The Gift of Diversity Up Close with Lewis Griggs
I'm married with two children, a girl and a boy...I've got my Lands End clothes, my Volvo wagon, and my Golden Retrievers...[But] I'm not just another white male," says Lewis Griggs
San Francisco office.
If you are a person bound by biases and myths, Lewis Griggs
may seem to be the poster child for the stereotypical, privileged white male.
has wandered far from his
own demographic profile.
Like many you rarely hear about, he
has a passion for diversity and has been a pioneer in the field since the early 1980's.
If you were to engage him in conversation, you would find that he is not the typical diversity consultant.
brings a unique perspective to the field.
"I had to start from a different place," he
"Everyone else had to start from a place of biculturalism, discrimination, oppression and whatever else they had to deal with.
I never had any of those experiences- NOT ONE.
I've only had the opposite experience.
explains that he
was raised among a group of people to whom any difference meant you were an outsider.
As a child, Griggs
seldom interacted with other kids who were different.
"I was about nine years old before I went to the home of a Jewish kid and spent the night.
I wondered what that weird breakfast was they were giving me," he
says with a laugh.
Standing still, Griggs
remembers asking himself, "Where am I? Who am I? Where am I coming from and what on earth am I supposed to be and do?
In the first episode, Griggs
mistakenly walked into a room where about 150 black students were having a meeting.
"I saw what I saw and thought, 'Well this is not the place I thought I was going,"' he
"And I picked up energy in the room, which I could not have articulated then, but I can now.
All I could do then was feel it!
It was the following: 'Hi Lewis
,' because they knew my name. 'It's OK.
The second time where Griggs
felt the welcome-and-have-your-space energy was during a party at an upscale discotheque in Boston.
Black kids, educated and with "money" were having a good time.
girlfriend and two other friends went to learn the popular dance called "The Bump.
Griggs felt two things.
"Not only did I feel everything I described from the other place, but also the non-verbal message, 'We're not going to ask you to leave, because legally you have the right to be here.
We just want you to feel that this is a place where we are being who we really are.
If you're comfortable with that, you're welcome to stay, but you'd better not be a gawker!"'
The third was at a gay place, gay across all races, in a large room.
"But here they were much more clear,' says Griggs
, America has made a huge shift since the Civil Rights movement.
"Over the past 300 years, we've done probably 10 to 100 times better in the last 30 years than we did in the previous 270," he
continues passionately, "For instance, one of those things that feels so powerful to me, is the EEO one.
was a child of the sixties, he
did not politically or professionally become driven by AA/EEO compliance.
supported it and understood why it was needed.
says, "I am really trying to do only deep, personal spiritual work - interpersonal, human, soul work.
elaborates with examples of women saying "it's sexism" and blacks saying "it's racism.
According to Griggs
, there are many things we can do.
In our organizations we have "figured out the interpersonal compliant work," which has made much progress.
But more important, "We must recognize the so-called diversity relationship issues as absolutely systemic, not a separate diversity program, not a separate AA or EEO policy or practice.
It is all connected.
It is a system composed of different parts.
adds, "In every relationship there are gifts, love and benefits.
concludes, "We need to understand and relate across all our human differences, and value the ones that help us achieve our common goals.