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Austin Channing Brown | I'm Still Here

2020-06-03 | 🔗

Austin Channing Brown is a writer, speaker and media producer providing inspired leadership on racial justice. She is the author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (https://amzn.to/2X8qyEc) and the Executive Producer of The Next Question: A Web Series Imagining How Expansive Racial Justice Can Be (https://www.tnqshow.com/). Austin started her career in the nonprofit world, focusing on homelessness and housing, youth engagement, and church operations before blazing her own path in speaking, consulting, media and writing. As a leader, educator, and producer, Channing Brown creates programming that centers the experiences of Black women, dismantling the foundations of white supremacy, while interweaving a way forward for all who will listen. Her nationally-celebrated first season of The Next Question included a slate of incredible contributors. Alongside her co- creators, Chi Chi Okwu and Jenny Booth Potter, the hosts examine complex topics affecting social justice while simultaneously celebrating the stories, personalities, and humanity of their guests.

An added note before we dive into this powerful conversation. Our podcast episodes are often recorded weeks or months in advance, as was the case with this conversation. In the intervening time, we’ve all been horrified and devastated by the deaths of Ahmuad Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Because of the gap between recording and air-dates, they are conspicuously absent from our conversation in a way that, I’m sure, would have different and been a part of the discourse had this conversation occurred at a later date. As I’ve shared elsewhere, silence and complacency are not options. Everything we explore in this conversation is as important and relevant as it’s ever been. We're excited to share it with you.

You can find Austin Channing Brown at:

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/austinchanning/

Website : http://austinchanning.com/


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
The hey my guest today, austin channing brown? Is a writer speaker producer, providing inspired leadership on racial justice? She's the author of I'm still here, black dignity in a world made for whiteness and also the executor producer of the next question, a web series imagining how expensive racial justice can be austin, started her career in the nonprofit world, focusing on homelessness in housing, youth engagement, church operations, for really blazing her own path and speaking consulting media and writing and as a leader educator producer. Often she really creates programming that centres. The experiences of black women, dismantling the foundations of a white supremacy wall interweaving a way forward for all who will listen Nationally celebrated first season of the next question include:
the slate of incredible contributors, including me arthur genius Nicole, had a jones near times, bustling authors, bernay, brown and jasmine gallery. Social still, leaders, rachel, cargo, Andrea Henry. and more and alongside with her co creators, chee chee opel and jenny potter booth, they really examine complex topics affecting social justice, while Also celebrating the stories, personalities and humanity of their gas, as added no before we dive into this powerful conversation, our pod, episodes are often recorded weeks or even months in advance, as was the case with conversation with austin In the intervening time, we have all been horrified and as stated by the day, of a mud, arbitrary brianna taylor and george floyd, and become of the gap between recording and air dates. They are concerned,
curiously absent from our conversation, in a way that I'm sure would have been different and been part of it had. This conversation occurred at a later date, as I have shared elsewhere cycle, and complacency are not options. Everything we explore in this conversation is as important and relevant as it has ever been really excited to share with you on John. field, and this is good like project the best. Carrying out with you. So
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I am in new york right now, you're hanging out in the detroit area. in ohio toledo area somewhere, and I dared I've moved around a lot. I group into led ohio. My parents got divorced when I was round eight years. Old so I spent a lot of summers and almost every weekend in cleveland, ohio, have also lived and chicago and just outside of detroit and metro Detroit grow. I'd cinching. The way that you describe growing also and now in And neighbourhood, which I guess you really predominantly, why middle class ass, an you serve trying to figure out a case, so how do I navigate this space and away where I, and who I am, but at the same time I feel like I'm, ok and the culture that I am constantly surrounded by yeah. It was
It was like my little secret that I grew up in. Hope that helps tony morrison and Alice walker and ralph ellison then links to use on the book shelves and my parents had to gigantic posters of Alan Alan lady answers. and our bedroom walter- we went ahead with it. Did the classic Judith James you now hit so am. I was a modern dancer accessory had that up to I love it but we listen to you. No gas will music and are in b. We just had sort of your average it's black lives, but then, go to school all and because the christian school in other all about the christian contemporary music of that time, and so they would rave about Amy grand. In DC, talk and michael dubious may be light. Have none
You heard of fred hammond. you know, I was just so confused and it finally dawned on me that just knew more about their lives than they knew about mine, and I was hey with that. I don't feel the need to teach. classroom. I feel the need to correct the teacher when, for example, she told us that we should all wash our hair every day. You know just ass. It was it was in many ways a source of pride that I something my teacher did it said this would have been hideous nineties. Early nineties yeah, so sorely zooming, the ones out also liking exploring what's going on in the world around. Then we was that a part of Where were you yet? Your average cable not yet middle school house was pretty focused on eight june. a pretty small universe right, I'm curious.
Was that you or or were you, also certainly more broadly aware and carry hollow. That's a great question. definitely was curious about the world. But we Have google Open up, oh, I used novels to figure out happening in the world. Judy bloom, in particular, taught me about what it meant to be a girl. What men to have a crush, a boy to not agree with my parents to not agree with friends too, To be curious about periods and make up Ben all these things, Even then, though,. It was so clear to me that the culture of my household was different than the culture of the house. Whose duty was writing about. And so I devoured friends
magazines- and I turned on the radio whenever I could europe and are a really religious households. We had rules like you, can only listen to gospel music on sunday mornings, so I would have to sneak went by little teeny tiny, boombox internet way down. So I could hear the latest critical, secular music, but yeah aye aye aye grouping and both how Thoughts were very intellectual, and so I remember my parents having conversations like our black people actually better off because of integration, or should of just gotten rid of segregation and I'm thinkin we talk about that in school. That's it it could we are? We aren't it just celebrate that we can all set in the same classroom together.
We are not supposed to be questioning whether or not it's actually been good for the black community to integrate so yeah. My curiosity, for the most part was just do devouring every book. I could get my hands on to teach me about the world yeah Did you did you haven't I, the desire to have those conversations that you are Having and that you're both households were really engaging in, did you Would you have wanted to have those same conversations in the classroom where you are also sitting in a culture which is profoundly different, where most of the kids around a year, why and most of the teachers or why I'm cool whether you know that at the time your thought was: what would it be like to have this conversation in that setting yeah it made me nervous, because any time race was brought up a couple
Things happen one I found out what happening and my friends, homes and the ways They talked about race and I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about that yeah. But I remember the first time a white kid called me. The n word. Hours, the livid but also ring. I distinctly remember thinking. It's your parents use this word. Because I knew his parents sweet with I mean our my classroom has never been more, then maybe twenty five students, and I went to the same school- pre school all the way through eighth grade. So everybody. I knew every teacher I stood at. I do every breadth of all, and I remember thinking I have watched your parents come pick you up for like four years. Is that what they ve been thinking of me when you get in the car.
Is that what they say about me so, between that learning what. The conversations that were happening in white households are not happening and white households combined with the fact that my teachers always seemed inapt at navigating the race. Conversation made me eddie happy that most of the time major stayed away. but it also made me trust Teachers who are good at it, and I realize that there was a part of me that just didn't trust teacher to ascribe to sort of color blind what race you are doesn't matter to upright, were all when I had a real level of of trust for
teachers who expected white students to step up the think critically to not just fall into whatever notions they were hearing at home, but to really question what is race and america? What does it mean to me? Even as a white person. But most of the time I was I was, I was happy to just have my own secret, around black life there. I remember when I sat down with ruth king in the studio couple years back and and remember having this really beautiful, intense, fierce commerce. With her end and she made it. The clashes that you know what I mean did you to see my blackness. When you say you don't see color, that's a bad thing he's like.
I need you to see this and I need we needed to reckon with it. I need to be seen like an and like that's where the conversation start so many white people when they say that now now and then an old enough and like the early nineties, to give this much thought. But certainly now, when I still here why people saying that. I try really hard to have greece because it's been said for so long. I mean decades that has been said right and I try really hard to point out and I think, think what most white people mean when they say that its shorthand for your color does not mean that I am going to treat you any differently and therefore I will be blind to it. But The question then becomes why'd. You have to be blind to it in order to treat me equally well,
It be better instead of two not see me, wouldn't it be better. To just rid yourself of these ugly stereotypes and assumptions and prejudices and bias so that you, can see me and not feel a need not feel compelled to treat me differently It's kind of like I need to. To recognize you in order to have them, Possibility of being changed by who you are in the contacts between us exactly exactly. Otherwise the intent, the intent around being colorblind is failing. it is simply impossible to nice me and treat me with dignity? I know you you you About two teachers he had early on in high school, one missus phillips in one
She shorthand miss MR supply. To really powerful expense, so while you're your servant, the early educational experience in describing, as you have these two stood out for reasons yet it kind of anyway complimentary reasons exactly there are a lot of people who read the story of missus phillips are like, oh, my god, I'm so sorry it to you, and I think that that was it wasn't supposed to be a bad story. it just as there was a teacher who realized that her seeding chart was raised ass. She was using her seeding chart. two separate students of color, specifically black students with the assumption that black students would be more disruptive if they sat together and There was a classroom in which she couldn't do it. Isis
act mine because my name, trips, people up a lot and she made. Confession. She made the confession in front of the entire class and held herself accountable. By choosing to know angry uses seeding chart for any of her classes, so that he could no longer use her power in that way. Use her power two separate students of color though it made me, Mr Bowe and though I wasn't sure what to do with her, action. I don't I don't know it's better anonymous. You should have confessed it or not, confess to add or no but Definitely should have held ourself accountable right. What she did and response to realizing. I am acting in a racist way,
and I'm going to stop? That's good, that's it! good story, There are so many teachers who have his biases for students of color and never interrogate them and if they do is that they have some never fix it. and so to have this. None who dropped of bombs like nobody's business right, to say my kind of none you not. I mean I mean she was fantastic. She was fan, day by day, It is very real, authentic moment around race, with her. I don't know I have some part of me. Doesn't why have a conversation about whether or not it was the right way the wrong way? I am much interested in the fact that she did it that she changed the behaviour.
Yeah I mean. What am I curiosities around? That too was was that, but the second one was, as you describe your class, I'm guessing you're one of right, I feel very lucky students of color in that room at that moment right and I'm wondering as she saying this in your mind, are you thinking, even if all the other students has aren't turning to look at me? Are they effectively turning to look at me? You know it's it's it's a thing that a minute. I will say black students here. I'm sure it is true of other students of colored as well, but my experience as a black woman is pretty specific and so, I have been so use to everyone in the classroom turning round and looking at me that is actually made it hard to wonder what everyone else in the classroom is thinking, at least for me. I end up in my head
trying to figure out what is this? What is this For me. What assumptions did I make about my relationship with the teacher, though maybe weren't true. Most often, I wonder how I been the little black. exception. was I because I wasn't two killer lay loud and because I know. Really loved academics and was a good student because I had a lot of honours classes are. I was the only black kid in the class. My teachers assumed. That I was somehow different from all of my black peers. And that that made me sad but but but moments like that, often kicked off so This dialogue happening in my head
had very little to do with everyone else in the class her who honestly, That was on one hand very little. On the other hand, everything you ve waited bouncing between these dia duality is a home and they ve got. Mr sly contradicts the exact opposite direct. and then that sounds like was a really you know it We all dream of having certainly random people, touchdown and just somehow opening something in. For us off or around us and its only. He was one of those people. It's the truth I had three teachers and high school, who are amazing. I talk about MR sly because he adjusted his entire curriculum to include black lives. He was an english teacher who had us reading Paul Lawrence, dunbar and Ralph alison's, invisible man, and he he expected white student
To engage with the topic of race and it was real special, because It was one of the few times when I. the conversation turned towards race and eyed and become the default substitute teacher. That's what was special about it. It tat he remained, in control of the classroom. He didn't need, my voice to valid. he don't need me to fill in the blanks he didn't me too, a firm when he was doing he simply expected that every waste and was gonna to and engage with black poetry in the same way they would read and engage with edgar Allan POE. There was one fall because it gave me the freedom to just student too, I think, that's honestly way gave me a gave me the freedom to just to be assessed
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there was one knowing what I guess. One poem in particular. Dad I'm superpower, for we were the mass cost like mistress? What are you doing to me that that might I used my stepmom was a high school english teacher, and so it was pretty rare for I felt right right in my like sixteen year old. I know everything right. It felt rare fur someone to mention some sort of of literature that I have at least heard of even if I hadn't ready, and so when he put this poem in front of me, and I started, reading it arise. I have never read this before where the mask that grins and lies- and I was like all this is really familiar, but that this is feeling so familiar, and I had to
really think about how often you know we go back to the conversation having earlier about black life feeling, like my secret, and I think the the other side of that coin then, is that I work to maintain the secret. And so how often have I used the reference? For ferris bueller's day off to make a point instead of using the color purple to make a point right leg? How fan? Have I let you says commentary pass, because I didn't feel like dealing with it. How often, how often have I we're not mask do I When every single time I go to a classroom.
and I don't have answers- were that sixteen year old girl. I vividly remember the questions I was asking myself in that moment: administer and. when you start to ask this question, also you I would imagine part of that union structures thoroughly followed down the rabbit hole is yet dot, dot, dot and Does this doing to me right for me or or was stopping me, run doing or becoming or becoming you're becoming an and I think in some ways, Made me much more grateful, for those three or four teacher, as I had who had asked done the work around race to include it in our classrooms, so that at least both times a week. I didn't have to wonder if I was wearing, ask you know because I was welcome. All of me- was welcome.
But it's a question that I have come back to over and over and over again in my adult life, as I navigate whiteness, trying to figure out. What am I wearing a math, but to do I need to? It is it's safer for me to wear a mask and to have white people believe that I am just like them. When there are things about my world and my thinking and my culture that are different. yeah, I mean it's an interesting day- and when you use the word safety, you know it's getting, but people of color and will end and white people coach, which it at various different times and for differ. Isn't right, but my senses that now a lot of Jeff. If, yes, your average white person, how when and why they do it. the word safety is not necessarily claimed to be top of the
if even on the less fright, but its very different experience in so its ensuring that new, that, for you is it rises up there like ok, so near it. not just about. Am I being fully express and mountains not just about am I being seen through? I am it's not just about Am I lay myself to be noted to blossom into all it can be to be joy, fall and open and live as one person or part of life? It is also there is a major laborious, ass stones. They found the lightest questions in all. I wish also having so many questions that I needed to ask yeah yeah, yeah I'm in the safety one is really its powerful. is not just my own de it safety for every one who looks like me. Right, so I say: go back to that funny none
who made an assumption about. Ah, why I'm here All black girls, now she didn't say girls, but I presume affected she was in our imagining black girls pop in their gum in the back in Messina, giggling and being disruptive and and and why then, if, if that's true, right it if, in this inherent power dynamic- is a teacher Professor, a super aye, sir, a counselor, Coach who believes that there is something yeah inherently wrong. Bad behavior disobedience right, whatever that they have to look out for for black students then, what is my responsibility to all the other black students that they'll ever have.
no. It isn't even just just my safety that Concerned about I'm concerned About what will happen if I lean in to the stereotype that too, I am or not, and confirm the bias it's sort of like this is what is the depth of the potential harm as your end and how far out as a ripple go the rain not just in real time but yeah like What are we leaving in my wake? Train yeah It's to hear you reflect on these conversations, especially in the context of different teacher in schools and As I know you, then you then land Not long after, like northport university in chicago, where You find yourself in another professors, class refreshment nath and have a profoundly different experience and one that I know you described as such as the trick on this matter.
your studying, but this there's this year we have to create your own sensible line for the first time and it sounds like that is not only a grace. experience, but also a kind of jarring to a certain extent, so because, because proof. Mcnabb is my first black professor? I have been to this point. I have only ever had white teachers. And even though there were. Teachers who are really great about teaching black literature or black history, or I sort of this academic understanding of black line which was wonderful. I had no expectation that the Cultural realities of my life whenever make it into the classroom, so I was very used to teachers using reference, like sailing ores, skiing or
hockey are movies that they just assume every student has seen or music that every student is listening to and would be sitting in the classroom, smiling and nodding. Having no idea what you're talking about I dunno. What rigging is that? What you're saying right now, and then I walk into this black women's classroom and she has us work on this project she's marketing, professor and she says: ok, let's pretend that you're all gonna open up a salon and we need to figure out the prices for everything we need to figure out overhead we need to. We need to figure out how to make this work. How are we going to make the salon successful and so she begins listing out all the things that The price is, she says how much is a shampoo? How much is a cut? How much is a deep conditioner. And she says how much is a relaxed or any
it was like a record scratched and the room all but waited students early. Oh what and I was about fall out of my seat, because it was the first time that's something that's just cultural that is just a nurse What part of like girls lives was brought up in the classroom and and remember thinking is this what it's like to be? Why is this? What its life to just understand all the cultural reference is to have? you do not have to interpret explanation for concept. Is this what it's like to just understand. It was amazing, I I really was. I had to work to maintain my composure, because I was so tickled. I was so tickled.
to be in a room full of my students who didn't understand, and she was so funny because she capped she kept asking them, don't you know what that is, you don't know what's she likes it? threw it out I oh my gosh I may have. I may have fallen in love with her that day. It was. I imagine obviously I mean I was at a private, my christian institution, but I imagine that's what it would have been like to go h- be see you. and here I was having a surrounded by white students, and there was something really special about that. So she's a marketing profess asset, which is interesting because it wasn't like she was sir, say: okay. So this The class on racial justice- or this is a class answer, so we're going to intensely bring and cultural references justly
No, this is me, this is my life. The cities are my references and I am not going to make that jump to to train Let them to your references to make it. Ok, I'm just dinner. I am deal with it here? I am an figured out and what If you need to learn it and learning in many ways, she was figuring out how to take off. on mask rain, so Stead of just limiting her example to a students, white students would understand. She was like now your opening up, a salon in nodded to relax her forget that they pick up up up and I learned a lot from her about them, bringing your whole self weather. This? Is the topic or not to show up, as you are again.
I try to really hard to do that in a book, and I try really hard to do that when I'm speaking somewhere that at all, I dont adjust my references anymore. I don't. I sent her the experiences of other walk women and say, if you're not sure, what's happening here, google, it Yeah. I mean it's interesting because I think when I read your book resonated deeply we think on so at different levels and at the same, It was also really clear that it was written to or for me he oh. It was you just working yet you used the word centering, which I now comes up. Why, in the conversations around race and racial justices, nazism and in the book really, I think what realize the anything like this is. Actually it is, The subtitle, the bug you it's it's a book centred around black dignity, not white fragility right for you, and it's probably,
great that way, people reading it and and starting to think about it, but it felt like that's. That's my who you wrote it too. I imagine black women reading this, but and then sliding it across the table to a co worker. that there are tired of trying to explain race to the effect that that's why that's really what I imagined and We told I imagine, white people walking. To their local bookstore, see it getting curious. Opening it up and putting right back on myself. I just. I had very little expectations from white people. which is not to say that I think why people would read it like at all now, but my my expectations were around how black women would feel affirmed
How they would enter used the book for why people who are ready to have that conversation and pretty and pretty clear about that in my life to the eye. At this point. I'm done trying to convince white people that there is a race problem, I'm finished defining race I'm finished he gets its first, I'm just done really trust my editors up a little bed for the most part, matters were wonderful, but there couple times when the question at least the question was raised, should you Do you think I should just put a little definition here or there was around since that someone didn't understand, maybe like maybe you should just like tease this out a little bit like? No I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it if it confusing to black women, then Need to fix it, but
confusing to you, because you didn't grow up in this culture and that changes nothing in it. There. I mean it's also part of it as it is a decision about as your stepping into your role as a writer. Where do I want to enter the conversation that train Because an end and having a sense of agency around that saying, yes. I understand that there is a conversation and their ideas and terms and definitions that need to unfold. For sure for certain people that come before this angle, the actual war I met in my life in the That I'm doing where the part of the conversation that is most enlarging it and most important, where I feel I can make my biggest impact is a bit further down stream from that I say What's the difference too
joining my own work. You know, I don't know. And- and I think in many ways it honours the work It's already been done. It was the already been done. I once I once was speaking somewhere and the person who spoke before me did. Mary academic level of here. In a here our terms, here's how these off it together. Here's how these play out in history, just like beautiful run down for anybody who was like new to the conversation. Then I got up and he's, not one term up, I'm weaving stories left and right. I think you right and at the end, some one Ask me for a definition of something. And I say to them: didn't you
the first person? Then you hear the like, do? Did you need me to repeat everything like all the work that the first part, and had done that beautiful powerpoint. Those very their terms to do this what you really needed for me. Isn't it better to say that that was really beautiful and helpful and effective work. and now we're gonna go at austin. Do her really beautiful and effective work that build on the first one. It's just, I don't think it's joyful for anyone gets up up up. People have already done that work and it's not joyful for me to repeat it. Nothing. It's also there's something really powerful about getting to this place. Where you understand there is There's value in different parts of the work in different sites, along the way. This is where I am and in which israel too, to me is that you
did a lot of that work? Was your day to day life years before this? Do you graduate Are you end up getting masters in social justice? It mary go And then you're out in the world's largely hidden sort of em white christian, slash education in not profits and homelessness, an end but Lot of the work you are doing as you, you are that person in the room doing a lot of this sort of like the building block where the seas of the conversation work. for years and so It is interesting to me that yelled, it's not yeah you're, making a very deliberate choice that attorney I've done this? This is defined, find a season of my life. That's right, and I am now ready to step into the next season of conversation and ideas and engagement. What happened I
I had been doing teachings and trainings within thought. Those organisations that I worked in and one of those organizations instead of me teaching. I decided to create a series what I ride, brought in all my friends to come: teach about my friends on the chicago area, community and one of them Did this whole lesson that, right sort of operating out all the people of color from the white people. In short, it to show this vocation of race. experience and history and all these things and at the end that she was taking questions and answers, but we were still stratus fight, so we were still separated in the room and She because the way her body was turned. She could only see, though, of people with a white people who raising our hands. She simply could not see that there was a routine exe my point. I think I'm a room
Who was also raising our hand to try and contribute to the conversation? In that moment, light bob went off although people of color in the room weren't there, educated, we there to be tools for why people's education- and I thought How are we going to do this anymore, because I had been right that that is not an indictment on on the teacher. I we're doing the exact same thing and the way that I taught I was assuming thou all the people of color. we're at a certain knowledge base and what we needed to do was come together and ordered you teach all the way, folks so that they could catch up. And in a moment I thought could this: could this work toward rachel justice toward us
standing toward communicating still be done We just moved the focus of our lessons from white people to other people of color in the room. and that AHA moment has produced a very gratifying journey for me a during those not over. I have no idea what other ways I will change in the future, but it really has to find a good portion the last two, three years of how I approached this work I really believe that boy Women stories in an of themselves are powerful that black women's questions in and of themselves are powerful that black women's. stories in enough themselves, are powerful
and that when we learn from all of that, it isn't just black women who reap the benefits that we all reaped the benefits from the stories of black women and it's been fun to explore. I. When did life start getting so complicated, buying a home, complicated home finances, certainly not a walk in the park raising kids. She ha it's a lot, then there's insurance. What if my policy doesn't cover this or what? If I have to make a claim in the middle of the night? Good news state farm is there for your? What, if you can reach them? Twenty four seven file, a claim on a state farm, mobile, app or simply call your agent to ask anything. So even if life gets tricky, insurance doesn't have to be like a good neighbor state farm. Is there call or go to farm dot com for a quote today.
The at the same time you you start the book in the end about as direct away. You possibly can. I remember, the exact lays, but I think you basically starting like white people are exhausting yeah. That's the first. That's a great many privilege. Why did picks up a book? And I write like gonna be interesting because it goes on and I want to know if they come, I'm like a cam open to this end, And also because I have had similar conversations with so many friends who people of color over the years specially black people and because I think it's really easy to paint this broad strokes, see you later englishman and it's nice. You know, and I have learned that from friends it's really there are nick experience after every individual as lorry every group as agriculture, sir red,
And. Then I'm reading autumn- and I am hearing all these stories- there's a moment where you describe when you finally get to college. You're in the working world like ok, so let me walk you through my day. Ass annually yeah. You literally like eating and then like eight forty, two and nine are three an you're you're. Counting the moments rather day, where you're existing in an organisation that, on this This is all about equality and just as an equal treatment and faith and acceptance, and embrace and even in in this culture which you assume would be even more rooted. That's right answer like doing and seeing and being the right way than ravaged. Surely big organization right recounting all
of the micro moments where. Your expect dead to code switch to make them around you comfortable, where you're invited, because you want to be there as long as you don't do something that makes us change word or affect the culture, because we kind of like it that way as this way that lands on you- and this is where it was a really powerful for me- that lands on you as the burden and and Yeah, I remember reading research on how repressing choices are actions its the more you do it them the it builds up so over the course of a day if you're, stopping or suffering or fear will power. You know it too the political resource and it really trains you and,
And what I'm thinking as I'm very much like for you to send that to me yeah cause cause, I'm thinking as I'm reading this I'm like. Yes, I've had similar conversations, but the way you laid it out really landed powerfully. For me, it sounds like a wait, so there are probably we hundreds of micro moments throughout the day, where you're in some way making the decision to not be you in the name of making everyone around you, ok and then When I reflect on that opening line about exactly like oh yeah, that would be brutal data move through every day. And not just have to do the job that you signed to do, but to actually I have a second job. That's right! That's right when I wrote that line. I was imagining a black woman and coming home from work. putting down her purse.
A on the couch. Just staring up at the ceiling, a huge specialised john just died for the day. because that line isn't personal. It's not personal. It has everything to do with the amount of work it takes, to navigate a culture that doesn't know its white. as so funny big high, is often When I am in front of a predominantly why audience and say that line, not only The people of color and audience laugh. So do the white people. Because, if A person has been- and this conversation from more than about two minutes-
chances are you've encountered some pretty exhausting white people. It's not it's not hard to imagine why black women would be exhausted by white people and I think that whole passage, where I lay out the burden of. Being the outsider, the burden of not being included the burden of. it to prove that. I'm grateful needing to prove that one of you having to rule that I belong, it does get staffed. And I think when we talk about micro, aggressions, we make them feel micro. You now says bag.
The asian woman who gets asked where you really from an if she has to make a decision about whether or not she's going to say new york know that there are not so you feel his legs, he has to give her entire ethnic background, but it isn't just that, it's that you probably aren't the fur. Person to ask her that that day is. She also had to prove that shit, and be as allies leadership worthy as everyone else. It's also that she had to stay late, so she could prove that she's great. For her job. It's also that she had endure for other micro aggressions. It's also that, even though she tried a really hard to make herself as small as possible, she still pulled into a supervisor his office and was too
that she's just too aggressive, it's the combination of all these micro aggressions and never knowing what day they're coming. you know. It would be one thing: if I could wake up in the morning and be like ok austin, you are going to endure exactly six micro russians before lunch, brace yourself that bert bat but I never know- I never know where you're coming from- I never know when they're gonna papa. I never know what else I'm going to be doing our thinking about when they arrive. It is exhausting, it's really exhausting to have two. Fight for my humanity, eve and in the smallest of ways. especially in the smallest of ways, its exhausting work and then you add to that the context of the act
o j o b, that you're being paid to do was then too and all day- Having conversations about this very thing, while you on a personal level are trying to figure out how much of this, do I actually step into or not because the innovation that your with like you, you want On the one hand, your sharing all these ideas. On the other hand, you you wanna, play nice, that's from because there's like this I want to feel like I'm, I'm ok when I shall want that's right, that's right and and I want when everybody else wants to contribute. But I wanna be considered a member of this team who is needed and one ed and who is creative and help fall and its disappointing is disappointing when I can't show up as myself or when I have to expend exe.
energy to try make white people feel comfortable. So my contribution will matter there was them. One gave that I did where I knew There are a lot of people who are sort of still. I thought one or one all of of understanding and investigating and interrogating and the host of that audience had done a fantastic job explaining. Why having this conversation on race mattered, how her own transformation, it was really first of all took a risk a little bit of a risk and diving even further into the conversation pushing on web, but I was, I think, the fur next morning of the conference, so I said had two days ago. When I tell you, I felt like pack, man died,
people, what it did tell me all of their confessions of their racist history. Literally ended up hiding in a coffee shop in a corner. another black woman. Because I was so tired of running into in this instance, but pretty white women who wanted to tell me about this terrible thing that they had died or their parents had died, or this terrible thing that they believed or have a confederate flat. hung over their living room or how parents tell them they could never data black man or it's like just on and on and on, and I thought don't want to hear this. This is in no way edifying to me, too here about the number of ways that overt,
and the casual racism just exist in these homes and workplaces, and worship places. This is an error. To me and said it is really discouraging spoke, but it's really discouraging, and so, if you could just like that to yourself be fall I have actually had friends who have suggested that when I go speak somewhere that the host organization has some sort of spiritual adviser in order to speak with people who feel that profound sense of right and wrong, because I wasn't trained for that. I was in trade for that. And I'm grateful for people
who can make the transition to o this fires action on my part right. This isn't just that. I get to confess and leave this, isn't that I just get confess? And now it's now, it's done I've apologized and now I'm good again. It makes me grateful when people take the leap the mental led to Oh, this visit requiring more of me. This is about how I show up in the world is about who I am reading and who I'm talking to, and the people that I am responsible for like this is this is supposed to be transformative. And so when people ask me, what should I do? I answer very honestly and say I have no idea. I have no idea
And to try to answer that question, for you would be cheating you because I believe The universe is probably going to demand more from you than I would. I think my answer would be too easy, and so I want you to do the hard work of figuring out what god the universe. You you demand from yourself. How are you going to show up in this world differently? I can't answer that, for you. But I believe there is an answer. Your kind of takes us back to the beginning of our conversation, TIM, miss phillips, right. there. You are in that room where she effectively- confesses to the room But you wonder in hindsight whether she was confessing to you: that's right and but then she also doesn't stop there. And she says I
Now change my behaviour, this like this is the Can I have I have grappled with this and its clear that an action needs to be taken, and this is I'm going to do, and I regret that I heard different. I never could have said that to her, so had pulled me aside and said, ah scientist really, whenever conversational I'll raise our work, what why was I the student going to tell her tat? She should eliminate a racist classroom policy. nine, nine I don't know she ever would have told me. That seems maybe not a good idea to other one black student in a private conversation that you have a racist seeding policy that probably wouldn't And she had to do the hard work herself and she had to figure out what that work required of her. I couldn't have done that for her. She had to do that for herself and I think I think that's another big, aha,
for white people is that in so many ways holding on to racism contain going to live out. Racist idea is continuing to be the source of micro, aggressions, isn't just harming people of color its harming. He who. that your own understanding of humanity is limited. When you carry all these biases and- and I think What drives the desire for confession? I think you're trying to you're trying to lift yourself out from me on this then and but the work there It requires more than the confession is now than it doesn't require confession. I just really require transformation, a turning toward your when humanity and this isn't working. For me, I
Be a person who honours the dignity of all people? How can I do that. the young, it's interesting, the you you the word hope for a heart beat in narrowing and remember. reading turn has occurred and ended up. hearing him interviewed shortly after and haven't you Talked about this at one point I can remember not but remember, hearing him interviewed and being like that, it's a beautiful, powerful letter to your son. I guess as a kind of bleak like do you are. You are you hopefully, caveats None of out are hopeful. Things will change right and he's basically We now have the facts of the matter. I have. minor obsession with icicles, I
He is just such a phenomenal thinker, but also such a phenomenal writer that I just like the goose bumps like just go on and on, and on that point I engage with his word answer: when he was regularly being asked about hope. As such. way. I wish I could remember which, in our view, this wise. You have us into so many I don't know, but there is a particular. our view where we yet again, he has asked about hope, and he says he says you know what I wonder: I wonder if people who say that they have hope or who do this work from a place of spirituality or christianity or whatever he says
wonder if they would do the work if they didn't have all that. but they continue to do work if they didn't have if they didn't have this. Like Colonel Heaven, if they didn't have, if all that got, crept away, would they still do the work as a college, that's like. Oh, my guts What I think. his exact words where, if you, if you didn't, have faith that it was all gonna work out, would you still do the work and the blue, my mom which is why I have a minor absorption. Is it really made me question the importance of hope in my work this this after after
after reading this honest, weighty in some ways: vulnerable work, what it's like to know The gate blackness at america. It one seem strange to me that the first question would be our: u hopeful, It like a very odd question to me, but then, him questioning the importance of it. produced a shift inside of me and began to envision. Having a conversation with great grandmother who was born in nineteen o eight. She lived I was nineteen years old and saw I was very close to her new a lot of her her story, her history, her background in my can hear every and
Action and her voice still ends. I imagined right now sitting down with her and saying you know what Nana just not feeling very hopeful right now exist. nothing just feel so bleak. And I imagine she would scrunch up her face and be like, so that better. I think they pick up ok, biogas we'll take it now, but we going back to work. You know, I don't think would put a whole lot of stock in and hope you, do the work you do the work and maybe there will be this magical moment of racial solidarity may be there be this breakthrough at an organization, maybe, Someone will choose to live a more inclusive life, maybe maybe there will be changed, maybe they'll be transformation, maybe Produce new policies and new laws that protect the most
normal, maybe and if I don't get to see, if that doesn't mean, I don't get to do the work, and so I decided to do the work It's almost. I get the difference between faith and hope. You just but because he knows the work that that you're here to doing have faith that that is. That's just the way it is. I have decided that it is more important for me to embody hope. Then it is to feel it tell me more about that. It is my job to write as if it could be encouraging to someone it's my job to write as if change as possible. It's mine,
to speak with every ounce of passion I have in my body, because maybe maybe right But it's my job to embody. Hope it's mine. To show up at the protest, it's my job to right up black lives matter. It's my job to call injustice, bad bad. What I do I am body I work toward the past. ability of change, but I do that, regardless of whether or not I feel hopeful that things are going to change so for example, I feel the same people often ask me, because I write a letter to my son, and book as well. You know I teach my son had enough racist things, I teach them how to react when the police. Over or you know I, of course I will of
I well because I've zero hope that all of society is gonna tree black men differently by the time he is eighteen, I don't. I don't have hope. In that? But it is my job to write as if that's possible, there is theirs. this tenet that translates roughly to abandon hope. I never understood that, for a long time but I also defeatist, I thought it was. How could that be what it really says until when I realise is that at least my interpretation, the thing that makes me understand how powerful at is is that It's essentially saying if this was you for life. If this was your community for life, this was culture and society for life. What You do now, to make it as good as you can. and maybe over the counter.
The you and dozens or hundreds or thousands of people doing that worked together. Somehow there is something that shifts down the road and that will Fantastic right, but if it doesn't, you know, and you need to navigate this world that you're living in now. What actions would you take and its relate this dualistic thing right? which I think we we all struggle with a lot for sure. How can you abandon hope and simultaneously, like at the same time, you know if you live entirely in the space of hope, then you're you're you're not focus on. doing what you need to do to be safe and express president raised now. That's right! That's right! Yeah, there's a lot bear? I think that that bit knows it's really powerful and I think it speaks a lotta, the mode that we're all in right now
I was thinking the same thing. They did the same thing. I did not wake up feeling very hopeful today, but I'll tell you It was really grateful. Knowing that I was going to speak with you, you know I was grateful that there was a justice, teeny, our in my day, which I knew I was going to be able to talk about the thing that I love the most and today that's going to have to be enough. So feels like a good place for us. Come full circle as well so sitting here in this container, which now stretches from new york city, the detroit lawyer widening at these. They lester. I if I offer the phrase to live a good life. What comes out.
so many things because of this moment that we're living in navigating the pandemic hand arm. I really I really miss my work. I really miss being in conversation with people all over the country around what this transformation looks like for them.
And so I felt really really last in some ways to have that grief. I feel very lucky to have this passion is calling this vacation that I miss.
And whether it's for racial justice or not, is not for the purpose of this question is not nearly as important to me as the fact that so much of the good life for me is being in community with others trying to figure out how to be better humans. I live for that conversation and I miss her tremendously. It's a big part of the good life for me.
Thank you, the thanks for having me the thank you so much for listening, and thanks also to our fantastic sponsors who helped make this show possible. You can check them out in the links we have included in today's show notes and while you're at it, if you've ever asked yourself. What should I do with my life, we have created a really cool online assessment that will help you discover the source code for the work that you're here to do. You can find it add, spark a type dot com, that's s, p, a r K, e t, Y p e dot com or just click, the link in the show notes, and, of course, if you haven't already done so be sure to click on the subscribe button in your listening app. So you never miss an episode and then share share the love. If there's something that you've heard in this episode, that you would love to turn into a conversation, share it with people and have that conversation, because when ideas become conversations that lead to action, that's when real change takes hold, see you next time.
Transcript generated on 2023-06-24.