Episode 20: I’m Stressed

Karen Clark Cole, William Vanderbloemen, and especially Dana White have a painful, impassioned, uncomfortable conversation about trying to position their businesses and lead people in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuring protests. What do we tell customers? What do we tell employees? What do we tell black employees? Dana challenges us to take a stand—even if it’s uncomfortable—especially if it’s uncomfortable: “This is not about being comfortable. As business owners, you're either over there or you're over here.”

Episode 20: I'm Stressed

Guests:

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

William Vanderbloemen is founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

Karen Clark Cole is co-founder and CEO of Blink.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Episode Highlights:

Dana White: “This is not about being comfortable. As business owners, you’re either over there or you’re over here.”

Dana White: “Have I feared for my life when I’ve been pulled over? Yes. Has a gun been drawn on me because I left my blinker on too long? Yes. Have I been followed around the store more times than I care to admit? Do I have to tolerate the ignorance of people who are well meaning? Absolutely.”

Dana White: “For those of you that have black employees, please know that they are in their car taking a minute before they come to work today. And it is your responsibility to do all that you can to create a safe space.”

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
I want to talk about where each of your businesses stand, what’s going on with each of them, but we’ve been through a couple of weeks unlike anything, I think, any of us have ever experienced. It’s kind of almost been forgotten, but I think we’re still experiencing a pandemic. And then, of course, that has been compounded by the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

As we’re recording this on Friday, June 5th, I think we’ve had 11 days of protests that have followed and obviously that’s had an impact on all of us. I guess I’d like to start by just asking each of you how you’re processing these events. Karen, maybe I’ll start with you. Seattle, where Blink is based, has been in the news every night. There have been protests there. What has this been like for you and for Blink?

Karen Clark Cole:
It’s been hard. It’s been a long week for sure. I don’t have all the words. And that’s…

Loren Feldman:
That’s understandable.

Karen Clark Cole:
That’s been part of the problem. I can tell you one thing that has struck me, as an individual and the leader of a company that has been most surprising and difficult, is that many of our employees—and if you include our contractors, we’re about 140 altogether of people who do work for us in five offices, so we’re not just in Seattle, we’re around the country—a lot of them are expecting me personally, as the representative of Blink, to be their voice. And I tell you, that’s not something that I expected. I wasn’t quite ready for that.

I spend a lot of time in my life, personally, having a voice and using it and having a platform, certainly with my nonprofit. For me, it’s more of an angle of encouraging girls. But the idea that now I’m representing how to stop racism and how to have a fair and just society. I just don’t feel qualified to be fighting for justice on behalf of many people. But at the same time, I’m seeing it as my responsibility, like it or not, and so I’m doing my best to rise to the occasion and to really listen carefully as to what people’s struggles are in our company and, of course, in the whole country and the whole world.

We have a company forum once a month, and we used it on Thursday to talk about issues of race and justice, equality. I tried to explain to people that it’s incredibly difficult and the responsibility is enormous for me to get it right. I was just open and honest with him about how I need their help to get it right, and we’re not going to get it right the first time. Then I asked them to remember that they all have their own voices, and they don’t need to rely on the company to do that for them. I think a lot of them haven’t seen that yet. They’re young, and they don’t realize it—at least this is all I can imagine—they don’t realize yet that they have their own voice.

Yes, you want to work for a company who believes in equality and mirrors their values, and that’s really important, because that’s the only way we’re going to get companies to change, and therefore, parts of society. But I’m encouraging them: Get out there and use your voice. They all have incredible power that they don’t even know that they have. I sort of switched my message to be less about, “Let’s figure out how the company can do it right,” and more about, “How do we empower our 150 people?” because that’s a lot. That’s a big voice when you put them all together.

Loren Feldman:
One of the things that I do want to ask all of you about is the notion that you addressed, Karen, of speaking out as a company. I have to admit, I personally have mixed feelings about that. I certainly get why it’s important for companies to especially let their employees know where they stand. But also, I got an email from Uber, and you know what? I don’t really want to hear from Uber about this.

Karen Clark Cole:
Yeah, Loren, I felt the same way on Monday when it hit me hard that that was expected, and it better be good. But I’m all for making a statement, because of the resounding response I got from our employees was, “This is helping me. Keep on. Keep on.”

I think about my own self. I want to be in a place that I know values my beliefs, at least at the macro level, and so we didn’t send out an email, but there’s a place where someone can come and find it. I think that’s the appropriate place. We posted on our usual social channels, but I agree, I don’t think we should be pushing it into people’s faces, in terms of a company statement.

Loren Feldman:
How about you, William? You happen to be in Houston, which is George Floyd’s hometown. What has this been like for you and your business?

William Vanderbloemen:
Well, Loren, I think the way you phrase that question is exactly how I have, for right or wrong, tried to think through this. What’s this like for me, and then my business? For me personally, the whole convergence of a death in Georgia, a death in Minnesota, a death… it feels different this time to me. It has been a personal wake-up call to me and made me drop back and realize… I’ve had some really great black friends, and a lot of African-American clients. Most of the large, historic African-American churches are our clients. But even with all that, I think I’m realizing this week, I thought, “I get it,” and I don’t at all. I got no clue.

So that’s me, and then you get to my business. Our business serves—whether it’s a Christian school, or a Christian nonprofit, or a church, which is kind of the backbone of the business—the church, when it’s getting things right, has always been at the center of saying, “No, you reach out to the other.”

I saw a friend of mine post, “We can agree to disagree on almost everything except racism.” Our client base, if you want to move past me to the business side, really does expect to hear from us. You mentioned Uber. Adrian, my wife, said, “Why is Lululemon emailing me about race? It seems contrived.” For us, it’s not. It’s a summons. If I don’t say something, then that is saying something.

So for us, in our very unusual circumstance, I wanted to wait. I didn’t want to be presumptuous. I didn’t want to say, “Look at all the great things we’ve done, and all the wonderful African-American churches or black gospel churches…” We didn’t do any of that.

I put a statement out yesterday that was just, “Here’s where I am.” Now I have an advantage. My last name is the name of the company. So if I send it out, it is the statement, right? It’s early, but I spent all day yesterday, responding to people asking if they had permission to reprint, asking if they could send it to their staff, thanking me for admitting that I don’t know what I’m doing and that I want to learn.

Loren Feldman:
William, how did you articulate that? What did you say in the statement, if you can summarize?

William Vanderbloemen:
I said, for starters, I haven’t been a real Christian or a faithful person my whole life. So there’s a chapter in my life where I got pulled over by the police very regularly, and for good reason. But I never ever once feared for my safety. I’ve moved into new neighborhoods, and I’ve had people say welcome to the neighborhood, but I’ve never ever ever had someone come up to me and say, “Do you really belong at this pool?” I go to a restaurant. I ask for a table. Usually I get a decent table, sometimes the one I want. But I’ve never had the recurring issue of, “Why are they putting me back here?”

One of my closest friends is an African American whose dad converted to a Muslim during the Cat Stevens era. He has a horrible last name, and he’s black, and when we go to the airport together, I just budget extra time, because it’s gonna take a while. That’s sad. But those are all things that he’s really dealt with, and I guess I just realized, I don’t get it. I don’t get it. That’s where I started with the piece. I moved into [how] Mr. Floyd’s death happened right at Pentecost in the church, which has Jewish and Christian roots. I talked a little bit about that. And then, at the end, I just told a story. I tried to share places where I don’t get it.

At the risk of spending two or three minutes, I lucked out and got to go to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History some time back on the fly at the end of the day, I went by myself. I’ve never been in a museum where they don’t have to tell people to be quiet except this one. If you’ve been there, you go down the elevator to the basement. You start about six floors below the ground, and you’re on kind of a mocked up slave ship. It’s crowded, and it’s dark, and the sounds are weird. You make your way up, and it’s not overdone. It’s not political. It’s just real. I remember getting past the Civil War and past slavery and thinking, “Okay, finally things are gonna get better.”

I got to the segregation floor where you walk through a train car, and right in front of me was this biracial couple, a young couple with a little daughter who couldn’t have been more than three, four years old, maybe five. We were walking through the train car, and she looked at her mother, and she said, “Mama, where would you have sat?” And the mother said, “Well, I would have sat up here in front with all the white people.” And she said, “Well, where would Daddy have sat?” And she said, “Well, Daddy would have sat back there with all the black people.” I’m listening to this in the back, and I’m like, “Oh my God. Am I really hearing this?”

As only a kid could say, she said, “So where would I sit?” which is a great question. And the mother said, “You know, it would have been illegal for Daddy and me to get married back then, so I don’t think you’d be here at all.” And I was just like, “Ah, I don’t get it.” And I shared stories like that.

I just tried to share where I am and be transparent and let the chips fall where they will. Not because it’s right. My PR company said, “We need to start some listening sessions,” and I was like, “No, no, that is not the point.” I know I’ve dominated the time with this answer, so I’ll be quiet, but I’m just trying to share what’s going on in my heart and hope that spills out into how the company reacts.

Loren Feldman:
So, Dana, obviously, this is different for you than for the rest of us. I suspect you’re not learning things the way we are. You’re not realizing things that you didn’t know. This is something you’ve known all too much about. How has this been for you?

Dana White:
I’m stressed.

Loren Feldman:
That’s certainly understandable.

Dana White:
I’m stressed. I’m stressed. Even on this call, I’m stressed.

Loren Feldman:
Are we making you more stressed?

Dana White:
No, please don’t. I’m on this call as I am in life: the only one. That’s not Loren’s fault, or it’s not that you designed it that way. I wanted to be on this call because I don’t have a choice, meaning I can’t not be Dana on this call and in this life. Nor would I want to be.

As a company, Paralee Boyd is Waterford Crystal clear. You walk into my salon, as you have, and you’re Waterford Crystal clear. I have gotten backlash for my statement. I’ve had advice, “Maybe you shouldn’t do that with the pictures on the wall.” I have stood my ground and said, “No, I have created a place for women who look like me to come in and see themselves reflected in every part of that salon.” And I’m unapologetic for it, and will remain so, and all of my locations will do so. So if that tells you you’re not welcome, that’s on you.

We are devastated by what happened to George Floyd, but we are not surprised. George Floyd has gotten more attention than everybody else because this is what America is. We don’t have the luxury of not dealing with it. We deal with it every day. We don’t have the luxury of, “Well, you know, this isn’t the time or the place.” It’s always time.

Have I feared for my life when I’ve been pulled over? Yes. Has a gun been drawn on me because I left my blinker on too long? Yes. Have I been followed around the store more times than I care to admit? Do I have to tolerate the ignorance of people who are well meaning? Absolutely. I’m stressed.

You’re right, William. George Floyd is different. You’re absolutely right. Silence is compliance, as well as convenience is compliance. This is not about being comfortable. This is about you’re either over there, or you’re over here. As business owners, you’re either over there or you’re over here. I’m sorry, Loren, that Uber sent you something in your inbox that you didn’t feel was appropriate space. I’m sorry it’s in your face. Don’t defend yourself. You make a stand. You take a stand.

I’ve gotten emails too and I’m going to read you a snippet of one from somebody who is a business owner who drew a line in the sand. A snippet says, “It is gut-wrenching that these things still need to be said, but now was the time to speak up and make it unquestionably clear: Black Lives Matter. We stand for love, equality and change, and we reject all forms of social injustice, systematic violence, and murder. We stand in solidarity with all those working to rid our country of racism.” And that is just one line. He took a stand for his staff, for his customers, and he’s not worried about his revenue. That is a stand.

It’s so hard for people to say, “Black Lives Matter.” They do. You’re either over there, or you’re over here. And if you’re uncomfortable over here, ask yourself why. I’m stressed. I can’t tell you how many groups on Facebook that I’m a part of, how many people find this so hard to take a stand. I’m stressed on this call because I face this call like I face the world, knowing that I am on here alone. It’s no time to be comfortable. Was George Floyd comfortable? He wasn’t comfortable. No. Why? I’m very passionate about it. And if I’m making you uncomfortable, so be it. This is my truth, and I matter.

As a business owner, I say what I say because I have over 19 young black women looking at me, and black men. As a business owner, you have customers, you have staff who are looking at you. It’s okay that you don’t know, that you let them know you’re figuring it out. It is your responsibility as a leader, and yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it’s supposed to be, but you carry [on] the best way you can. You empower their voices. But as the leader of that company, yours is the loudest. Heavy is your crown. You stand for your customers and for their staff, because we’re all looking right now. We’re looking to see.

I’m getting tons of text messages and emails: “Did you see they said nothing? Did you see what they said?” We are making decisions. That’s how it’s different for us. We are deciding who we deal with and how we deal with them. Because when faced with it, what did they do? How did they do it? There is no judgment. You all have done what you feel best, as I have done, and I’m saying what I feel best. The answer to your question again, Loren: I’m stressed because I face this call as I do the world—as a black woman. I’m done.

Loren Feldman:
Well, let me just say, I checked with you beforehand to make sure that you knew I was going to raise this and that you were okay with my doing that.

Dana White:
Absolutely.

Loren Feldman:
And I did that knowing that you would be you, that you would tell us what you really thought.

Dana White:
I’m smiling at you right now. I’m smiling at you. You can’t see me, but I’m smiling at you.

Karen Clark Cole:
Dana, I want to thank you.

Loren Feldman:
Well, that’s where I was going, too. I was just going to finish the thought that I think Karen wants to express as well, which is, I think you’ve shown us a certain amount of respect actually by saying what you really believe, and we wouldn’t want anything else.

William Vanderbloemen:
Agreed.

Dana White:
I said, “Yes” when you called me. I thought of not being on this call because I’m tired and I’m stressed. But I thought about it, and I control how I am on this call. What would have stressed me out is to make you all comfortable. People ask me, “Dana, what should I do?” And I’ve told my friends, “Go figure it out.”

And even as business owners, even in business, whether you’re making a decision as to how to deal with race, if you’re making a decision on how to grow your company, or making a decision on what paper to put in your printer, you might make a mistake. But you pivot, and you move on. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake in this, just as in every other aspect of your business. Is this big? Yes. Should you get some counsel? If you can. But don’t be afraid to make a mistake and be honest about who you are. You know what, I’ve talked to a business owner who was like, “Honestly, I just don’t care enough about black lives to do or say anything.” Okay, I don’t agree, but that’s his stance. He’s wrong.

Loren Feldman:
Let me ask you, Dana, with regard to the messages that have been sent out by corporations, my concern has been that some have just seemed insincere. Are you saying that it’s better to send—to address it in any way that you can—than not to address it at all? Is that the point that you’re making?

Dana White:
Kinda, and it’s hard, because for some people, it’s enough. For others, it’s not. But I agree with you. Some of it is, “Let’s just get something out,” this pacified, placating thing that is done. George Floyd’s murderer didn’t get arrested because they thought he was wrong. They did it to pacify us. That’s the same thing. Some of these companies aren’t putting things up because they think it’s wrong. They’re doing it because, “Well, we don’t want to be seen as…” How many of these businesses are actually looking at who they are as companies, who we are as people, as leaders?

So, you’re right. Some of them I read, and I was like, “Okay.” I mean, they put up something, I guess, and for some people who read it, it’s enough. But I haven’t seen anything as powerful as what I’ve seen in the snippet that I read to you, that is like, “Oh, he’s Waterford Crystal clear.” It’s amazing.

Loren Feldman:
How are your employees doing, Dana?

Dana White:
From what I understand, they’re saying, “Same thing, different day.” But will they get convicted? Probably not. Lesser charge, get a slap on the wrist. That’s what we’re waiting for, what we know. We’re waiting for what we know.

They’re hurt. They’re upset. They’re tired. But this is America. We know where we live. We know where we are. And we know what this country thinks of us and people who look like us. I think what made the George Floyd murder different for us was the officer’s look in the camera. Every time I talk to somebody, it’s how he looked in the camera as if he knew he could do it. So my employees are shrug shoulders, hurt, upset, tears, but we’ll see. This is America.

Loren Feldman:
Dana, I listened to Al Sharpton’s eulogy yesterday and I found it very moving. I think he, in some ways, made some points that you’ve made to us. He also said that he thinks this time is different, that he’s more hopeful this time, that he sees signs that there might be change now. Did you hear that? Do you feel that?

Dana White:
I didn’t hear the eulogy. I don’t know why I missed the eulogy yesterday. But the thing that makes this time different… I love seeing the diversity in the protests.

Loren Feldman:
That’s exactly what he mentioned.

Dana White:
Okay. Yeah, I didn’t see it. But I love seeing the diversity in the protests. I think it makes it different going forward. I think we are years and years and years away from it not being okay, that it’s never done again. Newsflash: there will be somebody else. There will be another George Floyd. George Floyd was not the last black man to die unnecessarily at the hands of white cops. This is not the last one. The change I see is the seed for the change to come. Not the change that is needed now. No, no, and I’m hopeful. But it’s not, it’s not. This is the seed planted, and this is the seed that’ll take root. But it still needs to grow, still needs to blossom, still needs to bloom. It still needs to be fertilized and watered.

But George Floyd unfortunately—and I pray I’m wrong… oh, that’d be beautiful if I was wrong—I would love it if George Floyd was the last one. But I don’t. This is America. I’m watching the protesters. I’m watching the police. He won’t be the last one. Racism is who we are. It’s in our fabric, built on it. And unfortunately, in my humble opinion, in my regretful opinion, he will not be the last. Unfortunately. I pray he is. God knows I do. I’m in love with a black man. I have a black brother. I pray George Floyd is the last.

Loren Feldman:
I think you could tell from what Karen said at the beginning, what William said, and I would add myself to them as well, that we’re trying to figure out how to process this. And I suspect a lot of the people who listen to this podcast are going through that as well. If you don’t feel like you want this weight on your shoulders, I respect that completely and you don’t have to respond. But if you do have some guidance for us, some suggestions, especially in terms of what we as business leaders say to the public, what we as business leaders say to our employees, what we as business leaders say to our black employees, I would welcome that. But again, this should not be on your shoulders.

Dana White:
No, I trust you. I’ve always told you, I trust you. And so I’ll say this: Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable. Growth and change is uncomfortable. And keep going and don’t be afraid. When you are standing on the side of right, and it’s uncomfortable, don’t be afraid. And then if you get upset when you’re uncomfortable, if you are uncomfortable because of what I said, or of what you’ve heard, or of protesters, find the opportunity to grow and ask yourself why.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Therein lies the change, right? It’s also okay not to know. I want you guys to be gentle with yourselves, but keep going. Be gentle. I say that to everybody I’ve talked to who’s like, “Dana, I’m just not where you are.” Well, you wouldn’t be, right? You wouldn’t be where I am. It’s a lot to ask, but stop trying or don’t try to initiate change or growth on your end comfortably, especially when it comes to race in America. And keep going.

For those of you who have black employees, for those of you who have black clients, especially for those of you who have black employees, please know that we’re tired. Please know that if you—like I have been several times—the one or two or three black employees in an office full of people who don’t look like me, know that they are in their car taking a minute before they come to work today. And it is your responsibility to do all that you can to create a safe space. We are tired, and they are nervous because they don’t know what they’re gonna get. But you make it better for them when you make a public statement that says, “Not here,” when you say to your clients, “Not here. We are on the side of human rights and black lives matter in this place. Your lives matter. We see you. I love you. And you are enough.”

People don’t say that. Nobody said it to me. I was so mad at Barack Obama for running for president. I was so mad at him because of the position he put me in at work. I was very proud of him. But there was a side of me that was like, “Come on, Barack.”

Loren Feldman:
What do you mean by the position he put you in? Meaning that you had to defend him at every turn?

Dana White:
I had to answer for him. I had to become a deputy of the colored in my workplace. Everything he said that made them uncomfortable, I had to say, “No, no, no. He didn’t mean that. No, no, no, he’ll be your president, too. No, no, no.” Because the alternative was to let them leave the break room thinking wrong. And I felt I owed it to that man to tell the truth, or to bat away ignorance. So as business owners, for those of you who have clients and for those of you who have people who work for you—not people of color, black people. People of color are not under the knee of the Minneapolis police department. Black people.

Be very clear as to that line in the sand: “Black lives matter. Human rights. This is where we are on the side of human rights. I love you, I support you, and you are safe here. I may not have all the answers. I may not be eloquent. I may not know the right words to say, but I’ll tell you what, not here. Be very clear. And it should go out. Should it be private? No. This is where we stand on this issue. That’s why this instance with George Floyd is different, because it gives you an opportunity to take a stand. That’s what you say to your staff. Please know that your staff is struggling, please know. They’ll never show you because they’re not sure if it’s safe, and even if it is, you are still their boss. You are not their friend. But they will note and remember what you did to make them safe. Your customers will remember what you did and how you stood. They will remember. They may not stop working with you, but they’ll file it away. They’ll know. That’s it. Nobody’s asking you to be eloquent. Nobody’s asking you to be Reverend Al Sharpton. Nobody’s asking you to be Jane Elliott. Just be clear, crystal clear.

Loren Feldman:
So I unfairly put Dana on the spot. I guess I’ll do it to William and Karen, too. After what we’ve heard, and we only have a few moments left, William, any thoughts?

William Vanderbloemen:
Just that I… don’t know what I’m doing. And for all the work we’ve done to say that we’re working toward diversity, we’re hiring toward diversity, we’re working with churches, that I don’t understand. I mean, that’s the big learning for me. We’re trying to learn how to understand and hopefully some good dialogue and intentional listening will help me and help our company.

Because it’s different as a white guy. It’s different this time. It’s just different. I don’t know why. Maybe God’s doing something in my heart. And I know I’m getting spiritual on a business podcast when I say that, but maybe it’s just something going on in me… I hope to understand better and to take actions that reflect it.

Loren Feldman:
Karen, any thoughts?

Karen Clark Cole:
Um, I’m listening. I’m just listening. You know, I’m listening to our employees. And I think what Dana said about creating a safe space is really critical. That’s the one thing that I feel like I can do and so I’m working hard at doing that. Then we’ll see what we have to do next, or what we should do or need to do or are empowered to do. But I’m listening.

Loren Feldman:
As I said, it had been my intention to go around and talk to each of you about how each of your businesses are doing. Somehow that doesn’t seem appropriate at this point.

Karen Clark Cole:
I think we just summarized it, Loren. Our businesses are suffering. Our businesses are made up of people, and so it’s not like the business lives on its own. I think Dana’s words are exactly describing how certainly everyone I come in contact with is feeling. It’s… it’s hard. It’s hard for me. And so I think that’s exactly how our businesses are doing.

Dana White:
I guess I have a question. I’ve heard, “It’s hard. It’s hard. It’s hard.” I don’t understand how it’s hard. It’s not, “I don’t understand why it’s hard.” That’s not a judgment question. It is literally a… I don’t know why it’s hard. I’m like, “I don’t know. Let me ask somebody so I can get an answer.” I’m not, “I can’t believe it’s hard.” No, that’s not how I feel. I feel like, “Huh, I wonder why it’s hard.” It’s hard. Like I think both of you guys said, “It’s hard.” Tell me how it’s hard.

Karen Clark Cole:
I’m not sure how to answer it, honestly, except it’s the opposite of easy. I mean, knowing how to represent 140 people for me—and making sure I don’t screw it up—feels hard. It’s the weight of the responsibility. You know, I’m really sad and disheartened by the whole thing, and that is hard. It’s just… maybe it’s the word that I use and it could be a different word.

Loren Feldman:
I think maybe the question Dana is asking, Karen, is, “Is it hard for you to know where you stand?” Is that what’s hard about it? Or is it hard to articulate where you stand?

Karen Clark Cole:
No, it’s hard to believe, honestly. There aren’t words for it. I just think it’s hard. I don’t understand why… You know, it’s too big of a… I don’t want to… anything I say is gonna sound like it’s not big enough.

Dana White:
It’s not.

Karen Clark Cole:
But I just can’t believe that this is how the world is. I think it’s hard for me to get my head around it. Because it’s just not anything that I have any close… I don’t understand it. It makes no sense to me. It’s not right. It’s awful. And again, these aren’t the right words, but I’m just, all of it is just… the weight of it is hard.

Loren Feldman:
William, were you going to say something?

William Vanderbloemen:
I guess what’s hard for me is to get my mind around what you’ve lived through. I think that’s what I’m understanding. It’s not hard for me to understand what’s going on. Our statement that I wrote, I thought, “Boy, William, if you really are realizing that you don’t get it, then you better ask some opinions.” I sent it to several black pastors who I’m good friends with. I sent it to my workout buddy, who’s a black guy and said, “What do you see when you read this? Where are the blind spots?” Because I’ve got them. I’m realizing it’s a blind spot.

Karen Clark Cole:
I think that was a great question, William.

William Vanderbloemen:
Well, it’s interesting. The one thing that several of them said to take out of the statement—I’d said somewhere, “We have got to start reflecting behavior that will prevent things like this senseless lynching that happened.” And all of them said, “Don’t use that word.” And I said, “Why not?” “When you say the word ‘lynching,’ it’s going to raise opinions and you’re going to argue over this.” I said, “I’m sorry, I’m using it.” Because that’s what it was.

Dana White:
I think it’s great, I think it’s great.

William Vanderbloemen:
And honestly, I get to use that word, and maybe my friend who’s black doesn’t because it makes him sound victimized or whatever. But I get to say it, and it is what it was. So understanding where I am is really easy. Understanding how I learn what I don’t know is the hard part for me. So I’m just trying to listen, and I know that sounds lame. I hope it doesn’t sound evasive, but that is where I am.

Dana White:
I think, Karen, you did it. I think you did it. I think when you make a company statement, when you’re trying to find the words, what to say to all hundred and some-odd people, you say… It’s like being the pilot of the ship. You don’t run back and say, “Oh my god, this plane is about to crash and I’m really nervous and I don’t know…” No, no, no. You go back, and you say, “I can’t believe this is happening. I am sad.” Everything that you said, I’m like, “She just said it.” You did. I’m nodding with you. I’m sitting here smiling. I’m like, “Yeah, okay.” You said it! And I think if you don’t know what to say to your staff, you are your company. Start there and make the statement as the leader of your company: “I am sad. This hurts me.”

I think when you tell them, when you share with them your struggle with it, you’re giving them part of your struggle and saying, “Help me with this.” I think that’s something you should do behind the scenes with people you trust. My leadership style is I want my staff to see that I am in the ground. I’m right there. Not so much strong, but I’m not changing. You can lean on me, you can rely on me. I don’t really waver. I’m not saying you are. For me, it’s as simple as, “This is it.” And you said it. I was listening to you, and that’s why I asked you, “What is hard?” and you said, “What’s hard is the fact that we’re here. The fact that this is reality, that this even exists.” I’m like, “Okay, write that down. Write that down. Write that down.”

Karen Clark Cole:
Well, I can tell you, it’s not really behind the scenes. In our company forum yesterday, I spent the first five minutes in tears, and I couldn’t even talk while everyone watched me. So, it’s out there.

Dana White:
I’ll ask any business owner that’s listening, if it’s hard for you to make a statement, this is not hard. This is easy. It’s easy. That’s why I said, “You’re either here or you’re there.” And you are here, Karen. And nobody’s asking you to be eloquent. Nobody’s asking you to be an orator. We’re asking you to say, “I’m here.”

Karen Clark Cole:
Right.

Dana White:
Same thing with you, William. Boom. You said, “When I watched George Floyd’s video, they lynched this man on TV, on video. It’s a lynching.” That’s it. It’s a lynching. I don’t necessarily agree, “Well, take that out of there.” Well, why? It’s what happened. It’s not your opinion. It literally is what happened. They killed this man. I mean, they murdered him. You can say murder, you can say lynch, you can say strangled. That’s what they did.

So if it’s hard, look within yourselves and figure out why it’s hard, figure out where do you stand? Watch the video. How does this make me feel? There’s your statement. If you watch the video, and your statement is, “Well, he didn’t really die from that. He had some other health issues.” What? What? Cause that’s how some people feel. If that’s what you think, then that’s where you stand. That’s it.

I think for some people, it’s hard because, like you said, “I’ve never had to deal with this.” I’ve never had to deal with being a migrant worker. I’ve never had to deal with the issues they face. I’ve always been a citizen. But if I had migrant workers working for me, and they were being mistreated, I wouldn’t know what to say because it’s who I am. And so that’s what my question is. My challenging question for you, whether it makes you comfortable or not—to the listeners and to the people on the phone—is, “Who are you?” And if it’s hard, evaluate that. I have no problem saying to migrant workers, “You are safe here. And I dare somebody to come to Paralee Boyd looking for you.” We don’t have any illegal citizens or whatever working with us. But if we did, I would say, “This is where Paralee Boyd stands with that. You’re safe here.” It’s that simple.

But I do love the fact that nobody on the call is like, “You know, I’m just so worried about my money. I’m just afraid that clients won’t do business with me anymore.” To me, it’s clear. “We may not be the UX company for you, if this offends you.” “We may not be the service for you at Vanderbloemen, if this is how you feel.” I think I heard that in both of your statements, and I think that’s a great start. That’s great. I’ve heard so many people, “Well, I don’t really know, I don’t want to offend.” Okay. There’s your stance. It’s so quiet.

Loren Feldman:
It’s uncomfortable, but…

Karen Clark Cole:
I think the important thing is that hard doesn’t mean shy away from it. That means lean into it and acknowledge that it’s hard. I mean, that’s how I feel. It’s like, “Wow, this is hard, and let’s push into it and uncover that.”

Dana White:
And who am I? Like, why is this hard? I know what the right thing is. I know I saw that video, and I know that that was wrong. Then put yourself in your clients’ shoes, put yourself in your staff’s shoes, put yourself in the shoes of anybody who can relate to that video. And then once you feel that, what do you say? And like I said, you don’t have to be an orator. You don’t have to be Jane Elliott, Al Sharpton. You don’t have to be me. You said it, Karen. That’s why I was like, “Oh my gosh, she said it.”

Loren Feldman:
I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are different levels of being hard. Some things are really hard. Some things are incredibly hard. It can be hard to find the right words, but that’s not the same thing as having somebody’s knee on your neck.

Dana White:
It can be hard to breathe.

Loren Feldman:
Right. This was, in many ways, hard, but not hard like that, and uncomfortable, but I think important. I think we all knew this would be uncomfortable going into it, but that was why it was important to do it. I appreciate all of you being willing to engage in this conversation and deal with the discomfort and the hardness. Especially you, Dana. Again, thank you for being willing to tell us what you really think.

Dana White:
Absolutely.

Karen Clark Cole:
Amen.

Dana White:
I need a drink.