board, and to—most of my clients tend to be verbal processes, so they can talk through these things. And part of it is hearing yourself, and then you have me there to support you as well.
So there’s a number of things that can be done, depending on where you are, what your needs are. And I always remind people, this is not overnight work. This is not, “Oh, I did this, and I'm good.” This is not one workshop. This is not one call. This is not one month. This is long term. And so figuring out where you have to start and how that support evolves into maintaining your efforts and maintaining you as an entire human as you move through this and helping to support you, it really is what it is that you need as you dismantle what no longer serves.
AMY: Yes. And I want to let you guys know Courdae is spelled c-o-u-r-d-a-e.
ERICA: You got it.
AMY: I’ll link to all of everything related to Erica on the show notes, so you have the social and the website and the podcast. So amyporterfield.com/318 is where you can get all of the resources.
Erica, thank you. I was nervous about this episode. I wanted to do it right, but I knew that's not how I want to lead. And you have been so patient with me and so generous, so thank you so very, very much.
ERICA: Thank you so much for having me, Amy.
AMY: So there you have it. I know this is just the beginning of my long journey and likely yours as well. And I highly encourage that you connect with a DEI consultant or coach and work with them on supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, not just now, but forever. If I looked back and if I had started to do this work ten, eleven years ago when I started this business, right now I would be a force for good, a force for change. But instead, I am just taking baby steps, ten, eleven years into my business. I know many of you are just getting started. Make this the foundation of your business so that you are a force for good now, and when you have a platform as big or bigger than mine, imagine how much good can come of that. Do not wait to get started on this important work. One of my biggest regrets.
Okay, so make sure to check out Erica's recommendations as well as everything Erica has to offer. And if you have a moment, jump on over to her Instagram and thank her for her generous time for this episode. I know I will be doing so as well.
All right, guys. Thank you so much for being here. I'll see you same time, same place, next week. Bye for now.