Getting to Yes, And

David Glasgow: Say the Right Thing


David Glasgow

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Kelly connects with David Glasgow, NYU Law School professor and the Executive Director of the Melzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. He has a new book co-written with Kenji Yoshino called, "Say The Right Thing: How to Talk About Identity, Diversity and Justice."

One of the things you point out is that these widespread conversations about identity are a relatively new thing.

“In the past, there was the option of opting out from these conversations. People could just kind of avoid them or they weren't happening as often in workplaces or schools, or what have you. So, people could go about their day and rarely encounter a conversation about these topics, in part because the members of the marginalized groups were too scared to to bring them up or to raise their concerns with people. But, as power shifts in society, and as people feel like, actually, I can voice my concerns more, all of a sudden, we're confronted with these conversations that we used to be able to avoid.”

You and your co-author are both gay men who spent your formative years in the closet, and you both became lawyers, and you write, "Compared to the silence of our youth, the law felt wonderfully loud."

“What we write about in the book is that growing up as gay men, and not being able to even speak to people about something so fundamental to how we conceived of ourselves and our identity is just such a position of vulnerability and such a position of relative sort of weakness, that having this tool at our disposal is liberating. I have this skill; I can actually fire off an angry letter at someone legally or I can file a lawsuit, or what have you. This is a really powerful skill for someone who doesn't feel like they have a voice to be able to deploy.”

You have a very empathetic approach to this work – especially to the folks who are the source of these transgressions of ethics.

“You look at the world around you, and you realize most people aren't living up to your standards. So, how do you engage with that world? What posture do you take? Do you take the posture of finger wagging at them and judging them and telling them how wrong they are for not following the correct path? Or do you do the much more difficult and challenging work of actually trying to have conversations with people - with all their flaws and all the things that you think are morally bad about them - but do it in a way that enables them to grow from it.”

Photo credit: Siobhan Gazur

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