How to Have Difficult Political Conversations: Karlyn Borysenko
In an era of name-calling, intolerance, and ad hominem attacks, what can the average American do to overcome partisan division?
In this episode, we sit down with Karlyn Borysenko. An organizational psychologist and longtime Democrat, she started exploring her political options after witnessing cancel culture in her knitting community. After President Trump signed an executive order tackling critical race theory, she chose to support Trump.
“The media has a vested interest in trying to keep us divided,” Borysenko says, but our political differences are far from insurmountable. And Americans must become more open to having difficult political conversations with their neighbors and friends across the aisle.
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Karlyn Borysenko, so great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Karlyn Borysenko: Thank you so much for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn, it’s been about a year since we last spoke. I remember it was a very interesting time for you. You had been active in the online knitting community; I forget which one right now. You experienced some kind of major pushback—cancel culture and so forth. You were out exploring the political spectrum, and today, it’s a year later.
I actually see one thing that is very much the same in your outlook in comparison to what we talked about a year ago. This is the reason I reached out, which is the concept of bridging the divide. This actually was one of the titles of our past interview. I can see from your social media presence that you’re very much active in trying to currently do that. So tell me a little bit about your journey here and what you’re seeing and what you’re trying to do.
Ms. Borysenko: Yes, so we first met after I wrote an article about being a Democrat for 20 years that went to a Trump rally that went viral on the internet. The whole impetus for me going to the Trump rally was, of course, that I experienced cancel culture in the knitting community. The article was really about how we have to stop seeing each other as enemies; we have to start taking the time to listen to each other to try to really understand people’s perspectives and to really connect on that human level.
Of course, in the midst of the contentious election that was 2020, there just wasn’t a lot of that going on. I was making a proactive effort to break outside this liberal echo chamber I had created for myself, to listen to people who I really thought I would disagree with. I ended up finding that I didn’t have as much disagreement with people on the right as I had initially thought, so I started having those conversations. And it kind of launched into a year of very public discussion on the topic.
But 2020 was a tough year in that when you’re in the midst of an election, it’s about your side winning. I have to admit that I went from being someone that hated Donald Trump, that he thought he was the worst person ever to really actively being one of the people that was out there doing rallies and trying to support his re-election efforts for several months. When you’re doing that, it’s hard to have those conversations. But since the election, I really tried to come back to it because I believe that it’s very, very important to where we are right now as a country.
We have to make the decision: are we going to continue to stay divided, be at each other’s throats, and call each other horrible names all the time? Or are we going to try to find the same people that exist on both sides, to try to reconnect and try to find some common ground and see where we can agree?
That’s really what I’ve been working on in the past several weeks. I’ve actually been reaching out to people on the left to try to have open conversations, where people can see two people who disagree maybe on policy issues, but are trying to come together and at least find some common ground or minimally have respectful conversation.
Mr. Jekielek: This is actually very interesting. You describe that you went through this political transformation or something like that. But I would guess that what interested you in MAGA, or the whole Trump movement, was the policies associated with it, not the personality associated with it. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t have been attracted to it from what you describe. So I suspect there isn’t a lot of understanding around that policy on the left. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s my sense from looking at left-leaning media.
Ms. Borysenko: Well, I will say this. Once I really understood Donald Trump—someone said to me one day, “Karlyn, he is a blustery New Yorker.” For some reason that clicked something in my head, and I thought, “Oh, now I can I completely understand him on a new level.” So I actually did kind of enjoy the trolling of Donald Trump. I think there’s a lot of humor in him. But, at the same time I do agree that what really got my attention were the policies.
When I really became a Trump supporter was when he signed those executive orders banning critical race theory in the federal government and with all federal government contractors. This was something that actually happened right after we last chatted, which is that critical race theory took over my entire industry.
I’m an organizational psychologist; I do corporate training. All of a sudden, the only thing that corporations wanted to invest money in was critical race training. We don’t need to go far into that, but this is a fundamentally dangerous ideology that teaches people that they are racist based on the color of their skin. I was very much against that.
So to see Donald Trump being the only person to stand up and be fighting for average, everyday people not to have to suffer through this training, and then to want to institute policies that would teach children in school why America is an awesome country and why they are blessed, and even dare I say, privileged to live here—that was something that really did get my attention.
Looking at the types of policies he’s endorsed, even right up until the very end, when he out-lefted the left, calling for $2,000 checks for everyone when everyone else in Congress was perfectly fine with $600 checks. So yes, I think there was a fundamental misunderstanding, not only about who he is as a person, but also the policies he was enacting, and I think that this actually can begin to give us a way to bridge the divide.
I think that there is [something] in common between people on the populist left and the populist right. I define MAGA as really a populist right movement. I think that people on the populist right have more in common with people on the populist left than they do with the Republicans in Congress, and certainly than with the Democrats in Congress. The Republicans in Congress have shown they don’t really care about average, everyday people. They’re simply out for themselves and doing what they can do to maintain power. That is something that we can use to start to have these conversations.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s pretty fascinating. So what would you say are the uniting policies across the divide, so to speak?
Ms. Borysenko: I had a conversation on my YouTube channel last week with a Black Lives Matter activist. Now, I’m not talking about someone in the Black Lives Matter leadership structure, or even someone that I think is monumentally influential in that moment, but just an average everyday person. Here’s what I learned from this person that has been doing protests and rallies with Black Lives Matter for years and years and years and years and years.
One, they do not like Antifa. They do not like the violence they see coming from the left. They think that dilutes their movement, and they think it dilutes their message. I 100 percent agree. If we can align with average, everyday people on the left on not liking Antifa and not liking violence, I think that’s a huge win in and of itself, because I know for myself, I really conflated the two terms quite a bit; a lot of people on the right do. We say Black Lives Matter and Antifa, as though they’re the same thing, and I just don’t think that they necessarily are.
The other things that I learned from him that maybe we can find common ground on is that, listen, “As an average person, I don’t want to see the police killing innocent people. I don’t think you do either. I think that there’s not a single person out there that would say that is a good thing. Now, where we disagree— is there a problem?” Essentially, people on the right might say, “Oh, this isn’t as big a problem as Black Lives Matter likes to say it is.”
But to be frank, whether or not it’s a problem doesn’t really matter if we agree on the goal, if we agree on the outcome that we’re shooting for. So let’s agree to the goal and move on from there.
I also think that there is something about average, everyday people that are in that movement, that they feel like forgotten Americans. Donald Trump was successful, because he rallied a movement of people who felt like they were forgotten Americans. Well, guess what? There’s the exact same set of people on the left who feel the same way.
So why can’t we come together on the things we agree upon, and at least start there, because the people that are currently in Congress are not at all interested in either of these groups. Joe Biden’s already shown us that he hasn’t even talked to Black Lives Matter. We have to take it upon ourselves to bridge that gap amongst ourselves, to see if we can get any progress that is going to benefit both of our groups.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn, that’s interesting. I’ll tell you what I’m thinking right now, I’m thinking that Black Lives Matter as an organization, the leadership, they are avowed Marxists, so to speak. That’s directly from their literature. From what I can tell, there’s a lot of support for precisely this critical race theory that you switched political allegiance around. So there’s probably a lot of people that listened to you that are watching this show that are wondering, “How can you say this?”
Ms. Borysenko: Yes. Absolutely. If you had talked to me a month ago, I probably wouldn’t be saying this, to be honest. But again, I think that we have to think about a few things. One, does the average, everyday person on the left know what Marxism is, understand what the leadership of Black Lives Matter is doing? Or are they just going along with the term and the general idea that the police shouldn’t be shooting innocent people?
We have to think about what do they actually care about? Where is their focus actually? I would bet you that if you talk to average, everyday people, they don’t know what the definition of Marxism is and don’t know that the leaders of Black Lives Matter are Marxist, and don’t even know what critical race theory is. If there’s one thing that we saw in the campaign, it was that, frankly, neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump knew how to define critical race theory. We saw that clearly in the two debates that they had.
Do I expect average everyday people who don’t have their heads in this all day like I do to understand what it is? Well, no, I don’t, because it’s complicated. We need to start doing a better job of teaching people not only what these things are, but how they’re showing up. In the meantime, until everyone actually understands these concepts, there are things that we can agree on.
I really think that, again, like the leadership of Black Lives Matter, they have a vested interest in maintaining the problem, right? Because if they don’t maintain the problem, they’re not going to get all these billions of dollars of donations from people to continue to support their organization.
But the average everyday people, they just want solutions. That’s all they want. They just want their kids to feel safe, and I want their kids to feel safe as well. So let’s come together on that level and ignore the leadership for a second. If the average people come together, that is a much, much, much larger group. It doesn’t really matter what the leaders want. At that point, it’s about what the people want.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn, while we were speaking offline, you mentioned to me that you were actually outside the Capitol buildings on January 6 that day. You were talking about your experience of what happened, which is quite different from a lot of what we’ve heard in the legacy media and the corporate media.
Ms. Borysenko: Yes, absolutely. So my experience of being at the Capitol on January 6, and I have to do the pre-emptive compulsory disclaimer that I denounce all violence. I do not think violence is a good thing. When I got to the Capitol on January 6, what I walked up to was a Capitol lawn filled with tens of thousands of people. It looked just like any other rally that I had been to. I had been to dozens of rallies over the previous several months, and this really looked no different, except it was an awful lot bigger than any other rally I had been to.
I saw people standing on the lawn peacefully waving flags chanting USA, USA, USA. As I got closer, I realized the Capitol Police were tear-gassing people. I really didn’t understand why. People that I saw were not engaging in violence. None of this is to dismiss what happened in the Capitol. I thought what happened in the Capitol was horrible and grossly unnecessary. But it’s also a tale of two different experiences.
And I think we see this on the Black Lives Matter end, as well. Listen, I know there are people in Black Lives Matter that are doing bad things. We could all turn on the news for several months over the summer, and see that there are people doing awful things, setting fires, destroying things, and looting businesses. Those are not the people that I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the 93 percent of people in Black Lives Matter that were actually peacefully protesting, that were just going out and standing up for what they believed in. The First Amendment protects them just as much as it protected me being at the Capitol and being completely peaceful, and chanting USA, USA, USA, along with that crowd. It protects both of us.
If 99 percent of the people on January 6 at the Capitol were being completely peaceful, and were just standing up for what they believed in, 93 percent on the Black Lives Matter side. Yes, that’s a little bit less, but it’s still pretty high, let’s work with it. That’s still an awful lot of people who are just engaging in their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest for what they believe in.
I can look at those percentages of people and say that there’s a lot of reasonable people in those groups that do not want the fighting and the division and the rhetoric and the name calling and all of the things that we’ve had to endure for four years.
Is it going to be everyone? No, there are extremists on both sides of the equation. We’ve seen that now. But what I heard from the Black Lives Matter guy that I had the conversation with on my YouTube channel was— when they look at groups like Antifa, they see it as QAnon on the left. That’s what the average, everyday person sees it as. They have their extremists. We have ours. We don’t need to play this game where we’re trying to bring the extremists into the conversation.
Let the average, everyday people talk and find those connections. Try to connect with them. Try to focus on what you agree with. Listen, everyone everyday has a choice. We can continue to focus on all the differences we have, all the things that drive us apart, and all the things from the past couple of years that have driven us crazy about the other side. If we put all our focus there, well guess what? That’s going to make it seem like the only thing that there is are the things that divide us. The only thing is that we can’t agree on anything.
But if we start to focus our energy, instead, on the things we have in common—that we want our families to feel safe, that we want to be able to stand up for causes we believe in without violence, that we want to be able to exercise our First Amendment rights, that we want to just feel like we are listened to by our elected representatives—now all of a sudden, we have some common ground that we can start to build on. If we can find one commonality, well, who’s to say we can’t find two, three, or four, but we have to be open to having the conversations in the first place.
Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely. How are you dealing with very prominent punditry in corporate media, corporate left leaning media conflating the people who actually entered the Capitol and committed violence with the people that were there, like you on the lawn, and then further up all the way up to people who just happened to vote for President Trump. We’re seeing a lot of that kind of rhetoric, at least by my eye.
Ms. Borysenko: How I’m dealing with that, to be quite frank with you, is I’m trying my very best to ignore it. Because the media does not speak for the people. The media has a vested interest in trying to keep us divided. They made a boatload of money for years and years and years with Donald Trump as president and now all of a sudden their cash cow is in Florida golfing. So they’ve got to try to find a way to maintain that revenue stream from somewhere, right? They have a vested interest in keeping us divided.
Now, is it really inconvenient that Twitter is purging hundreds of thousands of accounts, that people are getting cancelled left and right, and that Parler has been taken offline, and all these things? Yes, absolutely, that’s inconvenient. But guess what, we still have places that we can congregate, we still have places that we can talk.
I’m on Locals. Locals has been a great website for me where I feel completely safe not being banned or censored. That’s a place where I’m able to create communities where we are having conversations among people who disagree with each other. It can still work.
So my best advice is to ignore the media. Listen, we’ve seen that the trustworthiness of the media has absolutely tanked. Especially since the election, people know that they’re lying to us. I actually see a beautiful opportunity in all of this. We’re already starting to see it. We’re like a week into Joe Biden’s presidency at this point; we’re already starting to see that people who voted for Biden are waking up to the fact that not only did Joe Biden lie to them, but that the media covered for him.
I think we’re only going to see more red pills dished out in the course of Biden’s presidency. What a beautiful gift we’ve all been given to have a chance to wake up to say, “OK, the people in Congress largely are not fighting for us. The media now are corporate shills. Now, all we really have left to rely on is each other.” Right? But we have to, again, be open to having those conversations with each other, if we’re ever going to get anywhere.
Mr. Jekielek: How do you start that conversation?
Ms. Borysenko: That’s the biggest question of all, isn’t it? Like, how do I do it? I think you just have to make the decision to do it. You have to make the decision that you are going to open your mind and listen to someone that you disagree with.
Now, just because you have a conversation with someone doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. It doesn’t mean you have to change your values. It’s simply that you are allowing, you are creating a space for a dialogue to occur. You are creating space for a gap to be bridged, right?
When I started having my conversation, and I actually have people from the left as much as possible on my YouTube channel, where we dialogue and we talk about where we agree and when we differ, where we disagree. Where I start with that is I asked them to have the conversation. I say, “If you come on my channel, I’m going to give you time to talk. I’m not going to debate you, I’m going to listen to you. I’m going to ask you questions. You’re going to get a chance to articulate your message. This is not a fight.”
This is where a lot of people get caught up and they want to have a debate. This happens all the time on the internet. It’s all about debates, debates, debates. Well, I am not interested at all in having debates. I’m not interested at all in convincing someone on the left to agree with me, when we probably don’t agree on an awful lot. That only focuses on the areas that we disagree on.
What I would rather do is get them on my channel and ask them questions. Give them a chance to share their full message and then ask them some more questions and say, “Oh, you know what, that point there? We agree with that. We have that in common.” I’ll give you an example. The Black Lives Matter guy I had on my channel last week, we talked about the fact that we both hate Mitch McConnell. We hate Mitch McConnell. Okay, well, we found some common ground there. Let’s build on that.
We talked about the fact that we do believe in the First Amendment. We do believe in the right to peacefully protest. Well, let’s go from there. Again, once you can find one area that you have something in common, that opens the door to more.
The fact is that when I go into these conversations, I’m not trying to dunk on someone. I’m not trying to score points, and I’m not trying to make them look bad. In fact, I want them to look good. I want them to look great when they’re on my channel, because that’s going to make them feel really good. That’s going to make them be more inclined to engage with me in the future.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay, so how do you deal with an obvious falsehood? I think that you’re familiar with the “fine people” hoax, right?
Ms. Borysenko: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: In quotes, right, exactly. That’s something that a lot of people on the left may believe, by sheer virtue of repetition. It was involved in part of a campaign. They might just simply believe that it’s factual. It’s not. How do you deal with people having very different knowledge about what is real and what isn’t real?
Ms. Borysenko: To be honest with you, in some respects, I find it to be immaterial. I find the “very fine people” hoax to be immaterial. I’m going to explain why. We don’t need to agree about whether or not that happened in order to find common ground moving forward.
Listen, we cannot change the last four years. We can’t change anything that was said; we can’t change anything that was done. If we focus all our energy on trying to write all the perceived wrongs over the last four years, we are going to miss opportunities to move forward. That’s what we have to keep doing. We can’t change things.
Instead, we have to focus on what we want to build, what type of experience we want to have. That’s true, regardless of whether the “very fine people” thing happened, or it didn’t, I really have no interest in re-litigating everything that’s happened and how many lies the media has told over the last four years.
What I would prefer to do is to point out very clearly inconsistencies that are happening right now, this week. They said this before Biden was inaugurated, and they said this right after he was inaugurated. What do you think about that? What is your interpretation of that? How would you prefer they behave moving forward? That’s where I think we’re going to be able to have the most productive conversations, if we focus on the future rather than the past.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you find people are trying to cancel you even as we speak?
Ms. Borysenko: Oh, yes. People try to cancel me all day, every day. But I’m actually very blessed in that I had a lot of people try to cancel me in the last year. Now might sound odd to say that I’m very blessed with that, but every time they tried to cancel me, I had to figure out ways to diversify what I was doing and to set up systems where they couldn’t cancel me. So I’ve been through the fire at this point.
I feel completely comfortable with where I’m at. I’m completely comfortable that they are not going to be able to cancel all of my sources of income, no matter how hard they might try. It’s part of this little game that we’re playing. I’m happy to take the heat, if we can get to a point where we are able to have conversations with each other. Even if I have to model that behavior of what that looks like on my YouTube channel or wherever else, I’m happy to do that because I think that that’s important.
Mr. Jekielek: A lot of folks, especially on the conservative side are very shy about their opinions, especially after the events of January 6. I think one of the reactions that I’ve seen is people feel almost apologetic for something they may have, obviously, had nothing to do with, by and large. But that’s the reality of a lot of people. What do you say to those people?
Ms. Borysenko: Well, I say to them that I completely understand. Listen, as January 6 was happening, literally, I was at the Capitol and I didn’t even have a good internet connection, so I didn’t know what was going on. I had people from all different stages of my life actually denouncing me on the internet, just for being at the Capitol. I went back later, and I saw someone I hadn’t talked to in six months, all of a sudden denouncing me on the internet as a horrible person. I completely understand what they’re feeling.
I mean, I kind of feel the same way. I have such regret that I didn’t push people to see that the QAnon hoax was a hoax. It was not real. I never pushed people on that. I know a lot of other people didn’t either. It created so many problems when you try to have those conversations.
We can look back and regret or we can look back and learn. I certainly had a little bit of regret for a while after that. I felt bad. I felt like I did something wrong, that maybe I shouldn’t have gone. But the reality is this—what happened, happened. There’s nothing that we can do about it.
All we can do is move forward. At the end of the day, I know I was there expressing my First Amendment right to peacefully protest. I know I didn’t engage in any of the violence. I know I didn’t go into the Capitol building, so I did nothing wrong.
I don’t think it serves either side, what the Democrats are doing right now and continuing to vilify the 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump and going through with this absurd impeachment hearing. What they’re showing us is they are not interested in unity. They are not interested in anything that Joe Biden says about unity or bringing the sides together.
I think they’re actively trying to create a civil war in this country. And that’s, frankly, all the more reason for reasonable people to come together. I know I keep hitting on this point, but we cannot trust our elected leaders to do this for us. Our elected leaders are hunkered down. They’re dug in, they’re going to continue to fight. They have shown us this over and over and over again. If we want a country where we are not at each other’s throats, we have to take that into our own hands and do what we can to make that happen.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s a lot of people saying they want unity. You’re suggesting that they’re not really wanting unity? What would the policies that would encourage actual unity look like?
Ms. Borysenko: Off the cuff, I would say that there are two very important things that need to happen if Joe Biden and the Democrats actually want unity and want to demonstrate it through their actions. Number one, this sham impeachment trial in the Senate needs to be stopped. The whole goal of an impeachment trial is to remove someone from office. Donald Trump has already left office.
The only thing that this impeachment trial is going to accomplish, it’s going to [upset] the 74 million American people. That’s it. That’s the only goal. So that needs to be stopped. And frankly, Joe Biden should have already stopped it. If Joe Biden was serious about unity, he should have called Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and said, “No, this ends now.”
The next thing that needs to happen is people on the left need to start denouncing the violence that comes from the extreme left wing of their party. Listen, on Inauguration Day, we saw Antifa destroy the Democratic Party headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Why hasn’t that been covered anywhere? Why hasn’t that been denounced? They’ve been marching in Seattle; they’ve been marching in Tacoma. That needs to be denounced clearly from the left. If those two things don’t happen, I don’t trust at all that the Democratic Party is serious about the idea of unity.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn, there’s a lot of people in the country right now who feel very disillusioned and frankly, very negative. They may not be ready to accept your message right now. What do you say to them?
Ms. Borysenko: I would say, listen, how I got into all of this is, before I was involved in politics and culture and all that, I was doing mindfulness training in the workplace. So let’s infuse a little mindfulness principle into this every moment of every day. We’re making a decision about the type of person we want to be and the type of experience we want to have. Our actions and our inner dialogue have to follow that decision if it has any hope of actually becoming reality.
If I want a country where I’m not at the throat of my neighbor, I need to start acting like it. The first step to that is believing that success is possible. If you listen to the media all day or if you’re on Twitter or anywhere else, you’re going to run into a lot of people who tell you that success is not possible. But usually, those people have a vested interest in convincing you that success is not possible. They have a vested interest in continuing for you to be outraged. That’s literally how they make their money.
All right, I don’t make my money that way. I make my money by helping people to express themselves in an empowered way. I want to choose to believe that it is possible to exist in a world where we are able to have our opinions, we are able to disagree, we’re able to have conversations with our neighbors, and I’m going to act like that’s possible. Now I understand fully why a lot of people are disillusioned at this point. That’s true on both the left and the right.
There are a lot of people on both sides that feel that their needs have not been listened to, their voices have not been listened to. Their complaints are completely valid. But we have to start putting the past behind us. We have to start thinking about how we want to move forward and what we as individuals are going to do to make that happen. No one is going to come and save you. Your elected representatives are not going to come and save you. The people on the news are not going to come and save you.
You have to do it for yourself. If you need a little time out to take a break and decompress after what was a really, really trying election, I completely understand that. Go take a vacation. Go drink some little drinks with umbrellas on the beach. Go relax and unwind. I completely understand that, but when you come back, come back with the belief that good things are possible and that we can turn this around.
We have a decision to make as a country. Do we want to be one united country, or do we want to actively descend towards civil war? I’ve never been big fan of war myself. It’s part of why I actually like Donald Trump so much—first president in like four decades not to start a new war, right? I’m not about to act as though I want a new civil war to break out in the United States. I want there to be peace. I want people to be able to coexist with people that they disagree with. So that’s how I’m going to act.
Mr. Jekielek: Part of the reason for the disillusionment in both the left and the right, as you describe it on both sides, was the critical race theory in the federal workplaces. Of course, that is coming back now from what I understand from the executive orders. You also probably understand that folks who are ideologically aligned with this approach of “wokeness” that believes in critical race theory don’t see compromise as an option.
Ms. Borysenko: If we’re looking at organizations, specifically, what I have to hope is that organizational leaders are going to see that this training does not work. Bottom line, from a business perspective, if you’re going to invest tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in this training, depending on the size of your organization, you’re going to want to see some quantifiable business results. Does it actually get my team to work better with other people?
Every data point that I’ve seen about critical race theory training specifically is that it does exactly the opposite. In fact, it doesn’t serve the broader purpose that we’ve been talking about either in terms of bringing people together in organizations.
What critical race theory training does is it destroys psychological safety. That’s basically a fancy word for trust within the organization. You want people to be able to trust their colleagues, to be able to talk to their colleagues, to be able to communicate and collaborate and do all those things that are foundational to achieving business success.
When you teach people to call your colleagues out on their inherent racism all day, every day, to call them out for forgetting to cc someone on their email or not invite someone to a meeting by accident, when you teach them that those actions are racist actions, and that they’re committing microaggressions against their employers and reporting them to HR for it, you’re going to destroy any hope of team cohesion in the organization.
So my hope is that now, after we’ve had a year of this training, organizations are starting to see that it does more harm than good. That’s going to be enough of a business case for CEO’s and leaders to stop investing in it. Listen, we don’t have Donald Trump’s executive orders to hide behind anymore. Now we have to help people to really understand what this training does and why it’s so negative.
That is actually one of the things that I am working on on my channel. I’m also going to be launching a new project pretty soon, specifically, around helping people to really grasp what this is on a very human level. More broadly speaking too, this is one of the things that has kept our country so divided. If you think that your neighbors are racist, are you going to try to have a conversation with them? Of course not.
But the reality is, and this is what I learned when I had a conversation with this Black Lives Matter activist, is that he doesn’t think I’m a racist just because I’m white. He doesn’t even understand what critical race training is. He admitted that to me off the air. If we have a large group of people who really don’t understand this, who we think are involved in this movement, who we perceive are all about this ideology, but it turns out that they really don’t know what it is, that’s an opportunity if I’ve ever seen one.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn, one of the big questions that I think is on a lot of people’s minds, certainly on my mind, is mainstream or legacy corporate media ostensibly looking like they’re working together with big tech, working with a very particular ideological framework and a sheer unprecedented power. How can conservatives or people with a different ideological framework, compete with that and deal with that?
Ms. Borysenko: The reality is that we see, and this is actually something that they’ve been complaining about lately, we see that there are channels on YouTube that get more views every single day than daytime CNN does. So is the corporate media large? Yes, of course it is. But is it insurmountable? Of course not.
The fact is that in order to start a movement, we don’t need the entire population. We don’t even need a large percentage of the population. We just need a small percentage of people who are willing to try, then every single one of those people can recruit a friend of the cause, and then they can all recruit a friend and all of a sudden we have a movement of people who are saying, “I don’t want the media controlling this any longer. I don’t want the media who has a vested interest in keeping people outraged, keeping people angry, keeping these divisions sown, I don’t want them to be driving this conversation. We need to be driving this conversation.”
So if you always focus your energy on all the things you have working against you, guess what? You only build obstacles in your own way towards getting what you want. You can focus instead on what can I do right now? Can I have this conversation? Can I reach out to a neighbor? Can I maybe start my own YouTube channel and start having these conversations among people I disagree with? If you focus on what you can do, that’s going to be a lot better use of your time. Is it going to change the world overnight? No. But we’ve got a long time to be able to figure this out.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn, as we finish up, this is what I want to get back to. We discussed a little bit about how to get folks who definitely perceive themselves on different sides of the political equation to be talking to each other and find commonalities. You were mentioning, specifically people who believe in the idea of Black Lives Matter, of course to them it’s a truism. And MAGA, Make America Great Again, a lot of people believe that this is a virtue, irrespective of personalities. How do you intend to create an opportunity for these people to start talking to each other, who really haven’t been talking for such a long time?
Ms. Borysenko: I had an interesting comment on my YouTube channel when I had the conversation with the BLM activist. It was someone who said: I’ve been to a bunch of Trump rallies. And you know, we tend to see that Black Lives Matter people, they sometimes show up, and they walk through the crowd saying, “Black Lives Matter.” And when they do that my answer is, “Of course they do. Of course they do.” It’s not that they don’t have different values in this regard.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to continue trying to have conversations with people on the left in public, unedited, where people can actually come and watch us have this conversation, come and watch us interact, come and see how it works. Let’s provide an example of two sets of people with differing ideologies on some points coming together to have a productive conversation that can provide a model for how other people can do it, too.
I am not special. I am not a unique and magical snowflake where I am the only one that can have conversations with people that I disagree with. Anyone can do this. What I’ve been doing recently is I’ve been reaching out to a lot of people on the left to invite them to come on my YouTube channel and have a conversation. I’ve actually gotten really positive responses from it.
When I say to them, “I think MAGA and BLM have more in common than they don’t.” Do you know what they tell me? They say, “I think you’re right.” This is a path that we need to go down, because the reality is that Joe Biden is just a week into his presidency, but Black Lives Matter does not feel listened to by him so far. We do have common ground that we can build on right now. I intend to be a model going forward of what that looks like, to the very best of my abilities.
Mr. Jekielek: Karlyn Borysenko, such a pleasure to have you on again.
Ms. Borysenko: Thank you
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.