• Lars Christensen

The Person You Mean to Be by Dolly Chugh




I finished this book in April 2022. I recommend this book 10/10.

Fantastic work by Dolly Chugh! This was the book I needed to read about biases, diversity, and inclusion—and understand how to advocate for those who lack power and privilege.

Get your copy here.


My thoughts and notes:

  • It would have been tempting for Prerrin to defer to Brittany, which happens so often in organizations. "They didn't put it on me as the woman of color. In fact, they were really cognizant of avoiding a whole 'Brittany knows the answer' or 'Let Brittany go figure out this diversity thing' type of approach. "This leadership move was important, as it signaled that the problem was everyone's to fix. It is at these moments when mindset shapes leadership response. In a fixed mindset, a leader might feel pressure to have all the answers rather than be a work-in-progress. So, rather than risk being exposed, he or she pushes the problem to someone else or denies the problem. When psychological safety is needed most, a fixed mindset approach from leadership will shut down.

  • As builders, we are ready to look at ourselves as individuals who carry unconscious biases and examine ourselves as part of systems in which biases are baked in culturally, legally, and structurally. To confront both unconscious and systemic bias, we will need to keep our growth mindsets activated.

  • Because of the tailwinds of the GI Bill, Collen's family, and many others, fast-tracked into middle-class America. Vast data shows that owning assets (such as a home) or holding a college diploma moves the starting point forward for future generations. Collen's great-grandparents had determined the starting point for her grandparents. Via the GI Bill, Collen's grandparents then moved that starting point far forward for her parents, and her parents moved that starting point forward once again for Collen. The tailwinds grew stronger with every generation.

  • It will take black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth that white families have now.

  • The cost to us and what we believe in is great. When the tailwinds remain invisible, we forget that there is a system at work. We look for the bias in individuals and forget that the system itself is biased (and that we are part of the system). We reap its benefits and condemn those running into the headwinds as lazy, unworthy, and less human.

  • They found that white people who confronted a person expressing racial stereotypes were judged less negatively (by the offender) than black people doing the same. They also found that offenders felt more guilt and were more likely to apologize if confronted about their behavior by a white person than by a black person. Both black and white confronters were equally effective in decreasing the offender's future stereotypes.

  • The discussion between Max and the student is warm and professional without being overly personal. As a straight man, Max does not say or do anything that he would not say or do with a male student or in front of his wife. The student never feels uncomfortable or the need to change the subject. Upon reaching their destination, Max ensures that the student is safely in the hotel and then wishes her a good evening.

  • Frank says his wife opened his eyes to the big impact of these "small" slights. They entered the workforce at the same time. "She's probably a better worker than I am," Frank admits. Yet he noticed that she was perceived differently than he was. For example, he remembered when she got a performance evaluation saying that she was not "nurturing" enough to her colleagues. "Nobody would ever tell me that, no matter what you did. That's just something I would never have to deal with. She's probably better at bringing people up through the workforce than I would be." It was clear that she was being seen and listened to differently than he was. Research on letters of recommendation and performance evaluations show a similar pattern.

  • Jessie ran after her. she opened with, "I'm saying this because I love you." The friend appeared confused. "I want you to know that what you just said is not okay. It's not who you are. I know you didn't mean anything by it, but that is not a word you should ever use," Jessie said. "You're basically saying that if you dress in a stereotypically way, then you are that word, but as a white person. That word 'is' the n-word."

  • When Rabbi Solomon first arrived, he had reached out to his counterpart in the Muslim community, Imam Mohammed Baianonie. They spent some time getting to know each other over tea and biscuits. Rabbi Solomon invited the imam to the installation ceremony, and he came, bringing members of his congregation and his blessings.

  • If the intent of our question is to challenge their perspective, then they are unlikely to perceive us as showing support. Questions with this intention to challenge sound like "Have you considered the possibility that...? and "What would she have to gain if...? and "Do you think you might be overreacting?"These questions are not like to show support. However, questions that are intended to understand the other person's experience and perspective better do actually increase liking between people, as we mentioned in chapter 7 with Mel's story. Some examples are "Were you expecting her to respond in that way?" or " How often do you get treated that way?" or "How did you know what to do in that situation?" The beauty of the follow-up question is that it offers the other person the sense of tenner, the chance to genuinely learn more.

  • He hoped she knew she was not alone and that she was supported, especially at a time when some Americans were treating such experiences lightly. Ben send Rachel an email. He began, "I know we haven't really met (I feel like I know you well from going to OutClass events though), but I wanted to check-in and see how you're doing since you've been on my mind recently. Your story about being assaulted at beer blast has stuck with me since I was definitely guilty of thinking that a group of adults at a prestigious, extremely liberal university were better than that and that because I didn't see it, it wasn't happening." He thanked her and ended the note, "Please don't feel the need to respond if you have too much going on in your life, just know that your courage that day has had an impact. I hope you don't find this email inappropriate, given we don't know each other well, if you do, I apologize and please don't hesitate letting me know." Ben remembers hesitating before hitting the send button. "It was a tough email to send because I didn't know how it would be received."

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