Cultural Diversity: Allowing People To Be Who They Are with Risha Grant

With the current climate, we definitely have become more polarized and everybody seems to be angrier about things. International keynote speaker, diversity trainer, consultant, and author Risha Grant says it’s heartbreaking that we don’t treat each other with respect. We don’t care to hear what other people have to think. We think that our thoughts rule everything else. We don’t allow people to be who they are.  Risha thinks we’re seeing that show up in all these random shootings and stabbings, and it’s crazy. The corporate world is no different. High-level executives are making inappropriate comments still. Risha delves into the subject of cultural diversity, the problems with discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the MeToo movement.

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity

I’m so glad you joined us because we have Risha Grant here. Risha is an international keynote speaker, diversity trainer, consultant, and author. She has the content you need to hear in the environment of MeToo and problems with discrimination in general. She is the go-to expert for this, so the whole show is going to be dedicated to this.

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Cultural Diversity: Allowing People To Be Who They Are with Risha Grant

I am here with Risha Grant, who was named the person to watch in 2018 by Tulsa world. Risha is diversity personified from her race, gender, and lifestyle choices to being a young, small business owner and tackling economic issues. Every area of her life intersects diversity. Her interest in societal-isms like racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and plain old stupid-ism began when she was very young. Instead of playing outside, she was inside playing school or more accurately learning to count, read, and write just in case her darker skin tone cheated her out of an equal education.

Risha would later learn how experiences like these would feed with her biases and with the realization, Risha planned to change the world, starting with one of the reddest states in the nation. You have an interesting bio, Risha. I liked your video where you introduced yourself and you said, “I am a small-town divorced ex-preacher’s wife, ex-division one basketball player, extrovert, bisexual, black woman, and a serial entrepreneur in one of the reddest states in the nation.” That’s quite an introduction. Welcome.

Thanks for having me.

I was looking forward to this because this is such a topic. With the #MeToo Movement and everything going on, your phone must never stop ringing if this is what you’re talking about this to corporations.

It has not stopped ringing. It’s funny that I’ve been doing this for 21 years and I can honestly say this year things have skyrocketed.

This stuff always happens, but nobody was dealing with it, unfortunately.

That’s what made it so slow going is trying to get people to understand and realize the value in it. However you view our President, the current climate is such that between that, and I won’t place it all on him, but with social media and seeing these things happen in real time, it’s definitely turned the tide. I don’t have to sell it anymore.

We definitely have become more polarized and everybody seems to be angrier about things. It is a difficult time and what you’re talking about is trying to get people more on the same playing field.

It’s heartbreaking, honestly. As I go around the country, and even internationally, it’s heartbreaking because we don’t treat each other with respect. It’s that simple. We don’t care to hear what other people have to think. We think that our thoughts are just that, they rule everything else. We don’t allow people to be who they are and we’re seeing that show up in school shootings and all these random shootings and stabbings. It’s crazy.

I don’t know how much is different from when I was younger just because you hear about so much because of social media and so many more media outlets. It definitely seems like it is a lot different. I see within the corporate world, not enough change of what I think you would think you’d see. I see high-level executives making inappropriate comments still. If it’s not meant to be funny what they’re saying, it’s out of stupidity because I don’t think that they’ve been taught any other ways. Is that what it is? 

You bring up a great point. A lot of times, companies call me in and they have an incident or you take some of these incidents and those people, they don’t need diversity training or cultural training. It is just being stupid. You have to know some of that stuff. This person is a jerk or has personality flaws, because on every level you know it’s wrong. Even when you talk about sexual harassment, it’s like, “Do I need to come in and tell you that it’s not okay to grope someone?” It was one of those things. I do think there are gray areas and all of that where people may not know and they may not understand, but some of this stuff, you knew that when you lock the door and lock this person in and you start to grope them that that was wrong. There was nothing about it that you don’t understand.

Where is that coming from? What world is that okay in?

We could give people a break on some of this, but you know better than that.

Some of it is entitlement. I’ve seen it, especially with leaders. They’ve always gotten their way their whole life. Nobody’s ever told them no. How do you deal with that?

It’s one of those things where if it is a situation where it’s privileged or entitlement, then they need to understand what that is. In that case, the training helps, it’s still sometimes to me, I’m scratching my head, but when you go in and tell people, “If someone says, ‘No, I don’t want to do this,’ that’s it. They don’t want to do it.” If you’re standing there with someone and they start using the N word or talking about someone’s weight or making someone feel uncomfortable, what’s my role in that? I always tell people, “Nobody gets a pass. We can’t continue to allow people to say whatever they want to say when we know that it’s hurtful to others, and so how do I do that respectfully?”

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity
Cultural Diversity: It’s hard to explain when you know you’ve been inappropriate; there’s no explanation for that.


I always tell people, “If someone says something like that or does something like that in a crowd and you try to correct them, then it probably will not go over well with them.” You have to always ask yourself, do you want to win or do you want to be right? For me or in those situations, I would pull that person to the side and if they said something that was inappropriate, I would ask, “What did you mean by that exactly?” It’s hard to explain when you know you’ve been inappropriate. There’s no explanation for that. It causes that person to try to explain something that they know they can’t explain than to let them know that that’s not okay.

I find that when you do it in front of a lot of people, you don’t move the needle and the goal is that you don’t want to be right, you want to win. A win means someone’s changed and a win means we’ve moved the needle. I think that’s important because a lot of times people want to lose it on people and curse them out and out and we don’t win that way.

It’s a very challenging situation in the workplace. Sometimes I see situations where traditionally it’s older, white men who have always had this powerful position. Now, things are changing and it’s very hard sometimes for them to see value in somebody that has not done what they’ve done in the past. Maybe they don’t even seem like they discriminate or they have a problem with other people, but they don’t give them any opportunities because why should they? They have never done this before. They don’t fit in the pieces that they see in their mind. How do you get through to somebody like that?

You have to show them how it works. A lot of times you mentioned the word fit into different cultures. That is literally what companies and how companies think. Is this a culture fit? The thing is, do you want everyone who looks like you, talks like you, and has the same background as you, you have to show companies how it will enrich them to have diversity. That’s one of the things that we focus on and there’s a lot of information out there that shows having women on your board, having women in leadership, having people of color on your board and leadership, and the difference in these companies. McKinsey & Company did a report where they showed from 2014, the increase was 15% and it jumped up to 33% or something like that by 2017.

This is above the income that these companies made once they diversified. Having metrics like that and being able to consistently show metrics like that helps to change people. When I first started this twenty years ago, I was focused on, “This is the right thing to do.” Frankly, a lot of companies didn’t care about that, so as long as you’re focused on the economics of it and the competitive advantage, that is what started to turn the tie even from what for me personally for my company. How does it help me to go out in the track, the African-American market, how does it help me to attract the LGBT market or the Hispanic market and be able to show the dollars of that? You’re talking of dollars in disposable income. I would say to a company, “What does 1% of that do for your bottom line?” Then we have some more interest.

I can remember years ago when I was given resumes to screen at a company. They told me to give preference to African-Americans if I could determine that they were African-Americans. I remember talking about this in an HR class and some people said, “Isn’t that reverse discrimination if you’re only looking for somebody not based on their merit but just that?” What do you say to that?

I get that a lot. I look at it as a quota system. I would say most people that I know of color a fall into a diverse category, they don’t want a job simply because of that. They want you to level the same field so that they can apply for the job. A lot of people from those categories will tell you, “Diversity programs make it look like I got the position because of my diversity, not because of what I’m wanting to bring to the table.” I tell any company hiring or firing simply based on diversity, that’s not a good diversity recruitment plan. You want to focus on making sure that you are reaching out in a way that diverse candidates can apply. Sometimes that does require a little more work because we tend to stay in the areas where we’re comfortable or things that we’ve always done before.

The only thing you can control in this world is yourself. Click To Tweet

Say you’re on a college campus, what about all the diverse groups that they have? Make sure that all of the candidates that you have, you have a good array of diverse candidates. Let’s look at our recruitment plan, make sure that everyone knows that we have the openings that we have. How can we build a pipeline? Then we’re going to get qualified people. We don’t want to just focus on diversity, “You’re black, let’s give you preferential treatment. You’re Hispanic, let’s give you preferential treatment.” That doesn’t work for the company or the person. Don’t get me wrong. There are people that want a job simply because of their color, but that’s across the board. You can find that in every race and every category. They don’t want to work hard or they want something for nothing.

Probably the biggest thing is, “Am I going to lose my job because we’re focused on diversity or I’m not going to have the same quality?” The reality is the reason you get the quality question is that before, companies were saying, “Give preferential treatment to this group or that group because of diversity,” and not putting together a plan so that you have the qualified, skilled, diverse professionals applying for the positions. Now, we have a lot of qualified people, all kinds of people to choose from.

Typically, that’s not what was happening. We have this awesome recruitment plan. Everybody is diverse, but for lack of a better term, we’re getting great white people here because we have this great plan. Then when we started going after diverse people, we’re not putting the same type of time into it. There are many ways to attract diverse employees or diverse people to your products and services. You have to be willing to change your thinking a little bit so that you can get the candidates or the people that you want.

It still surprises me the level of what people think and what they say. I can remember being at a dinner where a leader said, “Yes, we’re promoting her because she’s a black woman and there’s no other reason.” I’m thinking, “She’s very bright and very good.” There was no other reason in his mind. You could see that was it. It was at a table full of people and I’m thinking, “Did that just come out of your mouth?”

It’s unreal. I can only imagine how she probably felt.

Fortunately, she didn’t hear it. How can she not feel it? She has a few people down at the table on the same side so she probably didn’t hear it. I thought that just seemed so hard for me to imagine somebody in this day and age would say something like that. Does it surprise you that we have the Harvey Weinsteins or the even the Bill Cosbys or the people that are doing these crazy things? In both white and black, every color are doing these crazy things. I’m sure everybody asks you about those two. I’d like to hear your opinion on what you thought of that.

I don’t think I was surprised by the simple fact of sexual harassment. The breadth of how big it was and it kept unraveling every day. Then I thought, “This is crazy.” When I started to have a conversation with a close friend of mine and he said, “I’m wondering. I’m thinking about this every day because I’ve done some stupid things in my time when I was younger. I remember taking a girl out and we’re having a great time. I knew we were dating for a while. We’d go back to my house and I had to come out of the bathroom with no clothes on.” I said, “Explain to me why you would think that was okay?”

He and I were able to laugh about it because I thought, “I would have told you this.” It’s trying to understand the male mind. What indication did she give you that you thought about coming out of the bathroom with no clothes on? My thinking was that it goes back to privilege and entitlement and all those things. You are literally saying to women, whether you’re saying it outright or not, “You do this in order for you to get this,” and that’s not right on any level.

Then we get all these picture-taking, people sending dirty pictures and different things. Isn’t that making it seem more okay just because everybody’s sharing so much? Is this just a male thing or is it female?

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity
Cultural Diversity: Social media is great in the right context.


Women play into it as well. We need to dial back so many things. Social media is great in the right context, but even if you go take it further than adults, for some reason, kids are thinking that this is okay. Even in middle school, kids are sending pictures of their genitals and things like that. Somewhere along the line, we are messing up. We’re not teaching kids that this is inappropriate. Probably maybe because they see adults doing it, to some degree. I know I have a seventeen-year-old niece and a ten-year-old nephew and I have those kinds of conversations all the time with them.

Yes, women are doing are not exempt from making bad choices and bad mistakes as well. We’re in a place seemingly in the world where anything goes until somebody gets upset. It should be the other way around. Let’s set some parameters here and this is not right and what’s wrong, what’s right. I also think that when you have certain things at the highest level of what’s going on from our president’s office as well, those types of things tend to make things okay as well because people see people in leadership roles doing things like this all the time.

It is interesting to see people in high positions, the Anthony Weiners are going back and doing it over and over again. Whatever he did, what we’ve seen in the highest office, there are so many people doing things that it doesn’t even seem that like it fazes you, everything gets, “While I’ve seen that before.” The shock value is not like it used to be. Is that what you’re saying?

Yes, we are desensitized. It’s the whole reason I started the news. That’s the whole reason I got out of the news because I became desensitized to people dying, to people being hurt, because when you’re in the news, that’s all you do all day is talk about that stuff. In order to get to a place to do the job, you have to learn how to not let it affect you. After certain things happen with kids and all of that, I didn’t want to be a person where a child’s death or something did not affect me, but literally I have to take breaks from social media, from media altogether, simply so that I can maintain the humanity of myself and others because it’s nonstop.

It’s hard for me to watch. It’s the same over and over and it’s so awful. It’s a tough time and what you’re doing by helping people is important. I want to find out what the best things that we could be doing. I know you create an online recruitment tool. You’ve done certain things, you give talks about this, and you have strategies. Are there some tips that you can share that people need to know to make it better in the workplace that we can touch on here?

The biggest thing that I can tell people that I can speak is unconscious bias and learning what those are for you. We all have them. I created a term called BS and it’s a play on the curse word, but it stands for bias synapse and our brain’s role and unconscious bias. There are certain things in unconscious bias, hidden preferences we may have for others. My definition is that it’s an unrecognizable part of our upbringing, the people that we love the most and then you have the media. This is interjected into you most of the time from a small age. I use an example of my grandmother whom I love dearly, but because of the era that she grew up in, I was innocently taught that there’s a mistrust of white people. It was always as you say in my bio, I need to learn how to read, write and count because they may not teach me the way they teach the other children.

I need to get a receipt because they may think I stole something. I need to do all of these things so that I don’t have any problems with them. What that does to you, especially at a young age, is it pits you against another group of people and they haven’t done anything to you at that point, but you feel like you have to watch them because they don’t mean anything good for you. My grandmother had what I call a validated bias because of the negative experiences that she went through. She didn’t want to allow my sister and I to go through them as well and she wanted to make sure that we had a better start in life. You’re leery of people before you even get to know them and then you have a personal experience that reinforces everything. What we have to do is identify what those biases are.

Media reinforces the stereotypes that we have about people. Click To Tweet

One of the exercises I use is you’re on a plane and the middle seat is open. Who’s coming down the aisle? What if it’s an old person, who makes you uncomfortable? We start thinking about your bias. Who makes me uncomfortable? Maybe it’s an obese person. I’m like, “I don’t want them to sit in the middle seat. Maybe the person with a turban is coming down, they’re speaking in Arabic and that makes me uncomfortable, or a person has facial tattoos or sagging pants.” Whatever it is, start assessing why you’re uncomfortable.

Once you can identify your unconscious bias, own it. Own the fact that, “This is how I feel, this is what I’m going through,” but then you have to confront it. In confronting it, that can be several ways to do that. I will invite someone to coffee or lunch or let me get to know this person that I’m uncomfortable with and nine times out of ten, what you find out is that these people that you have an issue with have the same fears, worries, concerns that you have, care about their families. The only thing that’s different is our skin or who they may choose to sleep with at night or any of those things. It’s not the things that should matter to you. You confront it with unconditional love and I know companies hate to think about the touchy-feely stuff, but I’m talking about the total acceptance of humanity kind of love.

Let people be who they are. Let people be authentic. That’s what we don’t do. We want to stuff people in boxes and people don’t fit in boxes. It enriches your life to get to know people that are different from you and you learn a lot if you open yourself up to those things. My tips are identify what your unconscious biases are, own what they are, and then confront it. It’s simple. It’s become so convoluted that we don’t feel like we can handle it anymore, but it’s simply having humanity and giving each other grace.

We don’t do that. We only give grace to the people that look like us or when you look at the whole us versus them dynamic, the people that we feel like fit in with us, we give a lot more grace because we’re a lot more comfortable. The people in the them category, they say one thing that’s off the wall and they may not have actually known that they were being offensive. We will carry that for the next fifteen years and then have an issue with every person who looks like that person for the rest of our lives.

The only thing you can control in this world is yourself. If you control yourself, you’ll start to see the changes at work, the changes in our community, and the changes in our nation. Because as you change and other people change, then we begin to be the change that we want to see. We a lot of times focus on where our company needs to do this. Our community needs to do this. Our president needs to do this. You can’t control any of that, but you can control you. What can you do?

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity
Cultural Diversity: As you change and other people change, then we begin to be the change that we want to see.


Say you’re my boss and you’re an old white guy. Let’s say I’m female, I’m open-minded. I embrace everybody, but I see that you don’t. You make comments and say things and I’ve even confronted you that this person’s great. It doesn’t matter for whatever reason that maybe that they’re leaving them out of something. How do you deal with that from my perspective, if these people have shut their mind down, they’re in a higher level than you are? You like your job, you don’t want to quit, but the people above you have that close mind thinking. What do you do?

In those cases, I tell people you can’t change everybody but you can try your best. Unless that person is open to even having the conversation and open to trying to understand why this is better other than going into HR and having those conversations, you might have to find a different job if it’s going to bother you and it’s going to affect you. Even if you love the job, because to me, that’s where systemic issues start, it’s at the top, if that person is not willing to open up or willing to have that conversation, there’s not much you can do at your level. You can say what you feel. You can send letters, you can talk to HR, you can even ask the CEO or boss out to lunch and talk to them about the issues, but if there’s not a change within them, then you will have to do something else for your own peace of mind.

It’s a hard thing and I see that happens a lot. I love how you broke the cycle and you give your grandmother’s story. How do you think you do that?

Being in Oklahoma, working in diversity has been difficult to say the least. I was frustrated with having five meetings or more with these companies that just could not grasp diversity. Why can’t they understand it and it makes no sense to me. I started to look at myself and I started thinking about conversations that I would have with friends that had to do basically with white people. We’d be at lunch and I’ll say, “Let me tell you what the white people did.” That was a basic conversation because you expect it. You expect that this is going to happen. I thought about, “If I do this work for a living and I still feel like this, how many people out there are coming to the conversations.” You’re hiring, we are having conversations about how we feel about people in our heads versus actually getting to know them as they’re sitting in front of us.

While I’m sitting across from this white male who I’m talking to about diversity, I’m in my head thinking, “He doesn’t care about this, why are you wasting my time?” He may be having a conversation. Those are unconscious biases that are coming out. When I started thinking about that for myself I thought, “You do this for a living every day and you still have all this stuff that you have to work on. These people don’t even do that. They’re not even working on it.” They’re coming to the table, this is why they don’t understand it. It becomes about you instead of about what they’re thinking. It’s always going to pop up because it’s so deeply rooted and then you think about media. Media reinforces the stereotypes that we have about people and we learn a lot of things based on what we see, especially if we don’t have a lot of contact with these other races or groups or what have you.

When I was little, I used to watch Leave It to Beaver and I love Lucy. If you remember, their parents had those twin beds with a nightstand between them. That shows the parents had a full queen, whatever bed like my parents, I go to my friend’s house who’s white. The first time I’ve been to a white person’s house, we’re in an elementary school birthday party. We walked past the parents’ bedroom and I said, “Your parents have a big bed like my parents.” She’s like, “What?” I said, “I thought white parents slept in twin beds.” That’s harmless, it’s my only frame of reference. We learned things about each other based on television and based on the experiences our friends have had. Maybe we’ve had a bad experience and we take that and then apply it to every person that looks like that person.

You have to be intentional about everything that you're doing because if not, it's easy to fall in your own habits. Click To Tweet

For me, I need to understand this from my personal standpoint so that I can teach it to others and understand what I have to work on. If something happens, if it pops in my head that I knew it was going to happen, “This is what white people do.” I know how to cut that off. I recognize it immediately for what it is and what I tell people every day. You have to be intentional about everything that you’re doing because if not, it’s easy to fall in our own habits. I’m a black woman who was raised in a black family, went to a black church, and lived in a black neighborhood. I’m comfortable around black people. If I want to be intentional and say, “I’m going to include other people because they’re going to enrich this party, this conversation,” I have to think outside of that box.

Be intentional, then unpack the boxes. People don’t fit in boxes. We want to look at someone, size him up, we think we know who they are based on all these other factors. Then we throw them in a box because they don’t fit with who we think they should be. You have to challenge or question your assumptions. Ask yourself, “Could my thinking be wrong? Is there any way in which I’m thinking about this that could be wrong?” What’s so difficult about this is we all like to think that we’re good people, but if we will just take a second, it doesn’t mean that we’re not good people. It means that we have a lot of stuff in our heads bundled up, whether it came from the person that you love the most or your personal experiences or media that tells us how to think about people instead of us learning who this person is for ourselves. Address every person as a person, not as a group of people that you may have had an issue with.

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity
Cultural Diversity: Address every person as a person, not as a group of people that you may have had an issue with.


That comes into building authentic relationships. Start to go outside of your box a little bit. Think about even changing your conversation. A lot of people do this, “You’ve got to meet my gay friend.” When I started going to a black doctor, I never had a black doctor before. I’m absolutely in love with her. I was like, “I have a black doctor. You have to have a black doctor. You have to go to her.” We do that. “You have got to meet my straight white male friend.” No one says that.  It’s funny when you think about that. We don’t do that, but we use these descriptors.

Even if you take for instance rape. It’s always, “She was raped.” These many women have been raped, but what about, “He raped her?” You have to change the conversation. We all have to work on that. That’s why I just think if we would start personally, we can then take a company that’s wanting to do this work as well and you have people that are working on themselves. There are companies that are trying to build organic diversity and inclusion strategies, programs, it all begins to work together. You can’t expect one without the other. They won’t work because you’ll always have somebody that’s saying something that’s inappropriate or doing something that’s inappropriate. We all have a job to do.

I teach marketing courses and a lot of what you’re talking about brought something to mind. We talk about what you can have when you’re talking about your company or your products and different things. I have students who will post examples of what you just can’t believe they’ve seen out there. What will fly in different countries, that may not fly so well here. I don’t know if you saw this washing machine ad. It was a guy who was a worker. He was in the house and he was a tall black man. It was an Asian woman doing her laundry and she grabs him. She throws him in the washing machine and she turns it on. She pulls him out as a cleaned-up Asian man.

I was watching a video, they were showing it to different black men to get their opinion of it. You should see their faces watching this. They’re mortified, “What is this? Why would anybody think that that would be appropriate?” There are so many examples of that and you think where are we? If we’re at this point and you’re thinking that that’s okay.

Heineken had a new light beer and they were in a bar and they slid it past all these darker skinned black people until they got to the light instead to say light is good or something. Heineken, I’ve seen them do certain address stuff where they’re touting diversity inclusion. I don’t know who that got passed. We got to pass on this stuff. When you’re that big, at some point you recognize that this happens on a daily basis. I need to have people around the table who can speak to this or show this to people that can tell us if this is going to be offensive. I know that it still has a long way to go for diversity.

Those are impactful. I get this uncomfortable laugh because you can’t believe that this is happening. If you look up that YouTube video, you show that if you’re giving a talk I can watch people’s faces of what the reaction is, it’s mortification. We can laugh about it, but it is horrible. I’m interested in what you think about how people handle things. I remember when I went to school in the ’80s when there was an ethical issue with different companies we were talking about. I remember Tylenol had their scandal where they had people dying because they were tampered with and how well they came up to the rescue. It showed, “We’re going to take care of this,” and they handled it. Recently we had the Starbucks issue. How do you think Starbucks handled that and what’s your opinion of that?

Overall, I thought Starbucks did a great job of dealing with that immediately. The only question I had was what type of environment existed in that store where no one felt like they could say to her, “Are you crazy? Are you thinking about what you’re doing right now? This is wrong. There’s a policy issue that I believe they’ve changed where they had included in their policy that people can come to their stores and not have to buy anything and hang out. Everybody always thought that until this incident happened. I thought as far as their reaction and what they did, I thought was great. I was interviewed by quite a few people and a lot of people seemed upset where they’re going to do a half-day training. What does that mean? It’s a start. I go in and I’d do an hour keynote all the time. It’s a start. It plants a seed and hopefully they will continue to work on those issues.

Frankly, when you have a company of that magnitude, you do the best you can in hiring. There are going to be some people that slips through the cracks. I think the organization overall has tried to do things within their organization that speaks to diversity and inclusion. They did a great job. They handled it quickly. I thought those two young men were amazing in the sense of how they handled it as well. You think about the impact. I always say the price of inclusion is a lot cheaper than the price of exclusions. To close all the stores for any amount of time was an astronomical loss for them, but they needed to do something and it plants a seed.

Media tells us how to think about people instead of us learning for ourselves who this person is. Click To Tweet

The only thing I would ask about that and I see this a lot when you have these issues. They go in and they’re bringing in names, people that, yes, they care about their community, but in my opinion, don’t have the background diversity inclusion like who was studying this. Who was the trainer that this is what they do? It’s great to have your celebrities involved to say, “We’re here and we’re helping.” I never saw who the actual people were that were engaged in and helping to create change.  As I was looking at it, I saw all of those people, I thought, “Okay, but who is doing who is putting this curriculum together? Who’s doing the work?” I’m not sure that they could’ve done anything differently. People are going to have something negative to say all the time, but they reacted as quickly as possible. They got on that.

There are so many reactions, there are so many things that you’re dealing with. Especially you mentioned with the current office of the president, different things that are going on, talking about deportation, talking about Muslims, talking about all the things. There’s so much focus on that. What do you think about having this dialogue going on about who we want in the country, who we don’t want in the country, and what religions are okay and what religions are not okay? Have we moved forward or move backward? What do you think it’s been since the latest president?

I’m not sure we’re moving at all. The moves that we are making are negative in my eyes. I don’t know the answer to immigration, but I know treating people and separating kids from their parents is seemingly not the right answer. I can’t imagine my ten-year-old nephew having to be separated from us. I can’t imagine the anguish that will cause. I know how I feel when he doesn’t answer the phone after a couple of times that I’ve called. I can only imagine what people in that situation is thinking. For me, America was built on immigrants and through immigrants. It’s what’s made America, America. I do think there has to be something because I’m looking at these other countries that are taking in so many people and I can’t remember country it is that they’ve taken in so many people that it started to affect the country. I know that there has to be some type of policies in place and surrounding it, but we’re not getting it right at all.

It’ll be interesting to see what the changes will be. After 9/11, there was so much focus on the Middle East and Muslims. Do you think that we’re getting any closer to people getting together in the workplace with different religions or do you deal with that at all?

I deal with that a little bit. To be Muslim in America to me, and this is probably not a politically correct thing to say, it’s almost worse than being African-American. I have a good friend of mine who was in the military and he says, “I struggle when I see Muslims because those were the people that were trying to kill me when I was in the military where I was stationed in. I have to talk to myself when I see them.” I don’t have that same experience, so I don’t feel like that, but I do remember being in an airport and this guy was obviously Muslim and he was talking in Arabic and he was a little agitated and I remember getting concerned and worried about what’s going on. I have an idea what he’s saying. I still had the presence of mind to be respectful and to not allow to escalate, but literally, you could see everyone’s faces. It probably wouldn’t matter as much if he wouldn’t have been so agitated, but he could have been in an argument with his wife, who knows.

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity
Cultural Diversity: You have to treat people for who they are.


As what history had shown us, we simply go to, “What’s going on here? There’s something about to happen.” We all react to that. All Muslims aren’t terrorists. It’s just that it seems that most terrorists are Muslims and you can go on and on with that analogy. You have to treat people for who they are. When your heart tells you to take precaution though, that’s the whole thing with bias. Bias can be good or bad. Your brain will alert you in a certain situation, it will alert you to danger. You have to add to that, but our brains also work on autopilot so you have to know when to turn that off.

Think about driving home. A lot of times you drive home and you don’t remember if you ran a light or a stop sign or anything, just look up and you’re at home, because your brain was on autopilot. If you had any of situation that’s negative with certain people, your brain will alert you to that. When do you turn it off? When do you recognize it for what it is? That’s the work that we have to do because I don’t think we’re getting better with Muslims, especially in Oklahoma. All the way to our state legislators, the things that have been said in the media toward Muslims are just horrible.

It’s amazing how everybody lumps everybody into one room. All Muslims are this or all Christians are that. It’s such a huge group that if you have a certain number of people who are messed up, you can’t just say that they’re all messed up. I don’t get that thinking, but it happens all the time. I don’t think the media helps obviously. I could even remember feeling uncomfortable after 9/11. I was stuck in Dallas on 9/11. I had to wait for the very first plane to open up to get on. There was almost no one in the airport at that point. It was eerie and there were maybe ten people on the airplane.

You mentioned how you look to see whose come to sit down next to you in the middle. I never looked at that, I don’t want anybody sitting next to me. I like my room. It’s an equal opportunity, no one sitting next to me personally, but that was the first time I can remember ever looking at somebody thinking, “Do I have to worry about you?” I think that when your safety becomes an issue, people just panic and don’t think clearly anymore.

Our brains work on autopilot. You have to know when to turn that off. Click To Tweet

We don’t. That’s the word that we have to do is asking ourselves certain questions and being cognizant of what our issues are. If we would do that, at least we would react better to certain situations.

What can we do as employees on a day-to-day basis to get better at this in the workplace? Give us some tips. Is there anything else that you think that we need to be doing that we’re not doing?

Those are the main things, being intentional. Questioning your assumptions, challenging the haters and building authentic relationships. The thing is we’re so busy that when you give people a lot of stuff, and nothing gets done, these are things that you can be cognizant of every day and start working toward and recognizing when you have a certain thought, every time you see this certain person, you have a thought in your mind about them. “Is that accurate? How can I change the way I’m thinking? Why don’t I get to know this person? We worked together for twenty years, maybe I should ask them for coffee.” You begin to build an authentic relationship with them, which then helps you to recognize and realize that the thoughts I had about this person are based on something that happened with a totally different person. The same skin color does not mean that that’s the same person.

I had a woman tell me, “Two black guys assaulted me in my early twenties and I am very scared when I see black men. I get so nervous.” I said, “If two white men had assaulted you, would you feel the same way?” She said, “I honestly don’t think so.” I said, “For me when I’m uncomfortable around somebody, I don’t care what color they are. If you make me uncomfortable, I don’t care who you are, I’m going to get off that elevator.” If you know that, then you know that you have to tell yourself, “These were these two guys, these two guys are not representing everybody in their race, just like you were with the white guys.” Those are the kind of questions we have to ask ourselves.

If you think about it, who are the serial killers? It’s a lot of white guys.

It’s funny how certain crimes you’re always surprised if it’s not that person. You’re like, “I thought it was going to be.”

The Ted Bundys creep in there and you can’t generalize. For safety, I’m sure you have all that to deal with that. What are the top topics that you would like organizations to talk to them about? Is it always diversity? Is there a particular topic that you would like them to know you speak about?

Definitely unconscious bias, building an inclusive culture, and then just about just about anything within diversity. I’ve also been in business for twenty years I can also talk about leadership. I do very interactive workshops when I’m not doing a keynote that is engaging. In my keynote, you’re going to walk through my BS, but in the workshop, we’re going to walk through your BS, and actually help people identify it when they’re confronted and come up with ways for the company to deal with some of the internal issues that they may be having.

What’s great is you get to hear different perspectives from your coworkers. You may think this coworker is just a jerk, but you learn through different discussion that they’re dealing with some pretty heavy stuff that has nothing to do with you before ever walk in the doors of their job. It’s great to experience the workshops. I have a book called That’s B.S: How Bias Synapse Disrupts Inclusive Cultures and the Power to Attract Diverse Markets.

Question your assumptions, challenge the haters, and build authentic relationships. Click To Tweet

How do they reach you to get your book and to schedule you to speak and reach you in general?

They can go to, and if they want to call, that’s 918-581-8900.

I wanted to make this into a whole show because it is so fascinating because it’s such a big topic. I can’t think of anybody better qualified base on your bio of the things that you’ve talked to organizations about and just your real-life experience. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Thanks for having me. This was a blast.

You’re welcome.

I was very fascinated by all of her information. She’s got such a great background. I love her introduction. What she’s talking about is so important with the #MeToo Movement and everything else going on. I hope you take some time to check out her site and find out what she does because she does some amazing things. If you’ve missed any past episodes, we have so many great people like Risha on the show. You can find them at If you want to know more about my new book on curiosity that’s coming out, it’s

About Risha Grant

TTL 246 | Cultural Diversity

Risha Grant was named the “Person to Watch in 2018” by Tulsa World. Risha is diversity personified. From her race, gender and lifestyle choices, to being a young, small business owner and tackling economic issues, every area of her life intersects diversity. Her interest in societal isms like racism, sexism, ageism, classism and plain old stupidism began when she was very young, instead of playing outside, she was inside “playing” school — or more accurately — learning to count, read and write, just in case her darker skin tone cheated her out of an equal education. Risha would later learn how experiences like these would feed into her biases and with that realization, Risha planned to change the world, starting with one of the reddest states in the nation.

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