Episode 80: White Nationalism And Male Identity with Elizabeth Debold [The Amiel Show]

A year ago Sunday, white nationalists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia carrying torches and chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” It was not a pretty sight. Most people I know found it abhorrent. The author Ta-Nehisi Coates did, too, but he wasn’t surprised. In an earlier episode Diane Woods explained why.

The media, for the most part, has highlighted the ethnocentric dimensions of this tale: racial grievance, hatred, and the specious theories underlying them.

Yet an important element has remained beneath the surface: gender. White nationalism is also a story of a certain group of men coming to terms with a world they find unfamiliar and threatening, one where women have economic power, men have lost their traditional identities, and the worlds of work, dating, and marriage have turned upside down. Many of us would call these advances of modernity and postmodernity. White nationalists see them as epic disasters.

This week, Elizabeth Debold, a developmental psychologist and gender futurist, explains why.

It’s a story of some human minds growing into greater degrees of complexity and others’ growth halting at age 12. It’s a story of wage labor, two-income households, and the demands of being a “super mom” and, increasingly, a “super dad.” It’s also a story of men confused about what is expected of them and frustrated that society often criticizes them for doing their “jobs” of working long hours and bringing home the bacon.

Debold also reframes the debate about so-called “social justice warriors” on college campuses. Everyone from Fox News to white nationalists to Jordan Peterson cite this group as the epitome of postmodern excess. Debold says: not so fast. The ideas may be postmodern, but the minds unpacking them are operating from a much earlier stage of development.

We live in a complex age, and it takes wisdom and a multi perspectival approach to even begin to understand it. Debold brings both and more.

In some ways, this interview represents a bridge in this podcast. As my interest turns toward global challenges and the health of our politics, Debold helps connect these concerns with my longstanding series on women in leadership, the newly launched series on the American experience of race, and the ever-present influence of constructivist developmental theory.

Highlights

  • 5:00 White nationalists, incels, and the loss of traditional male identity
  • 12:00 Richard Spencer is developmentally a teenager
  • 25:00 The flaw in pluralists’ views of white nationalists
  • 31:30 The wild card: when goodness appears
  • 48:00 The modern convention of dividing work and home life
  • 59:00 Teaching sophisticated postmodern ideas to 19-year-olds with less complex minds
  • 1:10:00 Step on my head, and I’ll step on yours back!

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Next Tuesday we’ll stomp the blues

Allow me to entice you.

Next Tuesday at 10am PST, the second to last day of Black History Month, check your email inbox.

I’ll give you an interview about the most important American writer on culture you’ve probably never heard of.

Unless your name is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of Harvard, who called this writer “The King of Cats.”

Or Toni Morrison, who said, “Murray’s perceptions are firmly based in the blues idiom, and it is black music no less than literary criticism and historical analysis that gives his work its authenticity, its emotional vigor, and its tenacious hold on the intellect.”

  • Name: Albert Murray
  • Focus: Hero’s journey, stomping the blues, critiquing “ghettologists,” appreciating that black culture is central to American culture
  • Quote: “The blues idiom is an attitude of affirmation in the face of difficulty, of improvisation in the face of challenge. It means that you acknowledge life is a low down dirty shame yet confront that fact with perseverance, with humor, and above all, with elegance.”
  • Our guide: Greg Thomas, former jazz columnist for the New York Daily News

Tuesday at 10am. It will lift you up.

Episode 74: Whites’ Self-Interest In Opposing Racism With Diane Woods [The Amiel Show]

You support Black Lives Matter and oppose racial discrimination because you want to help black people. If you have light skin, you can’t get much more noble than that, right?

Not quite. According to this week’s guest, leadership coach and retired executive Diane Woods, the idea that white people need to be altruistic toward blacks is itself a racist idea.

Huh?

Yes, you read that correctly.

In fact, as Diane explains, white folks have an intelligent self-interest in opposing racist ideas and embracing all of us as equally capable and worthy human beings.

I’ve known Diane for almost two decades. She hosted a book club I joined. Back then, I saw her as a fountain of wisdom and curiosity, and over time, those qualities have only grown.

Please join me in this second episode in my new series on the American experience with race. If you enjoyed my conversation last week with Greg Thomas—or, heck, even if you haven’t yet—you’ll want to tune into this one.

Please share with friends and colleagues so we can carry Diane’s voice far into the conversation around race and culture.

Highlights

  • 5:00 Why Ta-Nehisi Coates and Diane weren’t surprised by white supremacists marching
  • 9:00 Diane’s spiritual teacher’s blind spot around race
  • 15:00 Evolution of race work over 50 years
  • 20:00 Crafting herself to look good for white corporate America
  • 31:00 Despite injustice, my inner life is mine and I will defend it
  • 35:00 “They just don’t want us here”
  • 41:00 “I may say racist things but I’m pure on the inside”
  • 49:00 Racism is corrosive for white people
  • 1:02:00 Whites freeing themselves from the burden of racism
  • 1:05:00 Countering racism is in whites’ intelligent self-interest

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Episode 73: Five Pivotal Thinkers On Race With Greg Thomas [The Amiel Show]

This week, writer and public speaker Greg Thomas, CEO of the Jazz Leadership Project, helps me launch a new podcast series on the American experience of race.

Greg provides a refreshing and nuanced take on a complex topic. Listen to him, and you will find that race is not just a political issue or a moral quandary. It also provides a rich opportunity to grow as a leader and live life fully. Whether you consider yourself white, black, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, or just plain Human, dive in with Greg, and you will come out a bit wiser and a lot more curious. Race is not what you think it is.

I met Greg through our shared interest in integral approaches to leadership, culture, and politics. When approaching topics with our “integral” fedoras on, we bring a mix of curiosity and critique. Rather than pick sides, we like to ask, “How is each perspective true, yet also partial? What wisdom does it offer, but also what are its blinders?”

In this conversation, we apply the integral lens to race in America. I call it the True But Partial Game. We explore five leading American thinkers on race. For each, I ask Greg to describe the both the wisdom they offer, and the perspectives that, if meshed with their own, would create a more accurate and pragmatic path forward.

What if we acknowledged both the systemic forces that constrain and the personal gifts and virtues that liberate?

Highlights

  • 1:00 Why a series on race in America?
  • 7:30 Interview begins
  • 15:30 Integral view of race and culture
  • 22:00 “So-called black people” and “so-called white people”
  • 26:30 Whiteness harms white folks
  • 31:30 Na-Nehisi Coates—brilliant, bleak, and still growing?
  • 41:30 Kimberle Crenshaw, “intersectionality,” and victimhood
  • 46:00 Oppression is not a death sentence
  • 50:00 bell hooks—love and the beloved community
  • 1:01:00 John McWhorter—linguist and refreshing independent thinker
  • 1:06:00 Cornel West—brilliant, influential, and stuck in critique

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Episode 71: Biology of Power & Sexual Harassment With Janet Crawford [The Amiel Show]

This week on the podcast, I welcome back Janet Crawford to discuss sexual harassment as an expression of high and low power tactics rooted in human biology. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and experimental psychology and her own professional and personal experience, Janet brings to light many subtle dynamics overlooked in the public debate about this charged topic.

Janet is a highly regarded executive coach and public speaker based in the Bay Area.

Janet and I previously spoke about leaders’ brains, emotional literacy and power and, more recently, about being a good guy and breaking with the Bro Code.

Highlights

  • 3:00 Biology of power. High and low power tactics.
  • 9:00 Why do many high power men not harass?
  • 16:00 Why women wait to come forward—a big list
  • 22:00 Why are women coming forward now?
  • 30:00 Professional harm versus sexual harm
  • 37:00 Women walk a tightrope based on how high power people will evaluate them
  • 40:00 Women’s backlash against women. Men’s backlash against men
  • 52:00 Men get an “aha” when they see how power works
  • 1:00:00 A young Janet’s harrowing episode—and how she grew from it
  • 1:18:00 How to stop harassment at low level insinuations
  • 1:26:00 Janet uses humor to respond to a power challenge

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Harvey Weinstein And Healthy Masculine Power [New Post]

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has prompted many important conversations about power, privilege, complicity, and shame. I’d like to weigh in with several observations that complement what I’ve been hearing and stretch it an extra inch.
  • The scope. The #metoo campaign on Facebook revealed what all women and some men already knew: sexual harassment and abuse are ever-present in our culture. Every woman I know has experienced it. The stories I’ve heard this week leave me feeling sick in the stomach.
  • The impact. Harassment and abuse are intrinsically damaging. They hurt human beings. But this is not just about individual pain and individual careers. Here I differ from the tone of media stories that are rooted in our individualistic culture. When bright and talented people get ensnared in webs of abuse, we all suffer. Consider women leaders. Great leadership is about serving others. A career cut short or constrained by harassment harms both these leaders and the people they would otherwise be serving. We forget this sometimes.
  • Beyond implicit bias. When men ignore women’s contributions, interrupt them in meetings, or overlook them for promotions, implicit bias is often at work. The actions are unconscious and outside of the person’s control. Sexual harassment and abuse by Weinstein and other men don’t fit into this category. We’re talking about conscious behaviors  arising from darker pathologies. The answer isn’t more self-awareness, but removal, treatment, and perhaps imprisonment.
  • Political and psychological complexity. Women who experience harassment and abuse—as well as interruptions in meetings—face extraordinarily complex situations. Speaking up can lead to social ostracism and professional punishment. Lost friendships and social networks. On a psychological level, many women report feeling shame and self-blame that causes them either to stay and remain loyal or to leave silently.
  • Innocent guys. Just because all women have experienced sexual harassment or abuse doesn’t mean all men have committed it. There are innocent guys. Many of them. Some would like to wish all of this away. Others realize it’s time to step up their game as men on behalf of women and all of us.
  • Good guys. Innocence and goodness are different. As Janet Crawford and Lisa Marshall have taught me, being a good guy requires more than clean hands. In our interview last October, Janet described numerous positive steps men can take that go beyond avoiding harm. Some actions won’t pose risks to our public identities or careers. Others require breaking with the Bro Code.
  • Healthy masculine power. If you stop going along with the Bro Code, what’s left to do? I have an idea. Let’s stop being bros and start being men. Channel that vital male energy into courage, blend it with empathy and savvy, and use the resulting mixture to rise to the challenge. This is really important. Virility and virtue need not be in opposition. As Robert Augustus Masters discussed on the podcast, when we bring these qualities together, we discover a deeper and healthier version of masculine power. What would it be like to speak up not only for the sake of women, but because that’s who we are as men?
I’ll soon be doing another interview with Janet Crawford about this topic, so send me your questions and comments.
And please share with others.