S4 E108 | CXR Podcast: John Graham discusses his new book Plantation Theory

Chris sits down with author John Graham to discuss his new book Plantation Theory: The Black Professional's Struggle Between Freedom and Security

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Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:19
Welcome, everybody to another CareerXroads Podcast. I am excited to have with us our guest today, whom we’ve known for a little while, and we’re getting to know a little bit better every time we connect, and I’m just loving this relationship. John Graham, welcome to the show.

John Graham, Author 0:35
Hey, Chris. Thanks for having me. Awesome to be here.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:38
Good stuff. Well, we’re really grateful for you to take some time out and join us in the wonderful city of Los Angeles. Yes,

John Graham, Author 0:45
Yes. Sunshine. 95.9% of the year. Yes.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:51
Nice. Well, I’m in I’m in Austin, where it’s 95.9999% all the time.

John Graham, Author 0:58
Wow .9999

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:01
So John, Happy birthday.

John Graham, Author 1:04
Thank you, man. Thank you. Yeah, another another. Another run around the sun.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:09
Yeah, well done.

John Graham, Author 1:11
27. Feels good, man. 27 feels good

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:14
27 hahaha

John Graham, Author 1:15
We’ll believe that will believe that lie. That’s what I tell myself. Yeah. Yeah. Is that There you go. There you go. That’s how I feel this morning.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:24
Yeah. So uh, John, wait, before we jump in, because I want to talk, I really want to talk a little bit about this book, and what you’ve put together this book, which I’m which I’m really enjoying. Okay, give for folks who don’t know,John Graham, can you give us a sort of an escalator pitch? Who is John and why do we care what John has to say?

John Graham, Author 1:43
Yeah, well, I have never done an escalator pitch. This is I can be slower with this, right.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:50
So quick ride but a little bit longer.

John Graham, Author 1:53
Okay. So I am. I’m a Vice President of Global Employer Brand Diversity and Culture for Shaker Recruitment Marketing. Other than that, being too long of a title to fit on a business card. My remit is helping our clients build truly diverse and inclusive employer brands from the ground up through a very new and cutting edge approach that we’ve called the lived experience based approach to employer brand and DE&I where we blend employer brand and diversity, equity inclusion into our approach of helping clients articulate their culture and also improve their culture to match the marketing. So. So yeah, I am a historian, also the author of best selling book Plantation Theory, the Black Professional Struggle Between Freedom and Security. Father of two husband of one friend of many, so…

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:52
I may absolutely steal that shamelessly.

John Graham, Author 2:54
Hey, it’s free. It’s for you and everyone else to enjoy

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:58
You’re a giver, John, that’s what you are.

John Graham, Author 3:00
Yeah, I am. I am. I like receiving a little bit too, that balances out. But yes, I think the value given is always the best way to go.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:08
So give us give us the run through of your book. Because I want to talk a little bit about as a couple. There you go. I want to talk a little bit about what I’ve read so far. I’m pretty excited.

John Graham, Author 3:20

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:21
And I’m uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable.

John Graham, Author 3:23
Yes. Good. Good.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:25
But give us sort of the precis of what the books about. And then I want to know why the heck you felt like it needed to be said now and by you. And in this way?

John Graham, Author 3:35
Yeah. Great question. So Plantation Theory is the culmination of not only my own professional career, but the lived experiences of colleagues, family members. You know, it’s a historical record as much as it is a memoir, right? It’s meant to connect that between history and the modern day lived experiences and realities of black folks and corporate spaces. But it really came to me to write the book. In the weeks, I’d started writing it before, George Floyd’s murder, and it was titled It was a completely different title. But the chapter outline was very similar. And so I toyed with it started the introduction, the outline, so forth, but it’s sort of put it down for a bit and then, you know, George Floyd was killed and and in those weeks thereafter, a lot of dialogue was happening that hadn’t happened before, right, historically, and especially in corporate spaces, and hearing all of the stories, you know, looking at the Allies position and really starting their educational journey, I started to write articles on LinkedIn called the ally series allies series, which a lot of attention opened up people’s eyes, you know, I got a lot of feedback that was, you know, positive. But for me, it felt like I hadn’t written a complete thought. And I wanted to sort of instead of that loop of feeding the beast of blogging, I wanted to sort of stop and collect the thoughts and then write a complete thought. And you know, within about seven months, I finished Plantation Theory. So yeah, yeah. So that’s the origin.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 5:28
Yeah. So I’m really curious. So I am, I am working my way through almost to the end of the first chapter, which is, which is titled the Term Code Switching, which I have. And I, I want to talk about this a little bit, because I come here against and seeing that, and I’ve even I’ve even discussed that with colleagues and friends. But I didn’t. I didn’t know how to term I didn’t I didn’t name.

John Graham, Author 5:56
That’s right. Yeah. code switching? Yeah, it’s I mean, it’s literally code where language and switching alternating back and forth between different language. So it’s something that everyone does, interestingly enough, it might be, you know, the language might be the lexicon, it might be the tone or vocal pitch, it might be, you know, how you dress. It could be class based, right? And how you alter yourself when you’re moving in, in between different class situation. So, you know, we all do it to an extent the differences when it’s a requirement for access, or acceptability, or to reduce threat perception, honestly. So we talked about that in the opening chapter about a conversation with my daughter at seven years old,

Chris Hoyt, CXR 6:44
Which was a gut punch, because because I have two daughters, they’re grown now. They’re, they’re adults. And they always, I mean, kids ask them uncomfortable questions. But that was, that was a kick in the guts.

John Graham, Author 6:57
My wife had no, she had no worries. She was like, you got to answer that. I don’t. And it’s something that you’re not. I don’t think you’re ever prepared to hear your child asking, you know, because it’s done at such an unconscious level. And yeah, yeah, to have to explain that to her at seven. You know, and, and my son as well, I mean, the conversations we had to have the last year alone, you know, for both of our children in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing you know, Summer of social justice, social unrest, I should say, our conversations that you know, you’ll have to have, but you’re never prepared to have them, especially at the ages of nine and seven respectively at that time.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 7:44
Yeah. And then for those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading the book yet, the question that gets asked is why does mommy talk differently on the phone sometimes

John Graham, Author 7:57
When she calls the school or when she calls the doctor? Yeah, yeah. Yep.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:01
Do that code switch and your kids means your kids have seen a dozen times before they asked about it.

John Graham, Author 8:06
That’s right. Their threat chicken they can tell something about mommy is different or something about daddy is different. When they you know, are doing these things or when they’re in these places. And you know, that natural curiosity of children right, no filter, no veil of politeness has you know, altered them yet.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:24
They’re in a what I thought was kind of interesting, too, is that they’re in a safe space to talk about something that they don’t know is uncomfortable yet. But But I thought that was a really interesting sort of a neat perspective of like, well, the kid is feeling there’s they’re at home, and they come home, and now they’ve seen something uncomfortable, and they want to ask about it, which I also thought was a nice segue to some of the other content in the chapter.

John Graham, Author 8:47
Yeah, yeah. Thank you for that. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And we keep that that environment of curiosity alive, especially as they engage with different mediums that see different things in the world that they have questions about and so we keep that door open for some of the most uncomfortable things you can think of

Chris Hoyt, CXR 9:05
Well and what what I had not tied it to and one of the big aha moments for me was the level of discomfort or stress on the body that was caused to be pretending right or or just just reconfiguring your body language or your not just your dress but your behavior and to have a man all day long. The toll that must take on the human body.

John Graham, Author 9:35
I’m glad you brought that up. Chris. It’s it’s a reality that I think a lot of black folks know live again subconsciously unconsciously. But it is a mental drain. And because you have to constantly be aware, right aware of your surroundings aware of the power dynamics, the the different racial realities that are happening constantly and knowing how to switch between navigate between and it’s like, you know, you’re bilingual. right? But but it’s also there’s a physical alteration to your point that has to occur. That becomes so automatic. You don’t realize it, but it expends a lot of energy. And oh, by the way, you still have to be excellent at your job. right? Yeah. Because that part, that’s not the only thing you have to do. Right? So So yes, it is a an added burden or stress of being in these environments. on a regular basis, but, you know, this is, this is what we do.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:41
JOHN, it’s great stuff. I love it, we’re gonna see you on, you’re gonna join us, our book club.

John Graham, Author 10:47

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:48
Got that coming up. It’s October 8, it’s open to anybody. They can dial in, they can be part of it, we’ll do it live. And if you want more information about how to do that it’s at CXR.works/books, plural. That’ll get you in there and get you registered. John if there’s one thing, even if they can’t show up at the book club and ask you a million million questions, if there’s one thing you’d like everybody, regardless of who’s reading the book, if you’d like everybody to take away from the book, what what would it be?

John Graham, Author 11:16
Yeah, really good question. The thing that I encourage people to really take away from this book is to start asking better questions. You know, I present this book even in the preface that this is not a solutions book. This is this is meant to drive you to asking better questions. And when you get to the end, there’s there’s a payoff there. But at the end of the day, if we’re looking to find better solutions, it has to start with better questions and questions that aren’t being asked right now. So that is my that is my takeaway.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 11:49
I love it. Well done. Well, I’m enjoying it. I can’t wait to get through it. And I’m looking forward to seeing you on the eighth with a book club in the q&a.

John Graham, Author 11:56
I look forward to it. I’m excited. It’s gonna be really good conversation. So enjoy reading

Chris Hoyt, CXR 12:00
Yeah good stuff. Thanks, John.

John Graham, Author 12:01
Cheers. Thank you.

Announcer 12:02
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