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Emmanuel Acho explains the importance of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday

Emmanuel Acho, author of New York Times bestselling book, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man and Jimmy Etheredge, Accenture’s NA CEO, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss their new podcast 'Change Conversations,' and Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday.

Video Transcript


- President Biden is expected to sign the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law in just a few minutes. While we wait for that, we want to talk about race and equality and the importance of sometimes having uncomfortable conversations to make the change that's necessary here, nationwide and, really, around the world. And for that, we want to bring in Emmanuel Acho. He's a former NFL player and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man." We also have Jimmy Etheredge, Accenture North America's CEO.

And, Jimmy and Emanuel, thank you so much for taking the time to join us here on Yahoo! Finance today, and also, congratulations on the new podcast that you're launching today, "Change Conversations." And of course this podcast tackles some of these issues that I was just mentioning. So, Emmanuel, let me go to you first, because you have been very successful at starting these uncomfortable conversations and getting the attention of an audience not only nationwide but across the world. I'm curious, from your perspective, why you think this is resonating with so many people and also what you hope this new podcast that you have that make the changes necessary, the new podcast "Change Conversations," what you hope that this accomplishes.

EMMANUEL ACHO: Well, I think it's resonating for one primary reason. People are ready and willing and have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, the knowledge to help them achieve seeing our world become a better place, a more inclusive place, a more diverse place. Prior, we haven't all realized that there is a necessity for change. We haven't all realized that there's a necessity for increased diversity of thought, diversity of opinion, diversity of look, but we've now gotten to that point.

And I'm honored to start and be a part of "Change Conversations" with Jimmy. Because it's one thing to talk about diversity in our personal lives. It's another thing to talk about it within the workplace. And more importantly, how can diversity of thought and diversity of color and diversity of all sorts increase our opportunities in the workplace and increase our bottom line in the workplace?

- Jimmy, it's an uncomfortable discussion with lots of people to talk about this country's original sin. So let me ask you, though, how do we right that wrong in the context of what you are now doing? What should we do? Is it reparations or something else?

JIMMY ETHEREDGE: Well, I think, as Emmanuel said, it starts with listening and understanding, getting people to-- to talk. I think that's what enables people to have the grace and space to learn about, you know, what's happened to consider people's experiences that are different from themselves. If there's one thing that I think can be a downside to all of this wonderful technology we have today, and I'm somebody that spent my career in it, is it can make people get isolated in terms of an echo chamber, only talking to people that look at things through the same lens that they do.

And I think the wonderful thing about the podcast that Emmanuel and I are doing is to say, let's have these awkward conversations. As we all know, there's no shortage of supply of topics that we can cover, but what I hear from people is a real appetite for listening and learning, not being afraid to ask ignorant questions, worried about offending someone when they talk to them about some of these issues. And so I think what we're trying to do is, let's get comfortable being uncomfortable with this podcast.

- Emmanuel, you've talked in the past about the importance of keeping this conversation going and how that's really critical here when we, I guess, look ahead to the future and try to make a difference. When you take a look at the country right now, it's still so divided. Yes, I think we've made some progress over the last several months, but there still certainly is a substantial way to go. How do you think we should go about addressing the divide that we're still experiencing now?

EMMANUEL ACHO: Well, the first thing is this-- we have to know what we don't know. When you think about driving in a car, you understand that cars have blind spots, and dependent upon the car, it dictates the extremity of the blind spot. So what do you do to counteract that blind spot and make up the little small mirror and put it on your side mirror? Or you take the extra time before switching lanes to look over the left and the right shoulder.

In the same breath, corporations, CEOs, CMOs, et cetera, understand you have blind spots, understand that you may not know everything about the employees who work for and with you. So as a country, we need to continue to acknowledge the fact that we don't know everything about everyone. We can't feel everything like everyone. We don't see everything as everyone may see everything and other things. Acknowledge that you have blind spots.

Continually, in this country, in our country, acknowledge that we have blind spots. Just because as you drive a car, you traverse from one lane to another, does not mean you will not check and continually monitor for the areas in which you know you cannot naturally see.

- Emmanuel, going off of that, we have President Biden, he's expected to sign the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law here in just a few minutes, and I believe we have a live shot of Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at the podium right now, ahead of that. As we await this act, as we await the fact that President Biden is going to sign this Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, how significant, how big of a step forward is this in addressing the past and also hopefully making a change for the future?

EMMANUEL ACHO: Well, I think it's huge because I think in order to know where you want to go, you have to understand where you came from. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, born and raised, and so as a result, obviously, Juneteenth is near and dear to my heart. But we talk about July 4th Independence Day, remember, Independence Day was just Independence Day for some, whereas Juneteenth, that was Independence Day for another entire group of people who look differently. So in the same breath as we celebrate and we commemorate July 4th, I think Black and brown people celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth, and as a country, we collectively celebrate July 4th.

So I also think of the country, it would be wise, it would behoove us to collectively honor and celebrate Juneteenth as well.

- Jimmy, I'm curious, what makes some people who are white uncomfortable about these conversations?

JIMMY ETHEREDGE: I think in some cases, not knowing enough. They worry about offending, so they worry about-- you know, the book that Emmanuel authored is just fantastic around uncomfortable conversations where he gets into topics that range from, you know, the N-word to reparations to systemic racism. And I think for-- I think for people that have not been exposed to a lot of that, who maybe don't have as much diversity in their friends, it gives them a way of being able to learn something from the other person's perspective.

I've been blessed. I've had a lot of Black friends in my life and ones that I've always been able to have very open conversations with, but I think this is really important, this sense of understanding. And, without a doubt, the expectation is companies have got to lean more into this. We all see the research, and Accenture has done it, on the benefits of diversity to creativity, to innovation, to outcomes, but companies have got to be able to attract diverse talent, which means looking at it for new places. They've got to be able to develop and retain talent.

And in doing that, it really means that you've got to understand and let people be their authentic selves, bring their authentic selves to work. And to do that, you've got to listen and learn about other people's experiences.

- And, again, we're looking at President Biden now taking the podium and set to sign into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. Emmanuel Acho and Jimmy Etheredge, thank you so much for taking the time to join us here, and congratulations on your new podcast, "Change Conversations."