Amy Choi [AC]: So, amplifying voices and encouraging leadership from the margins is one of the ways that we are tackling the problem of exclusion. But there are so, so, so many more strategies for the fight, including broadening our perspectives, changing our language, and engaging with people who challenge us. And of course, one of the most effective weapons for fighting exclusion? Inclusive design. Before we get into it with Matt and Aaron, let’s hear again from the community on how we get out of our own bubbles and build empathy.
Hank Richardson [HR]: Hi, I’m Hank Richardson, the Director of Opportunity and Design Coach at Portfolio Center in Atlanta. You know, you never want to solve a problem from the same perspective that the question is asked. So books that always change my thinking, Marshall McLuhan’s book The Medium is the Message, also, Paul Rand’s Design, Form, and Chaos, as well, from Glasgow to Brooklyn, because one is about form and the other, about aesthetics.
Philosophy–read all the philosophy you can. I’m reading about Hegel just now, and the best book ever: James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.
Jen Mayer: Hi, I’m Jen Mayer, I’m a Portfolio Director at IDO. I try to actually not unfriend people that I desperately want to unfriend. I just keep them in my feed and try and take it all in.
Lawrence Azerrad: Hey this is Lawrence [Azerrad] from LAD Design, what do I do, watch, or read that helps me understand a different perspective? That would definitely be meditate, everyday, to remind myself why I love what I do and my reason for doing it.
Rebecca Lehrer: Hi, I’m Rebecca Lehrer, I’m the cofounder and CEO of the Mash-Up Americans. I try to read and watch and do a lot of things that help me understand different perspectives, hopefully. But I think one of the main ways I do that is actually on Twitter.
So I try to watch and just learn from people, what they’re sharing, what they care about, I don’t need to respond to them, I don’t feel the need to defend myself, but to understand why and what they’re talking about, just what the conversation is.
Ti Chang: Hi, my name’s Ti [Chang], designer and cofounder of Crave. What I watch or read that helps me understand a different perspective, I actually go to Daily Mail dot co dot uk. It is this hot mess of a newspaper that is a cross between tabloids and CNN. And when I see the headlines and the stories, I’m just kind of somewhat enlightened by the different ways people can interpret things. So yeah, that’s how I get another perspective.
Tad Toulis: Hey, I’m Tad Toulis, vice president of design at Sonos. To gain a different perspective, I’ll often toggle between Fox and CNN on the same news cycle. But generally I try to catch my news from foreign outlets, to get outside of the American media landscape.
Sometimes all our media just feels like cereal boxes at the grocery store, 100 brands at 3 price points. 57 channels, but 2 viewpoints.
AC: We have been discussing tough topics throughout Design and Exclusion, and it’s time for us to get down to solutions. How do we think inclusively at every step? How do we challenge ourselves to do better in the future, and what commitments can we all make as leaders in the field? So what are real, tactical tips and best practices for how we can all, as a community, avoid exclusion in design? I am super excited to have here in this conversation, Matt Mullenweg of Automattic and Aarron Walter of InVision. Welcome, you two, thank you for being here.
MM: Howdy howdy.
AW: Hey, thanks for having me.
AC: Oh, I like the “howdy!” Matt’s in Texas. Aaron, I was waiting for a “ya’ll.”
AW: There might be a “ya’ll” or two that’ll pop up here shortly.
AC: I appreciate that. Alright, so let’s get down to brass tacks, because after our conversations on the industry that we’ve had today, on the research on online engagement, we all really want to get down to work here.
So Matt, talk to me. Why now? Why is this conversation so important to be having now? Why is talking about design and exclusion so important to Automattic right now? And was there a personal catalyst for this?
MM: Whew, that’s a lot of questions. I think why now is that because one of the original sort of goals of the people who pioneered the internet has succeeded, we now have billions of people online, we’re going to have billions more coming online. And I think that we’re now seeing that perhaps the early utopian vision, of what that would look like, when people came together and were able to communicate in these open forms, sometimes anonymous, sometimes not, sometimes attached to identity, lots of things, many human behaviors came along with that. And we see examples, more and more every day.
Where the internet supercharges communication, and communication can be used positively or negatively. But I think that function can follow form, so the folks building tools, if we can approach thoughtfully, the issues around what these tools sort of encourage people to do, and what the consequences are, and how the sort of default modes of interaction are. We can perhaps come a little bit closer to that ideal that we had when we got started. When the internet was just wild and free.
AC: That’s so interesting, that in some ways all the goals have been achieved, and in others, we’ve realized that maybe some of the tools we’ve built have been in some way weaponized in a way that we never thought, right. That communication, and the harnessing of all of these voices and all of this energy can be used for incredible social change, and it can also be used to hurt in some ways.
Was there a single thing, maybe in your life or in your lived experience, that made now the moment in your career where thinking about exclusion and inclusion was so important?
MM: Personally, you know, I’ve come up through open source. Which is this idea of people collaborating all over the world to build software, generally. These communities can often be very fiery [laughs] There’s a Socratic approach to debate and development where you challenge people’s ideas, you know, it can be very very combative, to put it lightly. And me, especially when I was a young, 18, 19 year old kid, just getting started, I really thrived in this. I loved the debates and everything. But over time, when I started to see the folks who were joining the community and more importantly the people who dropped out of the community, in terms of contributing to open source. It became clear that this mode of interaction is not something that is very inviting [laughs]
And that, ultimately, wants the people building WordPress and other tools to represent the people that we’re trying to serve as well. And I’m a big believer that truly diverse groups of people, in every factor, in every variable, can create better products, so. We started to think about how are we interacting with each other. And can we bring, the thing for me, actually being from the South, is this idea of etiquette and politeness, how can we fuse that with a vigorous debate of ideas, but keeping it just to the ideas, and maybe keeping it vigorous, but not to the point where it’s going to scare people away, or make people feel like it’s an emotional burden to participate in development.
AC: Absolutely, I mean, there’s a big difference between vigorous and vicious.
MM: Absolutely, and the other thing that’s really changed is the family that I work with every day has grown, you know, Automattic didn’t exist when WordPress started.
And, you know, over the past couple years since I became CEO it’s gone from 200-something to over 550 people. And because we’re a totally distributed company, you know, it’s not just that we have people all in Mountain View that are from parts of the world. But everyday I work with people in 50 plus countries. Who live there, who wake up there, who go to sleep there, whose families are there. More than half the company is outside of North America so there’s just, you get the sort of diversity in differences and experiences of people living day to day, even above and beyond where they were born or came from, I think brings a lot of these issues in focus. And I think that it is just kind of a microcosm of what goes on in the internet at large, where you have people who, I feel often, part of the reason they’re not connecting is they don’t have a shared base of understanding because their experiences thus far have been so disparate that it’s hard to find common ground to even begin to have that sort of benefit of the doubt and everything else that can really be conducive to a production conversation like we’re having here.
AC: Mhm, right, absolutely, and you have to have that trust in order to have productive disagreement. I think that’s such a great point you make about your lived experience and how that perspective of being from the South, for example, led you to think a little bit more deeply about the ideas of etiquette or kindness or politeness, courtesy. And that within Automattic there’s people from all over the world, that are also bringing their own lived experience into it. Aaron, you know, we have chatted about this before, we talked a little bit about your kids, and I would love to share some of that with our audience, how your lived experience, for example, also with your children, has shaped how you think about exclusion, whether it’s in design, or through other parts of your life.
AW: Yeah, so my two boys, I’ve got a 3 year old and a 6 year old, both of my boys are adopted and they’re black, and my wife and I are white, and you know, for us, when we try to find the right books and movies and things we want to share with our boys, stories that are interesting and inspiring to them, we’re always looking for them in the story, that they can see themselves in the story. And it’s something that, growing up as a white male in the Midwest, it was easy to see myself, I could be Luke Skywalker, I could be Han Solo. But showing that to my kids, can they see themselves as the hero? And even last night, I put PJs on my youngest son and he looked at Finn on his shirt, and I was so excited to see that movie come out and here is a hero character who’s a black male.
And there’s just not, there’s just not a whole lot of that that’s out there. And so for our family, that was really meaningful. And he looked at that shirt and he said, “He’s a bad guy!” and I said, “Whoa, wait, why is he a bad guy?” And he, you know, it could have been because of race, it could’ve been for, because he was holding a laser blaster, but these sorts of things kind of seep into our understanding of the world, of what is good, what is bad, these memes that are subconscious in media and stories and things all around us. So, to me, being involved in design, to me and to us at InVision, this idea of how do we get everyone’s voice into the conversation, is really critical. Because if we think about just the mechanics of resources, Matt was talking about 4 billion people online.
Well, 4 billion people online, and there’s so many different perspectives and talents and value that can be brought to all of the things that we make in the world. And if we limit that to a small privileged perspective, none of us are served. None of us are served well, because there’s so much potential that’s not maximized there.
AC: We see the effects of this at such a molecular level, and at such an intimate one too. Like your son, getting to have a hero that looks like him is so important. Then also, with both of the work you do, it’s systems upon systems upon systems. And what we’re creating is an environment, an ecosystem, in which other people can thrive. In which, how do we change the system as a whole to bring people in from the very beginning, and to let that trickle down to ultimately, to somebody designing a film in which your son can see himself.
I think it’s important to always be thinking about how all of these are interrelated. Because no single active inclusion lives in a vacuum. Important to consider that, right, when we’re thinking about solutions as we are now. So to me the soul of the conversation here, and really this whole conference is about, it’s about what we want our future to look like, right? And then how we design for that. Matt can you tell us a little bit about how Automattic is combatting exclusion right now? Like what are the most pressing components of that process, like throughout the conference we’ve talked about pipeline of talent, research and information gathering, conversation and community building. What’s Automattic’s strategy in this?
MM: Well I’ll start at a personal level and say the first thing I’m doing is just listening. That’s why of this as so important and why, I love that this is coming from a design angle. Because that’s one of the things that helped awaken it for me, is like John Maeda, who’s our Global Head of Design and Inclusion joined and really seeking out him for that role, knowing that he would bring so much more to that sort of perspective. From the very early days, I’ll give a good example. WordPress from the very beginning, one of the things that distinguished it from other platforms is it had comment moderation. So by default, for a comment to appear on your site, you have to approve it. And it’s got some fairly sophisticated tools in terms of, you can block the IP, or by keyword, or regular expressions. If you’re technical, you can get pretty good at say, filtering out people or content that people are commenting about.
Also many people don’t know but at Automattic our first commercial product wasn’t actually WordPress dot com, it was Kismet, which is an anti-spam, sort of machine service. It’s been running for over a decade now. Now looking at these things that might be more technical or might be combatted at one type of annoying or abusive speech or just spam [laughs] and how to span that out. For example for the filtering tools. To just make it more accessible, so you don’t have to learn regular expressions. To be able to adequately filter, maybe a type of comment that you’re getting or a type of person that’s following you or harassing you online. So I would say this is one of our first places ’cause comments are so central to blogs, in my opinion what makes blogs so beautiful, is that comments are more interesting than the post itself, and so by working on that first we think that that can help inform some of our other parts of our product that will also need help.
But I will be the first to say that we’re very much in the first inning here, I wouldn’t say that Automattic’s doing a good job on everything else, so we’re really looking at other things people are doing well, and also other things people are doing poorly, to try to avoid the same mistakes or emulate the best practices.
AC: Mhm, it gets back to that idea of if you have a space in which you can talk, you can then also listen. And I think that’s a really valuable point that you raise right now is that for you personally, you’re in a listening zone, you’re trying to absorb all the different things and learn from other people’s mistakes and other people’s successes, when it comes to inclusion and exclusion. What do you listen, what are you seeking out to listen to, as part of this process, are there specific sources?
MM: I think you can find inspiration for this from almost any realm. So, I find behavioral economics really really interesting. Behavioral psychology, you know, when you look at how societies evolve. History, a lot of this is not new, it’s things that society dealt with when newspapers came out and yellow sheets and you know, history actually is very awakening, especially when you start digging beyond what you learned in school. Growing up in Texas I actually had two years of Texas history and only one year of American history, which is kind of funny, but–
AC: That’s amazing.
AW: Texas history is extra big though.
MM: I mean, we have a design dot blog, which is a great publication, I think this conference is on a subdomain of it, x dot design dot blog. When John kicked that off, that was really awakening for me.
AC: I think part of thinking about how we solve, for inclusion, is about also our prioritization, right.
What can we do now, where can we start. Like you said, we’re all at first base. And I think part of this is that, we’re also always going to be at first base, because more information will always come in, the world will always get bigger, or our understanding of it will always become more nuanced, so we can always continue to find ways to be more inclusive, like this is a project that never ends. In another conversation earlier in Design and Exclusion, Paco Vinoly from NextDoor was telling us about how NextDoor was able to dramatically reduce the amount of racial profiling on, like across their social network. And it’s not necessarily that NextDoor is going to solve racism, but it is doing every possible thing within its power to do what it can to fight racism in the product that it makes.
I’ve been reflecting on that for a little while now and I think that there’s something so profound and so valuable about that because it’s just such a good reminder that we can all be empowered to do something, right? Tackling exclusion in the world and in design may not seem doable, but that we all have roles to play, right, like everybody can enter the fight in different ways. In the world that we live in, with the barrage of information, it can become overwhelming to then be like, “Ah! What do I do? How do I help?” And I think it’s really, you know, it’s not small to start by listening. It’s not small to think, I can help build one tool. And that’s the impact that we can have. Aarron, from your perspective, we’ve kind of heard Matt’s and mine, what do you feel like is a thing that people can do, like what can you do now, that doesn’t seem so daunting?
AW: One of the things that I try to do, and is often hard to do, is put myself in a situation where I’m in the minority. Every time I take my boys to the barbershop, it’s a learning experience for me, we get to a barbershop where I’m usually the only white guy there, and I definitely stand out, but it’s really, it essentially shows me the perspective that my boys often live in. But also is the perspective that I see so many people in the city and as I travel, that this is their daily life, that their constantly adapting as a minority and adapting to different culture, adapting to different situations. To me, that’s really helpful, ’cause you said it earlier, that it humanizes or gives you empathy or understanding, it’s almost just like, it normalizes another perspective, that this is just part of your world.
And that’s something that can come through in your work and lots of other places. Being open to how finding that perspective, seeing that perspective, can be channeled in other places is really valuable, just the knowing. And for us, at InVision, we’ve had a number of conversations recently, in many ways our software needs to be a bit agnostic and kind of just let people making things and get out of the way. But we produce a ton of content, you know, we do a lot of writing, we interview a lot of people, like John, and we do a ton of illustration. And it’s important to us as we think about the illustrations and who’s represented, for instance we were working on this guide to design leadership and initially the illustration concepts were very white, it was a lot of white men–
AC: Welcome to my world, guys! [laughs]
AW: I was looking at these and I was thinking, how would my boys, if they wanted to be design leaders someday, how would they see themselves in that position? And it’s a small thing, it’s an illustration, but it’s actually a pretty big deal. So we continue to work and refine, iterate, to make sure that the content that we’re producing, illustrations that accompany that, tell the story of you could be from any sort of background, and you can have this lead position. And if you are in that lead position from that background, clearly you have a lot of influence on who you hire, who you bring into the company, just focusing on hiring, I think that’s another thing that so many listeners today probably have some role that they play in hiring. And it might not be the hiring manager who’s making the final decision, but you might be participating in interviews, and getting to know new candidates.
Thinking about, it’s so easy for us to choose people who are like us, “Oh, I really liked hanging out with that person, I love that they’re reading the same books as me, etcetera,” that actually can be a pretty negative thing because you get this perpetuating echo chamber of a single perspective. So the challenge is, as you’re hiring and thinking about how do you build your company, who is going to be on this team, is to choose people that have different perspectives, that will help challenge the work, push the work in different ways, and you know, I’ve talked to a lot of designers and mentored them over the years, and I hear the same thing, when I ask, “What is it you want, what is the ideal job for you as a designer?” And they say, “I want a place where I can grow” and a place that is a lot of sameness is not a place that you can grow.
It’s not a place where you can realize the potential that you have as a designer. So I think hiring is a really really important tool.
AC: Our listeners can’t see it but I have nodding vigorously, to the point where my neck might break off. I’m so with you, I think there’s a couple of really critical points to highlight here, one is Aarron I agree, putting in people of color, people across the gender spectrum into representations of leadership roles is so critically important, because you can’t be what you can’t see. You can–
AW: You can, but it’s really damn hard. It’s really hard, and it’s so many headwinds against you to just put you head in that space that nobody else out there like me is doing this but I have the confidence and the gumption to go out that and try this. Versus, if you get some cues that say, okay–
AC: This is possible.
AW: Yeah, it’s within the realm of possibility, that you could potentially do this. That’s a really important thing.
AC: Yeah, I think that is so important, and why we’re so focused on representation. I also think there is, in thinking, this is about hiring, but also about collaboration and decision-making in general, and also just how we open up our spheres or a lens through which we can examine our own preferences, and our own inclinations is literally to look around the room. You know, who’s invited to the party. And if everybody invited to the party looks kinda just like you, then do a little soul-searching. And it’s hard to do, right, because it’s painful and you’re like, “Ah! I’m not a racist person or I’m not a single-minded person!”
But it’s just a, look at your bookshelf, that’s the same way of looking at who’s invited to the party. Are they all male authors? Are they all black authors? Are they all only women? If it’s only ever one thing, then I think it’s worth thinking about, okay, how do I challenge myself, how do I look further. And to your point, you know, we may not all be the final arbiter of who gets hired in the company or how something gets made. But we all have some power, right, like we all have some agency in avoiding exclusion and incorporating inclusion. So I really want everybody to feel that, to be like, I can do this, I can do something. Even though we’re not going to heal the world in one design, we can all do something.
I think part of building this future that we all want, that we’re all seeking is that, you know, we work in digital, right, and most of our community is digital. But we don’t live in digital. We live in physical spaces, we interact with real people, and you’re going to the barbershop with your kids, you know, we use real, tangible objects every day that are also products of design. This is like, the stage in which we live our lives. How do we integrate inclusive design thinking to these other aspects? Like how do those two worlds come together?
AW: Well design thinking, the first stage is empathy. And starting by understanding your audience is, that’s the very nature of design thinking. It’s definitely built in, finding ways to connect to a lot of different customers. I used to run a research team, founded the research team at MailChimp.
And we spent a lot of time traveling and meeting with customers in person, talking to them on the phone. It’s the best way to become a better designer is to connect with your customer. So being in those physical spaces, that was my favorite part of doing research was going to the place where they work, we had a way of describing, like their home place, their workspace, or their third space, which is you know, like their favorite coffee shop or bar or something like that. Going to these places that are part of their life give us some perspective and it might be more ambient information that informs who the people are that are using the product, and sometimes it’s very tangible how it informs design work too. But I’m a big believer as a designer that we should be talking to our customers on a regular basis and I think that that dovetails very nicely with this conversation of inclusion and how we get different perspectives and inform our work.
MM: Yeah, it all comes back to empathy I think if there’s one word to take away, it’s empathy. I’m kind of in this ’cause I am an idealist. And that’s almost somewhat controversial to say, but I really do believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity. It’s just that when something go wrong, we notice it so much more than when anything goes right. Behavioral economics, you feel a dollar you lose, seven times more than a dollar you gain. It’s built into our psychology there. And so as more and more, maybe 0.1 percent of the population that’s not good in this way, but when you start to get a billion people online, it’s a lot of folks, and they can amplify their voices in ways that impact us.
Actually, at times in my online life when I’ve been attacked by a mob [laughs] when there’s like hundreds, there’s blogs and hundreds of people saying “Matt is terrible” etcetera, that’s not been as bad, as when sometimes there’s that one persistent person, who’s just like, everything else is going fine, and your life is fine, and there’s that one kind of troll or harasser or something like that. It’s so interesting how like, even in that situation, sometimes the mob is less bad, to me, I felt like the mob was less bad than this one sort of persistent mosquito-like presence in the room. But we have to, I think that, part of the reason I work on publishing, is I do believe that humanity is fundamentally good, and as we get more communication things get better, ’cause communication is the root of empathy. It’s hard to have empathy without getting there in the room, or having that conversation. And you have to be able to bring that mode of thinking, even when–
Like Amy said, it’s ideal, if you’re in a room that’s inclusive of many different types of folks, but sometimes you’re not, you know? Sometimes I’m at dinner with my mom, my sister, and my uncle. And we all kind of look the same. We all have literally almost identical backgrounds. And it’s how do you bring that thinking and that open mindedness to that dinner conversation, as well as the one where you’re with all your buddies, and it’s more of like a mixed group.
AC: I love that because, I love thinking about empathy, period. You know, one of the ways in which we think about it at Mash-Up is that it’s different from sympathy where, sympathy, you have already a connection to somebody’s experience and can be sympathetic to it, like “Oh, you’re waylaid with a terrible cold or oh, your kid’s in the hospital,” like, I get that. I know, my kid has been in the hospital, or I’ve been terribly sick.
I so sympathize with that. Empathy, is about doing the hard work of connecting to and really believing the experience of somebody who you don’t share a common ground. You know we think of it as like, getting down on your knees, and like really looking at somebody in the eye, and saying, “I see you. And I will work with you on your needs, even though they’re not mine.” Even though they’re not something that affects me, personally, and that’s equally important work. It’s more work too, right, it’s not easy, but probably that’s what makes it more important. And Matt you also raised, a subject which for me is a really core one to this whole conference which is about intention.
Throughout the panels, we’ve kind of heard that so much of exclusion is unintentional, which I’d like to push that forward a little bit. Yes, exclusion can be unintentional, you could have not intended to forget about all the other people that were outside the room. Or a bunch of, you know, men designers could have forgotten the needs of women when designing an app, for example. But I think, in knowing that we all do live in our bubbles, in acknowledging that unconscious bias exists, there is a point at which you have to have real intention in fighting it, and if you’re not doing that work, you know, my point is that everybody has to do that work, that un-intentionality, is not a reason for exclusionary practices to exist.
We all need to, to push ourselves a little bit further on this. What do you do really to get out of your bubble?
AW: Speaking of comfortable bubbles, it’s very comfortable for us, we very like-minded people, to talk about you know, best practices of inclusion and so forth, but there are other people out there that they live in rural locations where they’re just not exposed to a lot of culture, that’s where I grew up in Iowa, it’s a monoculture, primarily. There are some other folks that live there, but it’s primarily a monoculture, and people don’t really have those broader experiences. And subsequently those of us that, we live in cities, we’ve traveled the world, we’ve got that broader perspective, it’s very easy for us to kind of look down our noses at these people who live in a monoculture.
That they are unenlightened and they need to figure stuff out, and to some degree that’s true, like everyone should wake up and see, this is the bubble that we live in, the world is a big place, and everyone should be invited to the party. But I think there’s something to understanding people of various political spectrums, and I’m not saying that I have to necessarily embrace all of these political ideals that may be counter to my beliefs, but we started this conversation talking about trust and respect and how we actually have conversations and learn from each other, and if we continue to throw mud, if we continue to kind of look down our nose and say, “You philistine, you’re too arcane to be part of the enlightened world and someday hopefully you’ll figure it out.”
Well that’s not productive either, right? It’s, if we want to be inclusive, we need to think about a lot of different people, even when it’s really challenging. Like it can be very challenging to be inclusive. The easy thing is to say, oh hey, other people that don’t look like me should be part of this conversation, great. How about other people who think things differently than I do, how do I talk to them, how do I see their perspective, maybe not necessarily agree with it, how can I look at these other things that challenge my fundamental beliefs, and see if there’s a different way to have this conversation, to get to know somebody.
MM: I’d like to get out of San Fransisco and New York. I think, growing up in Houston, and now returning to Houston in my thirties has been fantastic, Houston’s been majority minority for a while. I believe it’s the most diverse city in the United States in terms of sort of, equality–
AC: Houston is also the size of a state. Houston will someday annex the rest of Texas it seems like.
MM: It’s getting big. It’s now the third largest city in the United States. But you know, I have friends here who’s a woman, who’s a first-generation immigrant, non-white, married to someone who’s first-generation Mexican-American, and voted for Trump. And understanding that perspective kind of blows my mind. How does that work? And I’ll hate-read Breitbart and other things as well. I haven’t found those personally as useful.
AC: I do so much hate-reading. I feel like I need to know the enemy. I’ll be honest. I watch every press conference and then I have like, tightness in my chest for hours, and Rebecca, my partner is like “What? Why did you do that?” I’m like, I feel like I had to. Anyway, sorry, go on.
MM: [laughs] I haven’t found that as productive.
AC: No, it’s not, it’s not, you’re on the right track. I’m just saying that I’m still back there.
MM: I’ve been trying it as well. Maybe we’ll keep doing it, but I have to balance that out. ‘Cause like I said earlier, the bad stuff does impact you.
So, history does have a lot to learn here. And I think we all have to, the more we can dig into that, like, we’ve talked about reaching across, for current folks, across the aisle, across to other types of folks, but also reaching across time. Whether to people who are different ages, like older, or to people who passed away generations ago, who can talk about things that can really inspire or inform you because to be honest a lot of the stuff was a lot worse a hundred years ago and the struggles were very different. But also, I find some of it a lot more inspiring. This is an exclusion conference, which is kind of a reverse way to look at it, ’cause obviously the purpose of the conference is not to do more exclusion, but I find myself returning again and again to one of the things Martin Luther King popularized which is this beloved community. It’s, and the word even, kind of scares people, because it talks about love, or beloved, or it might feel like it has religious connotations.
But I’m not even gonna talk about it, just encourage everyone to look it up and read about it, and it’s something that when things get tough I find myself returning to again and again, as sort of the ideal of where we could head to, ’cause I do believe it’s possible.
AC: Thank you, Matt, I was actually just thinking, going to ask, you know, so much of the work is necessary and also hard, and we’ve talked about tactics but I love that wisdom on how to keep yourself whole, as part of the journey here is also a soulful one. You’re challenging yourself, and you’re challenging the people around you and your colleagues, any sort of life advice, or spiritual advice that you would share as people go on that journey?
MM: You know I think it’s interesting how many parts of life, when you’re growing, it’s really uncomfortable. If you think about pain in your muscles, like that’s a very physical embodiment of it, but probably every part of your life where you’ve really grown, including engaging with these types of issues, it’s probably been really uncomfortable or painful at some point, and so just remembering that that’s part of the process. I had a trainer once that said “That’s the feeling of weakness leaving your body.” [laughs] You can imagine that, maybe that’s the feeling for all sorts of other things that you’re trying to get rid of, mental, emotional, background, whatever. Maybe that pain is some of that leaving your body, it can be a good reminder to work through it. ‘Course it’s not true 100 percent, but if you can keep that in mind for some stuff.
AC: Jerry Seinfeld has a line in one of his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where he’s like, “Pain is information rushing in, maybe a little too fast, but it’s just information, it’ll make you better.”
Aarron, any tips from you?
AW: It’s a pretty heavy question. I do like the idea of thinking about this from like a spiritual perspective, even if, you know, listeners are not particularly spiritual in many ways. But I find the more that I connect with people in my area, people in my town, support something that’s bigger than me, the more giving myself to that, I get far more of what I need, it’s far more satisfying. So, yeah, finding something meaningful in your area, in your community that you can be part of that can connect you to new people and help you see new perspectives, there’s a lot to be gained there.
AC: I think that’s great. And one thing that Mash-Up we learned on this journey we had a conversation with Krista Tippett, who I’m sure you guys know from her incredible show On Being.
And she was–
MM: The biggest fan.
AC: She’s the best! She’s the best. And she was saying when we’re talking about the spiritual fight, when she was in conversation with John Lewis, that he would, part of his fight, part of his spiritual preparation, when he knew he was going to protest, even to the people that he knew would probably beat him, and thought of him as less than human, that he would imagine them as children, as babies, and remember that we all came into this earth, and that that, that sustained him through so much of this. So, thank you guys so much. From me, I invite all of our listeners to again, look around the room, ask a few questions, who is invited to the party, who can you invite?
How can you with the power and position that you have, and we all have some, punch up against systems that create exclusion? And my life advice is to be willing to be humbled. This is hard work, but I’m on your team, Matt and Aarron are on your team, and so many others are too. So, we’ve got some big thinkers on the case, on Design and Exclusion, so let’s not be afraid as we challenge ourselves and commit ourselves deeper to fighting exclusion. Matt, Aarron, thank you so much for your time and your insights, this was fantastic.
AW: Thank you.
MM: Yeah, thank you Amy.