Hello, my friends. Welcome to the show. You’re listening to Episode 103 from Live Free Creative podcast: Everyday Anti-Racism. I have been looking forward to this episode for several months since I reached out to my guest today, Jasmine Bradshaw of the First Name Basis podcast, to ask her if she would like to join me for a candid conversation about how we can continue to implement social justice and anti-racism education and action into our everyday lives.
I have absolutely loved listening to Jasmine’s podcast, First Name Basis, which is dedicated to giving parents the tools that they need to teach their children about race, religion, and culture. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the attention to detail and the thoughtfulness and the openness with which Jasmine approaches some really touchy and sometimes taboo topics. And it’s a huge honor to have her join me over here at Live Free Creative to share our conversation with you.
Because of the length of our conversation–it was so wonderful and it goes a little bit longer than my normal episodes–I’ve decided to forgo a usual segment and just dive right in. I hope that this episode encourages and inspires you to continue this pathway of fighting for social justice, even in small ways in your everyday life. Let’s hop into the interview.
Miranda: Jasmine! Welcome to the show!
Jasmine: I am so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
M: Yes. I am so looking forward to this conversation, and I know your time is so valuable. We were just talking about how you are almost you’re about to have another baby. So your time is getting shorter and shorter, you know, before you head into baby land for awhile. So I’m super excited to have caught you. I’m kind of at the cusp of this. Why don’t you–for those of my listeners who aren’t familiar with you–give a little introduction as to who you are, what you’re about your family and a couple of things to just kind of get to know you a little bit before we jump into the show.
J: Yeah, absolutely. So, yes, I’m Jasmine Bradshaw and I have a podcast called First Name Basis Podcast, where we give parents the tools they need to talk to their children about race, religion, and culture. And it’s really been so interesting to see parents’ questions in real time right now. For a while, I was anticipating what people’s questions were and now people are asking them left and right. So that’s been amazing to be able to like answer them right then and there.
And I just love it. I love podcasting. I love connecting with people in the community and helping people live out their values as parents. I feel like what we talk about is sometimes taboo for a lot of people. And so I feel like it’s really empowering to hear somebody saying like, it’s okay to talk about this. And here are some tips. And how did it go? And all of that kind of stuff. So I–like you said–I’m pregnant. I’m a mama already. I have a two and a half year old, actually she’ll be three in September.
My husband and I, you know, we just really value teaching our children, and the people around us, that differences are good and okay, even if they cause friction, and helping people understand how we work through these things together. So that’s what I do. And I just–I feel so grateful that I get to. I love it.
M: And you do such a good job of it. I first heard a First Name Basis podcast months and months ago. I don’t know when your show officially began, but it was much before all of the recent social justice movement. Your podcast didn’t emerge out of the recent social justice movement; it is something that you have been working on before that. And I mean, what a perfect convergence of the conversation that you have felt like is so important and needful and all of a sudden how everyone–regardless of where you live, anywhere really in the world right now–there’s an awareness and an awakening of how we…this is something we all need to be talking about, learning about and figuring out for ourselves.
J: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. We started last August and I felt like it was one of those things where it did not make sense, timing wise. I was working full time and starting a podcast and having a two year old. And I was like, Oh my gosh. But it felt like a calling. It just felt like the Lord was prompting us to do something. And I was like, okay, I’m going to put this out there. And if nobody listens and it’s just for our family, like that will be enough for me, you know, knowing that I’m using my voice to try just in case there are other people who care.
And then all of a sudden things really took off and it’s been, you know, a blessing and a balance trying to figure out what that looks like in our life. But I’m just so grateful to know that there are other parents who really, really want to make a difference and know that they can do so within the walls of their own home and in their community.
M: Yeah. That’s amazing. Well, I know that your voice has been so influential and important for me, and I’ve tried to direct listeners there in the past in some episodes I’ve done and on Instagram, and I’m so grateful that you’re here and sharing your time with us. I know, especially over the last few months, that you and other anti-racist educators and diversity specialists and people of color in general are feeling a lot of the emotional trauma of having this conversation over and over and over again. And I just want to acknowledge that and, and tell you how much I appreciate you being open to have this conversation again yet again with another, you know, population of listeners. And we really appreciate that.
J: Yeah. Thank you.
Making Anti-Racism Part of Everyday Life
M: What I wanted to focus on–because for so many individual specific topics, your show is such a great resource for that–so I don’t really want to rehash a lot of the things that you’ve already talked about because you’re a great resource for that. One of my favorite episodes is how to teach your children about racism. And you go through some very specifics there, you talk about some different holidays. You’ve talked about all different types of definitions of different terminology that have come out in the recent social justice movement.
The main thing that I’d like to focus on with you during this show is to sort of weave, I feel like myself included and a lot of my listeners and the people who are in my community on Instagram and things like that, we have had this sort of awakening moment and we feel like, yes, we want to learn. We want to unlearn. We want to move forward. We want to support and be part of this movement in an active way.
And initially there was, so there was so much information as to like, okay, read these books and join these email lists and listen to these podcasts. And so like, okay, I think I know I’ve done a lot of that. I know a lot of other people have done a lot of that. And as you know, movements tend to go–like the momentum slows and it doesn’t stop, but it sort of slows and life, you know, we all are dealing with our own lives and with our own kids and our own families. And and our attention spans, I think as humans are wanting to.
I keep coming back and back to this idea of how do I incorporate my anti-racism actions into my everyday life in a meaningful way so that it doesn’t feel like a special project that I’m working on, like a side thing, that it’s just part of my lifestyle, but that I still feel like I’m moving forward in the movement, but it might not be then posting on Instagram every day or that I’m like wearing my Black Lives Matter t-shirt all the time. You know, I don’t even have a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, if I’m being honest. I do have some signs in my window, but the conversion, I guess, bridging the gap from a really impassioned awakening to an everyday anti-racism.
Is there anything just like right off the bat that comes to mind as I sort of introduced that idea of how to kind of bridge that gap?
J: Yeah. I was just talking to my sister in law about this the other day, because she has made such a transformation. We’ve been kind of having this conversation for the past, I would say, about three years. And so when all of this stuff started happening, she said to me, like, she felt really ready because she’s like, I’ve been thinking and reading and talking to people and now, you know, the time is coming. I feel like I’m up to bat.
And she said, the thing about anti-racism is that she feels like it has really changed her. She says, it just changes the way you think and the way you talk. And she was like, it’s almost like that’s too simple, but noticing what is going on around me and being able to point it out and have a word for it and point it out to the people that I’m with and then have a conversation around it. She was saying, once you get that foundation of education, then you’ll feel more empowered to really take action.
And I think that she’s so right. That’s how I think. Obviously it’s heavy and it’s sad and all of these things, but I always feel so much better and so much stronger when I know that there’s action that I can be taking. So I think that if you’re still in that place of, Oh, this is really hard and sad that you’re just not quite there yet. And that’s okay. Like continue with the education, take the time that you need to figure it out. But then once you figure out what that action looks like in your life, then go for it full throttle.
There Is Always More To Learn
M: Yeah, absolutely. I think that for me, one of the pieces that I can very easily acknowledge is ongoing is part of that education. That like, I may not, I mean, I indeed will not ever get to the point where I’m like, Oh, I’ve got it. I know, I know what to do, I understand everything about history, I understand everything I need. So, I mean, it’s so nice to acknowledge that because I think sometimes we like to check the boxes. I’m like, okay, I’ve read all five books that were recommended by that one person. So I must, I must be enlightened now.
But there’s always some education that we can do. And I think your show is a great place to point people, a couple other things. And I want to get, I would love to hear some of your ideas of, we start with this, the idea of like some concrete education, ongoing education, as like a baseline, Nicole Cardoza’s email The Anti-racism Daily. Are you familiar with that?
J: Yes. Oh, it’s amazing. She does such a good job of breaking down, like really zeroing in on a topic and then breaking it down. And it’s one of those, you get the email and you think to yourself, Oh, I really did need to know about that, but I wouldn’t have known to ask. So yeah. I love her emails.
M: I feel like that has been so interesting and it’s daily and it kind of is just–I think the daily reminder of like, Oh, even if this is all that I end up doing today is learning a little bit more and like kind of wrapping my mind around a new insight or a new piece, then that has moved me forward at least a little bit. That it’s just part of the everyday. What are some other places that you would point people to just regular education? Are there programs that you’ve heard or other books that you like?
J: Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard of Lucretia Berry’s class,What LIES Between Us. She has an amazing class that is really foundational. She talks about how her heart is for the beginner. And I love that about her. She’s really welcoming to anybody who’s at any space in the journey. And what she does is breaks down education really, really well. And she talks in her class about how you need to have this foundation in order to have productive conversation around it. So I would say that she’s definitely one of my favorites. And then there are the books, there are so many films.
Are You Putting Black Joy Into Your Life?
And I think one of the things that I’ve just been noticing, a lot of people talking about burnout, which totally understandable and normal. And I think one of the things that I’ve been suggesting to people is are you also putting Black joy into your life? Are you also creating space to see Black people having a great time and just living our lives?
Like obviously racism is heavy and hard and we deal with it every day, but we still have so much joy and we have families and we have parties and all of these different things. Are you reading books and watching movies that show that side of it too? Because what can really help with the heaviness and the burnout is understanding that we’re just people just like anybody else who experienced hardship and joy.
M: I just yesterday watched the Beyonce visual album. Have you seen that yet?
J: Yes, it’s so good.
M: I mean oh my goodness, talk about black joy and black empowerment and just the gorgeous transcendent, beauty and symbolism. And I was just like jaw on the floor.
J: She is just the queen of all queens, she can do no wrong. I just like–everything she does like tops what she did before. I thought homecoming was like the best thing. And this is now, Oh my gosh.
M: So good. Yes. I love that. I love that idea. And I love, I’ve seen a bunch of people use the hashtag #BlackJoy. That’s part of the diversity and inclusion and never trying to zero in on what we feel like is that sort of weak point or the problem point like, Oh, these things that we’re trying to work on within a population or community or culture, but the wholeness of that, of the humanity within each culture and each experience, and there always is more than the problem. There’s always so much goodness happening in people’s lives as well. If that’s what you’re looking for.
J: Yeah. And I think it’s really a point of connection that you can find with people. Obviously we all have our trials and our hardships, but racism is probably not something that you’re going to understand every piece of. But do you understand what it feels like to have a newborn and snuggle your newborn and all of these things that I’m about to go through? We can connect on that too. So I think that having both is just either equally important.
M: Before this conversation, I asked you this question, I’m so interested in your answer, how a lot of anti-racist educators have said that this work of anti-racism is for the white community to do. Anti-racism and like equality, equity moving forward, this is not really the work of Black people. This is your work. It’s sort of, the weight is on your shoulders, speaking to sort of the white community.
And I feel like I’m, I’m kind of wading through that and I’m like, yes, I want to have that ownership over it. But I also know that for a lot of people, that sentiment might feel a little bit confusing. Cause they’re like, I don’t, I don’t feel like I built this. I, you know, I know a lot of people are like, this was like my ancestors. I didn’t really buy into this program. I don’t like this systemic racism. So how do we take ownership over our piece, as the white community, over our role in sort of moving anti-racism work forward?
J: No, it’s an important one though. And it’s one that I would totally understand why that would be so hard. I like to think of if your child is on the playground and they are getting pushed down over and over and they go to the teacher, the person in power and they say, this person is pushing me down and the the teacher’s not doing anything. Wouldn’t you want another kid who sees it or another teacher who sees what’s going on to advocate to speak up to say, I’m not doing the pushing myself specifically, but I’m seeing what’s going on. And it aligns with my values to change, to help make change.
And so I think that that’s what we’re asking from people, not necessarily blaming you for the systems that are in play. Racism isn’t the original sin of our country; it’s been around from the beginning, from before the beginning of our country. So it’s all of our responsibility to figure out what to do about it. And it’s not–because it’s been so long in the making–it’s not going to be undone in a day or even a year or even a few years.
But when people from the white community are trying to understand our experience and then really taking that and using the power that they have, because the reality is that, I mean, you know this, if you’ve been studying systemic racism, the systems are set up to benefit white people. So you have a lot of power and you have a lot of privilege and your voice is going to unfortunately carry more weight than ours. Like statistically proven. That’s not just something that I’m just making up that is all like anecdotally.
There was a study that was done on Twitter, which it sounds silly, but it’s one of those things that I, it really opened my mind when I saw it. It was this guy, this researcher set up two bots. One was a black bot with like a black sounding name. And one was a white bot. And they went around responding to people who were using the N-word. And the black bot said, you know, they said the exact same thing. They said, Hey, man, you know, that really hurts people when you use that word.
And they found that after a week, the white bot was able to help that person make a change more than the black bot was. And I know that’s Twitter and social media, but they found the same thing in the workplace. So it just understanding the power behind your voice and the fact that you can listen and then use your voice to advocate, I think is what people are trying to help the white community know that you have so much power and we want to stand in solidarity with that, with you.
M: Absolutely. I love that example because it shows, I mean, the simplicity of the action, I mean, they were bots and this is Twitter, but I think the whole point, the magic of that, is that one tweet could make such an impact, that when I think my mind and I don’t know what other people think, but when I hear someone say, well, this is your work to do. I kind of feel the weight, like how, I don’t know even where to start. Like I don’t even know, like, should I run for president? Like, what should I do? How can I change it all?
And going back to like, no, we assume some responsibility, that means responsibility within our circle of control. My primary responsibility is then within myself, my actions, my thoughts, my understanding. And then I guess, as a mom, what is my next circle of control?
I mean, and I guess starting with myself too, is when there is a conversation where something inappropriate is said, and I absolutely, I will tell you that there have been… Just as I kind of have like had my eyes open even further. And I thought I was fairly aware. I’ve been surprised by some of the conversations, both in like on social media and in real life that I’ve witnessed and then had to insert myself into, in uncomfortable ways over the last couple months in like, Oh my goodness, there’s some just misunderstandings and a lot of pervasive sort of underlying ideology that I had never had to sort of like face, you know?
So even just starting with myself as like, no, if I hear something that sounds inappropriate or that is misjudging someone or putting undue responsibility on someone who’s not in the room, it’s my responsibility. And my work in that moment is just to be a voice, just a voice of support and voice of, you know, and just that one sentence, that one line, and it can be as simple as a tweet. Like, Hey, when you say things like that, it hurts people.
J: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And when you’re in those situations, I feel like a lot of people have come in and said, well, I just don’t know what to say. I just freeze. And I remember my dad teaching me this from the time I was really little, because of course he and my mom knew that we were going to deal with this stuff. He said, All you ever have to say is “that makes me uncomfortable.” Just pointing out that something that somebody said makes you uncomfortable, or that’s inappropriate is enough to make that person stop and reflect.
And he always talks about how you don’t know what seed you are planting. And if you have the energy and the space to figure out what was it about that that made me uncomfortable and go back and have a conversation with that person, that’s amazing. Or if you can have a conversation right in the moment. But I will always say to him, “Oh, I thought of the perfect thing to say on my way, home in the car.” I’m like, “Dang it. I can’t believe I didn’t say that.”
And he’s like, okay, well you can call them back. Or you can trust that you have, you have planted this seed. And that if that person said something, they’re probably going to say it again. And next time you’ll be more ready. So I think that it’s kind of a tight rope we’re walking between. Yes, you have big responsibility, but you’re also learning and giving yourself grace. And I think that’s totally appropriate.
M: Yeah. Yeah. That big responsibility can be manifested in what seems like small ways. I did an episode just a few weeks ago. In fact, that was entitled “Something is Better than Nothing”. Because I think sometimes we think, “Oh, if we can’t do something big and grand, then it’s not worth it.” “If I don’t have the perfect thing to say, then maybe I do more harm by trying to like stumble through.” Or maybe this is going to be uncomfortable for everyone, so like, you know, talk about it later or whatever.
But a little bit of something, even just the pause and the, “Hey, I don’t know about that.” That is better than nothing, because it just gives a moment for people to actually stop patterns that have been unhealthy and uncomfortable and maybe unaware. Like maybe even giving people the benefit of the doubt, who, you know, which I like to do, whether or not they deserve it, you know, that maybe, sometimes people are not aware of how unaware they are.
J: Oh, absolutely. Because we live in these societies that are really segregated purposefully based on policy, right? But not of no fault of our own, we live in these segregated societies. And so that often creates an echo chamber. And so people aren’t used to “Oh yeah.” Or one of my other favorite things to say is, especially if it’s a joke, whether it be racist or homophobic, I’m like, “Wait, why is that funny?” And making people explain the racist jokes makes them real uncomfortable real fast.
M: Right. Turn the tables on the discomfort there, they’re like, I don’t really want to tell this anymore.
J: Yeah. They’ll either say, Oh, it’s not, or they’ll go on to explain it. And everybody’s standing there is like, this is so awkward. And they’re going to think twice about doing it next time. So yeah. I think you’re right. That when we are–even though we have these communities that have turned into these echo chambers–when we put ourselves out there and just say, even the littlest thing, it can make a big ripple effect.
Making Anti-Racism An Ongoing Conversation In Our Kids’ Lives
M: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. As I was thinking about this earlier today, I was thinking like, I kind of imagined like a bullseye with myself at the center. Like this is my circle of influence, right? Like me and the things I can control, what I say, what I think about, like, the education that I received personally addressing my bias, which I think is something, I mean, it’s like one of my favorite things I’ve gotten from your show, just pausing when I noticed an unconscious bias within myself, whether it’s in regards to racism or any other thing.
But when I recognize a thought that I’m like, Oh, I don’t actually want to think that. Like, I don’t want to believe that. Sometimes it’s even about myself that I’m like, I don’t know if I want to believe that about myself. So I’m going to pause and change that. And actually mentally walk through the thought that I want to have.
And it’s been so interesting how my perspective on things starts to change. The more that I catch and change my own mindset, which is something that you’ve taught me that I’m so grateful for. So listen to the show about that on your podcast.
Okay. I’m trying to go through the bullseye of circle of influence and address some concrete things we can do. So the next layer then is with our kids or our families, if you have a family. So if you don’t have kids, then this could be your good friends. It could be your partner. It could be your family that you are born into. It might be your coworkers sort of relationships.
But I’m going to, I think specifically about kids and families. After the initial sort of talk through with your kids about what is racism. And I think a lot of schools and educators, I think a lot of us have started this conversation. How do you propose continuing that, that it’s not just a talk, but it’s an ongoing conversation throughout our kids’ lives?
J: Hmm. I love that question. I think the biggest thing that we can do is model. We just model, model, model all the time. When you notice something going on in your community, let’s say you are in a space where there are no people of color, just voice that–notice it and voice it and say, wow, I noticed that there are a lot of people missing from this space. I wonder why that is. And that can start a conversation with your kids. It doesn’t always have to be this like, sit down very formal. This is what race is. And this is what racism is, just point it out when you see it.
And I think modeling for our children that we need to stay curious. There are going to be so many questions that you don’t have the answers to. And so helping them understand: questions are okay and let’s figure out the answer together. There are ways to find answers and we can dig deep and figure that out as a family.
Build Anti-Racism Into Your Family Values
It’s just a matter of building it into your values. When we value something, we talk about it. I mean, we talk to our children if we are religious. We talk to our children about our religious beliefs before they can even talk, right? We’re singing them songs and we’re getting them excited and showing them pictures.
And it’s in the same vein of like, if valuing everyone around you and truly understanding people and their contributions to our community is important to you, create that environment. Obviously you can have books and movies and all of those things.
But think about when you pull out the crayons or when you pull out the paint to do a craft with your child, what do you have in terms of skin tone? What is the range like? Do you have an opportunity for them to paint somebody who’s not peach and all of that, those kinds of things. So it’s just looking around in your environment: Who’s missing? How can I bring them in? And then voicing it when they’re not there.
M: So let me ask you a very vulnerable–what feels vulnerable me. But maybe it–maybe it’s not–maybe you’ll just laugh. But even something like my kid’s doing a painting, should I encourage them to paint people in all different colors? And you’re saying yes, but in my head, sometimes I think it’s racist or prejudice if they’re painting people in different colors. I mean, I don’t know.
J: I would totally encourage them to paint people of all different colors. And I would get out of paper myself and start painting and say, I’m going to paint this person, a beautiful shade of pecan. You don’t even have to say black, white, all of those things. You can use different colors and different wording. And “Oh, this person’s going to be a nice shade of amber.”
All of those types of things, just to help them understand that having different skin tone is a normal part of life. And I think that it, it comes along with, too, like when you’re reading a book and there’s a Brown person in the book, point that out and say, Oh, look at her nice brown skin and her beautiful curly hair, because we would say that about other characters too. So I think it’s just a matter of like, normalizing that for yourself. And they’re going to pick up on that and be like, “Oh yeah, of course.”
Culture Bearers and Culture Sharers
M: Yeah. This is kind of goes along with that. I have a really good friend who’s an artist and she’s phenomenal. And she has painted…Most of her characters–the people in her paintings are not recognizably any–she paints in lots of different colors. So like the paintings I have of hers in my house, it’s a male and a female and she has red hair, but her face is like teal and orange. And his face is like red and dark blue and gray.
It’s very multicolor and she’s white. And so, but she did a couple paintings recently that she showed to me when I was visiting town. And she said, I don’t know if it’s okay for me as a white artist to paint Black people. Like she did a couple of really beautiful–where they were obviously black, but then with purples and blues kind of in their skin tone.
So they were still colorful, her fitting her style. But she, she said, I don’t know if it’s okay for me to paint Black characters. And I’ve seen a lot of that too, just on Instagram that white artists painting Black characters or Black people in their art or depicting people from different cultures. In some cases I’ve seen people celebrate it. And in some cases I’ve seen people say, well, you’re not a person of color, so why would you be painting–like that’s not own story, I guess.
And the same thing would be for people writing books, writing characters that are of backgrounds different than their own, it’s sort of frowned upon in the literary world. What are your thoughts about that?
J: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And it’s tricky. So I like to think of there being two types of people, culture bearers, and culture sharers. So they’re the people who are the own voices, that it is their culture, and they’re the culture bearers. And then are the culture shares who may be, you have studied this and you’re really interested, and you’ve read a lot of books and you’ve visited countries and all of that stuff. And you are a culture sharer.
I think there is space for both, but I think that the culture bearers need to be prioritized because we have been disenfranchised and pushed out. So I think that culture sharers need to recognize that I really want to make space for the culture bearers first and kind of understanding what your role is in taking up space in that situation. It’s so hard to say because, you’re right, there are a lot of different viewpoints on this.
And I personally–like we don’t buy books about Black people that aren’t written by Black people, but I know that other people do. And so much of it is so personal. But I think that when those culture sharers are really taking the time to think of what is the space I’m taking up and how can I use the space that I am taking up to either make space for somebody else, or also point towards a culture bearer. I think that that can be really powerful and that those two things can kind of work in tandem.
M: Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s a very different situation. Your kids at home painting, saying yes, paint people of all different colors, because they’re not planning to like sell their paintings versus an artist saying I’m making a living off of this. And so would you frown upon–I’m just, again, just curious–like you see a white artist painting people from all different backgrounds, maybe all different colors of people.
Appropriation versus Appreciation
Do you feel like, I don’t know, maybe that artists should stick to painting their own color of their own background, their own ethnicity, because then they’re taking, they’re sort of taking opportunity space for people of different cultures?
Or do you frown upon that and say, Why are all of your paintings of white people?
J: It’s so hard, right?
M: That’s funny too, right?
J: Yes. I think that for me, it’s kind of what you were saying about the compensation piece. I really try to take my money and reallocate it to the Black community when I have the opportunity. But the other thing that I’ve seen about people lately, because a lot of people are starting to paint people of color and they’re recognizing that, but they’re at the very beginning of their journey.
So they’re painting it very much like “We are the world” and it’ll take on like this caricature. And so I think that you can, when you are looking at a piece of art, you can really tell the difference between somebody who is painting all of these people and, you know, the Black people are wearing African garb and the indigenous people are wearing head dresses. For me, that’s the kind of stuff that I stay away from because I’m like, okay, you are clearly at the beginning of your journey and I’m glad you’re here, but I feel like that’s problematic.
M: Reinforcing stereotypes.
J: Yes, exactly. Stereotypes and caricatures and all of those types of things. But I have seen, you know, white people do amazing paintings of people of color. I think that if that is something that you’re passionate about, then I definitely think that you should.
But I also feel like, can you take part of the proceeds and give it to an organization that’s trying to further justice in the Black community or, you know, whatever community it is that you’re trying to support? I think of, so you have, yeah, we’ve talked about this. You read White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo, it’s one of my very favorite starting places for people. I always point people White Fragility, and there’s a lot of tension in the community about her and her work. And people are like, you know, you should be listening to Black authors, which is definitely true, but her work has also has amazing gems in it.
And so I started looking into her and I found out that she gives a lot of the proceeds from her books and her talks to social justice organizations that are run by Black people that are furthering this Black Lives Matter movement. So I’m like, that is what I want to see. That’s a really good example of: I understand how I’m taking up space and how I need to be using this and kind of redistributing and reallocating, but also that she has something important to say.
M: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. This kind of reminds me of the distinction that you make in cultural appropriation versus appreciation, that when you recognize…like when you within your art or stories or means maybe–whatever your business is–when you’re kind of using a piece of someone else’s culture outside of your own–consider maybe redistributing a piece of that, the proceeds from that, if it’s a business sense or an art sense or something, back into the community from which you’re borrowing or whose story you’re sharing.
I think maybe that, I mean, that’s an interesting, just sort of baseline thought that, like, I think it’s great to be sharing and representing different cultures. And then also recognizing that you can redistribute some of that, the finances for sure, but sort of the power and the status and the privilege of that back into those communities.
J: Absolutely. There’s a museum here in Phoenix called the Musical Instrument Museum. It is amazing if anybody has a chance to go there, it’s one of the coolest places. They have–each continent has its own section in the museum and they have instruments from all over. And they would do these monthly cultural events–where it was like St. Patrick’s Day and they would celebrate Irish culture. And they would celebrate African culture and all of these different things.
And they had one that was about Bahamian culture. And I was so excited because that’s where my family’s from. And so I was like, this is, this is it, this is my chance. And we had been to so many of the events and every single one of the events, they were very, very intentional about getting people from that culture. So we get there and the band–I don’t want to call anybody out–but the band that’s playing on stage is all of these white guys wearing Hawaiian shirts and playing steel drums.
And I was like, what happened here? Like what happened? I was so sad because I was like, you guys made such a big attempt to get people from that culture for every single one. And then for mine, I don’t know what happened. So I asked them straight up. I was like, “What’s going on here? I’m so disappointed. We’ve been to all of these events and we love them.” And she was like, “Well, we couldn’t find anybody,” all of these different types of things.
And I asked her, “Are they being compensated for this?” And she said, “Yeah.” And I said, “I just don’t think that’s appropriate.” Especially because they were playing steel drum. And the history behind steel drum is that enslaved people would bang garbage into drums and then use it to like pull themselves out of slavery, earning money, to like buy their freedom, things like that. So I’m like, no, I don’t like seeing these white guys in Hawaiian shirts, playing steel drums.
If they had a steel drum band that had Caribbean people or Black people in it. And they had the white guys in Hawaiian shirts, I’m fine with that. But just the white guys in Hawaiian shirts by themselves, that’s what bothers me. So I think it’s a matter of, like we were saying, just looking around and seeing who’s in the room and who’s not in the room and why aren’t they here?
M: Yeah. Yeah. That is so interesting. So in that situation… Again, I’m just trying to process how to–in our circle of influence, and so for someone in that circle of influence, that maybe they made a diligent effort. Who knows? And there wasn’t a Bahamian band in Phoenix. I don’t know. Maybe you know that there is one, but what if there wasn’t, so what then would you have suggested they do?
If they wanted to have a band, they wanted to kind of have that thing, but they couldn’t, they they’re like, we can’t find a Bohemian band.
J: Yeah. So I have looked into their scheduling and their concerts that they had coming up and stuff like that. And I noticed that they will often bring people from out of state. And so I said to her, “What I really wish you would have done is just saved this for a little bit longer and tried to bring someone in.” I know it’s more expensive, and that’s what she said, “It’s more expensive.”
And I’m like, “I understand that, but isn’t it more important to get it right?” And when I was saying that to her, she was so gracious and was like, “You are right. You’re right. And I want you to feel comfortable and I want you to feel welcome here. And next time we’ll do it differently.” So it didn’t have to ruin the day. I mean, we still had a great day eating amazing food and walking around the museum, but it was just a matter of–I was like, so taken aback, you know, because I knew that it was out of character for them.
And I think that that’s what happens so often is you’re seeing somebody do something or say something and you’re like, wait a minute. This isn’t who you are. I know that you can live up to your values. And so voicing that will help.
M: Right. And most, especially, I guess in context of this is an educational institution, it’s a museum that they have funding for these types of things. And that they’re going to great effort. It’s not like just naive, like they’re going to great effort. And then this is kind of like a throw the towel in on that one instead.
Taking Action When Something Isn’t Right
So, yeah. That’s interesting. And so if you hadn’t been there, is that someone else’s role. That they could say, Hey, I know that I’m not Black and I’m not from The Bahamas, but, you know…
J: Absolutely, because the moment we walked in, my husband actually looked at me and was like, “Hmm.” And I said, “I think we’re thinking the same thing.” And obviously he thinks that because he’s my husband and he’s super aware because I point these things out all the time. But even if he wasn’t, like I was saying with my sister in law, we’ve been having these conversations, but I don’t even think she would have been able to pick up on that. Like, “Wait a minute, why is this happening? This is nice music, but there’s something off here.”
And I remember looking around at the other Black people in the crowd and people were kind of looking at each other, like, you know, we know what’s going on? So I think that, yes, absolutely. If you’re a white person and you see that and you feel that tug…because you will, once you start to see these things, you will see them everywhere and you’ll know, “Okay, wait a minute, I have to say something about this.”
M: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so good. And just a good reminder to actually act on those. I mean, as we’re talking about this, I’m remembering an experience that I had last Spring at a historic–I live in Richmond, Virginia, so there’s lots of history in racism and slavery and things like that here. I mean, we’re the old Capitol of the Confederacy right here, which is really foreign for me because I grew up in the West.
And although I know it plays a part, you know, racism and slavery even play a part in the history there, it’s just not as pervasive and not as old, I was in the spring at an interesting sort of historic tour. So it was actually like a ghost tour and they were telling ghost stories at all of these different houses. And one of the stories was quite…it took me aback.
It was a ghost story about an enslaved couple in the community. And it sort of ended up as like a ghost love story. And there was nothing really about the hardship and the trauma. And I kind of listened to it and I was like, “No, this isn’t a happily ever after story.” And I understand it was like for the public and the community and, you know, but it was a white docent telling the s…I’m sure like fairly, historically accurate from his perspective.
But I was like, there’s a whole thing that’s like very unspoken here. And I remember I was actually on the tour with–there was a Black couple who was on the tour with me as part of my group–and we left that home. And I was like, that was really weird. Wasn’t it? Like, “Did that make you…I’m like, I’m sorry, that was terrible.” And she was like, “Yeah, I didn’t know if anyone else would even notice that.”
And I remember thinking I should like write a letter to them or something, you know, and then it’s not until this conversation that I’m like, I don’t think I ever wrote a letter and I don’t know what a letter would do, but I’m going to. I need to say, “Hey, this was a year ago. And I still remember.”
J: And saying that, that it was a year ago and you’re still thinking about it. Will hopefully help them understand the impact that it made on you, that a year later and you’re still thinking about this and it’s yucky and there needs to be something different.
M: Totally. Yeah. So, I mean, again, going back to just how some of these things feel like they’re really small and maybe don’t make a difference, but just noticing and saying something and bringing up in conversation so that other people are aware that this matters. It matters enough to say something, to investigate how to make a change so that it feels more inclusive and feels more correct.
J: It was your friend. And you said to me, “Oh, that didn’t feel good to me.” I would feel like I could relax around you. I would feel like I could breathe because I’m like, yes, thank you for naming that. Because, as people of color, we are always talking…well, we’re usually the ones talking about racism. So it’s so nice when somebody else brings it up and you’re like, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who noticed that.” And it feels like you are seen and your struggles are seen. And so I think that’s really that first step of talking to your friend about it is a really powerful first step. And then also sending a letter, that would be really cool.
Intentional Actions to Diversify Your Relationships
M: This brings me to a question that I’ve had about people who, like you mentioned, we live in such segregated societies and neighborhoods. And I think a lot of us in our heads are like, Oh, we don’t want it to be like that. We want to live in these really like multicultural areas. And then it’s just not really reality in a lot of places, even in a city like Richmond that has over 50% of the population of the city is Black, but they’re not all my neighbors.
And so for people who are struggling with the idea of like, I want to have more friends or have my kids have friends, I want to diversify my relationships. But I lived in Holladay, Utah and I have never seen–I grew up in Holladay and I knew one Black person throughout my entire–from the time I was born until I graduated from high school. And he was a really great guy. We were friends, but I mean, one person.
And so I think the idea of not really having any personal experience with people of color and with Black people in particular, feeds into the idea of sort of the problematic idea that I don’t really see color and we’re all just the same. Well, of course, because you don’t…
J: Because you literally don’t see color and you are all the same.
M: Yeah, so I have been brainstorming with friends and I’ve done–actually, I posted a couple book clubs for White Fragility, which I read and kind of invited my community to read along with me. We’ve tried to come up with some ideas and these are like action items for people, for how they can diversify the people that they interact with.
One of the ideas that I loved, and I’d love to hear if you have some of your own as well. One woman said that she–it had occurred to her that her kids were never–in her neighborhood, they were never naturally going to interact with people of color. But there were lots of other parks and playgrounds in the city and, you know, within an hour or so where she lives that she could intentionally go spend an afternoon, playing at a park, in a neighborhood that wasn’t her own.
And I thought that’s such a good idea to just–I mean, kids, especially young kids–they play with whoever is around without a second thought. Like they love playing. And so you take your three or four or five year old to a playground in a different neighborhood, they’re going to make a bunch of friends. My five year old was passing out my phone number at the park by the time…I was just like, well, yeah, call me. Let’s set up play dates.
Do you think that that’s a good idea? Do you think, I mean, people might think, well, is that forcing it? If I try to like go seek out communities of color to interact in. What do you think about that?
J: I think that that’s a really, really good idea. And I think that it’s an intentional action that you can be taking that is really powerful. And I would say, think about the activities that your kids are in. Most of us, I mean, mine’s not old enough yet, but eventually she’ll be in activities and I can choose to put her in an activity that’s five minutes away from my house, or I can choose to put her in something that’s 15 minutes away where she might meet more people who are different from her.
But also not just the other kids, but the adults in the room too, because that’s just as important for our children is to be able to see people in authority have mentors or coaches, people who they love and trust and who are guiding them, who are people of color.
So I think that that is another way of just thinking about, okay, we’ve always gone to this same swim place, but is there an opportunity for me to go a little bit further down the street where they might be able to, I mean, one of those stereotypes is that black people don’t swim. So why don’t you take them to a place where they can see black people swimming and then you won’t have to deal with that stereotype because they’ll have seen it and they know.
I think libraries too are an amazing place because it’s open to the public. There is no cost barrier. So being at the library with your little ones, especially when the library is a place for play–and I know that it can be, you know, quiet and all of that stuff–but storytimes and activities for the older kids too. Like that is a great opportunity. And I think as a mom, so I intentionally do these things because we live in a predominantly white community and I have to force myself to go by myself.
I’ve found that if I take friends, I’ll just talk to my friends because it’s comfortable. I mean, it’s comfortable, right? So I have to go by myself and I have to tell myself in the car that I’m going to talk to two moms today. You know, I have to set little goals for myself and that’s okay. It might feel weird at first, but I’m not having negative intentions when I’m doing that. It’s just that I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. In any other space in my life, when I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I would set little goals for myself. So why not do that same type of thing here.
M: So smart. And I love that. I mean, these are things that I talk to people about in regards to just making friends. So I know that there’s maybe like a mental block of like, well, am I being racist saying, well, I want to make some Black friends or I want to make some Hispanic friends or some friends of color? No, you want to make friends. And you want to intentionally like, understand that if you don’t have any Black friends, then you are missing out, like something is missing from your life. If you don’t have any friends from different socioeconomic backgrounds or who speak different languages, that omission is hurting you because of these, the wholeness, like we were talking about Black joy and just the humanity, like the ways that you connect in the ways that you’re different really sort of build each other up.
J: I agree so deeply with that. And I think the part where people do get into trouble is when they treat it as a checklist, like, okay: Black friend, check. Latina friend, check. No, like you don’t need to do that, but it is okay to want to have Black friends. It’s fine. It’s totally fine to want to have friends from all over, and religion too, different religion. I found that when I talked to people about their religion, it makes me understand myself better and my faith better. And I feel like it’s the same with different cultures and all of those different types of things. So yeah, don’t go in with a checklist, just be open to meeting new people.
Who Are the Professionals In Your Family’s “Boardroom”?
M: Thinking of some spaces that you can go into where you’re interacting with people who are different from you in an intentional way, that isn’t like a weird…I mean, I think it can be done weirdly, too. I don’t know how to distinguish that. And I mean, here’s the other thing, I don’t think you’re always going to make best friends going to the library story time. And I love your point too, about the leaders like your, the dance teachers, the sports teachers, the doctors.
And I mean, there’s so many people that we have choices over who we see and maybe re-evaluating–like if every single leader, every doctor, every dentist, every orthodontist, our chiropractor and our babysitter and every single one in our lives looks just like us. And this is maybe our place to evaluate as if it were a boardroom, you know, because I’ve thought I do own my own business, but I don’t have any employees right now. I’m not running like a big business. I’m not hiring people.
I don’t have like this big circle of influence that extends super far beyond myself, except for maybe in terms of influence because of the community that I have. But I can think of the professionals that I hire for my family as my boardroom, and maybe evaluate: is everyone that I’m paying to for these services in my life, white? And if that’s the case, then I probably need to fire some of them and bring on people of color. I had never really thought of it in those terms. Would I want all of my family’s professionals to be like on a list on Instagram and have people that like, “Ooh, look, look at how white this boardroom is!” You know, that’s some place that we really can make some adjustments and it maybe takes a tiny bit more work and a little bit more digging in, but like again: value and perspective.
J: I love that idea. That’s a really great analogy. And it does take a little bit more work because, where we live in Mesa, it’s a very insular community. And a lot of, especially our religious community, is very insular too. And so a lot of people, when you’re looking for an accountant or you’re looking for a lawyer, it’s all word of mouth, right? But if we all only know the same people, it’s never going to expand our horizons or the people that we hire and all of those types of things.
So my husband owns his own business. And so we are finally ready to start thinking about putting money away for retirement. And so we decided we intentionally want to have a Black financial advisor. But that’s something that we can do online. So even if there isn’t somebody in our community specifically, we can totally meet with somebody over Zoom to talk about our finances. Especially with COVID and all of that, we’ve been shown how much we really can do online.
So if you don’t see somebody in your community who can do it, then go outside of your community and find somebody, even if it means doing it over Zoom. We were able to find a great financial advisor, he’s in Phoenix. And so we’ll be able to see him in person eventually when COVID’s all over, but we were fully prepared to, if we need to, do it online.
M: It’s, it’s occurring to me that I’ve been really, really conscious for a long time about hiring women, because I feel really strongly about women’s rights, and equal opportunity. And so, like our financial advisor is a woman. Our dentist is a woman. I mean, I’ve been really conscious about that with gender. And I can now take it one step further and diversifying not only that, but also the backgrounds and cultures of the people who we hire.
I think that, unfortunately, fortunately, there’s pros and cons, but social media is such a big part of our world right now. It’s just a big part of how we act, how we interact, how we communicate, how we show up. I think even people who don’t have a public platform that they’re actively sort of moving forward, like you and I do.
Regular, everyday, wonderful people are showing up regularly online. With the Black Lives Matter movement, especially the day of the black square, which, in and of itself was problematic and a little bit controversial, but there were people who I hadn’t seen a post from in two years who posted a black square. And I thought, okay, this is so interesting because obviously they’re not showing up regularly, in sharing, but they felt like they wanted to at least, you know, put their post of solidarity up, you know?
Should You Share About Anti-Racism?
This then brings me to the idea of how much should we be sharing publicly versus how much of this work is…Like, I feel like it’s personal, but there also is sort of a forward facing piece of it because you want people to know that you’re actively anti-racist, but then how much of sharing that is performative and like gets you the pat on the back when it really is real, you know, like it’s the work that you’re doing and sharing can be really real, but does sharing it then make it less sort of take away from it. But then if you don’t share, then people think that you don’t care. So what do you think?
J: Yeah, I’ve thought about this a lot, because I mean, like you were saying, the momentum was gigantic at the beginning and now it’s waning a little bit. I feel like there’s kind of a difference between people who are running a business, maybe they’re a blogger or a podcaster or an influencer and people who just use social media for Chatbooks, right? Like I have tons of friends who were saying, this is for Chatbooks and that’s totally fine.
But for those of us who do use it for our businesses, I think that as we became podcasters or bloggers or whatever, because we like to share like, that is why we do it. We want to share things that are important to us. So I think that we have a responsibility when we do have these platforms to share about that as well.
Does it have to be every single post? No, because you don’t make every single post about your children, even though you love your children and you think they’re important. But you do, here and there. Of course, we all put pictures of our kids up on social media. So it’s like one of those things where if it’s important to you share about it, it doesn’t have to be all the time.
And I think that one of the biggest things that we can be doing is pointing people to anti-racist educators and stuff like that. So balance it. Point to the anti-racist educators, but then also put up your own stuff about, “This is kind of what I’m working through,” and “This is what I’m thinking.” And “I have this question and I would love help on it.” Asking your community, those types of things.
So I think that it’s totally okay to post pictures of your cakes and your cookies, and also talk about your children, and also talk about your garden, and also talk about anti-racism like, if you are building it into your life as like a natural part of your values, you’re going to want to share it.
But I also want to remind us, like, when anybody who starts a blog or anything, it’s kind of awkward at first, right? Like when you’re first writing that blog post, you are so anxious. Or you’re publishing that first podcast, the butterflies are going crazy. But now, I mean, you know, and I know, I can put up a podcast episode and it’s not a big deal. It’s one of those things that I’m excited to do now.
So I think that, are you ever going to be excited about racism? No. But are you going to be excited to share with people the progress that you’re seeing in your life and your community and the people around you? I think that’s okay to be excited about because we need to recognize the progress just as much as we’re acknowledging what changes need to happen.
Now, for people who don’t have a blog or aren’t an influencer and you don’t post, like if you don’t post in two years and then you post the black square, that’s great. I think–like you were saying–just thinking about your spheres of influence, I think of what–your family obviously–but also like if you go to work or if you are in church, what is your responsibility so that you can be using your voice for change? And voicing what you have learned around the people that you’re connected to.
Because I think that that is what it is. It’s about the people who trust us and love us and we have relationships with, seeing that this is important to us. And then maybe they’ll feel like that barrier is lower for them to realize, “Wait, that’s important to me too. And I want to be doing it with you.”
M: Yeah, absolutely. I think about a couple of different things that I’ve seen. One is a friend who’s mentioned a couple times on social media. She’s one of my friends who’s Black. And she’s said, if you haven’t said anything about the anti-racist movement, then I feel like your silence is deafening. Like, I feel pretty clear about your stance, which I totally get. And I understand that posting on social media feels like a place that we can recognize. And maybe if you aren’t regularly posting on social media or you haven’t been sharing about it, but it is important to you and you have people who are in your sphere of influence who it directly affects because of their background. Maybe, what do you think about reaching out? I mean, not in a weird way, but like reaching out individually and saying, “Hey, this matters to me and I love you. And I know this is been a hard time, let me know if you need anything,” rather than posting publicly?
J: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And I’ve had these conversations really recently with like family members where I’ve said to them, you guys, I feel like you aren’t seeing or feeling the importance of this because I’m not seeing you saying anything. Especially with COVID, we’re not seeing anybody, especially with the baby, we’re not seeing anybody right now. So the only place that I do see people is on social. They were like, well, I don’t really use social media. I’m like, that’s fine. And they’re saying, well, we’ve been reading books and we’ve been doing these things that you can’t see. And I’m like, I would hope that I would be the first person you want to talk to when you’re reading these books, especially because I’m such an open person when it comes to this topic.
M: Like, this is your topic.
J: This is what I want to talk about and I’ve made it very clear. But I think it just depends on your relationship with that person, because there are other people, like my sister is not–she is very vocal and she went to protests and things like that–but she felt like when people were reaching out to her, she was like, it’s people that I haven’t heard from in years, we’re not actually friends. They’re just wanting to make themselves feel better.
So I think that you can take an inventory. Is this for me? Or is this so that I can really show solidarity? And it will come across. I feel like we, as Black people, especially are really good at sniffing out when people are doing something to make themselves feel like they’re not racist versus doing something to show I really want to be on this journey with you and understand what’s going on in your life and support you.
M: Yeah. I think that the question is this for me, or is this to show solidarity and to sort of like to uplift and encourage this movement. That’s such an important question. And I think generally in social media, that’s a question that I hope to ask myself about everything that I post, whether or not it has to do with racism, but am I adding value to my audience in some specific way? Or is this just because I want to make myself feel better? Like look how cool we are, you know?
And I mean, and that’s like that–again, even just that is a really personal question–because what may look like, Oh–I mean, we all have people on Instagram that we love following because they feel so like sincere and we get them and we’re like, yes. And then people that probably are sincere and amazing that we kind of are rubbed the wrong way by.
And I think that those people, you just shouldn’t follow. You have control over who you follow and, you know, actively create the feed that you hope for, even if some of it makes you uncomfortable, but that it pushes you in a good way, rather than like, ehh, I know that I’ve gotten a little bit of pushback here and there. And I welcome criticism and I welcome, you know–that’s part of being…I’ve been a blogger for 13 years, so that’s part of it, that’s part of, you know…
J: The territory?
M: Yeah. I mean, I’ve had a little bit of pushback. Mostly, I’ve had people say, I’m so happy to see this is important to you. And I thank you for the resources that you’re sharing and, you know, directing people. And I’ve had a couple of people say, I don’t, I don’t know, I think that seems like a pat-on-the-back type of thing.
And I’m like, I’m sorry that you felt that way. I’m just trying my best and I guess that’s all that we can do, you know? But do you feel like there is a place where–I mean, I guess there’s not really a place to know. I think we just have to assume people have good intentions because we’ll drive ourselves crazy crazy if we don’t.
J: Yeah. Oh, you’re so right. And it, it matters so much how you respond when you make a mistake. I think that’s what part of this is. You’re going to make a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes when it comes to anti-racism because we are so bad, as a society, at talking about racism, that we’re going to make mistakes. And so how you’re responding in that moment shows your value behind what you’re trying to do.
So if you really are trying to learn and grow, and you’re saying, this is something I’ve done to learn and grow, and somebody says, well, this is a problematic piece of it. Maybe you want to look at that again. And do you say, well, you know, I’m trying my best or do you say, Oh my gosh, yes. I’m going to look into that more.
And I’m not talking about when somebody comes and says that you’re being performative. I’m talking about when you really make a blunder and you’re like, Oh, that was a blind spot for me. That happened to me a couple of…maybe last month. I posted about Loving day. And like the first interracial couple that went to the Supreme Court, the Lovings, to get interracial marriage legalized.
And I said, you know, interracial marriage was legalized on this day and this year, and somebody commented and said, I just want to point out that LGBT couples were not included in that. And I was like, Oh my gosh. Yeah, you’re right. You’re totally right. And that’s a blind spot for me because it’s the place where I hold privilege. I am a straight woman married to a man. So I didn’t even think about that.
So I needed to go back and point out in my posts that this was not true for LGBT couples until 2015. And it’s not okay for me to leave them out. You know? So it’s like, and I didn’t do it to show that I’m like some super amazing LGBT ally. I just made this mistake and I’m committed to inclusion in a way that, when you make mistakes, just change it.
So I think that it is hard when, when people are saying that you’re trying to pat yourself on the back. But I think that with the influence that you do have, I’m of the camp that…talk about it, show people what you’re doing, because then other people will feel more comfortable to do it too.
Ten Miles Deep instead of Ten Miles Wide
M: Totally. Yeah. And I think that encouraging people–I love seeing where other people are at along their journey. I have benefited so greatly from so many people, sharing sources and books and stories and podcasts and Netflix shows, and I’m like soaking it all up and screenshot for later because I literally don’t have the hours in the day to read and watch and listen to all of the things that I want to.
And so I think the sharing of resources, as people are kind of walking this path, is really helpful. And I think from this point on, I mean, we’re talking about everyday anti-racism and while there was definitely like a fever pitch, I think that we’re on the downhill side right now at this particular moment, for better or worse. I mean, I think for longevity and sustainability, for the better because people really were burning out and you don’t want to crash and burn, you want to be able to sort of take a deep breath, work on continuing to read, continuing to share what we’re reading. That’s something that, I mean, if people screenshotted these lists of anti-racism books, or even just books by Black authors, children’s book by Black authors that are telling Black stories. Those are things that I’m sure everyone hasn’t gotten through completely. There’s space to continue to share and read and listen to and share over time because that will in and of itself continue the conversation in a meaningful and accessible way.
J: Absolutely. And when you are able to go–I always think of it as like going 10 miles deep instead of 10 miles wide, because there is so much, and there are literal scholars who dedicate their entire lives to studying this. And so it’s okay if you’re not one of those people, but pick something and dive deep. And I feel like no matter what book I’m reading or what podcasts I’m listening to, it tends to come up somehow. Don’t you feel like that? When you’re reading something, whether it’s a beach reader, an anti-racist read. I’m talking to somebody in a conversation and I’m like, Oh yeah, and I’m reading this and it’s really interesting.
But also take that time because–just today, so we have been having some heavy conversations with family, like, like everybody has at this time and it’s been hard–and we had one last night and I was feeling really overwhelmed. And in the car, I’m like a die hard car podcaster because I have a 10 year old and that’s pretty much the–unless I’m doing dishes or in the car–that’s the only place I can listen to my podcasts. So I’m always listening to podcasts in the car.
And we were just driving to my mom’s house today, which is only 15 minutes away. But I would usually like take advantage and like be so dedicated to that 15 minutes of podcasting. I just turned on the radio instead. And I could feel how much I needed that. I needed to listen to the radio and have it be totally mindless and a cute boppy song that, you know, Violet was in the back seat, dancing along to it. And I was like, we needed this moment so that we can continue in the work.
So it’s okay to take a break, take a breath, take a moment because if you burn out, then you’re not going to be around to do it. So I think that’s important is just understanding where you’re at and taking care of yourself in that way.
M: Yeah, absolutely. And especially in the white community where, this is unfortunate, but one of the privileges of being white in America is that you can check out and go back into a world where race doesn’t affect you on a regular basis because of the way that the country is, the dynamics. And so I think that, especially for the white community who wants to remain engaged, take a break and get back into it, you know. Don’t check out forever, but like, some of the things we’ve been talking about about, you know, finding spaces to put yourself into where you’re not the same as everyone else and to read books and signing up for ongoing education.
Set Up Systems To Stay Engaged in Anti-Racism
And when you create some systems, I love systems, which is a little weird because I also love freedom and spontaneity, but I think that they balance each other because when I create a system, then I know that the essentials are happening. Then I can use all of my free, create creative energy for other things. So things like, I guess I’ll share a couple of things that I’ve thought of:
Dave and I go on a date night–this is one of our systems–every Saturday night. And we decided a couple months ago that at least one of our four date nights a month, we will intentionally go to a Black owned restaurant. And so, and we live in a community where that’s possible. I mean, probably for like many years, cause there’s like, you know, probably 70 Black restaurants right here. I know a lot of communities are not like that, but just having it on the calendar as like, okay, we will decide which restaurant to go to and make sure that that’s just part of our rhythm.
That continues the support in sort of, you know, what seems like a silly thing, it’s really easy to do. But I think that it’s a conscious way to keep our heads in the game that this is something that we’re consciously supporting Black owned businesses.
I just bought the best Barack and Michelle Obama mugs. Did you see that?
J: Oh my gosh. And I was like, I need this mug. How do I get my hands on this mug?
M: And they have a John Lewis one that just was on preorder. I’ll link the shop in the shownotes. think it’s called sustainable home goods. It’s a Black owned–a Black-woman owned eco-friendly shop.
My listeners and I don’t buy a whole lot of stuff and I have plenty of mugs, but I was like, Oh yes. And I feel like when you are going to go buy something, just take that extra five seconds and think, could I get this from local shop or a Black owned business or a sustainable shop, you know, like just adding that level of intention to align your actions–the way that you’re moving through the world with the values that you have. So when you set up some systems, it’s a piece of your ongoing focus. That is what sustainability looks like.
J: Yeah, you’re so right. And I think another piece of that is just like staying curious, right? So something that I do that is so easy is if I have a question about anything but racism specifically, I just have a little note in my phone it’s called “Look Into” and whenever I have a question or–I heard the other day on a podcast, they were talking about this study where they had these children who were ages seven to nine. One who had a high prejudice level and one who had a lower prejudice level. And they put them in a room together for three minutes.
And they were able to see a significant difference in the child who had a high prejudice level after talking for three minutes. And I thought, Whoa, that’s really cool, but also almost sounds a little bit too good to be true. So I was like, I want to look into that, but I don’t have the time or the energy or space right now. So I just popped it in my phone. Have I looked into it yet? No, but I am going to take the time when I do sit down and think, okay, I have a few minutes and a little bit of brain space. I want to look that up because that sounds really awesome.
And especially with social media right now, I feel like everybody’s drinking from a fire hose. Saving those things–I have tried to save them into little different categories–I’ve seen tons of posts about microaggression specifically. So I have a little microaggression tab. And when I’m ready to think about microaggressions, I’ll go to my little saved tab and look at it. So I think those, like, like you’re saying, you’re building in those systems. It doesn’t have to be right this moment. If I want to get on Instagram and scroll and look at cute babies, but then I come across something about microaggressions, I can like put that away for another time and look at cute babies. That’s okay.
M: Staying curious is so vital. And I love that. It’s just such a simple thing. Have a note in your phone where you can continue to like allow yourself to like put a pin in it, setting yourself up for it. Doesn’t all have to be right now. Like this is something that I hope that I’m engaged in in a month, in a year, in 10 years in 20 years in 30 years, like when I’m really old, I want this to still be part of what we’re doing, because it’s not just about racism, it’s about humanity and about being a citizen of the world and a responsible open-minded welcoming human, like a human being that just recognizes that–we like all of the sort of platitudes of like, you know, no one’s free and until we’re all free, like Martin Luther King Jr. sayings.
These are things that are really easy to post on Instagram and a really cute quote card, but like how much do we internalize that? And what does that actually mean to us? And we don’t all have to become anti-racist educators and turn our entire business models and our whole like educational pursuits and everything that direction. But we can build the pursuit of equality and justice and a freedom for everyone into our daily lives, in a meaningful way.
J: Yeah. It’s more genuine in that way and it’s more sustainable. And I think it’s more actionable.
Preparing for the Upcoming Election
M: Along with that kind of as a closing point, something that we all can be engaged in right now, is preparing for the upcoming election. And I don’t know that every single person who listens to my show all feels the same way about politics, but I know that the way that you feel about racism can in a dramatic way influence the way that you feel about the upcoming elections, both local and the national elections. I think what I’ve been hearing from people so much is their trepidation about the media putting their spin on things, and they don’t know who to listen to, and they don’t know who to believe.
And what I try to help people see is that you need to be looking at policy. What are the policy changes that the people who are you are voting for want to happen? And if they’ve been in office previously, or both of the candidates that we have to choose from for president have both been in office before, what are their policy records? What is their record on immigration? On school integration? What is their record on fair housing? All of those types of things have nothing to do with the media and are totally discoverable by you. It just takes time and it takes the dedication to figuring that out.
And I really want people to know that local elections impact your life so much. And I know that we’re all going to vote in a local election this time, but in between voting for the president, there will be another local action. And that is what is going to probably impact your everyday life more than the presidential election. So think about who are your local elected officials, because you have direct access to those people. We can write letters to the president all day long, but he’s not going to write… He or she.
But our local officials, like you can go down to their office and wait outside until they have time to talk to you. So those are the types of things–they’re both really important, but also make sure what is going on in my community, and like we’re saying that sphere of influence, what changes do you want to see and whose ear can you talk to to make that happen?
One of my adult steps over the last couple of months was, first of all, Googling who my city council member was because I had no idea. I didn’t even know what district I lived in in the city. Finding out who that person was. Then I sent him an email and I sort of copied and pasted an email from the internet about, you know, police reform. But then I didn’t love it. And so I like put my own–I like to edit it–which I think is good anyway.
But I think I felt like this is just a point of contact and it took me five minutes, like Google my address, what district am I, and who is my city council man. He happens to be a man. And then I don’t know that everywhere, this is relevant, but my city council member has an email newsletter list. And so I can get on his list and receive updates, regular updates about what’s going on. What he is doing. What are things coming across his desk. I’ve actually thought a couple of weeks ago–I was like, I haven’t emailed him again. Is there anything I should like talk to him about. Should I send him another email?
I don’t know that I need him to know me, but just like be involved. But I was like, I don’t think there’s anything right this minute, but I liked just having the point of contact there. So if I did have something I could, I mean, my email now will recognize it will like pull up his email. And he did email me back actually like a personal email because I don’t know, only a couple thousand constituents in his little district. And so I think that that point of contact is really helpful.
And just, I mean, I don’t even–right this second, I couldn’t remember his name–but I could look it up real easily, you know. I know I am guilty of thinking that anything having to do with politics is like so hard and there’s so many things and it’s really logistical and lots to understand. And it’s not that hard. As soon as you do it, you realize like, Oh, it’s not that hard.
J: One of the things my husband and I do before we even look at any of the names of any of the people or any platforms is we sit down and write down what are our non-negotiables? What are the things that we need in a candidate? And then we go and look for the person who meets that need. So we don’t even necessarily vote the same way every time. We have different non-negotiables. But one of our non-negotiables is that we don’t want somebody to be riding another person’s coattails.
So if they say, if the first thing on their platform is I support this person or that person’s out for us… I’m like, you need to have your own platform and your own values and your own ideas. That’s so important to us, independent thinkers, who aren’t just going to be aligning with somebody just because of the name or the power or the prestige.
Because when you’re making decisions for an entire country or an entire state or an entire city, you should not be making them based on somebody else’s platform, right? So that’s one of our non-negotiables. So anybody who says that, I can’t vote for them. But it helps the process go a lot faster, right? When I’m looking and I’m thinking, okay, what are my family values? And who aligns best with that? It doesn’t matter what the letter after their name is. It’s just, who’s going to do what I need them to do for my family.
M: This is such a silly metaphor, but literally that’s how I choose where to eat out for dinner. Dave’s like, what do you feel like eating? I’m like sweet potato fries. And then we choose the restaurant that has the sweet potato fries. Last weekend I wanted nachos and we went and found them. I mean, figure out what you want first. This is just like a good principle for everything in your life, figure out what you want so that you know what you’re looking for.
And that makes it so much easier because the policy and principles will speak louder than the letter and the parties. Absolutely. I love that.
As far as the upcoming elections, I just registered to vote by mail, which is new for me, cause I’ve always gone to the ballot box. But I did notice that–I mean, I don’t know if I should be supporting it or not–but I know that we’re still sort of like semi-quarantined here and we’re trying to stay in less public places more often and things like that. So I thought it was interesting though, how quick and easy that was. I saw a map on this vote situation on Instagram, and I saw that, in Virginia, you didn’t need to do anything special. You just needed to go and I’m already registered to vote, which is also an easy process.
If someone isn’t registered to vote, that’s not hard to do. You can do it online. And you go do that and then I just clicked my box and my ballot is being sent to me, and I will have it and be able to turn it around and send it within a couple of days of it coming to my doorstep.
So for people who are like feeling overwhelmed or have lots of kids, or don’t really know how to get to the ballot box, see if it’s possible to just vote, to get your ballot and have some time to think and have all the names in front of you and look over it. I know sometimes it’s–I’ve gotten to my little punch card situation and I’m like, Oh, there’s a couple of people I didn’t even know.
J: Well, that’s the huge advantage of owning by mail. You have your computer right there. You can look up all their websites right there and you have all their names right there. And I think something that’s so important, too, is putting it on your calendar or scheduling out time to do it because it does take awhile. It is a sacrifice of time and energy to look all of these people up, look at their websites, read their platforms and then choose who you want. And I have found that if I don’t put it on my calendar, then I’m at the last minute and then I’m anxious about it. And I can’t really think clearly.
So we just did this a couple of weeks ago. We said, you know, after she goes to bed on this day, even though after she goes to bed, it’s like our favorite time to, you know, talk to each other and watch Netflix. But instead we’re like both frantically typing away reading websites and thinking about policy and talking about that. But I felt totally rejuvenated after. It seems like it’s something that would exhaust you, but it actually makes you feel super empowered to be involved in these decision-making that are going to affect your life.
M: Totally. I think that’s so true. And I, I love when president Obama said something a couple months ago, about how, like it’s so awesome to see the protest and the people in the street. But what happens after the protest is policy. Policy change is really where you take all of that energy and all of the emotion and the passion that you found marching in the streets, and you translate it into real action items that affect the communities that we’re hoping to gain equity and support for.
It has to be translated from your pickets and your chants into laws and ordinances and policies starting from a local level all the way up to the national level. And that’s really how our anti-racism efforts turn into the true dismantling of systemic racism that we all hope for, that everyone who’s engaged in this work is like, Oh, I really want real change.
Well, real change starts with all of our circle of control that we’ve talked about in these little things that are powerful. But the smaller things like the ballot box is really where you start to make that impact that reaches beyond your own circle influence. It starts to place people in positions to make those big policy changes.
J: Yeah, you’re so right. It is so powerful. And I would just encourage people not to believe the lie that this will go over your head. It is all figure-out-able. It totally is.
Is there anything else you can think of? I think that we’ve, I mean, we’ve covered a lot.
J: We really got into it. I love it. No, I don’t think so.
M: Yeah. I hope that the listeners leave this conversation feeling like there were just one or two little things that feel like, yes, that is something I can grab onto that I can implement that I can start doing that I can make part of my life and understand that this work is something that we can continue in onward and onward and onward moving equity forward in our own lives and our own families and our own communities. That’s something that we can continue to sort of push the needle on a little bit here and there makes a difference in is worthwhile.
J: I like to think of it as these little grains of sand that are just piling up every single time. We make a little deposit of that grain of sand. It’s going to build into this complete mountain that you’re going to step back and be like, wow, I can’t believe that I contributed to that. And I feel really good about it. It’s okay to feel good about doing anti-racist work. That’s important.
M: Thank you again so much for dedicating your time and spending so much wonderful energy and your thoughts and your ideas. I just appreciate it so much. And I know that my audience is going to love this conversation.
J: This has been so great. Thank you so much for having me.
Wow. I loved that conversation. Jasmine, thank you for being so open. I feel like this is something I’m going to be able to come back and listen to over and over again, to just remember all of the little nuggets of information and all of those great ideas for how to actively include anti-racism work into my everyday life. Make sure that you check out First Name Basis podcast. Jasmine does such an incredible job producing and creating really valuable and approachable shows.
She’s also First Name Basis on Instagram.
She also has an incredible Patreon community where you can join and support with a monthly donation. And in return to she hosts monthly Q&A’s, there’s detailed notes to all of her episodes. And it’s a really fun community where you can just be a part of taking everything a step further. As always, all of those links will be available for you in the show notes, head to livefreecreative.co/podcast. Look up Episode 103, and you will see all of the links right there at the top.
Thank you so much for being here, for tuning in, make sure that you’re subscribed so you don’t miss an episode if you aren’t yet. And make sure that you share this episode with your family and friends as a great way to continue your conversations about race and equity there too.
Have a great one. I will talk to you again next week. Bye bye.