Empovia rainbow gradient logo made up of three overlapping circles in increasing sizes with the Empovia wordmark next to it in a bold black font in all caps

Using Humor & Empowerment To Improve Inclusion With Karith Foster

What is conscious empathy? How can humor help engage people in DEI efforts?

In Episode 128, Karith Foster, CEO, Co-Founder, Author, Humorist & DEI Consultant at Inversity Solutions, joins Melinda in a conversation about using humor and empowerment to improve inclusion. They discuss how we can practice conscious empathy to expand our understanding of each other’s experiences and foster noble compassion. They also explore easy steps to transform the toxicity in DEI work into positive energy, such as focusing on commonalities, creating a ‘brave space’ for everyone to embrace authenticity, and engaging in introspection

Additional Resources

This videocast is made accessible thanks to Interpreter-Now. Learn more about our show sponsor Interpreter-Now at www.interpreter-now.com.

Watch Episode

Subscribe To The Show

Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe on your fav app to catch our weekly episodes.

Accessibility: The show is available on YouTube with captions and ASL interpretation. Transcripts of each episode are available by clicking on the episode titles below.

Subscribe to our Podcast newsletter

Humor is cathartic, and there’s a healing to it. Most people who are into comedy…, they know that so much of it actually really comes from pain. It’s that pain that is also universal; that pain of being disappointed…, being hurt…, being left out…. When you can use humor as a tool, it makes people more engaged…. If you’re going to have a topic as serious as DEI, DEIB, don’t you want people taking it home with them? Not because they feel bad, but because… it touched them on a much deeper level.
Guest Speaker

Karith Foster

CEO, Co-Founder, Author, Humorist & DEI Consultant at Inversity Solutions

Karith Foster is a Diversity Engagement Specialist and creator of the groundbreaking INVERSITY™ methodology and other signature programs. She is creating a seismic shift in diversity and culture change in academic institutions, organizations and corporations across America. These new conversations are revolutionizing the way we address issues of diversity and leadership.

Karith brings the perfect blend of humor, knowledge and experience while conveying the ever-present need to address diversity, inclusion and effective communication. Karith leaves her audiences feeling engaged, connected, inspired and encouraged to commit to the journey of mutual respect, acceptance and a greater sense of belonging.

As a speaker, humorist, TV & radio personality, author, entrepreneur, wife, and mother, Karith is a positive force of change with her sense of duty, service—along with her riotous sense of humor. “If you can laugh at it you can get through it,” is her motto and the invaluable lesson she seeks to instill in others.

In addition to being CEO of INVERSITY™ Solutions, Karith is also the Founder of F.R.A.M.E the Foster Russell Alliance for Meaningful Expression a 501(c)3 non-profit, whose mission is to inspire free speech, inclusion, social change and empowerment through education and mentorship on college and university campuses.

Karith was featured in two hit documentary films “Can We Take a Joke?” and “No Safe Spaces” which have garnered accolades in The Washington Post and TIME Magazine, as has her TEDx Talk “The Art of Defying Stereotypes: Learning to be True to Your Voice.” Karith has also made appearances on Imus in the Morning, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Howard Stern, Comedy Central, VH-1 and Oprah.

Karith is an alumna of Stephens College and Oxford University. She is also a visiting expert for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program at Stanford University and a 7-time repeat guest lecturer for Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business course, “Reputation Management.”

The words “no” and “impossible” are not in her vocabulary as evidenced by her career path, life challenges, chosen adventures and desire to help others.

Learn more about the host and creator of Leading With Empathy & Allyship, Melinda Briana Epler.


MELINDA: Welcome to Leading With Empathy & Allyship. I’m Melinda Briana Epler, Founder and CEO of Empovia, formally Change Catalyst. I’m also the author of How to Be an Ally, and your host for this show. 


What is allyship? Allyship is empathy in action. We learn what people are uniquely experiencing, we show empathy for their experience, and we take action. As a part of that process, we learn and unlearn and relearn. We work to avoid unintentionally harming people with our words and actions. We advocate for people, and we lead the change on our teams, in our organizations, and across our communities. 


In this episode, you’ll learn tangible actionable steps that you can take to lead the change to be a more inclusive leader, no matter what your role is. Want to learn more? Visit Empovia.co to check out more of my work. 


All right, let’s get started. 


Our guest today is Karith Foster, CEO and Founder of Inversity Solutions. We’ll be discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work, the toxicity that can come to play while doing that work, and how we can use humor to improve the impact of our change-making work around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 


So Karith, welcome. I’m excited to have a conversation.


KARITH: Thank you for having me, Melinda. I’m glad to be here. 


MELINDA: Yeah, me too. 


So Karith, can we start first with you sharing a bit about your own story? How did you come about to do the work that you do? Where did you start? Where did you grow up? And what was that path that led you to where you are now?


KARITH: Sure. I mean, if we’re going back to the very beginning, I was born in Denver, Colorado. I had a really interesting childhood experience, in that the neighborhood in Colorado, the block I was on, was incredibly diverse. The people to the right of us were a Mexican family, the people to the left were Black, the people across the street were White, there was a mixed race couple catty corner, there was an Asian family down the street. It was like real-life Sesame Street. We moved to Texas when I was seven, and I had the complete opposite experience. We were probably one of the only few Black families within a several-mile radius. I was always the only Black person in any of my classes, from basically second grade on, and that continued even to my freshman year of college. Because I attended a very small Women’s College in Columbia, Missouri. 


I went through a lot of reckoning with being labeled, being told at an early age, I wasn’t Black enough, because maybe I didn’t sound a certain way or I didn’t carry myself a certain way, and I really struggled with that. That actually was a very painful part of my up-growing. Because I thought, “Well, but that’s not all that I am. Why must you put that one label on me, and that’s it?” This actually was a trend that continued into my career, even as a comedian. People want to be able to put you in a pigeonhole, typecast you, literally. Because I wasn’t sassy and rolled my neck and talked about baby daddies and doing the comedy that was on a certain comedy circuit, like the Def Jam style, they didn’t know what to do with me quite often. So I was kind of left in this no man’s land, because I didn’t ascribe to what people could just put their finger on and made them comfortable. 


Now, I always wanted to be a beacon of light and truth, I thought that was my path. So I thought, media, that’s what I’ll do! I’ll be a journalist. So I got my degree in broadcast journalism, from Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri. I did study abroad, at Oxford in England. When I came back, I was working for a small ABC affiliate in Missouri. Then I got a call, my best friend was like, “You’ve got to come out here, Barbara Walters is starting this new show.” I moved to New York to work for The View, or what was to become The View. There were instances in both the local situation and international level that I saw: Okay, maybe you don’t get to tell the whole truth in the media. I thought this was going to be this space where I could be Oprah Winfrey or Connie Chung or Katie Couric. And what was a rude awakening was that you have to tell what the sponsors will allow, what the network says is okay. 


But while I was there, there are no accidents, I found stand-up comedy, or rather, it found me. Comedy became a vehicle for my being able to express myself in a really authentic way. I thought maybe this is how I’m supposed to bring people together, through laughter, because it was just such a unifying thing and experience, to be on stage and have everybody coming together, letting down all the pretenses, all the things that separate and divide us, and just be in that space. It’s so cathartic and healing and universal. 


Again, it was a vehicle for some really wonderful opportunities;’ traveling the world, performing all over. Literally, from Washington State to Washington, DC, I’ve done comedy in almost all the states in between. There’s something that comes with that. If I could come up with a better term, I would, but master communicator. Because the number one rule in comedy is yes, it’s be funny. But it’s, know your audience. If you’re going to speak to people, if you’re going to convey an idea, a thought, a concept, you have to be able to reach people where they are. You can’t talk down to them, and you can’t speak over their heads. Otherwise, you’re going to lose them. 


So when I did come into the space of diversity, which did happen because of more career shifts, I knew I wanted to incorporate humor into that. I knew I wanted to talk about that. But when I was pursuing comedy, at one point, my mom was like, please get health insurance. So I started working at Estee Lauder, I started temping. I was not planning to stay there for a long time. Haha, the joke was on me, I was there just under 10 years, and I was in HR and was given the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder. At one point, I did say, “This really isn’t my jam, but I appreciate it, and I thank you.” I had a double life, it was like a spy. By day, it was white-collar corporate girl. By night, I was a stand-up comedian. I did leave Estee Lauder to start a production company that lasted about 20 minutes. 


Then I get a call saying, “Hey, Karith, are you interested in a radio TV opportunity?” I said, “Yeah, of course, what comic worth their salt isn’t.” Then the gentleman who was a manager said, well, by the way, it’s with Don Imus. I said, I’m sorry, it’s with what? He said, it’s with Don Imus. I said, Nappy Headed Hos Don Imus? He said, yes, referencing the shock jock who got in trouble in 2007 for making those disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team live on the air. I remember watching it live, and thinking, oh, I should have been there. Because I saw it from the comedian’s perspective of riffing, trying to be funny off the cuff, not being able to vet it. And I saw it from the perspective of a Black woman, who was taken aback, like that was completely inappropriate. But I remember thinking, when I got that call, this is my opportunity to be that beacon of light and truth, this is my chance to be the anti-stereotype. 


There was no Oprah at that time; she didn’t have her daily show anymore. She hadn’t started her network. There was no Shonda Rhimes, or Kerry Washington, or Viola Davis, not that those few women make up for a deficit. But this was my opportunity to speak to an audience who probably never engaged with anyone like me on that personal level. So the call was to have a national dialogue about race and racism in America, and that was the catalyst that brought me to this space. One thing that came from that was my seeing: Okay wait, we’ve been doing diversity work going on 50-60 years, why does it feel like it’s two steps forward, 10 steps back?


MELINDA: Yeah. So you move from that into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work eventually. Why?


KARITH: Well, there was another incident right after I left Imus, coincidentally, involving a Rutgers University student, a young man by the name of Tyler Clemente, who took his life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. I remember hearing that story and my heart just breaking. Because I have several friends who are gay, who are in the LGBTQIA community. I just remember thinking, nobody should feel that alone, for whatever it is they think sets them apart from everyone else, whatever it is they feel it makes them an outlier, whether it’s their gender, sexuality, their socioeconomic status, their religion. Nobody should feel that desperate that that’s their only recourse. I thought, what can I do, how can I help? 


So the first iteration of the work that I did was called Stereotyped 101, and it was programming that I created to take to college and university students, hoping to share and spread the message that, look, we’re all in this together. Like, there aren’t other races per se, it’s the human race. Yes, we have different backgrounds, ethnicities, we come in different packages. But we believe the same way, we feel the same way; we know what it’s like to be included, we know what it’s like to be excluded. So let’s create a space where we can have conscious empathy for one another and noble compassion. That eventually, Stereotyped 101, transformed into Inversity. Because I was getting a lot of calls from people in corporate America saying, do you have anything for us, what about this audience? That was kind of the beginning.


MELINDA: I want to go deeper into some of what you said. The first question is, can you just explain a little bit more what you mean about conscious empathy, and did you say global compassion?


KARITH: Noble.


MELINDA: Noble. Thank you. Noble compassion. So what does that mean, and how do you develop it?


KARITH: Sure. So when I say conscious empathy, I think oftentimes people confuse empathy with sympathy, first of all. Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone. Oh, what a shame, I should feel bad. Empathy is the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Conscious empathy goes deeper. Conscious empathy is stepping out of that comfort zone for a little bit longer. It’s saying, or at least asking two very specific questions. One, what is it like for them, and how might that feel? What is it like to be somebody like me who was the only one for so long, in these very social settings? What is it like to be someone who has to pray several times a day? What is it like to be a White person who didn’t grow up around anybody but White people, and now doesn’t know the right words to use, questions to ask? What is that like? How might that feel? How might it feel to be in a relationship with somebody, either because they are of another ethnicity, maybe they are the same sex, that you can’t share with your community or your family? How might that feel to be trapped in a body that you don’t believe is really the one you should have? These are deep questions, and we will never know exactly what it’s like to be someone else; we’re not supposed to, we’re only us. But if you can take the terrain and the energy to go there, just to go there, to give that idea a chance, of how that might feel and what that might be like, that’s broadening your horizons and expanding your ability to have the noble compassion. 


Because very often, we readily will write people off. Well, that’s not my life, that’s not my lifestyle, that’s not what I do. So they’re not like me, but it’s not worth my time. No, that’s not how this works. If we’re serious about true inclusion, if we’re serious about celebrating diversity. That’s another thing, I think that we’ve done ourselves a disservice in how we’ve even approached the conversation around diversity. Because for so long, diversity, I often say, people think it’s a two-way street. One of the lanes is that it’s solely about race, or ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. The other lane is that if we do it well, if it’s successful, then everybody at the end agrees and is on the same page. That’s the antithesis of true diversity. The idea should be creating spaces where people are allowed to be who they are, be their authentic selves. There’s no indoctrination from any side. There’s respect, there’s honoring people, and there’s valuing of our fellow human beings.


MELINDA: Can you give an example of what that looks like, that respect, that honoring of each other?


KARITH: Well, it looks like my audience after one of my sessions. After I give a keynote or a workshop, if people feel engaged and inspired and connected, and they aren’t hanging their heads in shame, they’re not ready to go home and self- flagellate, they’re not crying sad tears of guilt and of shame and of hurt, because maybe they were made again to be the spokesperson for their marginalized group. It is truly a space of being allowed to be human and not having to apologize for it.


MELINDA: Yeah, I think you and I have talked before about the pitfalls of a lot of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work out there. While good-intentioned, a lot of programs, a lot of training, a lot of coaching doesn’t work. It can actually be damaging. It can backfire. It can move people backward versus forward. That the shaming, the guilt, those are toxic feelings and emotions that are the worst motivators for change. When people are in those, they’re much less likely to great change. It takes a lot to move that through them. It takes a lot to get out of them. You shared your thoughts with me a little bit about toxic Diversity, Equity, and inclusion. I think you’ve shared some of that already here without naming that. But can you talk a little bit about what you mean by toxic DEI?


KARITH: Sure. I think something we don’t think about often is energy, and how energy is attached to things. It’s attached to places, it’s attached to people, it’s attached to words, it’s attached to feelings. So we have to think about the energy that we’re bringing to the table when we want to have something be successful. Now, success is defined differently by different people. For some people, success is maybe if people leave crying, because they were put in their place, made to think about something a little differently. For some people, in my case, success means people had the aha moments; they had the spaces of clarity of, oh, I never thought about it like that before, I never saw it from that perspective before. Because let’s be very honest, diversity is a very taboo subject, because it’s so personal. It’s about you. It’s about who you are; your physicality, your abilities, your ethnicity, your sexuality. It’s so personal. And for that to be put on the spot and called into question, it leaves people just automatically on the offense or the defense. 


So I think that when you can create a space and an energy that’s neutral, first of all, just to start having a conversation, that’s a win. But the toxicity can come into play when we think about the energy that comes with guilt, the energy that comes with shame. Who has ever been truly inspired to do more, because somebody wagged a finger in their face and told him to go sit in the corner with a dunce’s hat on? I mean, maybe they did it for optics. But did they do it because it really penetrated their heart, or they just don’t want to look bad anymore? I think that’s where a lot of companies are operating from right now. A lot of this is reactive, versus proactive. While I find that unfortunate, that doesn’t mean it’s still not an opportunity to flip the switch and have some really good come out of it.


MELINDA: So what does that look like to flip the switch? What does it look like, instead of that finger-pointing, instead of the negative energies? How do you change that into positive energy?


KARITH: Well, one of the things that I say and I suggest all is, is it’s really easy to call somebody out. “You said that, you shouldn’t have said that. You didn’t use somebody’s proper pronouns. You can’t use that term anymore. You shouldn’t act that way. You shouldn’t think those thoughts.” That’s calling people out, because they’re not on board with you. Again, how effective is that? Is that really motivating someone to see your side of things? How do we call people in? Those are two small, very small words, but they’re so significant, in versus out. 


That’s why I came up with the word inversity. Even the word diversity, the root of it all, think of all the words that start with div; divide, divisive, divorce. And we’re expecting diversity is going to do the trick, what? So inversity is that flipping of the script. Yes, let’s celebrate and honor all that we are, all that we bring to the table. Let’s expand the traditional definition of diversity to include diversity of thoughts and ideas as well. We’re finally talking about neuro-diversity. There’s so many aspects to diversity. Again, it’s not just the gender and ethnicity and sexuality. It’s so much more. So let’s bring all those factors in. Let’s focus, instead of what separates and divides us, to what is it we have in common? How can we be truly inclusive of one another? But most importantly, and I think powerfully, how can we be introspective, meaning understanding your value and worth, versus so that you can see it in someone else rather? I think so often, this work is about, “Well, you have to change. You have to change the way you think. You have to be a better person.” It’s all this external stuff. But the reality is, we’re not going to make any significant changes or movement, until we work from the inside out. 


I wrote a book. I don’t have it behind me, but the colors are kind of in here. I wrote a book of You Can Be Perfect or You Can Be Happy. There’s actually a tie-in to the inversity work. Because spoiler alert, there’s no such thing as perfection. But you can strive for excellence of course, and happiness. Happiness is a choice. Now is it the same for everyone? Of course not. Is it the same for us throughout the eternity of our lives? No. What made you happy five years ago probably doesn’t make you happy today, or what makes you happy now may not make you happy in the future. But it is a choice. 


Now, there is a caveat. The caveat is, happiness is not a constant, and we think that it is. I think that leads so many people down a very treacherous path of depression, of disappointment, again, of this beating yourself up. “Something’s wrong with me, I’m not on all the time. My life isn’t great. It doesn’t look like everybody else’s Instagram, or Pinterest posts, or whatever.” That’s so tragic, and it’s so not necessary. But again, we do strive for perfection, because we forget: Oh, we’re human, we make mistakes, nobody’s perfect. But not only do we expect perfection in ourselves, we expect it in others. And when they let us down, that’s where the biases can especially come into play. “Well, look at that group over there, I knew they were going to do that. Or that’s who they are, and that’s how they act.” We all do it across the board. Unconscious bias is universal, and it’s not something that we’ll ever fully eradicate, and that’s okay. The idea isn’t to completely rid yourself of something, you can’t help. It’s ingrained in you from generations back, because it’s about survival. The idea is to recognize when it comes into play, so that you’re not missing out on opportunities, experiences, or relationships. Also making sure that your bias isn’t keeping someone else from missing out on opportunities, experiences, and relationships. 


MELINDA: Yeah. I think it also has to do with the calling out versus calling in too, because if we hold each other to perfection, then we’re more likely to call somebody out for making a mistake. Versus having a growth mindset and knowing that people may have grown up in places where they never have talked to somebody like Karith, and so they just don’t know, and to help them learn and grow and change by calling somebody in. Can you talk about how humor can make a difference in your work?


KARITH: I think I can. I think humor is one of the greatest gifts that we have been given. I think so not just because I am a comedian and have been doing that for 25 years. Yes, I started when I was five, that’s why you see no wrinkles. I’m kidding, I always like to be funny. But honestly, what better way, what more positive way to lift people’s spirits, to create a physiological effect that triggers serotonin and dopamine, the happy hormones? So that people are in a place where, one of my mottos is: Laugh, Think, Grow. Because if you can laugh at something, you’re not in a place to take it super seriously. Not that diversity is not serious, I don’t mean it in that respect. But you’re not looking just for the negative, you’re in a space of: Okay, this is universal, this is a human experience. Of course, humor is subjective. There are different types and styles of humor. When I perform or present, especially in a corporate setting, it’s corporate clean. I’m not going to be going out there with anything that people would gasp, clutch the pearls and flip out. 


But the idea is that humor is cathartic, and there’s a healing to it. Most people who are into comedy, whether they’ve done stand up themselves or they’re a fan of it, they know that so much of it actually really comes from pain. It’s that pain that is also universal; that pain of being disappointed, that pain of being hurt, that pain of being left out. I mean, think of it also, how many of the top famous comedians came from people who have a heritage of pain? Black comedians, Jewish comedians, now we have a lot of LGBT community that’s coming out, and sharing their stories of their childhoods that sometimes sucked. But guess what, nobody’s had a perfect life. So that asset is universal as well. When you can use humor as a tool, it makes people more engaged. Hopefully everybody remembers their favorite teacher, or instructor, or professor, who was fun, who you just couldn’t wait to get to their class. Not only were you excited to be there, but you retained more, because you were open. That’s what humor does. So if you’re going to have a topic as serious as DEI, DEIB, don’t you want people taking it home with them? Not because they feel bad, but because again, it touched them on a much deeper level. So that’s the power of humor.


MELINDA: Yeah. I’ve also noticed that humor, there’s so much fear that comes into play, when we’re talking about identities, when we’re talking about diversity, when we’re talking about equity. I think humor can also put people at ease, partly because of those hormones that are Being released, I think. That opening, I think, is really key to this work, and when you have that opening, you have vulnerability. You have that ability to step in and be vulnerable, that ability to step in and be authentic, and to be a part of the conversation no matter who you are.


KARITH: You said two key words, fear and vulnerability. I think often, people think they go hand in hand. But the reality is, vulnerability is probably one of the bravest things that you can bring to the table. Because what you’re doing is you’re saying, “Look, I don’t have all the answers, I’m not a perfect person. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to mis-speak, I’m not always going to know the right things to do and say. But I’m open. I’m open to learning, and if you can, in return, be open to teaching, be open to allowing me to be human, and I can do that for you, we can have a really successful symbiotic relationship.” 


I think one of the downfalls I’ve seen with how diversity has gone, is that there’s almost been this creation of hypersensitivity, where there’s a reward. And there is a reward for everything that we do, or we wouldn’t do it. But there’s a reward now in how offended can you get, how offended can you be. Not just for yourself, but for someone else. I find that very interesting when someone gets offended on my behalf, who doesn’t have my experience, who may not have the same background, in the name of, maybe let’s just say racist. Well, aren’t you robbing me of my agency and my ability to decide if that’s something that bothers me or not? So where’s the line in all of this? Where’s the common sense? Where’s the reality of what should we be giving our attention to and should we be just dismissing? 


I think I wrote it in a blog recently, or an article, that it feels like we’ve kind of come to this place in society where there’s a lot of Chicken Little, and boy who cried wolf, or almost like a hybrid that. My concern is not that there aren’t things, because I don’t dismiss the idea that racism and sexism and homophobia and transgender, I’m not saying those aren’t real and they don’t exist. At the level that maybe we’re being told by the media, I question that. But what I have issue with is that if we’re going after all the small things, if we’re going after the little tiny things, then when the big things come that really should demand our attention, that are not acceptable, that we’re going to be out of energy and we’re not going to have anybody coming to the table to say, “You know what, this isn’t okay, this isn’t right. There needs to be a correction.”


MELINDA: That’s a good point, and perhaps also a little bit desensitized as well. That’s a really good point. So the first step is creating that safe space for everybody to be human, yeah.


KARITH: I love that you use the word safe space, because I get it. I get where the term comes from. But I think oftentimes, when we say safe space, what that’s also doing is creating a place where ideas that you don’t like or don’t agree with or are upsetting to you, aren’t allowed in. I don’t think that’s helpful either. So I say brave space, let’s have brave spaces. By that, I mean spaces where you are allowed 100% to be you and who you are. But you’re also brave enough, not just to share your thoughts and ideas, but to hear contradictory thoughts and ideas. Because that’s also where the growth comes from. That doesn’t mean we agree, we leave holding hands singing Kumbaya. But what it does mean is we are closer to understanding maybe where other people are coming from.


MELINDA: I would say it’s both. You have to have those safe spaces. You have to have a space where somebody feels safe, in order to be brave. I think you have to have that psychological safety first and foremost. Safety does not mean a lack of contradiction; it does not mean a lack of being challenged.


KARITH: But I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I think that’s a word that’s been twisted as well, psychological safety. I mean, when people say words are violence, that’s like, wait a second. Yes, words are powerful, but they’re also only as powerful as we allow them to be. 


MELINDA: Yeah. I have actually asked all the questions that I had for you, except a few final questions. But is there anything else that we haven’t talked about, that you wanted to make sure that we do, when it comes to the topic at hand?


KARITH: There’s nothing that comes here to mind. I think it’s just very important that people understand that this is not an overnight scenario. I think we live in this time and age where instant gratification; we want it immediately, and we want it right now. A lot of the things that we’re talking about have been in the works for a while; people have learned behavior, people have learned language, people have learned how to see things, and they’ve grown up for years and decades with certain perspectives. So to expect people to flip the switch instantly and get it, not only is that an immature, I think, ask, it’s very naive. We have to have a little patience with one another and with ourselves. This is where we need to bring kindness and grace into the conversation. That’s not always easy. I’m not going to tell anybody here that it’s easy. It’s not. It’s hard. It’s hard. But it doesn’t have to be hard if you don’t let it be. Like, what I say, one of my mottos is: it’s not hard work, it’s heart work. When you can go into your heart, when you can open your heart to someone else, especially somebody who has just so completely opposite views than you, maybe someone who’s angry, maybe somebody who’s mean and cruel. Now I am not charging anybody with being anyone else’s therapist, psychoanalyst. But one thing I do know, is that hurt people hurt people. So there’s always a story behind it, there’s always something in there, and you probably do have more in common than you don’t. That’s the goal in inversity.


MELINDA: I love that. Do you have any recommendations for how each of us can think about using humor and tapping into that?


KARITH: Absolutely. Well, if it’s funny to you, it’s got to be funny to somebody else. Humor is tricky, I’m not going to lie. It’s something that I’ve crafted over, as I said, the past 25 years. Not everybody is readily a comedian, but not everybody has to be; we can find humor in memes. But it’s tricky because it is subjective, and not everybody holds the same things are funny. But the idea is, it will never be funny if it’s just blatantly cruel or mean, and you stay away from that. Self-deprecating humor always works. That doesn’t mean you’re ripping yourself up. But it’s just, making fun of something that happened in your life. Like, I was just at a podcast earlier today, and we were talking about getting ready for my children when I was pregnant. One of the books I read was, Toddlers Are A**holes, and I was thinking, who would write such a thing about beautiful, these gifts from God? Then I had toddlers, and I’m like, oh, she knew what she was talking about. Teach me, it’s insane. I’m like, but they don’t stop there. The other day, we’re in the car and I was listening to 80s on a like on Sirius XM, because I’m proud of the 80s. I think it was like, aha or something like Take on me, and I’m singing. And my older daughter who’s 10 goes, is this another one of your songs from the 1900s? The 1900s, seriously? How did I think Little House on the Prairie? She’s like, not the 1900s, not mommy’s music that she loves. 


But it’s one of those things. You can find humor everywhere if you look for it, just like you can find a fence everywhere if you look for it, you can find hurt everywhere if you look for it, you can find love everywhere if you look for it. Where your attention goes, energy flows. That is something that I think we need to have in the forefront of our mind when we have so much attention and energy going to the negative stuff.


MELINDA: So what action would you like people to take coming away from our conversation?


KARITH: Well, I would love people to look up what I do.


MELINDA: That was my next question, you can tell them where they can learn more.


KARITH: Right. But just be kind. Don’t think you know all the answers, or you have to have all the answers. Again, make this such a finite thing. This is life. Life ebbs and flows. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up your belief system. That’s one thing I really do try to stress, I don’t want people to change their beliefs. Because this isn’t about beliefs. This is about behavior, and how we treat one another, and how we act toward one another. That’s what this is really about. So yeah, if you could be kind, even sometimes when you don’t feel like it, you have no idea what somebody’s day has been like, you don’t know what’s going on behind their screen, you don’t know all of who’s in their family. We don’t know everything about everybody. So don’t make the assumptions. But kindness always prevails. 


MELINDA: Where can people learn more about you and your work? 


KARITH: So there are not too many Karith’s out there. My name is Karith, my last name is Foster. So all of my handles essentially are at Karith Foster, for Instagram, for LinkedIn, Twitter. I have the company, InversitySolutions.com. I’m out there. I mean, you pretty much just have to google me, might even get to see some comedy. But I so appreciate your having me on, Melinda. What a lovely conversation, even though I did most of the talking! But a conversation is an opportunity to share and spread goodness in the world.


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for doing your work. I really appreciate you. 


For all of you listening or watching, please make sure that you’re learning and taking action. So that’s be kind, laugh, think, grow. Really think about how can humor make a difference in your work to create change as an ally, as an advocate. Then find one thing that you can do, and take action. See you next week.


Thank you for being part of our community. You’ll find the show notes and a transcript of this episode at ally.cc. There you can also sign up for our weekly newsletter with additional tips. This show is produced by Empovia, a trusted learning and development partner, offering training, coaching, and a new e-learning platform, with on-demand courses focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. You can learn more at Empovia.com. 


Allyship is empathy in action. So what action will you take today?