Civitello, a white man from Asheville, North Carolina, wanted to speak with Heather McGhee, a black woman and president of Demos, a public policy group working to promote democracy for all. But his question wasn't specifically about public policy. It was about what he could do to be a better person.
"I'm a white male, and I'm prejudiced. What can I do to change, you know, to be a better American?"
"I told him thank you, and I just came up with some thoughts about how he could integrate his life and learn to have more empathy and compassion."
For Civitello and others looking to make a change, McGhee offered a few places to start. From getting to know black families to asking tough questions of himself and others.
McGhee saw a unique opportunity to build on their conversation.
She traveled to North Carolina to meet with Civitello, and the two had a positive discussion, asking each other questions and learning about their backgrounds and experiences. For both, the opportunity to grow and learn from each other was a powerful thing.
"When you get to know people, usually your fears were unjustified," Civitello said.
But when we confront those insecurities head on, we can grow and change for the better. It starts with moving outside our own comfort zones and challenging norms.
"It's time for us to have a conversation with white folks and for white folks to have a conversation with each other about how it doesn't have to be a zero-sum game," McGhee said.
"It's just something that we don't practice, and taking that first step is the hardest thing," Civitello told McGhee.