March 29, 2024

Dreaming in Color: Rebecca Dixon

Episode Notes

In this episode, we sit down with Rebecca Dixon, president and CEO of the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Since joining NELP in 2010, she has advanced the organization's growth and impact while serving in several positions, including policy analyst and senior staff attorney. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, Rebecca was a leader in winning unprecedented unemployment insurance coverage expansions in 20 states and multiple extensions of federal emergency unemployment insurance benefits for long-term unemployed workers. In 2012, she was selected by the State of New York for its Empire State Leadership Fellows program and served in the Office of the Governor's Labor and Civil Rights Division. 

Join us as Rebecca shares how her commitment to advancing workers’ rights is inspired by her lived experience growing up in rural Mississippi at the intersection of race, class, and gender.


Episode Transcript

Anum Qadir (00:01):

Welcome to Dreaming in Color, a space for social change leaders of color to reflect on how their life experiences, personal and professional, have prepared them to lead and drive the impact we all see. I'm Anum Qadir and I invite you to join me in these candid kitchen table conversations, where together we celebrate these leaders' ingenuity, are inspired by their wisdom and learn how collectively we can all strive to do and be better. This is Dreaming in Color. Today I'm excited to be sitting down with Rebecca Dixon. Rebecca is the President and CEO of the National Employment Law Project, or NELP.


As a respected national leader in federal workers' rights advocacy, Rebecca is highly sought after for her thought leadership on issues of labor, racial, gender, and economic justice. Rebecca and her work with NELP have been pivotal in building a just and inclusive economy for all and has impacted over 100 million workers and their families to date. I am so excited to be speaking with her today. Welcome, Rebecca. I'm excited to have you on Dreaming in Color.

Rebecca Dixon (01:11):

It's very good to be here.

Anum Qadir (01:13):

Well, I'd love to invite you to start us off with the invocation.

Rebecca Dixon (01:17):

What I have for you is a poem and it is by Lucille Clifton, who I had the great fortune of having as a teacher in graduate school. And the poem is called "Won't You Celebrate With Me." "Won't you celebrate with me what I have shaped into a kind of life. I had no model. Born in Babylon, both non-white and woman. What did I see, except to be myself? I made it up here on this bridge between starshine and clay. My one hand holding tight my other hand. Come celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed."

Anum Qadir (02:01):

I love that. Thank you so much for sharing both from the perspective of the impact certain individuals, teachers, folks in our lives have and just for that piece of celebration of resiliency. Are there particular parts that have spoken to you of that invocation?

Rebecca Dixon (02:17):

I went back and forth around what to pick and the end where it says "things have tried to kill me." I was like, "Oh, that's not really inspiring." But it kind of is because as Black women historically, we've been at the forefront of all big dreams in this country. So I thought it was fitting to sort of just name that it's not easy to be a Black woman in the United States and to still hold onto dreams and to still work to push for change is hard.


But we should celebrate that we're able to, I think it's amazing that I'm in the role that I'm in, that I'm running an organization and that my lived experience can inform the work that we do.

Anum Qadir (03:02):

Yes, most definitely. I'd love to even turn back to some of the lived experience piece. As you know, Dreaming in Color, part of our goal here is to elevate the lived experiences that leaders of color have and how that's shaped our path. And I know your particular background growing up in Mississippi as the granddaughter of sharecroppers and domestic workers, could you just share a bit more about that upbringing?

Rebecca Dixon (03:24):

There's a big connection to the work I do now and to how I grew up, and part of that connection is around the value of work and what work allows you to be seen as. And my father worked for the county road maintenance, that was his last job. But before that he worked on a dairy farm, milking cows basically for a giant chunk of his career. And then in addition to his regular day job, he did a lot of odd jobs. He worked on cars. He was the person who would cut grass, bale hay. He was working all the time except Sundays, but he was never economically secure no matter what.


And to me that deep sense of unfairness of you are working all the time and it still just doesn't seem to pay off. And as I got older and had a better understanding, I started to understand what the big impact of that was. That it wasn't just that he didn't make very good money. It was also later in my life when he passed away when I was 11 and our family was on survivor's benefits, social security. They were very, very small because all those years he worked on the dairy farm did not count for social security. Part of what we do here at NELP is around trying to make law and policy reflect how we can have a good jobs economy for everybody.


And the legacy of that unfairness really drives me that it is not just salary, it is all of the things that we talk about in this country around opportunity and assets and all of those things. Those all got impacted in the south for Black workers and for Black families. And they're still... Like today, the remnants of that are still playing out. And so I really want the world to reflect. I want our laws and policies to reflect that everybody's labor is valued and that everybody is on equal footing around these important policies that determine our rights, benefits and protections in society.

Anum Qadir (05:41):

That really resonates with me in multiple ways, both as a child of immigrants, but then also having had family friends who were undocumented. This piece of there are so many other protections that aren't granted to everyone depending on both your job, the status of your documentation or not. Are there parts of even growing up in Mississippi that really shaped some of your perspective? I'll say growing up in Alaska, there's a beautiful scenery, but also a very divisive politics.


I grew up in Anchorage where cities tend to be a bit more liberal, but then also a lot of oil money and trying to lower taxes, et cetera, which I think have also shaped my perspective on the world and what does equity look like. I'd be curious about your experience both in Mississippi and the south more broadly.

Rebecca Dixon (06:26):

One of the defining things was really being able to come of age and see what was really going on politically. And so the place where I'm from Brookhaven, Mississippi, it's a small town, it's about 50% African American. And growing up there, all the businesses were owned by white people. And it's the kind of place that didn't desegregate schools until 1969. And it's the kind of place where there were still rumors of the KKK in the 1990s. And so there's this history in the south of terrorism around Black folks wanting to vote or exercising their right to vote. And so you are immersed in that.


But also I feel like for myself, I was able to see and hold and I still hold a sense of possibility of what is possible and for those of us who can stand up and say this is not acceptable. And so how do we make change and transformations and how do we change the systems? So let's focus on individuals and what individuals should be able to do and a lot of focus on what are our systems reproducing or producing and how do we change those systems to actually support. If we say we want folks to have equal opportunity and economic security, our systems need to change to support that.


In Mississippi there's still a lot of work to do. So the state does not have a state department of labor, so there is no state minimum wage. And so for the minimum wage to increase in Mississippi, it has to increase on the federal level. And I'm sure you're aware that that's been stuck for some years. And so there are still some ways in which the state is not responsive and the unfairness kind of lingers. But I do feel like from where I sit now and the work I do now, there are some national policies that we can win that do apply to that state and would help lift folks up.

Anum Qadir (08:32):

Thanks for sharing that and I'd love to come back especially to the work that the National Employment Law Project is doing. One thing that really sat with me that you just named was that sense of possibility and even kind of despite the environment that you're in, of rumors of the KKK or just recognizing who owns what businesses and how that affects wealth and other resources. I'd be curious what kept that sense of possibility for you?

Rebecca Dixon (08:58):

I just was born with it and I always had it. And I always had this sense of being able to be in a situation that was less than ideal, but to be able to see myself in a different situation. And so as a young girl, I was thinking I would be who I am now even though society said no. And even though all of the things that I thought about in terms of what I was seeing reflected about who I could be was saying, "No, you can't be this." For instance, as the child of a single mom when my father passed away, statistically things don't look good for you. But I decided that was not going to be my fate.

Anum Qadir (09:41):

Thanks for sharing that. Part of my upbringing was going back and forth to Pakistan in the summers when school was out. And one thing I remember really shaping my world perspective was other girl cousins or other young girls I would interact with, some of them weren't enrolled in school. And so it was this constant juxtaposition for me of, "Okay, I have this life in the US. I get to go to school. I have folks encouraging me, telling me that the world is limitless." And then seeing others, that piece of, "Oh, there is something better for me here." I know, at least personally, drove me in the sense of the world can be better.


And what is my role in helping create that? Given the history of the south, especially as it relates to labor and economic justice, are there parts of your lived experience that drove your perspective on the importance of that work?

Rebecca Dixon (10:33):

Yes. The town I grew up in was actually central to the civil rights movement. And one of my elder cousins, Lamar Smith, he was actually killed on the courthouse steps for registering Black voters. And so in our family, there was a deep sense of the cost that was paid to have the right to vote. And so voting was important and critical, and if you had to walk to the polls, you were going to participate civically. And so I really grew up with a deep sense of commitment to civic engagement and also a sense that things don't have to stay the same. That I can actually have an impact on how things go.


And so I think that civil rights history and that civil rights history would get revived from time to time. So probably when I was in fourth grade, the high school hired a coach and it was controversial because he was the coach from Brookhaven Academy, which was known as a segregation academy. And it was really just a, "Nah, that's not... we're not going to do that." And so there was a big meeting in one of the larger churches and the Black residents were just like, "This is unacceptable."


And so they ended up doing a boycott. So collectively boycotting businesses in that town, and that led to the coach leaving and getting a different person for the coach. And so I got to see what it means to join together collectively to try to win something even in a state like that where sometimes it's hard to feel powerful.

Anum Qadir (12:19):

Thanks for sharing that. And I know in your work, you talk a lot about what an equitable labor market is and the role of employment and work in our ability to participate in democracy. Some of those pieces of even the right to vote. I'd appreciate if you could just share a little bit more about the concept of an equitable labor market and its ties to democracy.

Rebecca Dixon (12:39):

Sure. So in an equitable labor market, your fate is not determined by your race or gender or other characteristics, but it is now. So now we know that a full 90% of jobs or occupations are considered racially segregated even after you control for education. So in a good jobs economy and an equitable labor market, that would not be the case. One job would be enough to pay your bills and all workers and all folks would have rights, benefits and protection. You would be able to maintain yourself if you're between jobs and you would have a voice on the job about your working conditions.


It really is just sort of how are we able to move with dignity? And I think that one of the big connections to democracy is that workplace democracy really helps engage folks in broader democracy. And I think that really wanting to have that connection. And I once came across some research that showed that in the places in the south where there were lynchings, the civic participation is still depressed. And so there is this connection to what do I think is possible? What do I think my impact would be that is really connected to democracy?


And so what we've seen in the last year, which is amazing and exciting, is workers coming together collectively to go on strike and to demand higher wages and to demand safe working conditions and they're winning. And that is amazing. And that type of workplace democracy, I think, is critical to helping folks engage in democracy writ large, in voting, civic engagement, community engagement, in all of the ways. The National Employment Law Project has had a staff union since 1979, proudly. And for about five years of my time here at NELP, I was in the staff union and I served on leadership roles in the bargaining committee and all of that.


And it makes such a difference to the kind of workplace that you can be in when you have a voice and it means that the concerns of folks, even the most vulnerable folks get heard and addressed. And I think that that's critical. And I think what we're seeing now in the nonprofit space, we are seeing a demand by workers that these organizations live the values that they espouse externally. So you need to walk the walk. And one of the ways and methods to press that demand is to have a union.

Anum Qadir (15:25):

And I know one of the counterarguments folks make is police unions. What would you say to those folks?

Rebecca Dixon (15:30):

I would say that each union is its own specific vehicle and there's a lot of nuance and complexity, and one union may be effective in a way that another one is not. So I would just say we shouldn't judge on broad strokes. And I do think it's important to note that unions are responsible for a lot of the good things we have now, like a forty-hour workweek and those kinds of things. And then that counterbalance to corporations or to nonprofit organizations, there needs to be a counterbalance where the power can be shared and so that the needs of the folks who are actually driving and pushing the work forward, that those needs get met.


And so I think that there's a way to be a leader who is skilled, who can appreciate all of the ways in which having a staff union helps to push you and to sharpen you in ways that are helpful at your organization, but also helpful beyond. One of the things that we've practiced over the years is interest-based problem solving. Often you think of it as an adversarial, one person is in one corner, one person is in another corner. But with interest-based problem solving, you really try to understand, "Okay, what are the challenges and then what are the shared goals that we have around those challenges?"


And then if we can name those challenges, there are probably five or 10 solutions. So that's very different than coming in with a already-baked idea about what the solution is. And so just having that space and opening to explore together and to actually articulate, "Okay, what are we solving for?" And then we could all bring our ideas to the table about what we're solving for. And I found that to be amazing. And that is one of the ways I think that our sector has to build up its skills around how do we collaborate in ways that are productive and fruitful for both parties and that everything doesn't have to be a tug of war.


I think it's a lifesaver, the interest-based problem solving because it allows you to actually uncover a lot of things. And then the other thing I would just say that I learned in the organizational transformation work that we've been doing here since 2016 with a focus on race, equity and organizational effectiveness together is that you need a plan and that plan needs to be informed by your staff. And then you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish and then work that plan all the way through and that you can't take on all the issues at once. So really prioritizing together what comes first and then having a plan to continue the journey.


It's also iterative. You're not always going to get it right on the first try. And so we've been trying to build a learning culture where we expect there to be mistakes, and then we also expect to have a really big learning experience from those mistakes so that we can actually influence how things go in a better direction going forward. So I would just say that really understanding what the interest is and what are we solving for is critical, and then there's just so many ways to address it together.

Anum Qadir (18:57):

I appreciate that learning culture piece because no organization has solved equity either in their impact work or internally. We live in a particular society with certain structures that are going to take a long, long time to change. I'd love to hear more too about just even some of the self-care work.

Rebecca Dixon (19:17):

This was front and center during the pandemic when virtually overnight we all had to start working at home. Fortunately for NELP, we have amazing IT folks and we were set up for folks to do that. But we had to take into account, "Okay, well if you're a parent, how do you balance that?" And how are we making sure we're not putting unrealistic expectations on you that are making things worse? And so we worked together with our staff union to come up with some policies to address the situations that people were facing during Covid. And I think that's an example of care and how does care show up.


And then I would just say generically, we have rich benefit program, we have generous paid time off for folks. We have benefits around parental leave and benefits around caring for a sick family member. All of the things that we're saying that we want employers externally to have, we have those internally and we try to make sure that we are supporting folks as much as we can.

Anum Qadir (20:20):

And can you share more about how to tactically do that? Because I feel like when I'm engaging with other organizations, it's sometimes hard to say, "Well, we're resource strapped. It's hard to provide all these extra benefits or the work is the work. Sometimes it's hard to take a break." What would you advise organizations do in those kinds of situations?

Rebecca Dixon (20:36):

I would say that how we do the work is just as important as the work. And that part of the bubbling up that we're seeing in a drive for unionization and a drive for live your values is about the historic way that nonprofits operated, where they underpaid folks, they overworked folks and they didn't live their values and they were just about, "Let's get this done." And not about how is the employee experiencing their time at our organization? Are we developing staff? Are we giving folks leadership opportunities? Are we supporting their growth? Are we paying attention to all of those things?


And I think that is a critical piece in terms of how we think about how are we going to set up and start caring for our staff. And so I think you start small. You start somewhere in figuring out what is a priority of the list of things we could do. What's a priority? And then you filter that through decisions about the sustainability of your organization. So if you can't offer the full package, what can you start with? And then how do you build into the way that you support your organization?


So the way that you do your fundraising and how you seek investment, put that on the table as something that needs to be invested. That your staff and caring for your staff is part of how you do the work. And that how you do the work is just as important than doing the work. And I think we've seen too in some nonprofits that if you don't address how you do the work, it can be very difficult to actually even be able to focus on the work.

Anum Qadir (22:20):

And we see that play out in so many ways. And to your point of just even setting a priority at Bridgespan, we love strategic priorities, and so that part also resonates. I also want to acknowledge nonprofits are operating in a system that funders also have a big influence on. What would you say to funders and philanthropy on this matter?

Rebecca Dixon (22:38):

The thing I always say to them, multi gear general operating support is important. I would say also thinking about how you support organizations' infrastructure, because some of, I think, the challenge just contributed to some of the bubbling up is that organizations have grown faster than their infrastructure. If you're a 10 person organization and you become a 60 person organization, you need different systems around human resources. You need written policies. You need ways that show up and treat people fairly. And that often nonprofits are trying to make the decision of, do I do this program where I get to help X percent more people or do I work on my infrastructure pieces?


And most of the time the infrastructure pieces lose out. And so if funders can actually lean in and focus on those infrastructure pieces as part of what they're doing, the Ford Foundations BUILD program is a program that we have really benefited from, where there was a very intentional focus on organizational effectiveness and infrastructure and how we do the work and we have with the benefits like mightily from that investment. So I would just say the ways that you have influence to encourage organizations to work on their internal pieces and to support that in your giving is important.

Anum Qadir (24:03):

You can’t see me, but I was snapping my fingers under my desk. The importance of infrastructure, multi-year flexible support, we'll preach it all day every day. And I think just speaks both to the importance of being able to do the important work, but then also to help organizations be sustainable and thrive for their staff. To your point, how you do the work matters almost just as much as the work itself.


Rebecca, I'd love to talk just a little bit more and give a little bit more space about the work at National Employment Law Project. One of the pieces I know you've talked about is occupational segregation and its impact on the workforce. I'd be curious if you could just expand on that a bit more.

Rebecca Dixon (24:41):

Sure. So occupational segregation in a nutshell is for some workers being overrepresented. And essentially what we see in the United States is we see women and Black and brown workers overrepresented in the lowest paying, most dangerous, dirtiest jobs with the least benefits. And that stayed true across time, even as we've made advancements on civil rights and other issues. And that without an intentional focus, without a goal, if we don't say we want to close the racial wage gap between Black women and white men by 25% by 2030, we're not going to do it. It's not going to happen naturally.


We actually have to have goals around how do we make this happen? How do we accomplish this? And when we have goals, then we can actually have metrics to measure whether we're on our way to those goals. I will often say, imagine if instead of getting excited about the jobs numbers, unemployment rate, that a president got excited about there being a metric around quality jobs and how many people are in quality jobs. And that was something that they were concerned about. So I think the occupational segregation essentially means that even after increasing their college graduation rate tremendously, that Black women are still in the lowest paid occupation.


So education alone is not the answer. Training and skills alone is not the answer. That there are structural things in our economy and in our law and policy that are holding people down. And there's a cost to that, to all of us where there have been studies that talk about the trillions of dollars of GDP that we're leaving behind by not having folks match to where they should be. And we do know that occupational integration is one of the best tools to raise wages and income for Black women and other people of color, is that actually being able move into a better paying job or to move up at the place where you are. That those are really critical.


And so at NELP, we talk about working to raise the floor, and so making sure that there's a wage floor and there are labor standards for everyone, but we also want to make it so that folks can move to the next floor when it's time for them. And that's not what we have right now. So I think really figuring out what are some practical solutions to occupational segregation? How can we attack this problem and how can we set some goals around what we want to see and start moving in that direction?

Anum Qadir (27:19):

And speaking to my strategic goals piece, we love setting a goal, setting metrics and being able to measure and track progress. When I'd first read the piece about occupational segregation before reading more of the details, what struck me was thinking about just how segregated our communities are in general. And this piece of if our occupations are so segregated where we spend so much of our time on a day-to-day basis, no wonder our communities are also segregated. There's also redlining and many, many, many other factors that drive that, but it made me reflect on even my upbringing in the South Asian community I grew up in Alaska.


And we had cab drivers, small business owners, engineers, doctors, we all hung out together. We grew up together. And it wasn't until I was older and more in my adulthood that I realized actually that's kind of rare for folks to be interacting across social lines and economic lines. I'd be curious, as we were talking about democracy, what are the other broader ramifications of occupational segregation in addition to the trillions and trillions of dollars of GDP that are being left on the table?

Rebecca Dixon (28:26):

I would say that what you named is critical. Segregation is not a one thing. It's like a slice of everything. And so the fact that there's housing segregation is reinforcing to occupational segregation because sometimes you get your job by who you know and if the only folks you know look like you, it's harder to actually move into other industries and other opportunities. One of my big hopes is that we make it visible, that there is redlining in the labor market. Because I think there's a general perception that folks are sorted where they want to go and/or where they have education and training. And it's just not true.


And that there are ways that we operate and behaviors and approaches that kind of reproduce over and over again these sorts of glass and concrete ceilings for women and people of color. Breaking those down, I really dream about the value that has to communities. Imagine how much more time and effort that working families have to put into their community, to engage civically if they had a reasonable work schedule. If they weren't on call and not able to know what their schedule was from week to week. Imagine what they would be able to do if they only had to work one job to support their family. That time that they could put in with their family.


That time that they can put in with their community. That they can engage around broader democracy and civic responsibility. So there is a huge benefit to actually matching people better to their opportunity and potential. And I think the benefit to communities and even counties and states and cities and all of that, that there's a benefit in so many ways beyond just the economics that we would see.

Anum Qadir (30:13):

So many ripples of impact that come with that. One thing that I know has come up a lot, especially with the Covid pandemic was this term essential workers. And I can't remember if it's you or others that I read talking about sometimes that's misleading. We kind of talk about essential workers when it's convenient, but won't actually support them in the ways if they were truly essential. And some of that may be being just how do we value particular jobs?


I know my friends who cleaned hotel toilets but would never put that on our resume. There's stigma also involved with particular jobs. I'd be curious if you'd speak to some of the current valuation system of different roles in our society and the implications of that.

Rebecca Dixon (30:56):

One of the things we know is that the blacker an occupation is or becomes, the lower the wages. And the more female an occupation is or becomes, the lower the wages. And if it's Black and female or Latina and female, it's even worse. And so there's a compounding sort of interlocking way that these things reinforce each other. That's a huge part of why it falls on the same people. I think it's important too to note that we work on a lot of issues at NELP, so we work on things around wages, we work on things around benefits, health and safety. The kind of job you have, whether you're in a gig job or a temp job, because one person, one woman of color, one Black woman, one Latina woman, could be facing all of those things.


So she could be in a job that pays minimum wage and she could be having her wages stolen or she's fired for reporting something to enforce her rights. Then she goes into an unemployment system that wasn't built for her. So either doesn't cover her or only covers her with a tiny amount of money. So there are all of these things that are sitting on that one person. So we work on all of these issues, but sometimes the one person is sitting with the challenge around all of them at one time or all of them throughout their life.

Anum Qadir (32:20):

Just that compounding effect in some other settings, someone has said, it's really expensive to be poor. Just the ways everything stacks up and can be really working against you.

Rebecca Dixon (32:30):

And to your point around essential workers, the way I talked about it is called essential, but treated as disposable. And we saw that in the pandemic where the meat packing workers were considered essential, but then they had the bosses and the plants making bets on who was going to get sick. It's just insane. And I do think that the sort of stratification in our labor market is based on this principle from slavery, that it's okay to exploit some people and their labor. I think the thing that other folks should be aware of more broadly is that maybe it is women and people of color right now, but it's been expanding, right?


And we've seen that what people call the American dream is getting harder and harder for anybody to achieve because of the way that divide and conquer for not having a multiracial democracy, not having folks who are looking out for each other's interests. It leads to a lot of concentration of corporate power where then shareholder value becomes the only thing as opposed to what about the stakeholders who are your employees? What about the stakeholders who are at the communities where you are located? All of those things fall by the side. We shouldn't use essential if we don't mean it.


And if we do mean essential, then it's all the stuff I've talked about for good jobs economy. If I'm essential, one job should be enough. If I'm essential, I need to have the same rights, benefits, and protections no matter what I'm doing in the labor market, whether I am working for a platform company or I'm working at a temp agency or I'm a direct hire. I should have the same rights and we don't right now.

Anum Qadir (34:21):

Thanks for that Rebecca. That's a powerful statement. I'd love to ask some quick rapid fire questions. The first is, what is something that is considered radical but should not be?

Rebecca Dixon (34:31):

That every human has dignity, and whether we're in the workplace or out of the workplace or wherever we are, we have that dignity and it needs to be reflected in how we are able to thrive in this economy.

Anum Qadir (34:46):

What is currently bringing you joy?

Rebecca Dixon (34:48):

Worker organizing and workers winning.

Anum Qadir (34:51):

What is your favorite way to practice self-care?

Rebecca Dixon (34:54):

To go on a real vacation. I happen to have an amazing team where I can actually go on vacation and not check email. And I think it is key to having any kind of longevity in these jobs.

Anum Qadir (35:07):

That's the dream. What artists do you currently have on repeat?

Rebecca Dixon (35:11):

I like Georgia Smith. She often sings about independence and being independent, which has been one of my things.

Anum Qadir (35:18):

What's your favorite track of hers right now?

Rebecca Dixon (35:20):

It's called Try Me.

Anum Qadir (35:21):

All right. Adding it to the list. What are you dreaming of?

Rebecca Dixon (35:25):

I am dreaming of a world where children do better than their parents, and they have access to economic mobility where we all have our human dignity respected. And for working people, that they can work one job and they can take care of their family, they can participate in their community. And that their race and gender and other characteristics do not stop them from meeting their full potential.

Anum Qadir (35:51):

That's beautiful. And I know as a dream, even my parents would love to see too as immigrants to this country. Rebecca, it's been great to have you. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

Rebecca Dixon (36:02):

Thanks for having me.

Anum Qadir (36:04):

I have been reflecting on dignity a lot these days and our ability to see each other's humanity regardless of our race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or what part of the world we live in. The dictionary definition of dignity is the state of being worthy. To which I wonder, worthy of what? I'm sure many of us would say, dignity means, being worthy of safety, shelter, food, human rights, you name it. But where do our beliefs and values actually fall short in our actions? We can say folks' jobs are "essential" but then treat them as disposable, as Rebecca named.


I can say I'm open to different perspectives, but still have a reaction to someone with a different political view. We can say people deserve shelter, but easily walk by folks on the street experiencing homelessness. Thinking we don't have a role to play, especially as we rush to get to where we need to go. We can scroll through news headlines and images with the passivity that forgets there are human beings in those stories, and that they have full lives with families and dreams that may not be too far from our own.


My point is, if we hold our beliefs to be true, that folks around us are deserving of dignity and worthy of safety, shelter, food, human rights, and more. How do we get past the politics and actually see ourselves and others? How do we become more aware of where we may unintentionally deny others the dignity that we believe in? Social activists and author Grace Lee Boggs spoke to this when she said, "Deep in our hearts, we know that our comforts, our conveniences are at the expense of other people. And until we face that, we're not really honest. We're not being true to who we are as human beings.


To acknowledge who we are and to see what we can become and to begin to create ways together is our salvation." All right, y'all. That's a wrap. And while the episode is finished, the work continues. Thanks for listening to Dreaming in Color. A special shout out to the folks who make it happen, our wonderful show producer Denise Savas, our creative director, Ami Diane, our video editors, Jenny Lu, Stephen Chaya, and Dave Clark McCoy, our graphic designer, Diana Jiminez, our audio engineer, Theresa Buchanan.


And a huge shout-out to our ever-brilliant Bridgespan production team and family. Darren Isom, Cora Daniels, Christina Pistorius and Ryan Wenzel. What a crew. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to podcasts. Catch you next time.

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