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justice is inadequate. in the wake of the killing of george floyd by a police officer in minneapolis, peaceful and violent protests alike have risen across the nation. there is no correct, immediate, concrete answer to police brutality and systemic racism in america—but where do we begin in righting our wrongs? today, tom and rp are in conversation with neil phillips, founder of the Visible Men Movement and Visible Men Academy, a charter school in bradenton, florida. neil poses the idea that justice is inadequate for the lives of black americans lost, and what is needed is justness, in that racism and discrinimation does not have a place in society to begin with. neil is a nationally recognized voice on the topic of race, diversity, and inclusion in America. He has delivered award-winning presentations, including Race to Truth and A Conversation with Norman Lear, as well as consulting programs that confront diversity-related challenges with fresh perspectives and advocate seizing the opportunities that the rapidly changing national demographic present.
tom scott is chairman & co-founder of the nantucket project. rp eddy was the architect of the Clinton administration’s pandemic response framework and the United Nations response to the global AIDS epidemic & is CEO of global intelligence firm Ergo.
rp is co-author of the best-selling award-winning book Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes with Richard A. Clarke, Former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser.
Tom Scott [00:00:00] So good morning, everybody. My name is Tom Scott, chairman, co-founder of the Nantucket Project. With me, as always, is our RP Eddy. Thank you for being here today. We have a special guest, Neil Phillips. Many of you know, Neil, if you don’t, Neil, Neil runs the Invisible Man Academy down in Florida, it’s a charter school for boys character focused, primarily focused on boys of color. Neil also runs the Visible Men Movement, Visible Men Movement. It’s about identifying visible men of color around the country as leaders and telling the stories that are seldom told but plentiful, plentiful. One of whom, by the way, I want to acknowledge, Neal, your father. Passed away about a month ago, just a beautiful man immigrated to United States. Fifty one years ago. Right. And I’ve been able to see Neil during this time. And I know it’s been a difficult time. But talk about a visible man. Right. So I was at my house last night. I met Neil 40 years ago. Neil, I’m going to say that 50 percent of our conversations over 40 years. Has been about race.
Neil Phillips [00:01:15] I think that’s accurate.
Tom Scott [00:01:16] And there’s been a lot of them. If you don’t know, Neil and I are very close, my closest friend. I was the best man in his wedding. I have a brother. My brother was mine. But you would have gotten it if I didn’t have a brother.
Neil Phillips [00:01:32] I didn’t know that for years, so thank you for clearing that up.
[00:01:34] But it’s just a case that Neil and I travel all over together and spent a lot of time together over the years, done work together. Call each other when we have our problems and pat each other on the back when we do. OK, but 50 percent of our conversation has been about race over the years. And, you know, it’s incredible to think. And so the reason I mentioned I was at my parents house last night, my parents last night, I guided them out of their house for the last time and took them to their new house. Richard Nixon was present United States when we moved in. Neil, I know you spent a lot of time there, but it was weird. It was really emotional. And it when we talked about this, we talked about where we are in the world right now. It was interesting to hear my father talk about just how profound he feels. You know, he’s eighty something years old. He’s he’s a teacher of the history of war. And he’s he talked about this time being very special. And I told him I would be with you today. And they thought, you know, that was perfect. Like, what a perfect way to spend the day today. So it seemed like the right move was for me. You know, I’ve been traveling around a lot. God bless Dan. And he said, you got to go to Gettysburg to do the show tomorrow. So here I am in Gettysburg. Raining, by the way, which is fine. It’s a light. It’s a light rain. And why? Because, you know, you look at this process and project that is the United States. It’s been a long one. It’s been a long time. You know, and you think about what was the Declaration of Independence and what was the Gettysburg Address, you know, and it was sort of like that. In some ways, the Declaration of Independence was a promise and the Gettysburg Address was a check in on the fulfillment of the promise. And to his credit, he acknowledges Lincoln, this is that this is a work in progress. But I thought I would read it just as sort of a lead into today. It is a well, I’m going to read it and we can talk about it afterwards. And it’s short. God bless. Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot hallow this ground. The brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the greatest task remaining before us that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom. And that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln. November 19th, 1863. Pretty beautiful. Right. You don’t need me to tell you that. And I thought I was just a. Interesting way to set up today. There’s a lot going on. Neil you and I spoke about it over the last few days. But I want to give you the opportunity to respond to any of what I just said.
Neil Phillips [00:05:32] Thanks, Tom. It really is moving to to hear those words. And if you allow yourself to travel back into the time that they were uttered, you get a real sense of what you opened with, which is that this this is a process this nation and its growth and evolution is a process. I think what you’re seeing in the streets now as a result of George Floyd’s vicious death and others is an expression that this part of the process has taken and is taking far too long. It is kind of grant some of our forefathers and foremothers some leeway when we were a decades old country with the original sin of slavery attached to our identity. You kind of grant them some leeway because there needed to be times that passed in order for any progress, substantive progress to be able to be made and measured and built upon. But the truth of it is, is we can’t grant any more time for that process. And that’s the frustration that marked the civil rights movement. It’s the frustration that marked the Civil Rights Act in 64. It’s the frustration of having black people. Black men serve in the military for a country whom their voting rights weren’t even assured. I could go on and on and on about discrimination, the systematic racism, all of those things that cause us to be unwilling to accept this element still being in process. We should be long past this element of our growing nation. So but I will share with you that, you know, I feel like we all need to feel challenged during this time. And so that that includes me and myself and so I’m thinking about the ways that I can challenge myself to contribute to progress on this front. And I work for it every single day. But I’m looking for more. I’m looking for deeper. I’m looking for more effectiveness. And as I’ve been contemplating this over the last several days, there are a couple of thoughts that come to mind. And one of them is, you know, I’ve been finding writing very cathartic recently. And so I’ve been writing and the topic I’ve been writing on in recent days as a result of these this crisis. I’ve called the inadequacy of justice, the inadequacy of justice. And it’s come to me because, you know, I watch television and I hear us all screaming for justice. And so much attention is focused on, you know, third degree murder or second degree manslaughter. What about the three others? Have they been charged in justice, justice, justice? And we need to be clamoring for justice. We need to be clamoring it for it for so many reasons. One of which is that in past cases, it hasn’t been afforded. We need to be clamoring for justice because this is a measure of equality. Right? If this act were committed against another human being and there was a consequence. We need to know that that same consequence will be afforded to a different human being, regardless of skin color or age or gender or socioeconomic status. So it’s a measure of equality. But. But. Even in the instance where in its legal sense, full justice is afforded, it is a tragically and maddeningly unequal trade, justice is inadequate. As an exchange for the life that was lost. This is part of what why we feel so angry. The thing we’re clamoring for falls short of the thing we lost. The inadequacy of justice is that we are negotiating for something that in the end will ultimately be unfulfilling because it doesn’t equate to what was lost. So while justice is important, while justice is actually critical. It’s the thing we feel we have to take, not the thing we want. The thing we want is justness. We want justness, fairness, equality, equality of human life. Value the assessment that this person undermined me is of value. To our country and to our universe. That’s what we want. Justness. And when we are getting justness, we as black men, we as black people, we as women who are pursuing, you know, corporate ascension as people with different sexual and religious preference, when we are getting justness, then we won’t have to clamor for justice. That’s what we should be yelling for. That’s what we should be demanding because justice though necessary. Is ultimately inadequate, an unequal trade for what we’ve lost.
Tom Scott [00:11:51] Beautifully put. Tell me what’s on top of your mind.
Neil Phillips [00:11:55] What’s on the top of my mind? Tommy is you know, there are tragedies within the tragedy. And I didn’t start Visible Men. To be an agency that lobbies for police officers to stop killing unarmed black men. Or for people pretending to be law enforcement to stop killing unarmed black men. I didn’t start Visible Men Academy as a place to. Keep kids off the streets. It’s not why these things exist. They exist to celebrate and perpetuate. Black male greatness. And excellence. And societal and familial and community and professional contribution, greatness and excellence. And that’s what Visible Men in our movement, in our school is about, celebrating the excellence that is out there represented and manifest in so many different ways. So now I have this this this new. Source of anger, which is I don’t want to be spending my time. Telling people not to kill us. I don’t want to be spending my time, you know, replying to people who say that our school helps keep these kids off the streets. That’s not what we’re doing. We are leading them and positioning them toward excellence, our standard and our expectations. And our bar is much higher than what it is we have to defend against. Now, this is wasting our time and our pursuit toward excellence and greatness. I don’t want to be in this position. I know so many people who are marching, so many people who were protesting, so many people who were on camera on media outlets were after something bigger and better. And yet, here we are. In this terribly stilted, far too slow moving process in our nation’s evolution, that we are still lobbying for the things we’re lobbying for. We should be beyond this.
Tom Scott [00:14:31] So I came to work yesterday and you and I spoke yesterday, but not so different than what I am today. I’m a little further along today than it was yesterday. And I’m just acknowledging a feeling. And the feeling was that I was sort of I was confused. I was in the middle of the way I feel about what’s happening right now. I mean, I hope it goes without saying. There’s parts of it that I find like super upsetting, super gross. Shocking. You know, the politics of it is sort of shocking to me. Probably shouldn’t be, but it has been. And then I would just want to tie that to 25 percent of unemployment. And what the hell did we just go through for the last three months? What was that? And how do these things relate? And, you know, in some ways I can see all kinds of dots getting connected, but in other ways I think, like, are these actually connected by what’s actually going on here? So it’s a confusing time. And and it has an effect on me, which is sort of paralyzing to a certain extent. Now, I want to just say it’s it feels temporarily paralyzing to me, and I know that, like I know in my heart that this is going to go somewhere, I don’t know where this is going to go next. And I’m talking about me right now. I don’t mean to be so selfish. I’m just trying to observe sort of the way this this process is kind of taking me down. But then when you and I spoke yesterday, you know, all of a sudden I could feel like, OK, now I’m going in a direction where I’m starting to see truth. OK. And this is really sort of a long winded celebration of its conversation is really what it is. Right. And in my case, listening. I’m not doing a great job of that right now. But but listening is critical because there’s so many things I don’t know about where this is. And I think, like, I’ll give you a good example, Justness. I didn’t think that way. And I didn’t consider that justice wouldn’t be enough. And when you said it, I can’t say I fully get it because I think that would be perhaps inappropriate. But I feel different. I feel way more informed and I feel like, oh, that might be a help in my own tiny way. In that case. So part of what I’m sort of promoting and celebrating and when you hear Neil talk, I mean, I am witness to your school. I’m not as witness as your witness, but I am witness to it. And when you’re there and this goes, you know, a lot of what you heard me say when I came home from my trip or what you guys have heard me say when I came home from a trip, it’s hard to actually understand what the truth is. It’s easy to think Neil’s job is to keep people off the street. And that’s not this job. And his what his real job is, is so beautiful that if I came back and said, Neil really loves these kids, they would. It would. No one would understand what I was talking about. I’d be curious, Neal, just how you would think about your own sort of sense of anger at this moment and how what part that plays here?
Neil Phillips [00:17:26] Look, I have I have anger. I am angry. There is I don’t have to say that. And it it harkens back to encounters I’ve had in my own life. And I consider myself really fortunate relative to other black men in different life circumstances, in different parts of our country who deal with some of the things I’ve encountered on a much more regular basis than I’ve had to. But look, I’ve been afraid for my life in confrontations with the policemen as recently as a year ago. That policeman, two hours after that confrontation, knocked on the hospital door where my wife was laying after a car accident, getting treatment. And he came to apologize to me. He apologized to me for how he spoke to me and his presence, which was very antagonistic. I was afraid for my life. And he apologized. And I told him, I said, well, if you’re the kind of person that’s going to knock on this door and come to apologize, then you’re the kind of person I can tell that you caused me to fear for my life. And I just needed to share that with you. I absolutely accept your apology. But I need to share with you that I was afraid for my life because of how you acted. And he looked me in the eye the whole time I was saying this. And when I was done and this is a white man, I’m sure you’ve inferred that he looked me in the eye when I was done and he said this exchange and what you’re sharing with me will cause me to do my job differently for the rest of my years as a Police officer and I believe those I around that time met Chief John Monahan, who runs a police force in a small town in New Hampshire whose the racial population of his town is ninety nine point something. Yet he requires all of his police officers to participate in diversity training because in his heart and soul and head, he knows how critical that is for his team to be at their best. As law enforcement officials, I’ve had the opportunity to sit and talk with Ray Kelly on stage, the two time commissioner of the NYPD at some of the most challenging times in that city’s history. And to hear how he talks about a multiracial, multi-ethnic force and why that is so important in terms of policing for the people he’s a genius. And so about my anger. Yeah, it’s there, but it is very often overwhelmed by what and who I know is out there in terms of where their head, heart and soul is. And what do I know about their conviction, these white men that I just shared with you about their jobs and the dignity attached to it. So I am very optimistic about the good that’s out there, the wise that’s out there, the good hearted that’s out there. And that overwhelms my anger. It absolutely overwhelms my anger because of the optimism I have in the right that happens out there. And it’s that optimism that continues to fuel me. I think if we get driven by the anger, it doesn’t lead us into the one of three places that we have to get to. One is solutions. I just don’t trust anger leading to solutions to is effectiveness. I don’t trust anger leading to effectiveness. And three is breakthrough. I Don’t trust anger leading to breakthrough, I understand anger. I feel anger. I don’t begrudge anyone feeling that anger. And it can be a powerful motivator. But at some point, that anger has to hand the baton off to righteousness. It has to hand the baton off to an unwavering commitment to unity. It has to hand the baton off to who we are as our best selves. And in those moments, it’s expansiveness. It’s not anger. It’s love. It’s not anger. It’s understanding. Right. Part of the fear we all feel. And I’m sure you feel it sitting there Tommy, you you don’t want to say the wrong thing. You don’t want to use the wrong word, right? You don’t want to walk into the diversity meeting at your office and not hold the party line about why diversity matters. You don’t want to speak honestly if. Right. Some of what you have to say is going to upset others so you don’t speak. And you go back into your tunnel of protection, which is I’m just not going to say anything. We’ve got to get over that. White people and black people. We have to get over that fear. Right. So anger. I get it. I feel it. I don’t find it particularly useful for all of the things that I’ve just shared.
Tom Scott [00:22:57] You know, I would make the comment that you are right in that fear you attributed to me. That is true. I would also just add that I feel that less than I felt in a long, long time. Some of it. I’m sorry. I keep mentioning, some of it relates to the trip that I just went on. And when you actually see and feel the layers and you know, the that conversation we have with that cop now, I wasn’t there and I could never like the percentage knowledge that you have of that conversation that you had with that cop versus my knowledge of it, which is I just heard a telling of it. That’s all I heard. It’s not like three X, it’s three hundred and thirty X like you have a sense of that conversation show much more powerfully than I do in the same way that some of the things I experience on the trip that I just took when I got back, the ways that people the things that people would ask me and the way they reacted to some of the things I said, I felt like, whoa, what they think is out there and what’s out there are so different that I could never cover it. Now, I mentioned that because there’s this part of me that feels like I can’t just tiptoe, we can’t just tiptoe, because I think it’s restrictive in a way that is ultimately useless. I think the one thing I have to be very cautious of is and it’s how I felt yesterday at work, somebody on our team called me and said, why didn’t you bring this up at work? God bless her. That’s exactly what she should do. I wish she said it during the meeting, which it’s OK that she didn’t, but she did. And the answer was, what I said before is I’m totally confused. And I feel a sense of like if I raise my hand just because I’m one of the people in charge, I just I don’t know if that’s appropriate at that moment. Now, maybe the right thing to do would just acknowledge what I just said. Just I should’ve said that. Just I don’t know where I stand right now. And and to be clear. I would I was sifting through how do I fit within the platitudes that are going around right now and how do I fit within what my heart and my hope asks me to be?
Neil Phillips [00:24:55] Yeah.
Tom Scott [00:24:55] And I’m more interested in the second part.
Neil Phillips [00:24:57] Let me just jump in and just say, yes, you should have. Right. And this is this is around us. We are a part of all of this. I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m still sorting through. Yeah. You should. You should have just put that there for people to be able to do what they choose to do with it. And the reason. Right. I want to. Point this out, so specifically is because you sort of offered it up as an example of, well, it was a situation did I handle that correctly. I heard I didn’t. Is that process is exactly what we’re asking people to commit to. Right. Like, there is going to be necessarily discomfort attached to this progress, discomfort for black people, discomfort for white people, discomfort for Asians, Latinos, Europeans, discomfort for anybody who is seeking the kind of progress that you read off from Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who was seeking that in any real way recognizes that discomfort is an inevitable, inevitable gift of that process. So if any of us are feeling comfortable in how we’re responding to this particular crisis, then we’re really not contributing solutions. We should all find that point of discomfort, which in essence is stretching ourselves toward the unity. Right, that we’re going to need. And what does that discomfort look like for each one of us individually? One of the areas of that discomfort for me, right, is getting to a place where I don’t fear how people react to how I feel and how I articulate how I feel. Right. Because I have that fear. I have that fear of saying, oh, wow. Do I really want, you know, a bunch of messages in my inbox from white people because I said that thing? Or for white people to not continue to write checks to my school because I said that other thing? Or do I really want those messages in my inbox from black people? Because I said those things. And because I articulated my beliefs, I’m fearful of that. It’s not something I want. But the way I need to stretch myself is I have to say it doesn’t matter if it’s something I want or don’t want. What matters is it’s the way I need to stretch myself beyond who I’ve been in an effort to achieve the kinds of things that we’re all clamoring for. We have to accept discomfort as a necessary gift of this process.
Tom Scott [00:27:55] You know. So we’ve been working on a project together, which is sort of broadly a part of what is the Visible Men movement. And in this case specifically, it’s the telling of the Invisible Men story through a film. And we’ve been shooting for two years and, you know, we reengaged to shoot again. I don’t know what date is was, February Twenty six. It was right on the eve. Right. And then bang, like we go down and, you know, for all kinds of reasons. You know, in the case of our organization, it’s turmoil, having to redo our business plan, reinventing ourselves, keeping money in the door like it was pretty calamitous. And then in your case. Well, and then the fact that we really couldn’t go on the road anyway at that time. You know, there’s just so much going on at that time and then your case you had to go back and deal with the school. And so literally last week at the end of last week, we started to reignite. Let’s go. Let’s go again. And then this happened. And then, you know, the next thing I know, it’s yesterday. It’s Monday again. And, you know, one of the plants that we’ve been talking about you and I spoke about yesterday is that we’re gonna go back on the road and we’re gonna go build what is essentially the story of TNP and community and conversation on a similar path. So yesterday I said, Neil, I said, Neil, we’d like you to go with us. Now, the thing I don’t know, and that’s the question I would love it if you could answer it’s. I know this is hard, and I’m sure your brain is somewhere in the middle here. I may be wrong and you can tell me if it’s not. What’s the movie about now? What’s our story now? Where are we going now?
Neil Phillips [00:29:37] Yeah. So. I hope that we’re going the same place we were going before all of this, because it’s the place that absolutely needs to needs to be celebrated, which is that I don’t believe that our nation nor our world. But I’m focusing on our nation right now. I don’t believe that our nation knows the full story of the black male experience. I just don’t believe it. And if and when our nation understands, learns, embraces the full story of the black male experience, not just the story of, you know, low high school graduation rates and unemployment and incarceration and recidivism, recidivism… This whole cycle of futility, which is very real, which needs attention, which needs to continue to get attention. But that’s not the entire story of the black male experience. And if the entire story of the black male experience goes untold, then what results is a diminished value of who black men have been, can be and will be for the future of our country. And black men become the valued under valued. And the effect of that, we have seen on our screens the effect of that we see in our Title one schools across the country which have been failing our boys and our girls. We focus on our boys for decades. And yet somehow continue to exist. That is a decision around value. Right. If low school performance afflicted our middle and upper school, middle and upper income neighborhoods, right. And started to affect white students in the way that they’ve affected students of color for decades in our country, we would stop everything we were doing. Throw every resource we have at fixing the problem, which is exactly what we should do. And we would do it because we would say these children are far too valuable for us to squander their futures by not equipping them with what they need to survive in the world that they will inherit. They’re too valuable for that. But we haven’t made that declaration about our students of color living in low income areas across the country. And that is because we don’t feel the same way. We don’t feel the loss of their inherent human value in the way that we would in the other situation. So what I’m suggesting to you is that we have to tell the story, the full story of the black male experience, because it will help people see how valuable these young lives are and can be. So I hope we go to the same place.
Tom Scott [00:32:44] RP. Thank you for. Patiently sitting by. We haven’t brought you in, I. But I want to bring you in. I want to mention one thing as I toss it to you, which is that. So there’s the bad. Like the lead up and the bad. And I think the lead up and the bad is really bad. Again, I hope that goes without saying, but that’s how I feel. And then there’s the post, which is let’s call it what’s happening now. And there was an image I saw with people kneeling and it was, you know, mixed group of people who were kneeling kind of in honor of each other. And when I saw that symbol, I just think it is such a powerful and beautiful symbol. And it’s got to me, it’s got this great clarity in it which, you know, I’m going to say this, Neil. It’s amazing. Make you feel a little awkward, but like I’m kneeling for you and I’m kneeling for you. Mostly because I’m, like, surrendering to your knowledge. Right. To your. It’s time for me to sort of listen and listen, both symbolically and literally. And when and when you see that thing, I think there’s something that’s so there’s a humility in it. You know, when people do that and when they do it together, it’s like group humility in a way that I think is really interesting and powerful anyway. So that’s sort of just one reaction to sort of what’s happened sort of since the badness happened. And, you know, it depends on your point of view, I guess. But to me, a lot of what’s happened over the last few days is sometimes hard to watch. But there’s a hope in it that makes me actually feel hopeful. But RP, you can react to that any way you like.
RP Eddy [00:34:28] It’s it’s a huge privilege to get to listen to the two of you and learn from the two of you and your decades and decades of having these conversations. Neil. I love you. And it was gorgeous listening to you. Kelly was in here. She had. She was in such tears, she had to walk out. And I think your video by the movie, Tom, as always, is gorgeous. So thank you for letting me be part of this. This has been a profoundly differently, more deeply discomforting time for me than so many of the Black Lives Matter killings, whatever you want to call them, and. you know, when when Rodney King happened 30 years ago, I was, I think, scared that a young white guy who was sort of scared of what was going on. And then you have all these horrible killings over time. And I think I looked at each one of them as a spot event. Justice, not justness. And this murder and where we are right now is affecting me in a deeper way than the rest of them. And I think that’s a very good thing. And I’ll kind of get to that in a second. And it’s making me ask fundamental questions about the American experiment. That make me very sad because I think I’ve been. Pretty blind to a lot of what you’re talking about, Neil, in a deep subconscious subconscious, like deeply rootedly blind. Regardless of my attempts not to be for a very long time. And again, I get that a little bit in time. When I turned on the video this morning, you’re in Gettysburg and I was off camera. I said, you’re genius. I love that you’re there. And it’s it’s been a challenge since before getting there that this country so in so far as you put it, Neil, we’ve only been providing inadequate, insufficient solutions to these horrors. Right. We’ve been addressing the moment, but we’ve not been addressing the problem. People like you, Neil, try, but. But as a country, we certainly haven’t. And there’s a phrase for that called, a word called satisficing. 1947 a sociologist talked about when confronted with big problems, it’s very easy to put up a small. Moment. A momentary solution that satisfices his people but doesn’t satisfy jusness. A Speech. An arrest. Prosecution. Justice. Not justness. And so, as I’m listening to you, I’m wondering if. And I’m going to be I’m going to make myself uncomfortable Tom and break one of the fundamental rules of our conversations, and I’m going to be I don’t intend to be political. But it’s going to sound very political. So I have this ironic view. What ironic hope that the. Horror of our president. Might change this positively. And the horror of the picture of seeing him standing in front of a church, holding a Bible in his hand that he’s probably never opened. While these tear gas is used to disperse protesters and saying when the looting starts, the shooting starts and denying, deferring and deflecting, denigrating, diminishing, debasing, dividing us so prominently that I hope so many people see that and it’s not about him. But they say that that helps us see how blind so many of us have been. In an ironic way, we look at that and we say. Maybe that is how American minorities have sort of felt like they’ve been treated for so long. Someone acting that repulsively. Maybe I can look at that and say, wow, that is probably true, to a lot of black men, how they’ve seen the power structure for a long time. Like, I can now see it as a wildly privileged white man. I can see that maybe maybe there’s. Value in his. Repulsive behavior in that a lot of us can look at that and go that probably looks pretty familiar to some people. So maybe that is how a lot of us get it. You know, and you said, Neil, that we have to learn to for the full story of black men in America. And so my question really, Neil, after that little monologue, it’s is will, how do we. You know, we can’t grant any more time, as you said, and Tom, you said you’re beginning to see the truth. And I also know that everything aside, what I just said in the two of you just said that I mentioned this before that. I do unfortunately believe the expression that’s the only thing we learn from history is we don’t learn from history. And I do unfortunately believe generally it’s extraordinarily hard to make face shifts in the way anybody, any country behaves. But if there ever was one, maybe it’s now and maybe it’s partly. Empowered by the elimination of the president standing there, holding the Bible in front of a boarded over church, like looking like that. But if they if there’s a chance. Neil, what do we have to do, like concretely to do it?
Neil Phillips [00:40:10] RP I think that question is so critical. What do we have to do concretely? Right. And it’s my fear. That. We will fall victim to the capriciousness of the media cycle at the moment, right? Like, I have not seen a corona virus death count up on the screen for a week now. Right. Because it has been replaced. By this Tragedy and the subsequent. Immediate attention that is guarded. So something is going to replace this. In a matter of days, right? Maybe in a matter of hours something is going to replace this. But nothing’s going to replace this for George Floyd’s family and friends. Nothing’s going to replace this for the long list of names of people who simply should not have lost their lives. No media cycle is going to be attached to that. So then the question that you’ve asked to me becomes everything. What do we do to ensure that there are concrete right measurable changes? In the first thing I think we have to do is somehow we have got to find ways to measure what is often referred to as intangible. We have to say in order to know, we have to know a relationship like Tommy and I have had and like so many other people out there who have had, that is an interracial relationship, inter ethnic relationship. Like, we actually have to narrate those, right. We have to talk about them so that people know that they exist. We have to look at every front on this battlefield. Health care, right. Criminal justice system, education, socioeconomic mobility. We have to know we have we have to list all of the fronts on that battle. And say, what would progress look like in each of these areas? Right. In education, progress is measurable. I can tell you that progress is having more than 50 percent of our black boys graduate from high school. I can put a number to that. Right. And I could put a number to saying the number of white students who graduate from high school is higher. So I want the same number of black boys graduating from high school as the same as the number of white boys, and I want that number to be 100 percent right. So I can find something concrete in that realm. What’s the equivalent in those other realms that I mentioned? So so first we have to identify some markers that we can actually pursue. And then the other thing around concretely. Right. So before this call. Right. I spoke with someone from TNP who shared with me that there was a video they had worked on and they thought it would be a nice way to enter this conversation. And then just before committing to that. There was a conversation or some deliberation and the decision was made. Actually, we’re not going to do that. The very reason we wanted to do that was we wanted to find a comfortable way into this conversation. But we chose to not do it that way because we we shouldn’t be seeking out what’s comfortable to us, so we’re not going to enter it this way. Is that a big deal? I think it’s a huge deal because it is an example of what a group of people in an organization did concretely to say this isn’t business as usual. We’re going to do something differently and we’re going to do it because we are now more conscious, more mindful, more discriminating of how we behave as an organization. That’s progress and it’s concrete. And frankly, it’s the only level, the only level on which we can all function is in our individual spaces, right. With our particular peers and colleagues within our own particular organizations. It’s at that concrete level that this change, this progress is going to have to be measured.
RP Eddy [00:45:07] But well, you know, like, we need more, right? Like. You know, the unit of measurement of one and then unit of measurement of one company, beautiful. I mean, I would love this to be a moment, and I’m a government guy, right? I’m a big solutions guy. I’m a strategy guy. And. And in part of what I’m learning from you is. You know, I’m having this a bit of this awakening, and I’m hoping a lot of other people are, too. I don’t want to overestimate that. It’s not like I was completely blind, but I. And. I’m want there to be a bigger, faster change. Neil, obviously you do, too. And I want there to be a president who says. Hey, I’m noticing that there hasn’t been real media saying that the cop was right. That’s actually something like that. You know, I’ve seen that in previous shootings before, like, oh, you know, the cop wasn’t totally wrong with it. I’ve seen none of. There’s not a single person defending this murderer. Right. And I’m also seeing a sign, a positive sign, a big face change that, you know, I don’t see a lot of the media saying equating protesters 100 cent with rioters. Right. So that’s another you’d see before you could Amirli to dismiss the content and the goal of the protesters by looking them as all looters. And so we we we seem like we’re kind of beyond that. Even on Fox News, that’s good too. But you’re right about the capriciousness of the news cycle and something will replace this immediately, and that’s true. But but what if so you talked about John Monahan. I think that’s his name, the police chief. Right. You know, why doesn’t every police department, in the country now mandate diversity training? Why? So let’s let’s look at criminal justice. I agree with you that we have to look each battlefield that which is not measured does not improve. And I want I want these big, broad changes. I don’t want to wait as long. You know, you said it very clearly. It’s been much, much too long.
Neil Phillips [00:47:17] So RP, in our current political, governmental, legal and media structure. What’s the agency from which that would come? Who would name those battlefields? Currently speaking, who lives?
RP Eddy [00:47:38] Here’s like one of these things that you’re not allowed to say. Right. I think if we can’t if what I’m going to do it under this president and if we didn’t do it under the previous president, can we do it? Like, what’s going on? You know, like that we’re not having a big national revolution to fix this. And by the way, it’s not just African-Americans either, right? It’s just there’s an unbelievable underclass minority challenged in this country. That’s profound. And it appears to me and this is probably part of the news cycle making it seem so it’s like you have this choice between either AOC and Bernie. Or status quo. And, you know, Martin Luther King wouldn’t have argued that, right? He you wouldn’t argue that there’s a you don’t have to have a socialist nation to have a just nation or justness. And I think I think, boy, that’s a great expression as well. Understanding that justice, this is temporary fix. So to answer your question, you know, as a systemic person, it would have. We have. This is why. We had a secretary defense go in front of the Congress not long ago, and when he was asked the greatest threat to our country. They expected him to say North Korea, nuclear proliferation or terrorism. He said the state of the education system in American. We are fundamentally. Broken right now. And that, by the way, I don’t think he just meant the state of the education system in America so that underprivileged people get a better education. I thought he I think he meant so that the body politic knows what they’re talking about, who they’re electing, or kind of points of view. They’re sporting. So that’s so I read I reference that to say, you know, what’s the systemic solution? I don’t I don’t see how we have a House, a Senate and a executive branch in any near-term future. Well, maybe it can be medicine, right? I don’t see right now how those three bodies get together. Prevent provide something that’s a real solution. But maybe that’s what this election can offer us. That’s a superb…
Tom Scott [00:49:50] Can I throw out a thought on that? I went like, as I listen to you speak, Neil, as I think about your father, as I think about. I read the Gettysburg Address on the way here and I was just like, here’s the path I went down. A white male war. I’m on a battlefield, and then I read the address. And this is me. You don’t have to. This doesn’t have to be your interpretation. I, I look at them as like the words of God. I think they’re just beautiful. I think it’s. And he basically said, we have this really important idea. It’s it’s. We’ve written it on paper. We haven’t accomplished it. And a lot of people died here in a pursuit of making getting closer to that. And the legacy here is to keep getting closer to that. That was sort of talk that he gave. I happen to write a thesis on Lincoln just a couple of years ago when I went back to get my master’s and. You know, he’s like a really interesting guy who evolved big time in office, just as an example. And some of the paints that he felt, I think about, Neai, your work. You know, I was describing you to somebody the other day and they’re like, oh, he must. Like he must have he must have life by the whatever, right? That’s how he said and I thought. Yeah. Does it it’s at a school down in Florida. You know, they’re thinking because I was giving the background and so the background, Neil’s background on paper is like, oh, you can go work at Goldman Sachs or you can go whatever. And he does do whatever. And he does this thing that’s really important and it’s based. And this is what I would say about Lincoln. I think it’s based in love. I think that’s the answer. Like, that is as direct answer as I could possibly give. And I think if you think about life, liberty. OK, life, we all get to live. That’s our right, liberty. We have freedoms. And what is the pursuit of happiness mean? I think it’s anybody who studies happiness in any way and any kind. Love is what sits at the center of it. Larry Lessig said love is the reason we should take money out of politics. And, you know, and I was recently I’m on the board of a school and we were writing. We were rewriting the mission statement. And I said that word now. They did not. They don’t like that. They don’t think that’s cool when I say that. And I think, my God, if you could teach people love. You wanna know how different the world would be. I think that’s actually the answer. I really do. I think that that’s the answer. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the tactic, though, because you might say to me, like, don’t start with that, because everyone’s gonna think you’re a flake. But I actually think that’s the answer that you give, Neil. I think the essence like what sits behind Neil’s answer. Love.
Neil Phillips [00:52:42] So moving to hear you say that and speaking truthfully, I think you’re right. I share that with people. I have the same battle with our school district. When I tried to include that word in our school mission statement and was not able to include it, but it’s certainly a part of everything I share with our boys and our school community. And we use that word in a very regular basis at our school. And so I agree with you, Tom, and I am humbled to hear you say that. I think the nature of my question, RP, who’s the agency like, what’s the mechanism? Right. To make sure that concreteness results from this so that action can result in solution and accomplishment and tangible measure of progress. I have that fear that that work. Doesn’t live institutionally. Anywhere they can hold us all accountable as individuals. In my quest for solutions and effectiveness and breakthrough. I couldn’t agree more. It’s love that’s behind it. I do think. There is some kind of foundational structure that needs to exist to perpetuate that.
RP Eddy [00:54:26] So love’s behind it. What’s in front of it? Well, we know it’s what is what’s the structure that’s going to perpetuate it? You know. We again, government guy, structural changes, strategic changes, kind of. We proposed in our book. And I think it’s a brilliant idea that. The White House have a national office of warning. This will make some sense in a second, that we keep getting surprised by disasters. And Cassandras one of some other disasters can be seen in different ways. And they come from Katrina to Challenger to the rise of ISIS, et cetera, et cetera. And they have a massive cost. And if we could get ahead of them. Great. So you create a systematic you created an office, a person whose job? A team whose job it is to look for crises or catastrophes and give warnings on the horizon. And I actually think that could work. Now I’m going through cabinet agencies in my head right now, Neil, and they know we have HUD housing, urban development. I’m not even sure it exists anymore, tell you the truth. I bet it does. I hope. But we don’t really have a structure. At least what I guess the fact that is not obvious to me means if it does exist, it’s not very prominent. It’s not doing a lot that’s charged with this. I know Department of Justice, there’s sections on on racial released related issues and et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, if we’re going to. I think you need if we’re not going to have a leader who’s going to lead us properly at the highest level at a Martin Luther King level or at a presidential level, then perhaps we need an office. I know it’s so bland. Right. But, you know, if you don’t measure it, you can’t fix it. If you don’t have it as part of the highest level dialog all the time. You’re not giong to pay attention to it. The capriciousness, the news cycle moves on to something else. So you have to have a institutional permanency to make sure you’re paying attention to it. Which is sort of why they built the V.A. Veterans Affairs. Right. So, again, it probably sounds unbelievably like a taupe hallway, you know, really bland and really lame, but. Maybe have to try something like that. Uninspiring. But your love is unbelievably inspiring. And I. It. To some extent, I’m thinking about the capricious of the news cycle, Maslow’s hierarchy. All these are the things that push us away from a shared sense of. Neighborhood love. And I think we need institutional fixes to make sure we don’t get driven away from it.
Neil Phillips [00:57:16] Well, yes, it sounds bland. And I also think that.
RP Eddy [00:57:22] Thank you.
Neil Phillips [00:57:23] It’s all right. That’s not your fault. That’s just the nature of the subject matter. I was also going to say that I also think that at least some attention should go along. Those lines like to consider something like that, governmental or otherwise. Right. The thing I’m really struck by as the three of us are talking. Right. Right. Who what’s not represented among the three of us. Right. And clearly, it’s a woman’s voice, clearly. I mean, there are just so many things, so many voices who aren’t a part of this conversation right now, just like we aren’t a part of other conversations. I understand the limitations. But I raise this because. Any any structure that has any chance of producing what our world and particularly our country needs produced has to be defined by a diversity of representation that ensures, as we talk about these issues on all the out on the battlefield, the issue of black male value and significance is an issue on the battlefield. But so is the issue of incongruent pay for women. So is the issue of health care for for women from low income communities who have difficulty accessing this and health disparities. Right. So the representation of the diversity of voices and perspectives that can no longer be sort of a checklist of do they have the Asian woman do to have a poor Latina who’s. It’s not a checklist. It’s it’s that we are a country cannot produce. The kind of. Of of universal inclusion of issues that matter without having a diverse range of voices like that has to now become a part of how we function at that level. Always. Rather than having it feel like did we check the box and get the right people on camera? I just feel like that had to be mentioned.
RP Eddy [01:00:09] So maybe your inclusion hundred percent into maybe having. A president who so divisive and exclusion, exclusionary and divisive, I already said. Will emphasize for us how important inclusion is and. I think there’s even something about and we talked a lot about how Corona, you’ve talked about how Hillbilly Elegy became this coastal ivory tower peeping glass into poor white America. That book by J.D. Vance. And how. I think I actually have probably a significant number of elites read that book after Trump won, wondering, oh my God, what happened? Read this book and realize, wow, there’s poor white Americans. I didn’t realize there’s such a thing. And they live in Appalachia and they’re drug addicts in there and they have no education and they have poor nutrition and blah blah blah. Like, wow. Welcome to my country. And that I wonder if a broader revelation happens now. And I wonder if it can lead to more inclusion. And part of what am I trying to say? Part of what we learned, looking at catastrophes and many disasters that befell us was that because we didn’t have inclusive conversation, because we were biased in who we allowed in the room and who we listened to, we we actually, as a country, as a world, got struck by catastrophes and. So it could have been the financial analysts know, eight who happened to be a young woman who told us, Meredith Whitney, you told us that the world was going to collapse financially and she was largely dismissed because she was a young woman or could be Laurie Garrett, a pandemic expert who’s told us repeatedly about the risk of diseases coming and she wrote regularly gets ridiculed for what she looks like. And literally, these things lead to catastrophes that befall millions of people. What kind of lesson do we need to be more inclusive than I think in our conversation?
Neil Phillips [01:02:13] So I think that that that’s helpful to me. RP, those comments and I. It causes me to raise my concern about the very term inclusive. Because though I use it. It it does require someone. To kind of be the arbiter of inclusion. Like who? Who? Who is who is making the decision of who is getting invited to the party, even if who’s getting into invited to the party is a really diverse range of voices and perspectives and all of those things. Someone is still making that decision of who’s getting the invitations. So. And that feels flawed to me. So I don’t know. Where I want to go with this idea of inclusively, although I, I just know that my reaction to it is that in and of itself. Is could be a flaw right from the get go, right from the start. And I don’t. I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know if it’s relevant in terms of what we’re discussing. But I. I just feel that that’s part of my angst about all of this, is that it still feels like we as black people are asking people to accept us, to treat us better, to not kill us when we’re unarmed. And I don’t want to have to be asking anyone not to do those things. I don’t want to ask anyone to include me in their hierarchy of value and rely on whether or not they feel inclined to include me or inclined to inclusively. There’s just there’s something about the permission asking something about the hoping to get asked to dance that I think is inherent in the problem. I just I don’t know how to be articulate about what it causes me to think.
RP Eddy [01:04:26] There’s. I’m trying to really understand that, Neil. And I guess I have some ideas of what you’re referring to. I don’t. But I’m not going to pretend I can really understand what you just said. I completely understand the point. And I wonder if they’re if you’re being polite about something, that it’s deeper than that.
Neil Phillips [01:04:48] I don’t. I’m not trying to be polite, so I hope I’m not the confusion you hear in my voice is genuine, like I don’t have a answer declarative statement around what I’m talking about. It just it’s one reason why I know I don’t like the word tolerance. Right. Like, we should be aspiring to something better than tolerating. Right. Like, and if inclusively feels that way to me that someone is making that determination about who’s included. And therein lies the original. Well, I don’t know how to avoid that. I don’t know. I just know that that’s what it’s causing me to be confused about.
RP Eddy [01:05:37] I hope this isn’t totally orthogonal to what you’re saying, but I’m picturing a 1965. Actually, the Mellon Bank boardroom, there’s a bank in Pennsylvania. 1965 was obviously not obviously. It was all white men. And. At some point, they brought a woman and a minority under whatever bank it is, forget Mellon I mention it because my grandfather was part of that conversation. I’m picturing a white male boardroom. And the probably semi forced inclusion, let’s say, in the 70s or 80s of one of the first minorities into the room. When my little boy sees my big boys riding a bicycle and he has to start with training wheels, he isn’t on the training wheels on there, feels uncomfortable and stupid, but without them, he’s not going understand how to ride. So I’m picturing this white male boredom and the first. There’s probably an immune response to the introduction of the first minority, either a woman or person of color, and how that I’m sure it was uncomfortable for everybody. But it had to be kind of forced. They had to learn to tolerate that. And again, you’re right. I never understood. And then then over time, hopefully not too long. They learned the self-awareness or love or whatever, this thing that has to happen internally, that there is value in that inclusion. Or and then maybe it’s not inclusion, there’s value in the diversity of that room that there’s value in. Oh, wow. Like, if we hadn’t understood her perspective, we wouldn’t understand why we need to get more women in the workforce and how valuable that can be for us. Literally makes us a better company. We had to understand the minorities perspective. We wouldn’t understand. It literally adds value to the shared undertaking. And so there’s. So so I’m thinking that. Inclusion. I can understand, how you’re saying inclusions like tolerance… It should be natural, but there’s an uncomfortable process, I guess, going through it in the beginning.
Neil Phillips [01:07:41] Yeah. And through the example that you shared, my question would be, did the white men in the room feel like they were included? Because certainly the woman or the person of color. Was being told they were included. Right. So there’s almost this kind of like there’s a level at which people feel they don’t have to be invited to be included, that they just feel an inherent sense of inclusion, whereas others it feels like a deliberate step. And if that deliberate step has to take place, we’ve got this hierarchy even without allowing it. We have this hierarchy of those who feel a right place. Right. Feel like it’s just sort of a decree from God that they are included. And others who feel like the group who doesn’t need to feel included has chosen to include me again. I might be, I don’t know. But either way. Right. So inside this building out, it just feels like maybe we could be getting to a heart, you know, a source of what hierarchy? Does and feels like I just again, I don’t know, but I’m sharing what’s coming. That’s right.
Tom Scott [01:09:08] You know, this isn’t. It’s funny to hear what you said, Neil, about tolerance. I’ve always felt that there’s a museum of tolerance, and every time I see that, I think tolerance like you’re just going to tolerate this, just as… Doesn’t feel complete to me. And again, I’m sorry. I’m going to beat my drum one more time. I would have liked it the other day. RP if that business person had said, we’re gonna put love at the top of our. The thing we’re gonna deliver and we’re gonna put right above shareholder value and we’re gonna put love right in front of getting kids into good colleges. And we’re gonna put love right in front of getting lots of viewers. Right. I think the world would change dramatically. The irony is it seems to be the case that we kind of got this far without saying the word out loud. Whatever this far means, by the way. And yet I think it’s been sitting in the background the entire time and that, you know, that notion that if you look at sort of the state of affairs in America, it’s what I saw when I was out on the road. In the end, it turns out we just want that. That’s actually what we want. And somehow we’ve let our culture be about sort of expediency and it’s expediency on the way to consumer culture. Like, that’s our culture doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t think it’s good enough. And I think so many of the things that we’re talking about would change so drastically if we actually spoke about it more. I am I’m a realist. I understand that most people are not going to, like, jump up tomorrow and start doing this because it sounds hippie ish and freakish and all these other things. But I think it’s what sits behind ultimately, you know, the way we really because I think we do. I think we really do care for others. And given priorities get in the way and they outline the reasons we might not like those other people and we get busy and we just end up not liking it. What? Why? Well, because somebody is being expedient. Someone’s someone’s out trying to be efficient in their definition of their selves as a product. Wow, man, we’re getting crazy now. For now to get to this point, because when we first rolled in here, we were all sort of individually doing our different things, which was sort of a central ethos that was somewhat there. But now it’s sort of outrageously connected, misunderstood. And we have to start saying, what is it that we actually think unifies us? Because. Because I think that’s where you cross that line. Like, why do we use that word? Tolerance and inclusion. People are OK with it politically. That’s why. What does it mean? What does really matter? OK, this is good. You’re going to you’ll be good if you use that word, OK? I’m not sure I understand exactly, but I’ll I’ll follow that rule for the next five minutes and then it gets difficult to navigate. But if I understood like what I think what you said, Neil, I mean, the good news is it’s true. You know, it’s true that flourishing happens when you sort of surround yourself with those things. I don’t always do it so great. We don’t do it so well at our company. We don’t do it so well in a lot of the different things that I surround my life with. But then when I do, I find that it’s. It has all those aspects to it. Anyway, I want to just, Neil, give you an opportunity, if you’d like one. To just reflect on what we we’ve spoken about or reflect on where we are and. And I know you’re aware I know you’re in a process. Well, let us be part of your process.
Tom Scott [01:12:49] Thank you for that. And it’s a gift. You’re absolutely right. I’m in a process. I’m constantly learning. I caution everyone I talked to. I have the privilege of sharing my thoughts around these topics. I caution them to beware of of expertize. Right. I hope we all the expertize that we all have on these areas comes from our life experience. So I am not ever comfortable feeling in a position to be able to tell people what to do or what matters around this and all of those things that just I don’t believe I have that expertize, but I have a lot of expertize on my own experiences with this and my own perspective. In fact, I’m the the ultimate expert on my own experiences and what they inform and how they inspire cause me to act. And I think if I have a bottom line is it’s optimism and it’s optimism because I know Who People are at their most expansive moments. I know how people act. In their spirit of goodness and care and love, I know that when those things are the drivers, that so much of what we find ourselves actually talking about just actually happens. And so my optimism is rooted in. My inherent my belief in people’s inherent goodness. And I believe that deeply. So I have a lot of optimism. And the other thing that where that optimism comes is from this notion of proximity. Brian Stephen talked so much about being proximate to sort of to really understand and feel and be at the core of the issues with which our communities are faced. And I think about it in that way. But in a little bit of a different way, which is physical proximity of all of us, what happened is when we all are closer together. Right. Men, women, rich, poor, black, white, Latino, Native American, when we’re closer together. The thing that invariably happens is that our commonalities far overwhelm our differences. That’s what proximity does, is it causes us to realize we’re all dealing with the same issues and how to raise our kids. We’re all struggling with the same issues of how to move from living paycheck to paycheck and to having some savings. We’re all struggling with the idea of what it looks like to change careers. We’re all struggling with the ideas, with the realities of losing family members like those commonalities. Are evident and are celebrated. When we are proximate and I have tremendous optimism and confidence in that as well. So. Thanks for the opportunity to share that.
Tom Scott [01:16:14] Thank you. Thanks for spending time, R.P.. Thank you as always. And and I’m sure we’ll talk again. So. Thanks, guys.
Neil Phillips [01:16:24] Thank you.
Tom Scott [01:16:30] RP, you’re on mute.
RP Eddy [01:16:34] Hello, hello, hello.
Tom Scott [01:16:35] There you go there, go there.
RP Eddy [01:16:40] Thank you so much, Neil. This is a. Unbelievably important territory, and I learned a tremendous amount from our conversation. Thank you very much.
Neil Phillips [01:16:49] Thank you, RP. Feeling is mutual. Always is.
Tom Scott [01:16:53] Nice to see you buddy.