11 : Drew MacFadyen (Very White Guy)
We sit down with Drew MacFadyen aka @VeryWhiteGuy to discuss allyship, his dope wife Leslie and tips for white men to support inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and yes, you’re listening to a B-Side. Now, yes, we’ve introduced the purpose of a B-Side before, but every episode--remember, guys--is someone’s first episode. So for our new folks, B-Sides are essentially shows we have in-between our larger shows. These are much less structured and somehow even more lit--yes, even more lit--than our regularly scheduled shows. Sometimes they’re discussions that the hosts have internally that we share with you guys. Sometimes they are extended monologues. Or maybe they’re a chat with a special guest, and guess what? Today we have such a guest, Drew MacFadyen. Drew is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the busiest website in human translation in the world. In addition to his professional work, Drew is passionate about anti-racism and social inequity, known in that domain as Drew and @VeryWhiteGuy, and I can confirm--he is very white. He and his wife lead an organization called Interracial Jawn, where they discuss pop culture, TV, movies, and current events from their unique perspectives as a Very White Guy and a mostly black woman. Drew, welcome to the show, man. How are you doing?
Drew: I’m well. You set the bar--that intro set it very, very high, I feel.
Drew: I usually like to under-promise and over-deliver and you’ve really--you set it high, but I’ll try. I’ll try my best. Thank you, man. Like, I appreciate it.
Zach: No problem, man. So look, recently on the show we’ve discussed the concept of allyship in Corporate America. Were you able to check the episode out? And if so, what did you think about it?
Drew: I did listen to the last episode, and forgive me, I can’t remember the author, the woman you had on as a guest.
Zach: Amy. Yeah, Amy. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Drew: So I did listen to the episode, and I agree with almost everything Amy said, you know? She was pretty spot on. I thought it was a good episode. White anti-racists, myself included, have a history of being real kind of, like, condescending and holier-than-thou, particularly with other white folks. Like, “woker than you” is, like, a thing.
Drew: You know what I’m talking about? Like, on Twitter you’ll see white folks kind of, like, piling on to, like, you know, “I’m the most woke, and therefore this or that.” So I really liked what Amy had to say, and I think everything she said was really accurate, but I do struggle a little bit--and just, again, you referenced the podcast that I have, and I’m married to Leslie, and she goes on Twitter as LeslieMac. She’s an actual activist and an organizer and has done some really amazing things and, you know, I’ve seen her work, you know, commodified, stolen, outright taken. Twitter threads turned into articles in the New York Post kind of thing. Like, actually I’ve seen that happen.
Drew: So I sometimes struggle with--I don’t want to say white folks making money [inaudible], but there’s a little bit of a--call it, like, the ally industrial complex thing where--and we white folk love education for education’s sake, and I myself am guilty of this, right? So there’s a period where I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I want to learn and tell everyone else, and I want to share this thing, and I’m gonna share that,” and even on my own podcast I’ve asked, “Whose benefit is this for? Is this really--what’s this doing?” But I think Amy’s doing, you know, like, legitimate work within the corporate structure, but I struggle a little bit with white folk becoming experts in some regard on anti-racism, inequity diversity, whatever you want to call it, and then profiting. You know, call it, like, the [ten wives?] syndrome, and that’s a real privileged place for me to come from. I have a--as you introduced, I have a normal day job. I do well, I get paid. I provide. You know, I’m in sales. I bring in a lot of value, and so I can say the things that I do I don’t need to make money with it, but that’s certainly not the case for most folks. It’s a capitalistic world. You gotta make a living, but I agree with what Amy said in terms of white folk having to really sort of be responsible for dismantling systems of oppression. And that maybe was the other--sometimes I struggle with the education for education’s sake ‘cause there’s often that last step. You know, how does that lead to--and I would ask Amy. I think you asked a lot of really pointed--and I was almost, like, worried. I was like, “God, Zach asked, like, some tough questions. I hope I’m prepared.”
Drew: But where does the work that any of us do lead to action in terms of dismantling systems of supremacy? And that’s, you know--and I ask that to myself and I don’t always have the answer. That might have been where I was left wanting.
Zach: No, I hear you, and I’m curious actually--you know, what do you think about the term “ally?” Like, what do you think about that term? ‘Cause I know it’s a loaded word, right? And a lot of people have various feelings about it. I’m curious of how you feel about that word.
Drew: I don’t like it. I don’t use it. I find it self-referential. If someone used it in regards to me I’m not gonna, like, be mad about it. I understand it more as a verb than as a noun, but I think a lot of people like it as a noun. And I just think the bar for what we--and even, you know, listening to the podcast, and you’ve got Amy, and you’ve got me on, and I’m thinking, “Well, why?” You know, “Why?” I’ve got a Twitter handle, VeryWhiteGuy. I’ve said a few things. I think because I’m white, you know, people give me--my voice has a little bit more, quote-unquote, cachet as an anti-racist individual. There’s not as many white dudes being actively anti-racist, but ally to me is just--the bar is so low. It’s so low. Like, my wife tells the joke, like, “Two allies walked into a bar… ‘cause it’s just so low,” and that works for any--you know, male feminists walk into a bar… ‘cause the bar was set so low.” So I don’t really like it. I don’t often use it, but if someone used it, fine. I think it also--it, to me, has this sort of connotation of, like, finality, right? Like, “Oh, I’m an ally! And, you know, I’m done.” Kinda like [inaudible], you know, more so than just sort of saying you’re an ally or just one person saying you’re an ally. You know, like, it’s really what have I done, what are my actions, more than what label, you know?
Zach: No, absolutely. I’m curious, right? So we talked about--in the intro I talked a little bit about your VP role in sales, and you’ve alluded to the fact that, you know, you do well in the corporate space. I’m curious, before Interracial Jawn, which we’re gonna get to in a minute, can you talk to me about how you demonstrated or how you practiced anti-racist behaviors in the workplace? And I ask because when I look at your Twitter feed--VeryWhiteGuy, check him out, y’all. VeryWhiteGuy. The theme of your language is all about intentionality and action, and you really alluded to it just now when you talked about the term allyship and the concept of allyship. So I’m curious, what actions were you taking before you had the platform of Interracial Jawn to really demonstrate--and I won’t say allyship, but--support, you know, for people of color?
Drew: That’s a good question, and I don’t know if I’ve always succeeded, you know? I think, as a white anti-racist individual, it’s a journey from, you know, indoctrinated to doing less harm, and there’s no terminal. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m finished.” I’m just trying to do less harm, and there’s steps forward and steps back, and certainly there’s been jobs and work and opportunities that I’ve missed, I’m sure. You know, I think the--when I think of allyship, right? And again, I should give a lot of credence to my wife, Leslie Mac. I’ve been married to her for 15 years, so a lot of this may be framing her language as coming from my learning from her [inaudible], but shifting dollars and resources, you know? I think--my wife always says that marginalized folks in communities, they know what they need and they know how to solve their problems. They just need, you know, access, dollars, resources. So I try to do that, and I don’t always have--you know, have, like, hiring authority at every job I’ve been at. I don’t have the ability to say who does what, who gets on what committee, but where I do have some say--so there’s an event I produce, and there’s speakers, and we get folks online to watch it, and maybe thousands of people watch it, but I was really proud that we had--and in the language or translation [inaudible], there’s a lot of women. It tends to be heavily represented on the women’s side and relatively on the Latina side, but I had mostly women of color, I think three or four black women as panelists and speakers. Those are active decisions on my part. I have a platform and an ability. If I’m gonna be compensating individuals, I’d rather it be women, black women. I’m gonna expose folks, thousands of folks who are gonna be watching these panelists. I don’t want it to be all white men. I had another job where I did have some hiring authority, and I would--you know, I was proud of the fact that I hired a few black candidates that did really well and stayed on, but really just shifting power and resources, you know? That could be you’re in a--I heard your guest Amy, and you were talking about this, you know, that women or a black person might say something, and five minutes later a white person says the same thing and it’s like, “Oh, my God! The white person’s a genius!”
Zach: Right. [laughs]
Drew: You know? Say something. Stand up. You know, support. You know, in different places they call it I think progressive stack, so I’ve done that in meetings. You know, “Hey, we haven’t heard from her.” You know, “This person hasn’t spoken in a while.” I had a job interview--and I think, again, I talk about action because there should be risk, and that’s why I sometimes question when white folks are making money educating other white folks on how to be better. That just sort of rubs me the wrong way, but in terms of taking risks and doing things, I’ve had vendors and interviews where I’ve asked, you know, “How many black people do you have on staff? How diverse is your--what’s your corporate culture like?” And that doesn’t always go well, you know? That doesn’t--I don’t always have the answers I want to hear, you know? But I would say what have I done? I tried to just be better. I tried to be a better individual and amplify and make sure marginalized folks are--I think Amy even said it. If they’re not in the room, do what you can to make sure their voices are represented, and try to get them in the room, and just, everywhere you can, shift power and resources.
Zach: And it’s funny that you’d say that because, you know, even when I think about Living Corporate, right? So, like, we’re a startup, you know? And I think about--when you talk about just power and resources, it’s like--there are a lot of things that we want to do, and there are things that we have planned in the future, and we have all these plans and, like, the main barrier at this point, Drew--and not even barrier, but the thing that would accelerate those things is just [break?] it. Like, we don’t need a bunch of people telling us what to do. Of course we take--you know, we’ll take feedback and coaching and all that kind of stuff, but my point is, you know, it’s the resources. Like, we need the resources, and so I think that that applies to your wife Leslie’s point. It applies across the board. Like, plenty of black folks, we have--and just people of color in general, marginalized people. There’s plenty of visionaries and things like that, but because of the way that things are set up structurally and have been set up historically and systemically, the resources create a barrier. So I’m curious, right? You know, we talked a little bit about Interracial Jawn in your intro, but can you talk more about it, its origin, and what it aims to achieve?
Drew: Yeah, and you said you were gonna ask me that, and I kinda had to think ‘cause it was sort of--we’ve been married now for over 15 years, and we’ve been together quite a bit, and it’s strange that our podcast is called the Interracial Jawn because I don’t think we think of ourselves interracially often. Like, I don’t think that defines us so much, but, I mean, she’s a black woman, and she works in liberation organizing. So I guess that is--you know, it’s a part of our existence, but I don’t think we think of it very often, but when we made the podcast we were--at the time we lived in Philadelphia, and we lived there for a decade, and jawn is just sort of like an adjective that’s used for anything and everything.
Zach: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. [laughs] It’s made its way down to Houston too. We say it down here from time to time. I do anyway.
Drew: Sweet. I didn’t know that. I guess it’s like John, J-O-H-N, or joint. Some people would use it sort of [inaudible], but so we called it the Interracial Jawn, and we don’t I even think talk that much about us being interracial, but we talk about a lot of different politics, and we just started a podcast ‘cause we wanted to do it, and we talked a lot, and we’d sit around and just, you know, by ourselves chit-chatting. We said, “You know, let’s record it. If somebody listens, all right, cool,” and for a bit it was really just a lab--and it still is a labor of love. You do a podcast and it’s not exactly a millionaire’s [inaudible], but we did it, and people listened and responded and subscribed, and we said, “Okay, we’ll keep doing it.” So we enjoy it, but it’s really just sort of--it’s more for us and just sort of time to unwind and chit-chat and connect and talk about the news and stuff that’s going on.
Zach: That’s really cool, man, you know? And shout out to Leslie. I think it’s amazing that, you know, at every point and turn in this conversation, you know, you’ve referenced something that your wife has told you, right? So, like, shout out to black women in general. Sound Man, go ahead and put them air horns in here just for black women. For Leslie for sure, but then black women in general.
[Sound Man comes through with it]
Zach: So I’m curious, what advice, right? Now, you talked about--you said, you know, for you, the way that you practice, again for the lack of a better word, allyship in the corporate space is by just being better, but what advice or resources would you point white men to, in corporate America, to be better for everybody else?
Drew: That’s a good question, and I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe--you referenced black women, and Twitter’s been a great resource. It’s relatively free. Certainly be aware that you’re consuming folks, and try to drop a dollar on their PayPal, Cash.me, or Patreon if they have it. But yeah, there’s been--I would say just about everything I know when it comes to--I was thinking again. I said I don’t like white folk being experts on race, and [if someone asks?] me I say, “No, I’m not an expert on race.” You know, [I’ve got the?] Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 Hour theory. You know, you’ve lived your entire life as a black individual in a white supremacist society. That’s more than 10,000 hours. You’re [inaudible] an expert. When you say, “Hey, that’s racist, so listen and believe black folk, amplify black folk,” but, you know, I’m not an expert on that at all. The only thing I know is sort of my journey on how I’ve sort of learned to be less harmful I guess, and this is all stuff that’s on Twitter and smarter, you know, usually black women, like you said, have written about this, but it took me a while to just sort of learn not just what people are saying but to process it a little bit differently. So [inaudible] if you’ve been this work at all for even a minute and you’re a white dude, you’ve heard “Shut up.” You know? “Sit down. Shut up. Be quiet. Don’t take up space,” and I knew that. Enough people had said it to me that I’d go to--you know, when we lived in Philadelphia there was a great group that I think is still around, REAL Justice Philadelphia. But so we’d go to meetings. There’s hundreds of people there, and of course I’m not gonna say a word. I’m gonna sit down. I’m not gonna say anything and be quiet, and I’ve been to many of these meetings, and again, I understand fundamentally to be quiet and not take up space, but my mind would keep kind of rolling and think, “Oh, what about this? What about that? What about this?” And there might have been--I can’t remember the exact instance, but there’s finally something where, again, my wife made fun of me like, “Okay, very white guy.” Like, “They don’t need your help.” You know? [inaudible]. And then it was like--you know, joking and sarcastic, but I was like, “Oh, my God.” Like, “She’s really right.” So the concept of sit down and be quiet, don’t take up space, I understood it differently over a period of time. My different understanding was “Oh, I’m a neophyte. I don’t really know anything. I need to really just sit down and absorb and really process,” and if I’m thinking of things--and that’s, again, as a white dude, the world has told me, as a white man, my opinion is valued. It’s needed. It’s necessary. My two cents are desired, and I can solve it. And yeah, it’s about, you know, allyship in the corporate world, [inaudible]. I remember--not, like, embarrassed, but I’ve been in a room full of people and pounded my fist on the desk and raised my voice and gotten what I wanted and things done, and that modality is, like, a sock that you’ve worn your whole life, a glove that fits seamlessly. It’s just real easy, so to not be a cisgendered heterosexual white male that raises his voice and, you know, reverts to Angry White Dude to get what he wants, that takes vigilance, you know? It’s kind of like actively not trying to be a horrible person. You just--you slip into it so easily. So I would say, as a white man, just be aware, you know? Understand. Like, just understand conditioned fragility and then defensiveness, you know? I think it’s a lot easier. Understand how to apologize. Know that you’re gonna mess up, and be prepared. I’ve messed up plenty, and not--yeah, I’m [trying?] “Don’t mess up.” [laughs] Don’t [inaudible], but, like, many people are willing to forgive and stay in community with me after a mistake, but very few would be willing to remain in community if I made a mistake and then spent an hour being defensive and fragile about it, you know? Like, “I didn’t mean it that way. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t trying to be racist.” So, like, I would just say to other, you know, especially white dudes, we’re gonna mess up, you know? The world has catered to us for a long time, so sit down, listen, be quiet, and when you mess up, you know, acknowledge it. Accept it. Know how to apologize. “I’m sorry. I’ll do better.” That goes a long way. Those three little things will get you really far.
Zach: Man, you ain’t lyin’, because I have--you know, I have some white male friends, and when they practice those things they just apologize--and we’re friends. Like, they’re some of my closest friends, right? And because they practice those behaviors that you’re talking about we continue to be friends, and actually our relationship gets better after every mess up, and, you know, I’m there with you. I’m curious, you know, before we wrap, do you have any shout outs or any parting words? This has been a dope conversation. I want to make sure anything else you’d like to say or anybody you’d like to thank or just shout out in general, man.
Drew: Ah, thank you for this opportunity and having me on the show. I appreciate it. As I said, the real deal in the household is my wife, Leslie Mac, and she’s on Twitter. You can follow her @LeslieMac. She’s got a Patreon, so you can support her that way, and we’ve got a podcast, Interracial Jawn, and that’s J-A-W-N. We don’t tweet much, but we’d love to have you listen to the show and follow us. But to your last point, let me--my little follow-up to your comment, I really--I have individuals in my life that I’m accountable to, both white and black, and when I mess up and they say, “Hey, you know what, this came off wrong,” or “I think there’s [inaudible] a certain way,” man, that’s like a gift, you know? Not only have I learned not to get fragile and defensive about it, but after I think, like, “Wow, they care enough about me as a person that they’re gonna A. let me know and B. give me an opportunity to do better,” right? Like, you know, if I really don’t like you and you mess up, I’m gonna be like, “Get out of here. Whatever,” but if [inaudible] it’s like, “Hey, you know what? What you did--let me pull you aside and really kind of--” So if you--when you get called in, called out, whichever it is, accept it as a gift because it really is. Honest to goodness, it really, truly is. It’s a gift to be able to learn how to be a better person, and not enough people are willing to receive that gift in the proper way. So be better, white dudes. Me included.
Zach: [laughs] Man, this has been awesome. Look, that does it for us, guys. Thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @LivingCorporate, Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. Check us out on Patreon @LivingCorporate. If you have a question you’d like for us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This has been Zach, and you’ve been talking to Drew, A.K.A. @VeryWhiteGuy. Peace!
Kiara: Living Corporate is a podcast by Living Corporate, LLC. Our logo was designed by David Dawkins. Our theme music was produced by Ken Brown. Additional music production by Antoine Franklin from Musical Elevation. Post-production is handled by Jeremy Jackson. Got a topic suggestion? Email us at email@example.com. You can find us online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and living-corporate.com. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned.