Amazon and Black Liberation (w/ Chanin Kelly-Rae)

Zach welcomes Chanin Kelly-Rae, president and CEO of Chanin Kelly-Rae Consulting, to the podcast on this week’s Real Talk Tuesday. She speaks candidly about her experiences as the Global Inclusion & Diversity Leader at Amazon Web Services and shares several pieces of advice for leaders and organizations that wish to create a truly inclusive workplace rather than engage in performative actions

You can connect with Chanin on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Check out the Chanin Kelly-Rae Consulting website.

Click here to learn more about Kanarys.

Interested in supporting Living Corporate? Check out our Support page.


Zach (00:00): You see, ‘cause I’m country and I’ll say Shannon, I’ll mess it up. So forgive me. Chanin, how are you doing?

Chanin (00:07): I am doing very well. Thank you so much for having me join you.

Zach (00:11): Well, it’s honor to have you. Your background is varied and diverse. I want to get right into it. I just want to understand what led you to DNI work?

Chanin (00:27): I started my career as a middle school and high school teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is one of the more segregated cities in the country. The U.S. census considers it to be hyper-segregated. So it’s not just segregated. It’s segregated 2.0. And I was working in a public school system and, work with kids who did not imagine, even as seniors in high school, at the start of their lives, getting ready to graduate and jump out into the world. I asked what I thought, most adults would ask, what are you going to do? Where are you going to go to school? What’s next? And a lot of my kids would say that they were gonna work at a nursing home with their mom or grandparent. They were going to work at a Dollar Tree, or just these very menial blue collar jobs. And at the start of their lives, they didn’t dream of something bigger.

(01:30): And I’ve met kids who had never left the state, never left the country, never left the county. Some of them had never left the city. And it’s hard to imagine that you can dream something bigger if you don’t even know that there is a whole world out there, that you can access. And so, I wanted to do more, to open up the world to kids to be able to dream of what was possible for themselves and systems, especially systems that are segregated systems that are designed for disparities and for disparate impact. Kids can never fully grasp what’s possible for them or their families. If it’s not just that they can’t dream, but the systems that they have to operate within actively work against their success.

(02:23): And so, I wanted to get out of the classroom and be involved iwith organizations that would help change systems so that kids could fully realize everything possible for themselves. So that really led me to the work. It was, leaving the classroom and working for small non-profits, working at administrative offices within school districts. Working in safety net programs, or any programs in the community that would help better position kids. And then I did it long enough. Then I was invited to come into organizations and then assume roles like diversity manager. I remember the first opportunity I got, someone approached me and asked me to be a diversity manager. And the first thing I said was, well, what is that? Sure. Okay, I’ll do it. What is that? And they said, all of the community organizing you doing all over Seattle, we want you to come and do that work for us.

(03:20): And so, I just thought that it was an extension of community organizing. And then all of a sudden it was, this statewide diversity diversity manager role for a social service organization. And then it turned into this national role for an organization advocating for kids. And then it turned into this state level thing, working for a governor as a subject matter expert in diversity and equity policy. So then it just kind of grew, but at the end of the day, when people ask, what is it that you do? How did you start this journey? It was really just to sit down with anybody, willing to talk to me, to help change systems so the kids and their families, people in the community could fully appreciate and enjoy what was possible for their lives.

Zach (04:09): It’s interesting you talk about community organizing. We’re going to get further down this interview but I’m really curious about, as you talk about, as we think about DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion), and we think about it as an industry. What’s your perspective on the current state of DEI? And then, where do you see the future of this space going?

Chanin (04:36): This last year, has led to what is really for the industry, has been as for the discipline, has been an explosion. When George Floyd was murdered by the police, every organization, especially corporate America decided that they had to jump on the track and they were in the race to get to Wokeville. Everybody was in a mad dash to Wokeville.

Zach (05:07): The race to Wokeville?

Chanin (05:09): The race to Wokeville. Whether they have the shoes on or not, they didn’t care. They were jumping on the track and they were running to the front of the line to get to Wokeville. And it’s complicated things in that, I always say that there are two kinds of people that do this work. There are the people who have a passion. They don’t have any experience in the discipline, but they have a passion and the love for social justice, and inclusion, and belonging for all people.

(05:40): And it’s great to engage with people who have a passion, but when you have to sit at the table of leadership to talk about policies, process, and protocol. When you have to talk about systems and organizational design and the history of how that informs decision-making and the nuance of this work, it takes more than a passion to do it. And that leads you to that other body of people. The people who are the professionals in that space, who have done this work because you’ve learned it in classrooms, but not just that you’ve learned it in a classroom somewhere on a campus somewhere, but that you’ve done this work for a long time and you know how it works. You know what’s around the corner, and you know how to go from gaps to goal. You know what the questions are for those things that you’re trying to solve for.

(06:29): And it’s not just an HR function. People like to put these roles into an HR function. And HR is where diversity and inclusion goes to die. Organizations are not designed, at least where we’re human resource is concerned, system self replicate. And HR thrives on systematic self replication. It is people in people out. And human resources exist to protect really, their organization or their brand from their people.

(06:58): And you have somebody come into my role or to do the work that I do in an organization. And I’m being asked to disrupt what has been long-term patterns and practices. I’m asked to challenge an organization’s foundation, and that puts you at the other side, sometimes of a goal with human resources. Now, when those things work together and they’re partnering appropriately, then it’s great when an organization doesn’t feel it has to be protected from his people.

(07:30): But, you have a lot of leaders that’ll hear the conversation that we’re having and they’ll think that it’s ridiculous. And they assume that, this is off the mark, that it’s wrong, that their HR is not against their people. But the simple fact that more people than not, do not feel that there is a culture of psychological safety that they can disagree, that they can think outside of the box, that they can move outside of the lane that they’ve been put in, that tells you a lot. That they’re afraid of the organization that they work for, that they work within, whose mission they’re trying to advance. How does it look that I’m trying to advance your mission, but I’m terribly afraid to misspeak, to misstep, to act in a way, even when I feel that it’s the right thing to do that will hold an organization accountable to their mission, their values and their true north, that I’m afraid to hold you accountable?

(08:35): That says a lot. So I think that people have to really separate the idea of professionalism, and passion and know that they’re not the same thing. But there’s a role for both. But also that organizations have to be pushed and challenged and you have to have a culture of psychological safety, because it’s all hands on deck.

Zach (08:59): It’s interesting. Chqnin you said, when it comes to that passion piece, I’m gonna tell you something, you’ve inspired me. I’m gonna talk about why you’ve inspired me, well, as we continue the conversation. But, Living Corporate is, we’re a media network. We try to tell it, as my dad would say, we try to tell it like it T-I is. And it’s been incredible to me to see, since the murder of George Floyd, how many people have made whole new careers off of quote unquote passion in DEI.

Chanin (09:33): Oh yeah. There is an explosion of different firms, that exist today, that didn’t exist a month ago.

Zach (09:44): Right.

Chanin (09:44): There are people who, Joe, in the mail room has opened up a consulting firm. My teacher has started a consulting firm. A social worker started consulting firm, a communications executive has started a consulting firms. So many people are rushing to the space because, when you have organizations, especially, Fortune 100 that have said, we’re going to commit $20 million. We’re going to commit $50 million. We’re going to comit a million dollars. Everybody wants that money.

Zach (10:14): They just see the bread.

Chanin (10:16): They do, they see the money, and they don’t understand why this space has to exist. And, even when I talk about the why this space exists. I’m sitting in my office, and I always surround myself with things that are grounding for the work that I do, that talks about why it’s critically important.

(10:40): And, I look at pictures like my father’s grim grandparents, the Hillsons of Mississippi. These are people who were tenant farmers. These are people who didn’t have the opportunity for education. These are people who were three generations removed from channel slavery. These are people that lived under the yoke of Jim Crow, colored and white. Where they didn’t have the luxury of self-determination, of choice, of freedom, of voice. And, we live today with the legacy that they live with. And to me, the skin in the game that I have, you have CEOs and corporate leaders, and others who think that this is a nice to have, this diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

(11:34): And for me, it’s not a nice to have, it’s a demand to have. It’s a call to have. It’s a promise that has been made to have. And so, the trajectory when it comes to the human condition, especially as it relates to black and brown people. Dr. King talked about this check that has bounced for so many years, and that somebody has got to make good on that check. And this work, holds us accountable. This work, is going back and reviewing the ledger and rewriting the rules, so that we can fulfill the promise that we made to people that have helped build this country, and build these companies, and continue to do so.

Zach (12:20): And to that end though, we both been talking about the fact that it’s not doing that right now. So, where do you see this space going in the next five to 10 years? Before 2030, where do you see it being?

Chanin (12:32): I think that what’s going to happen is, if people are true to their words, this space will mature. It will professionalize in a way that passion is a nice to have. It’s an important to have, but professionalism is going to be a demand to have. I see this growing in the same way that right now, people see this work as the sprinkles on a cupcake, when it is just sprinkles on the cupcake. It is the flour, the sugar, and the butter, in the cake. And in the same way that you can’t pull your underrepresented populations in an organization, and put them in front of this and say that it’s a business imperative.

(13:21): You would never dream to leverage an employee resource group to hold the function of the chief financial officer,

Zach (13:30): One hundred percent.

Chanin (13:30): You would never dream to leverage an employee resource group, or diversity committee to have the functional responsibility of a chief operating officer, a chief medical officer, a chief administrative officer, because you understand the critical importance of those roles, and their function, and the skill required to do those functions.

(13:52): And today that’s what people think that they can do. But I think that, over the course of the last year, there’s probably been a little bit of listening, and learning, and a little bit of humility happening in boardrooms across America. That people see now that it’s not enough to try and put employees in charge. Who by the way, have other duties that are assigned. They’re doing this off of the side of their desk. And it doesn’t demonstrate a seriousness and commitment.

(14:19): And I think that 30 years from now in the same way that, it used to be okay to be functionally literate in this country. And to be able to do well and have an eighth grade education and it didn’t matter. Now, we’re at a place that, it’s not important. It’s not enough oftentimes to have a high school diploma. You have to have a trade, you have to have professional education. You have to have sometimes an associate or bachelor’s degree because now that’s the floor.

(14:50): And I think that the floor is going to raise where it comes to this discipline, so that people will have a good understanding and a better appreciation of what it means. And that it’s part of not just human resources, but you operational operationalize it across every business vertical in an organization.

Zach (15:10): So let’s pivot a little bit and talk about, your last row. So, you joined Amazon, the global diversity inclusion leader. What led you to take that role?

Chanin (15:26): I was recruited to go to Amazon. I was asked because of my talent, my unique skill set and background, if I would join their largest field organization, to lead that global diversity effort. And really, I didn’t need Amazon, but I thought Amazon is the center of the universe across a lot of industries. They’re are more than just commercial sales. They’re more than just cloud services. They’re more than just entertainment. Amazon touches everything in our lives, not just in this country, but lives around the world.

(16:13): And I feel it’s so critically important to have people like Amazon, incorporating best practices in this space, into what they do because everybody’s watching. And if Amazon can figure out how to do it, and show people the path forward, then those are the breadcrumbs on the trail that others can follow.

(16:37): And so, where goes Amazon, goes everyone else. And I wanted to join Amazon to influence the space and to bring my talent and skillset for whatever people think of it. But I wanted to lend my talent, and voice, and skill to that space so that we could build something that others could replicate. That we would model what other folks could do in terms of best practices to follow.

Zach (17:07): Now, what I find? So I’m hearing myself a little bit, I think I’m hearing an echo in your mic. One second. Let me see. Would you mind muting?

Chanin (17:22): Sure thing. So, let me see.

Zach (17:27): Okay. thank you. Because I’ll get distracted Chani, and, I’m sorry. I’m already self-conscious about my voice. I’m hearing you and I’m, oh, wait a sec. What’s going on? So, between all of them. Between Vox and verge and several other media platforms, you’ve been cited. You’ve been cited on the record talking about some challenges. Your perspective on Amazon, and as it pertains to diversity, equity, inclusion, your own experiences.

Zach (17:56): One. So when I talk about you inspire me, that’s why. because I don’t, we don’t see that a lot. We don’t see black and brown folks, really speaking out a lot. And then, frankly, they typically are pushed to the side, very quickly sometimes. Talk to me about what was your motivation to speak out? Why did you speak out? And then, how did you navigate past any fear, anxiety, the same things. I think about even generationally. Gen X folks are very quick to tell millennials and Gen Z folks to keep your head down, or don’t say too much. Even when you’re exiting, don’t speak out too much or whatever the case is because, it may follow. You don’t want to hurt yourself, whatever the case is. Whhy did you decide to speak?

Chanin (18:50): I don’t know anything else to do, but to not speak. Because I am Gus and Mary Kelly’s daughter. Because I am Whitman and Ula Dodd’s granddaughter. I am Charlie and Gladys Kelly’s granddaughter. I come from a line of people who will tell you like a TI is. But most important, because of the experience there, and when somebody comes in to the role that I’m in. You are often, sometimes, the light that points to port. People see somebody in my role as the lifeline, the help mate of the circumstance where we are struggling, we are treading water. And here’s somebody that represents the lifeline. She’s gonna come in and help change it, and change and challenge. Fix the conditions that have led us to feel like we can’t breathe. We can’t thrive. We can’t survive.

(20:01): So I come in, and people are eager to share their stories. And I’ve had leaders in the past in other organizations saying to me that, I’m supposed to believe that you come in on day one and people are just going to be that vulnerable and share these stories with you? And I say, yes, everywhere I go, that happens. Even since leaving Amazon, I have heard from hundreds of people. I talked to different people every week now. I talk to people every week now. that share stories of heartbreak, and pain, and heartache. I’ve heard people talk about being crushed under the weight of stress and have shared stories of having miscarriages behind the stress of Amazon. I’ve had people share with me stories of losing hair, and losing sleep. And having their relationships at home, be challenged because of the stress, and the anxiety, and terror, that is the toxicity of that place.

(21:11): But not just Amazon. Other organizations as well, and not just tech. But to talk about this thing of fear, and psychological safety, and being crushed. And the reason that I do the work that I do is to not be other people’s voice, but to create space for their voices. And where they cannot bring their voices into the space, then I will share their stories. I listen and learn. And what I do is share the stories. My work is to gather qualitative and quantitative data, to hold it up to an organization and say, this is your current state.

(21:51): Now, you have to decide what you do from here. We can build a path forward, this journey, with these folks forward. Because I always say build nothing for them, without them. Build nothing for them without them. What does it look like Zach, for me to win $20 million and decide I’m going to build a home for you when your family? And I choose the size, and the location, and the materials, and this design. And I never sit and have a conversation with you to talk about what it is that you need, want, and desire. Build nothing for them without them.

(22:26): And so you work with an organization’s leader with that data that is qualitative and quantitative. And you build with those people who will inherit that decision-making, that will be part of that decision-making for what that future state should be. Because, remember, the point is that you’re supposed to be building it for their betterment.

Zach (22:46): Yes. Can I challenge you with something?

Chanin (22:48): Yes.

Zach (22:51): I’m looking at your background. And Chanin, because you started off in, I know it was education, but then, community organizing, and community organizing work. I don’t think that that work squares with the capitalistic, and patriarchal, and explolative of nature of corporate America. And so I challenged that you entering these spaces with that ethic, is created fundamental discord, with the power structure. With the white capitalist power structure. I do. Have you thought about that? Not using those words, but your fundamental profile and how it is philosophically opposed to the work as corporate America often defines it?

Chanin (23:48): Except, therein lies the rub. So, when I say that I come in and organizations have charged me. Be careful what you ask for, I tell leaders. I sit down at a table and the first thing I say is, are you really ready to have these conversations? Because, be careful what you ask for, when that genie’s out of the bottle, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Once you see it, once you see what’s behind the curtain.

Zach (24:16): Can’t unsee that.

Chanin (24:16): You can’t unsee it. And so, corporate leaders today are saying that they want what I’m selling. They’re saying that, for example, black and brown people have not had the opportunity that they deserved, that they’ve always deserved. Women are not having the opportunity they’ve always deserved. The LGBTQA+ community is not having the opportunity they’ve always deserved.

(24:42): And they’re saying that more than 400 years ago at our founding, we were built upon a foundation that was for some, and not the many, for a few and not all. And they’re saying, we want to challenge that social contract. And I’m saying, okay then, let’s challenge that social contract. And so, if that is your foundation, and you’re asking me to come in and challenge that foundation, then let’s talk about what that means.

(25:12): Let’s talk about how organization could or should structure itself so that you continue to be a viable organization. But how do you do that in order to meet the needs of the whole person? Because an organization’s strength is not the widgets and gadgets that they produced, because those are produced by people. The most valuable asset in an organization is its people. And so, how can we build an organization that is able to fully leverage its people in the way that people can experience trust, value, and respect? That they feel like they have skin in the game now. That they don’t have a renter’s mentality in an organization, but an owner’s mentality. That they don’t feel like they’re on borrowed time and space in an organization that they’re helping to build and grow.

(26:06): And it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to be a director. Everybody isn’t going to be a CEO. But it should mean that when people walk away from that place at the end of their work day, at the end of their duty station, that not only do they feel trust, value, and respect. But they feel like they have a vested interest. That they have an opportunity to grow. That they have an opportunity to be able to thrive. That for as much as it means to the stakeholders, as much as it means to the owner, that holds the keys to the kingdom. That they feel like they have some ownership in that. That it’s worth their while to be there every day and they do it gladly.

(26:48): And so, you can, you can rebuild the foundation. This country was built on a foundation, really of lies. So how do you, rebuild the foundation with all people success, and goodwill, and mind?

Zach (27:13): I think about, I’m going to go back to this. And I recognize you talk about legacy and family for the rationale of why you spoke up. What do you say to your contemporaries who would say that you being unwise, or, whatever word they want to use. For going on the record and speaking truth to power. Regarding Amazon, regarding your experience, regarding this industry, what would you say to that?

Chanin (27:48): Let me take a half a step back and say it is on the strength of family, on legacy, and really, the principles and values that I was raised with, that I speak up. And that is because I can’t talk to somebody else about allyship, if I’m not willing to be an ally. And I feel my speaking up is my promise, and commitment, and my living, the promise and commitment to be an ally for all people. And when I see something and I judge it to be wrong, I have to act.

(28:21): One of the more influential people in my life, was the president of Catholic Community Services in Western Washington. His name was Michael Reichert. And he would say, in accordance with Catholic social teaching, that you have to see, judge, and act.

(28:43): That you see something happening, you have to come to a conclusion. And you judge that thing that you see is this right or wrong? Is as good or bad? Is as fair or unfair? So you’d make a judgment. And once you’ve made the judgment, then you’re compelled to act. It’s not enough that you see it, you identify it to be wrong. Then what are you going to do about that thing that’s wrong? And I feel compelled to then act.

(29:11): And there have been many people that have reached out to me and asked, are you okay? Are you good? Even when I did the Vox piece. The folks at Vox wanted to know, are you sure? Because nobody else will speak out. And, if nobody speaks out and says that these things are wrong, then it’s easy for people to make the case that they’re not wrong.

(29:35): It’s easy to then make the case. People have listened to me and said, you can’t listen to her. You can’t believe everything that she says. This is just her side of the story. People have said that I’m speaking on fairly, that I’m misrepresenting, that it’s anecdotal. But it’s not anecdotal. And if there was a real culture of psychological safety, people would tell you what it is that they feel and they’re experiencing it.

(30:09): The fact that I hear from so many people, but you have to understand that in the disposition of the work that I do. When I survey staffs, a hundred percent of a workforce, these people that say that this anecdotal, these people across the world, across industries, across organizations, that think that, I don’t know. I’ve got two decades worth of experience talking to all of the staffs and in many organizations. And I know the data, and I know, I know, how staffs feel.

(30:48): So, I am that person. I am that chick, that a CEO, a future CEO, a president, a leader, a director, a governor, whoever. You can peddle that lie, a lot of people, but somebody like me, you can’t pedal the lie to, because I know the truth. I’ve done this a long time. And where they’ve only experienced their staff. I’ve talked to staffs across the country and across the world in more than 40 states, and across this planet. I know the truth of what people feel in these organizations.

(31:21): So when I talk about the culture of psychological safety, and that is the first thing you have to deal with. I say that not because of conjecture, but I say it because of experience. Because I know. And so people will say, don’t speak up. People will say, don’t burn bridges. People will say, you’ll never earn money.

(31:45): I will share that, even at Amazon, with some senior most leaders, I said, I’m going to do for you, what other people are afraid to do. I’m going to tell you the truth, because I will never be hungry, and I’ll never be homeless. So, I’m going to tell you the truth, where other people won’t.

(32:12): And if you are practicing performative DEI, I don’t have time for it. Life is short. I don’t have time to sit and entertain conversations where people aren’t serious.

Zach (32:23): Yes.

Chanin (32:29): All money. You probably heard what I heard growing up. All money ain’t good money.

Zach (32:34): All money is not good money, Chanin. Say it agin.

Chanin (32:37): All money aint good money. And I’ll tell you what I won’t do. I will not sell short the lives and legacies, the souls and stories of thousands of people, of millions of people that have gone on before. And it doesn’t have to be black folks and brown folks. It could be poor folks, poor white, rural people. I don’t care who it is. I will not sell short, those folks who have drempt of brighter days.

Zach (33:18): It’s something about, it’s the legacy and the integrity for me. I think about this moment and I think about the fact that there will be more, exposés coming, on different companies. And, I do believe that, first of all, you weren’t the first, of course.

Chanin (33:41): No.

Zach (33:41): And you won’t be the last. There’s going to be more of these conversations. As we talk about this space, and we talk about the future of DEI, we talk about the future of work for marginalized people. What advice would you give to executives who, if they came to you, and said, look, I really want to make an impact. I really want to create systemic change. What would be the three starting pillars you’d give them?

Chanin (34:08): The same one that I give everybody. Number one, commitment without resources is a dream waiting to be unfulfilled. You have to staff appropriately and resource appropriately so that you can demonstrate that you’re willing to put forward a true professional effort, and not simply passion. The second thing that I’d say is that leaders have to listen and learn. They have to get out of their own way, because to identify the current future state means that you have to hear the stories of clients. You have to hear the stories of community. You have to hear the stories of employees. You don’t build a solution without collaborating with, and considering those folks that are the end user. Build nothing for them, without them. Listen and learn, use qualitative and quantitative data. And let that thing help you identify the current state and be your true north and guide.

(35:13): And then finally, I’ve pushed Amazon. I’ve push other people on data and transparency, because transparency invites accountability. You have to make sure that everybody has a role on the organization’s journey, and whatever that looks like to go forward. Because if you don’t hold folks accountable for their contributions to the success or goals. If it’s one person that’s responsible, people will say we hired a diversity officer. We’ve hired a social impact VP. We hired a coordinator, and that’s the person whose job it is. In an organization that is 50 people, five people, 500, 5,000 or 500,000. It doesn’t matter. But if you point down the end of the hall and say, but it’s not my job to create an organizational culture that allows for people to feel like they’re included, they belong, that they can thrive. It’s not my job to ensure that we promote workplace safety and psychological safety. It’s not my job to ensure that we’re diverse. It’s that person’s job. It’s that team’s job. It’s the responsibility of everybody. It’s not one department. It’s not one leader. It’s not one person. It is everybody in the organization’s job to ensure that these goals are a success. And everybody has to be held accountable.

Zach (36:50): Can I ask you a question about that?

Chanin (36:52): Yes.

Zach (36:54): At any one point in time, did you ever see a comprehensive data, dump or dashboard of Amazon’s DEI challenges or information? Was that shared with you? Did you ever get that?

Chanin (37:07): I have seen Amazon’s data, but you know, I’m able to speak freely about my experience with Amazon, but the thing that I cannot speak on is Amazon’s data sets. I signed a non-disclosure agreement agreeing to not discuss what is proprietary and privileged information. So that, I won’t speak to.

Zach (37:31): Oh, that’s not what I was asking. When you say transparency about data, I’m asking, did you ever see data?

Chanin (37:37): Oh yes.

Zach (37:38): Okay, good. That’s what I was asking about. No, I wouldn’t want to ask you to give some datasets about Amazon employees. But the reason I asked is because I’ve worked with organizations and I’ve talked to institutions who have offices of diversity inclusion, but they’ve never seen a comprehensive data set.

Chanin (38:03): Oh yes. And there are people right now that are responsible for doing DEI work. I’ve been in organizations as the head of, and had to fight to access the data. And have been told it was behind attorney client privilege. And I said, but I’m the client. So organizations are afraid to share the data because they’re afraid to share their warts, but you will never fix something that you don’t acknowledge to be a problem. People can forgive that there’s room to grow, but what they don’t forgive is that you don’t recognize it, don’t acknowledge, and don’t share that you’re trying to do anything to fix it. And when DEI is seen as the sprinkles on the cupcake, whenever a cut has to be made. When ever values, or principles, or work, has to be sacrificed, people will throw that on the alter and put it across the sword. And get rid of that first.

Zach (39:09): Always. It’s always cut first. I remember, prior to the murder of George Floyd, there were people I would be talking to, who would reach out to Living Corporate, or vice versa, and ask to work with us. We’d be talking about, and they’d be, Hey, you know, we don’t really have a budget. Or, actually, our department is shrinking, and then, you see a black man murdered in slow motion on Twitter. And all of a sudden, like you said earlier, multimillion dollar commitments just come falling out the sky.

Chanin (39:44): And then, all of a sudden, checks rain down upon social justice like [inaudible 00:39:50].

Zach (39:52): Like manna.

Chanin (39:52): And, for a lot of those organizations, they throw the money at it, but don’t even turn around and look back to see the impact on the give.

Zach (40:02): Right.

Chanin (40:03): And don’t care.

Zach (40:05): Right.

Chanin (40:06): How do you say that you care, when you don’t even go back to say, we’ve given a hundred thousand, we’ve given a million, we’ve given 10 million. And you don’t even turn around and look back to say, and what has been the fruits of the seeds that we’ve planted with the give? They don’t care. That was just the entry fee that they pay in the race to Wokeville.

Zach (40:36): I’ve just been honored so much. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on Living Corporate, Chanin. We consider you a friend of the show. We look forward to having you back and we’ll talk soon. Thank you.

Chanin (40:53): Always appreciative to be able to talk about this issue. And it’s bigger than Amazon. It’s bigger than corporate America, bigger than tech. This is about how every system, how every organization and really, every leader creates space to have these conversations. To talk about how we grow and improve communities, one organization at a time. And that we can all collectively move in that same direction. And, I think that there are many leaders that want to move in the right direction, in the same direction.

(41:36): They have to sometimes just get out of their own way. And stop worrying about how people who will be offended by this work will respond, because to me, people that are offended by these conversations are the problem. And I don’t think that we should slow down these conversations because people who do not fully support social justice, inclusion and equity. I don’t think that we should offer difference to those people and compromise what I believe are shared values, to move this nation forward, to move the world forward, to move humanity forward.

(42:17): I think that we have to stop offering deference. And giving life to these places, these corners in the community where they would seek to the end these conversations about the growth and development and benefit of people.

Zach (42:35): I’m gonna let it ride. I’m gonna let it breathe. Thank you, Chanin.

Chanin (42:40): Thank you.

Zach (42:41): Talk to you soon.

Chanin (42:42): Thank you. Bye.

Support Our Mission of Amplifying Underrepresented Voices...

Living Corporate’s mission is singular in purpose, but diversified in approach. From our podcasting, to live events around the US, to our giveaways. 

Through Our Podcasts

Our podcast garners over 10K downloads a week and reaches black and brown executives, millennials, college students, creatives and influencers. 

Through Our Visual Media

We host a variety live, interactive web series for Black and brown early, mid, and late careerists that have a global reach. 

Through Our Resources

We connect our audience with valuable resources from resume services, certification prep materials, conference,  attendance sponsorship, and Living Corporate merchandise. Join our newsletter to learn more.


Select Payment Method
Personal Info


Donation Total: $10.00 One Time


Join Our Community

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Living Corporate will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.