By Gagan (Jared Levy) – An excerpt from his coming book We Are Guru
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it” – Ram Dass
If only we looked at people with these same kind, nonjudgemental, loving eyes that we use to look at trees. This is the “revolutionary love” that newest client Valarie Kaur speaks about in her coming book, See No Stranger (pre-buy on Amazon now as there has never been a book so perfectly timed for the world it is being birthed into).
Seeing no stranger means ending the game of ‘othering’ by truly finding the beauty, the importance, the love, the value, the compassion for everyone and everything outside of yourself. When you find the beauty in someone or something you can truly love them or it. Often times, it is actually the beauty within that thing that you actually love. When you discover this beauty in each and every person in the world, then you learn to love them. “You treat every one you meet like God in drag,” says Ram Dass and you can’t help but “love everyone,” as Ram Dass’ Guru Mahara-Ji would show and tell. It is through this process that you can truly open your heart and start to consider others as you’ve considered yourself over the course of your life. You can feel their hurts, love their loves, and develop an authentic connection through the compassion that now chains you together. Through compassion you can face reality and meet people with an open heart.
Along this journey, you will meet many obstacles as I have. I’m coming to the conversation wearing this “spacesuit” of a well to do, educated, white male, which comes with all kinds of undeserved perks including power, confidence, trust, access and many many other benefits. I can’t change the color of my skin and I’m not looking to put on a new spacesuit to roam this earth; although I do crave the understanding of trauma and subsequent empathy that would undoubtedly bring. As the Love Serve Remember Foundation shared in their recent statement, this is an issue of social responsibility to the wellbeing of our fellow humans. I expect to stumble greatly as I do my best to show up with an open heart during these times of racial injustice underlying the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many more, along with the subsequent handling of protests around this world. I will fight for justice, for equity over equality, for inclusion and for opportunity that comes with embracing diversity. I will use my white privilege to dismantle white privilege and I will polish my mirror along the way. In fact, I got a beautiful polishing from my dear friend Raj Aggarwal at Provoc, who has conducted ongoing Diversity Equity Inclusion training work with our boards at both Love Serve Remember Foundation and at Social Venture Circle. He and his colleague Vanice Dunn hosted an exercise with each board where we wrote down the ten people we trust most in the world. Once the list was built, we made categories for gender, race, class, nationality, education, sexual orientation, religion and other demographics and then put a check next to each category where the trusted individual shared that category with us. So if they were white I marked it, if they were Jewish I marked it, and so on. It turned out that for each of us, the average was that more than 75% of those we trusted most looked just like us! Yes, it is beautiful that we trust ourselves; however, it says a lot about the crevasses that many ‘others’ have to catapult over to gain our trust. For us to truly embrace that ‘other.’ I wept with the realization. It was the never-ending learning cycle of self reflection. Of becoming keenly aware of where I’m at, where I intend to be, and the work needed to get from here to there.
We must learn to #SeeNoStranger. Through a healthier relationship with diversity we can start to dissolve our reflex of ‘othering.’ And we can start to see the opportunity in diversity for from diverse experiences come diverse solutions. Our work together is to make the invisible visible. Diversity is not about checking boxes or having a more colorful Zoom call… it is about embracing underrepresented perspectives to collectively expand our impact. For years, the natural products industry which is actually one of the most conscious innovative sectors, has struggled in this department. They, we, are caught in a wicked cycle. Underserved minority communities don’t show up as “target audiences” (sorry, gotta crowbar in some marketing lingo here for sec), because “they don’t eat overpriced, non-GMO, organic, gluten free, nom nom” — and so many of these companies don’t spend money to target and educate those communities on the why — and so the communities that could best benefit from these products considering the systemic inequities and health disparities they live with every day, don’t eat their products. In this cycle, the company reinforces what they already knew. So it continues, creating massive food deserts across our country where historically underserved black and brown communities don’t have access to healthy, non-toxic nourishment for their families. It’s depressing, I know, but there is hope. A collective of forward-thinking leaders at OSC in the industry formed J.E.D.I. (Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion) with the goals of tackling problems like these and opening the eyes of more companies to the opportunity of diversity on their leadership teams and throughout their matrix of stakeholders. Guru has decided to double down on our work with this movement and to donate a significant amount of resources to furthering this cause in collaboration with J.E.D.I.!
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, we at Guru are looking to increase the diversity at our agency as well. We have two job postings right now and I’m wondering if our community might have ideas, processes, or connections to relevant communities that might help us to find a candidate of color for these job openings. We’re excited to continue bringing values-aligned individuals with diverse backgrounds into our family. We commit to continue to transparently polish our own mirror, listening, and evolving with these times.
Thank you for your care and understanding,