Shakil Choudhury (Part 1) – Deep Diversity: Integrating Psychological, Scientific & Spiritual Contributions for Healing Injustice and Inequity

Shakil Choudhury Deep Diversity

Award-winning educator and activist Shakil Choudhury is the author of the outstanding book Deep Diversity: A Compassionate, Scientific Approach to Achieving Racial Justice, and in this potent conversation we learn a lot we perhaps didn’t know about the psychological, emotional, and neurobiological reasons for our ingrained biases, and the systemic bias in the culture at large. How and why do we discriminate? Many of our biases are hidden in the unconscious, which makes it that much harder to bring them into the light so we can begin to understand what’s going on and find ways to move ourselves and society toward justice and equity. Shakil explains that changing societal norms is at the heart of the battle for racial and social justice, as our habitual cultural behaviors tend to be viewed as legitimate, normal, and natural, when actually they may be outdated, off base, offensive, and unjust. Shakil deftly lines us out with specific steps we can take to recognize and change our own behaviors, as well as actions organizational leaders can take to effect change on a broader level.

Shakil contends that educating people to become diversity and equity literate is the first essential step, and the 360-hour program he has designed to this end has proven very effective. Once people see the data, they cannot help understanding the drivers of racial and social injustice more clearly, which leads to the place where real transformation can happen. Shakil’s extraordinarily insightful and illuminating approach is fueled by many years of contemplative practice, and he leaves us with a vision of what we are fighting for—not just what we are fighting against—based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of Beloved Community. Small groups of dedicated people have managed to successfully nudge societal norms in the direction of justice in the past, and this conversation and Shakil’s book, Deep Diversity, most certainly contribute a compassionate nudge in the right direction. Bit by bit, recognizing that this is a journey, Shakil conveys both the means and the hope that justice will prevail. Recorded April 26, 2023.

“Can we hold the tension between our common humanity and our differences simultaneously?”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing Shakil Choudhury, award-winning educator, racial justice & equity activist, author of Deep Diversity (01:17)
  • How did Shakil come to create this “deep diversity” approach to racial justice and equity work? (02:15)
  • Shakil’s healing journey: finding inner freedom, the world began to look different (03:16)
  • The historical and sociological perspectives help us understand how we got here but it’s the emotional and psychological perspectives that can help us understand why we do what we do (05:38)
  • The unconscious role of emotions, bias, identity, and power (08:11)
  • Cultural diversity, wokeism, ethnocentricity, and how to talk with people at a traditional level of development about racism (10:54)
  • How to get the most people on the side of justice? Let’s make it as easy as possible for people: agnosticizing racial justice and equity work (14:37) 
  • Racism is a systemic problem: it’s more than hate crimes, the KKK, and neo-Nazis, more than “spot the bigot” (16:27) 
  • We have to help people become systems thinkers: the key is pattern recognition (18:48)
  • Moving racial justice work from an urgency project to a literacy project: changing behavioral patterns is like developing literacy, once you can read, you never stop (19:14) 
  • We need to bring forward a framework to make it easier for people to accept that becoming educated about diversity is a journey (22:55)
  • What are effective interventions to begin to change specific behaviors? (26:33)
  • Countering stereotypes: training ourselves to catch our biases when they show up (28:00)
  • Shakil was socialized with a pro-white bias like the rest of society—our biases are not individual problems but a systems problem (31:41)
  • What can we do on an individual level? (33:08)
  • Internalized racism, sexism, and the unconscious nature of our biases (39:31)
  • The ways in which the privileged are unaware of the realities of their own privilege and power: privilege is like a tailwind at your back (41:00)

Resources & References – Part 1

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Shakil Choudhury Deep Diversity

Shakil Choudhury, M.E.S., B.Ed., B.P.E., co-founder & Chief Visionary Officer of Anima Institute, is an award-winning educator, consultant, and author with over 25 years of experience in the field of racial justice, diversity, and inclusion. He coaches executive teams and has worked with thousands of leaders across sectors in Canada and the United States to help improve their equity outcomes. Shakil also facilitates dialogue processes to resolve inter-group conflict, having led projects internationally as well as with organizations locally. 

Shakil is the author of Deep Diversity: A Compassionate, Scientific Approach to Achieving Racial Justice. Written in an accessible, storytelling manner, many have called it a “breakthrough” book on issues of systemic racial discrimination due to its non-judgmental approach that integrates human psychology with critical race perspectives. Shakil’s most challenging and rewarding management experience, however, involves his two high-spirited children repeatedly teaching him the humble lessons of fatherhood. To clear his head during the week, Shakil loves to run the beautiful ravine trails near his home in Toronto.

Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

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