Join me as today’s guest, Deidre, is so unbelievably gracious, even though she didn’t have to be. Deidre agreed to answer my questions and educate us all. I wanted to know things like: How are we white women getting it wrong? What do black mothers experience that white mothers have no idea about? And, what do you wish we’d do to help you? What she delivers is more vulnerable and enlightening than I even imagined. We also talk about why the “I don’t see color” thing is problematic – for all races, the friendship I lost over sticking up for murdered black people, and the fear we white women have about saying something that’s not “woke” (which is not good for anyone). Don’t worry, we laugh a lot today too, as usual, and I realize how to take some of the overwhelm out of fighting racism.
And this is just the START of a larger conversation around race. A drop in the bucket. There are so many layers to this topic, ones I’m not even aware of. So by no means is this a tidy discussion with easy answers, and it’s not done perfectly. It’s just two friends: a white mom and a black mom talking candidly about a hard topic, both with the best intentions.
Brandy: Hi, and welcome to the Adult Conversation Podcast. On today’s episode, I tackle the light topic of race – imperfectly. So have a listen, why don’t you? My guest today, Deidre, is so unbelievably gracious even though she doesn’t have to be. Deidre agreed to answer my questions and educate all of us. I wanted to know things like, how are we white women getting it wrong? What do black mothers experience that us white mothers have no idea about? And what do you wish we’d do that would really help you? What she delivers is more vulnerable and enlightened than I ever imagined.
Brandy: We also talk about why the whole, “I don’t see color” thing is problematic for all races. We talk about the friendship I lost over sticking up for murdered black people, and the fear that we white women have about saying something that’s not “woke,” which is not good for anyone. Don’t worry, we laugh a lot today too as usual, and I realize how to take some of the overwhelm out of fighting racism. It’s kind of like Dorothy and the red ruby slippers – you’ll see what I mean. And this is just the START of a larger conversation around race, a drop in the bucket. There are so many layers to this topic, ones that I’m not even aware of. So by no means is this a tidy discussion with easy answers. It’s just two friends, a white mom and a black mom, talking candidly about a hard topic, both with the best intentions.
Brandy: And real quick, I have to say that the response from the last episode about the myth of equal partnership in parenting with Darcy was huge. I’m so happy you all enjoyed it as much as I did – it was one of my favorites. I’ve heard several stories about dads who listened to it and/or moms who demanded changes, and it sounds like many of you are feeling a tangible shift in your labor roles at home. YESSSSSS! This is why I do this. And a huge thank you to everyone who became a Patreon peep – namely, Heather Bruhn, Rebecca Mezzino, Lisa Blackwell Howell, and Aimee Carroll-Kierce. Thank you guys.!If you want to join the likes of these lovely folks and others in supporting me in this work, check out www.patreon.com/adult conversation.
Brandy: So things with Deidre and I got real juicy right when I hit record, before I even did the official introduction, so the episode starts with us mid-conversation, just getting right down to business. Onto the show.
Brandy: Coming over here and asking you like, “Hey, will you do a podcast about race?” and we can have a white woman and a black woman have a possibly hard conversation, and maybe that will benefit me and other listeners –
Deidre: Definitely, yeah.
Brandy: But I also realize that I’m asking you to do work that I should be doing myself. This is part of the reason why I feel like these conversations don’t exist, because I know from the white woman perspective, I don’t want to say something that is offensive. I love you, and you’re my friend. I know I have blind spots and I don’t mind my blind spots making me look like an ass, but I don’t want my blind spots to hurt anybody I love. So sometimes it is easier to not have the conversation, but today I wanted to do the opposite of that, which is have the conversation. But I also feel like, “Well shit, I’m asking you to educate me instead of going and reading a book about it or something.” This is a funny way to introduce you. (Laughs).
Deidre: It’s okay, that’s totally fine, and I really appreciate your candor. At this point, I am not willing to educate the general public but I am willing to educate the people that I do love, the people that are showing an effort, the people that want to make strides, and I’m really, mostly… I kind of hesitate, I’m like, “Is it true?”
Deidre: I feel like I’m only talking to women who have done a level or a measure of personal work and they understand that when we have these conversations and we talk about these things, and even when you do feel uncomfortable, it’s not a message about who you are innately. I think, in general, when I see other black women whose mission it is to educate white women specifically about this issue, there isn’t that level of, “Have you done personal work?” Because the work isn’t just in the telling, even though there is a lot of work in the sharing of the information and talking about the history and facilitating a space for that, a lot of the blowback comes from that inability of women, who are unable to care for themselves, and they’ve not taken time to learn how to do that.
Brandy: So it’s like when you’re doing some self work, you have a little bit, maybe less ego or you have the ego, but you know what’s ego, and so you aren’t taking things as personally and hopefully not being as defensive.
Brandy: Which is a good point, because if you’re going to go educate people who haven’t done any self work, it’s like that’s tiring.
Deidre: Exactly. When we don’t do that, we’ve got that layer of white guilt or just like, “I have to because… I feel so uncomfortable and I want to assuage this, I just want to fix that.”
Brandy: But yeah, the complicated conversations, if you aren’t able to have those where you have to admit biases or how you’re a part of a system. So if you can’t admit fault and still love yourself, then that’s a lot to work through for the person who’s the educator.
Brandy: I get that.
Deidre: And sometimes even when the educator may not have all of that behind her – and then of course there’s a lot of frustration which can come out and be presented as angry, and then we get the archetype of the angry black woman, or there’s a lot of what we call “tone-policing” where we can’t necessarily hear the message that’s being said because the tone feels so egregious to the person who’s receiving it. So it’s just like there’s so many of these strings that I want to untangle personally as I also do my own dismantling work, and then as I have these conversations, because I don’t feel like I have language to cope with people who haven’t done the work yet. And that’s the piece of like, “Oh, it’s so much work. Okay, I’m going to put my head under a pillow now.”
Brandy: And being an educator for it, you have a whole lifetime of experiences and probably a lot of anger, rightfully so. And so today, our attempt is to have a conversation with maybe both of us having a good enough amount of skills that we won’t take things personally and that we are willing to look at ourselves – I feel like mostly me, which is all great and fine. I will do whatever it takes to help the bigger picture, but let’s start first with how about an introduction of you?
Deidre: (Laughs) Hey, what a great idea!
Brandy: Okay, so this is Deidre C, and the way Deidre fits in my life is she is another lovely birth worker, and we met at a retreat. We were staying in yurts –
Deidre: Yes, we were.
Brandy: My first and only time.
Deidre: Yeah, at least to date. (Laughing)
Brandy: Yeah, and last. Yeah, that was interesting. But I felt such a kinship to you immediately. Well first of all, you have the best smile of anybody I’ve ever met in my entire life.
Deidre: Thank you.
Brandy: And your personality is just perfect with that smile, you represent that and you’re positive and you’re also fun and funny, and I just feel such a connection to you, and I did when we first met. So that’s kind of how we became friends.
Brandy: What do you think that the listeners need to know about you?
Deidre: Well, I feel like it’s not a complicated question and it’s a complicated question, because I’ve done so much evolving in the last couple of years, you’ve played witness to that too. But I have three incredible children, they’re 10, six, and nearly three. They are my world, but they aren’t my world because I’m trying to do my best to live my most authentic life so that I can give them the example of what living looks like. Basically I want them to catch more than like directly teach, because usually the things that our children walk away with, they’re more caught than taught. Right? What they see and observe in our day-to-day lives. So I’m trying to be more mindful of how I live my life so that they have a great example of how to be kind and compassionate human beings and who want to give back to this world.
Brandy: Wow. That’s amazing, the caught versus taught thing.
Deidre: Yeah. They always tell you in all the parenting books, “It doesn’t matter exactly what you teach your kids, it’s more of the example that you live.” I’m trying to be that example for them.
Brandy: Yeah. And so it sounds like part of that process is trying to have an identity that’s outside of Mom.
Deidre: Exactly. I feel like it’s very difficult and challenging for me where I am right now… Oh, my gosh. This is the first time I’m actually going to admit it. I’m a single mom, and moving into that role in the most mindful way has been a challenge as I try to figure out who and where and what it looks like to trust others and also trust myself as I do this work of showing up for them and being present to them, and attending to their needs as I try to balance those of my own. And that’s been an interesting challenge.
Brandy: Yeah, and navigating it with a partner that you’re moving away from but you still have to co-parent with. (Laughs)
Deidre: Yeah. (Laughs)
Brandy: That could be a whole other podcast.
Deidre: It should probably should be, yes. Oh my gosh, yeah.
Brandy: Yeah, so you’ve had a lot going on. It’s been amazing to watch you come into this new place that I know you were resistant to.
Deidre: Yeah. A mild way of putting it, yeah.
Brandy: But here you are, and you seem like you’re thriving.
Deidre: I really feel like I’m moving in that direction.
Brandy: Well, so, okay. This topic that we’re going to talk about today, this light topic of race… (Laughs)
Deidre: Yes, it’s a walk in the park.
Brandy: I have some questions, but I’m just curious… this is such a dumb question. If you had to sum up your experience as a black woman or child, what of note would you want to tell us? I would imagine many of my listeners are women and white women. I wanted to do this also to give you an opportunity to be heard by people who can maybe help make a difference in this racism thing. What about your upbringing and your experience as a black person would you want us to know?
Deidre: That’s… yeah, it’s a huge one.
Deidre: So when it comes to understanding my identity and my own blackness… I’m trying to figure out where to start. I’m going to start a couple of years ago. I just found out I was black like three years ago, yeah.
Brandy: Okay. (Laughs)
Deidre: I use that as a great icebreaker, it’s hilarious and it’s funny. But what I really mean by that is that I grew up in a home that really wanted to emphasize equality and we’re all the same, but I feel like the way that my parents tried to approach that was not address it at all, not address the racial differences at all.
Brandy: Kind of like the “we see no color” sort of mentality?
Deidre: Exactly. Obviously, I knew that there were differences in my kindergarten class. I was the only black girl, but it wasn’t until middle school, sixth grade, seventh grade, something like that, where it was like “black girls unite!” a little bit, and so there is maybe six or seven of us in these classes that would hang out and we would do stuff all the time. And then I went to a private church school, so I would see all of these kids during the week and then we would have it on Saturday at our worship space, so we worked together all the time, but it was just my life and I didn’t necessarily see myself as other.
Deidre: And some of the ways I feel like my parents really tried to acculturate me to society, was to be able to speak properly and to speak a certain way, and you don’t want that Ebonics or that ghetto speak, and be very mindful of the way that I presented myself in public. You know, you can’t be dirty and you have to be like this, you have to be better than. But it wasn’t… not you have to be better than them because of who you are, it was just this is the way it is.
Brandy: Interesting, so it was like this whole piece of yourself was like, “We’re going to put that in the closet”?
Deidre: A little bit. But I got a lot of indirect teaching because the congregation that I worship with on Saturdays was a black congregation. My parents chose this church when they moved to the area just before I started kindergarten, because they had a lot of black professionals. So we got tons of doctors and lawyers and PTs and anything that you wanted to be, you could go talk to Sister so and so or Auntie that and that, and you can see what it’s like as a professional, and I knew they were mindful about the things that we read and the things that they showed to us but it wasn’t… we never had frank discussions about what race in America really is, and it was only until maybe I got into high school where my mom and I were talking about some sleepover that we hosted maybe for my seventh or eighth birthday, and of course I invited all the girls in my class, but only two girls showed up.
Deidre: I was happy, in the pictures I was happy, I remember it as a wonderful, it was a fun time, but she really thinks it was because we were black, but I didn’t understand that at that time and we never had a discussion about that. So like the delineation of other was not very well made, and I want to do this for my kids – you are other, but your otherness is special, and how do we honor that? And so it was in sixth grade, the very first day of sixth grade, I met one of my best friends who was my best friend during the rest of my youth, and she and her family had just moved to Maryland from California and her father was going to be the chair of the black history department, at Howard University, which is a historical black college in Washington, D.C.
Deidre: And to kind of see that dichotomy – it was like black pride and it was awesome, and it felt a little bit empowering, but again, there was not a lot of direct teaching towards me, but a lot of that caught. I got a lot, a lot was caught, I’ll just say. The Washington D.C. area, Maryland, D.C. area where I grew up is super diverse as well. So there was… eventually, by the time I was graduating from elementary school going into high school, there was a lot of diversity and we had a lot of mixed groups.
Deidre: So it wasn’t a ton of white faces alone, we had white faces and Asians and Indian Asians and Chinese and Japanese and Koreans and Ethiopians and people from different parts of Africa, so it was like a very strong mix, and I loved that diversity but again, I don’t feel like I so much had a racial diversity. My thing was like, “girls rock!” And so I really clung to my womanness, or my girlness, more than I did to my race. And by the time I was in my early 30s, I’m like, it’s time. I have girls, my daughter Zealand was now five or six, and we’re starting to be able to have some more of these conversations and I’m like, “I need to do more, I need to be more active. I need to really embrace this for myself again, so that I can share this with them.”
Brandy: How did you know that you should do something different with your daughter than was done with you?
Deidre: That’s a great question. I feel like there was a lot more conversation around this and this is the time when… Oh, shortly after I had Zealand, this is when Obama became president. And so like now we have a black president and we have a very black first lady, and I’m like, “This is all good,” and even though I was in Maryland, I also had a very small baby. So I didn’t do any of the inauguration events, but I sat on the couch for like eight hours watching all of the things, and that was just like, I have this tiny baby and my newly postpartum body, what are we going to do? How are we going to move forward?
Brandy: So how did you know the conversation to have, because it wasn’t had with you – these conversations that you probably had with her about “your skin is different and it’s unique and it’s special, it’s not lesser,” that your parents weren’t having with you? Where did you find how to do that?
Deidre: I waited more until she brought it up a little bit. Again, I kind of still followed that passive approach and it didn’t even start necessarily with race so much as the difference, and the thing that we encountered initially was the spiritual differences, our spiritual belief systems. We are Christian and so Jesus is like our savior…
Deidre: He’s not “like, our savior,” he is our savior, okay. But we talked through that filter if he can accept everybody. Then when it started coming around to some of the race questions, I used that filter, “Others will see us differently, but God created you to be the way that you are, he created your hair,” and that was our very first conversation. Because it’s amazing, she’s got the thickest, curliest, bounciest hair, but it gets so tangled so easily and she hates to wash it, but how is it not a fight between us to get your hair washed? How do we make this special? How do I teach you now? Because she’s 10, how do I give you ownership over this crown that you’ve been given? Which is why hair is such a huge thing in the black community and again, a whole other conversation.
Brandy: Will you tell us a little bit about that? Because I feel like white women have no idea.
Deidre: Right, oh wow. That’s also a big thing.
Brandy: I’m asking you all these big things.
Deidre: But this is why it is, and the reason I said yes to this is because I feel like this is a safe space where I could also say ouch to this whenever I feel like things are a little prickly.
Deidre: But I don’t feel that way, so it doesn’t matter in this moment. But when it comes to hair, Madam C. J. Walker, Google her, she’s amazing.
Deidre: She’s a huge… Are you familiar with Madam C. J. Walker?
Brandy: I’m not, no.
Deidre: She’s one of the black history tokens that I learned about in elementary school, but her claim to fame is she’s technically the second black woman in America to become a millionaire, and she was around the turn of the 20th century, so in the early 1900s this was her thing. But her claim to fame, or the claim to her fortune was creating products for black women’s hair, and that’s how she became a millionaire in the early 1900s. We’ve always, in order to fit in, especially after slavery and as we’re trying to kind of find our identity in this country and to be accepted, we had to change. We wanted to be as white-presenting as possible. I’m sure there’s tons of information and tons of things on like bleaching our skin and trying to be lighter and trying to be more accepted. There’s the paper bag test, are you familiar with that?
Deidre: There was a time where to figure out if you’re white or you’re black – because there was a lot of intermingling during slavery, and some people even if they were of black descent, they could pass because of their skin color. And so the way they could pass is if you were darker than a paper bag, then this delineates your value or your worth, and if you were lighter than a paper bag, then you could technically pass as for white, white-presenting. The more that I learn, the more that I know, it reminds me of this James Baldwin quote: “To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time.” And I think that’s for some people who are like, “Oh, well I don’t see race,” it’s because you’re not relatively conscious. And so I think that doesn’t necessarily have to be for a black person, but it could also be for somebody who also wants to make or use their privilege to uphold and to advocate for others who are seen by the general whole as lesser than.
Brandy: Yeah, I see people say that, “We don’t see color,” and it’s such a cop-out. It’s a nice idea for white people to say that because in their mind it’s like, “Oh, I don’t discriminate,” but it’s also like but you’re not realizing the differences of what people of color have to go through. So that’s just a total…
Brandy: Yeah, invalidation. Yeah.
Deidre: Yeah, so when it comes to hair, especially back in that time we were trying to figure out how to move in this country as free and independent people, we wanted to be as white presenting as possible. And so generally the curl and the kink of black women’s hair, depending on their lineage and their heritage and their DNA or whatever, it comes all the way to very tight curls or what some might even deem as naps, which there was a time when nappy, some might have deemed it as a derogatory term, and then all the way to very loose curls, and some black people have straight hair. But women who have these naps or have a little bit of kink or sometimes even have a little bit of curl, wanted to make their hair as white-presenting as possible to make it appealing and a little bit more accepting, like when they’re getting jobs or when they’re interacting with others because it made somebody else feel comfortable.
Brandy: I hate this and I also know why it exists, but I hate it.
Deidre: Exactly, yeah. So Madam C. J. Walker came up with a product to chemically relax the curl pattern, hence the relaxer, and this relaxer is a chemical treatment that a person would put on their hair approximately every six weeks when we have the new growth, to keep that hair straight and flowing. It doesn’t matter if we wash it, it doesn’t matter if we swam, it will still be straight. But this chemical, it is a chemical that you put on your scalp every day. If it’s on too long, your hair, you can have lots of breakage, you can have lots of damage in your scalp. But the things we do to be beautiful, yes.
Brandy: Yeah, but this is different. This isn’t to be beautiful, this is to fucking have… be treated like a human being.
Deidre: Right, yeah. And so it’s evolved in like… There’d be a lot of discrimination, and even now there’s a lot of discrimination. Sometimes in a workplace, a woman, if she chooses to wear her hair in its most natural state where it’s curly or not necessarily even an Afro, but like perhaps… in order to tame it or for having like a bad hair day, we may braid our hair in a certain way to care for our hair but sometimes it’s now deemed as not professional, it’s not deemed as acceptable, but again, it’s done so that we can be more white-presenting. And that’s not for every single person. At this time, we now have the choice to do what we want to with our hair, but a lot of times, and even for me and my own personal hair journey, I got my hair relaxed for the first time when I was 10, 11, 12, something around there and my hair was very thick, it was very hard for me to manage. My mom was a working mom, she had my little sister as well, and so it made it easier for her to comb our hair, and then it made it easier when I started combing my own hair for me to manage my hair as well, and I had no idea how to manage my hair in its natural state, and technically I still don’t, this is why I do –
Brandy: Deidre, has a very short, cute cut.
Deidre: There came a point in time after I had my first child, I knew that I was always only relaxing my hair because it made me feel beautiful. Like that cannot be the only way that I’m beautiful, I’m not only beautiful because I have straight long hair. I had to learn how to accept me for me so I cut my hair real short, it was also I had a small child. There was that too. It was one morning specifically I was getting ready for church, I had like a crying maybe seven or eight month old, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m almost there. I’m curling my hair,” and I dropped the curling, I burned my ear. And I’m like, “Okay, I’m done.”
Brandy: F this, yeah. We’re done, yeah.
Deidre: Over it, so over it, so over it. And so I decided this was time, and my girlfriend came in town and she cut my hair for me, and every time since then. It was maybe like two or three inches. Every time I’ve gotten my hair cut since then, and this was maybe nine years ago, it just gets shorter and shorter and shorter but I love it because it does help me… I feel like I’ve been able to adopt a new sense of beauty about who I am and appreciate other things more than my hair and it’s really easy to take care of, let’s be honest.
Brandy: Yeah, that practicality. I have nearly shaved my head 100 million times, just watching my husband go in the shower, three minutes later come out and nothing else. This is wrong.
Deidre: Yeah, it’s wrong. But hair becomes so important because it’s a way that we can express ourselves, it’s a way that we can even pay homage to our heritage, it’s a way that we can… Like my daughter always asks, “When are you going to grow your hair?” I feel like I need to learn more about how to care for my hair, how to do things, so that I can also feel like how do I utilize this as another platform to show who I am?
Brandy: Yeah, and it seems like a physical representation of taking a power back. I could see that there is definitely a movement there that, “You know what? I’m not going to relax my hair anymore, I’m going to let it grow how I want and I’m not going to make you all feel comfortable. I’m going to do what is this part of me,” and it’s like the visual representation of that not just philosophical, but like, “I walk down the street and my hair is kinky and that means I’m doing this for me and you’re not going to tell me what to do.”
Brandy: That’s pretty bad ass.
Deidre: Yeah, and that’s just one aspect. What racism or the supremacist perspective puts out there is that, how do I make myself smaller to fit in? And I feel like the reclaiming process, especially for black people, is how can I let go of some of that so that I can be who I am and feel and accept who I am regardless of what others think I should be doing?
Brandy: Yeah. And you know, this actually gets to another point which is, there are so many well-intended white women like myself who are like, “I’ll do anything. What can I do to help this? I don’t see my privilege. How should I start to see my privilege? How can I even view that?”
Brandy: And I feel like it’s these little things, and that’s what I wanted to ask you about today, it’s these things that aren’t little, but to us… Like as a white woman, I’ve never had to make my appearance different or put chemicals on my head so that I would be treated more humanely because of the color of my skin.
Brandy: So for all the white women out there listening who are like, “I don’t know my privilege, I know I have it, but what does it look like?” Well, here’s one little way that our privilege looks.
Deidre: Exactly, right.
Brandy: So thank you for taking us through that. And so part of my question – I want anything you want to share, anything you want to get back to about your story, I’m so happy to go there. And then I’m also curious, what are some of these things of living as a black mother that you have experiences of that, probably us white women have no fucking idea about?
Deidre: Right. Yeah, that is… it is a lot. One of the struggles, because I feel like it wasn’t given to me and that’s what I’m trying to learn, is how do I give my children that sense of pride in who they are without giving them that rage or animosity about what the world is/can reflect back to them? But one of the things that I’ve had to do… I have a son like I said, he’s six, and as much as I do my best to shield my children from the media, I’m not shielding myself because I want to be aware of what’s going on and how I can stand up and use my little bit of privilege to kind of speak out. One of the little layers of privilege that I have is that I do have a lot of white women friends and some of them are really interested in doing the work to kind of dismantle the perspectives of white supremacy and do their best to help with systemic racism, so like how do I speak out? And really, is it my job? I’m doing a hard enough job working. But I will when I want to, or when I feel safe, but some of it is just like re-posting. Let’s remember this person who was killed through police brutality or let’s bring back that hashtag Black Lives Matter. What does that truly mean? I cannot control what people choose to hear, but I feel like I can use my voice in that way when I choose to. But I don’t know, maybe… my son is six now, so when he was four, I don’t know if he overheard something, or he saw something, or it was a conversation I might’ve been having with somebody else, but we were talking about police and what police are for, and again, I want to instill a trust in him that he can trust our public servants, but also still they’re human and they make mistakes.
Deidre: And so we kind of had – there’s this thing that generally black people have to do and it’s what we call “The Talk,” and The Talk is making your children aware of their differentness and how general society can treat you because you are different. It becomes a little bit more so when families have black boys where, how do you respond when you’re pulled over by a police person? What do you do? You have to move slowly, you need to be respectful, you do exactly what they say, you don’t retaliate, you don’t move, because the assumption is… well, this is what I’m trying to tell my children, “Everybody’s scared, and when you’re scared, you do things that are stupid.” And that unfortunately has resulted in the killing of a lot of different black people when they’ve just get pulled over routinely and then they get shot and then they die. Sometimes they don’t, and then sometimes they do. My kid is six, he’s nowhere near driving age, right? But I want to make him aware that yes, if you get lost in a crowd, you talk to this person, but also making him aware that not everybody’s perfect.
Brandy: That’s such a nice way to put it, Deidre.
Deidre: Well, they’re five and six, right? They’re young.
Brandy: Yeah, right.
Deidre: Of course as they grow older, we’ll have stronger conversations about what that looks like, but I listen to the news and I feel like it’s been backwards. It would be like “the more you hear, the more desensitized people become” – okay, well it’s just another one. You can make an assumption – he must have been doing something wrong, or they’re doing their best, or blue lives matter too or whatever. But I feel like for me, it’s been the opposite. I feel like I was very desensitized and I’ve just become more and more sensitive and more and more aware of it, perhaps because my children are growing, or perhaps because I’m being born into a new sense of who I am and I have this confidence to speak out and share about it, but why do I have to think three times before I put my son in a hoodie? He was going to school the other day and as part of the uniform, they have these zip-up hoodies, and it was cold. He had his hoodie on. He’s going to school. I’m driving away. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, my son he’s a black boy, what do I do with that?” Why do I have to? My cousin, she has a 16-year-old. She’s banned them from her house. And the idea goes back to… Oh gosh, which trial is it? Is it Tamir Rice? I think it’s Tamir Rice. No, because there’s so many different ones…
Brandy: Yeah, I was going to say, this is awful. It’s like, which one? Which one of the young black men?
Deidre: Black boys.
Deidre: A 14-year-old just came from the convenience store, had on a hoodie, had Skittles…
Brandy: Oh yes, Trayvon. Isn’t it?
Deidre: Trayvon Martin, yes. That’s the one. The civilian, a white man – this isn’t technically police brutality – but the civilian makes the assumption about this young boy who’s got candy in his pocket, and who’s got a hood on, and he looks menacing and so he shoots him. And the thing that’s more infuriating is that the gentleman who shot him, got off.
Deidre: He didn’t… he’s not serving any time. And I just like, “What?!” There’s such an inequality of how we are treating white men who shoot black people as opposed to black people who shoot even black people, where we’re criminalizing them.
Brandy: Oh, yes.
Deidre: And then sometimes especially through the media, we criminalize the victim even if they weren’t at fault.
Brandy: Right. The pictures, you see these things where the pictures that they choose for the black men that this happens to, they find like the least nice photo. They try to get somebody who looks like they’re a thug or something, but then you have a white person in the situation and they’re like, “Oh look, he was such a family man and such a nice guy.” It’s like… you can just see it.
Brandy: It’s so in our face, and just all the things like you’re saying, the things that we hear every day that are happening, it’s like you can’t deny that this is existing in this way.
Brandy: You literally cannot. And then also it feels so helpless because it’s like, what can we actually do aside from voting? But that feels like that’s a change that takes so much time, it feels so helpless. If I feel helpless, how must you feel? The fact that I don’t have to have this talk with my son, we don’t realize as white people these sort of privileges. So when we get butt hurt or defensive in any way against people of color, I want to lose my mind because I feel like there are so many of these little things that we are privileged to not have to deal with, and to think that you have to have with your son this conversation that’s so fine -ined, that’s, “Here’s how you have to take care of yourself and you have to listen to everything that they’re saying,” and also you’re thoughtful enough that you’re not instilling in him, “Don’t trust any of these cops.”
Brandy: It’s like you have to do this exhausting work so that your son is safe, just like my white son is going to be safe regardless of any of that. I’m sorry.
Deidre: Yeah. I think it’s something that we have to learn to live with, but then there’s also the older I get, the more anxiety I have about everything, all the things.
Brandy: Yeah, I would agree with that. Yeah.
Deidre: Wait, I’m supposed to be older and I can take care of myself. I’m supposed to be better now!
Brandy: I think when you have small kids, well and probably when they’re older. I mean –
Deidre: I can only imagine, yeah. Ignorance is just blissful.
Brandy: Yeah. Let’s just not go back to being 18. (Laughs)
Deidre: Right! (Laughs)
Brandy: I feel like that’s how every podcast ends, so let’s just go back to before –
Deidre: Annnnnd, done with Adult Conversations.
Brandy: Let’s go back to Young Adult Conversations. (Both Laugh)
Deidre: Yeah, it’s so true. But yeah, these are some of the things that I’m having to deal with and cope with, and then also my own personal advocacy platform is around black birth in America and the strong disparities between: a young white woman who does not have her high school diploma and is uninsured, will statistically receive better care than an educated 35-year-old black woman who has got her PHD, and has got really amazing insurance. The black woman is three to four times more likely – even her baby within that first year – three to four times more likely to die. And I like to tell people it sounds really complicated and there’s a lot of complicated things. The most basic reason for this happening is because of systemic racism and how steeped in racism some of our hospital systems can be, and the easiest and most clear way that I can talk about the solution is listening to black women, and I feel like listening is simple, but it’s also difficult because listening doesn’t just mean I hear the words that are coming out of your mouth, it is how do I dismantle my perception about who you are before I even go into your room? Just by reading your chart and your statistics, how do I set that aside? How do I let that go and drop my assumptions and truly hear what you have to say, and validate what you have to say because then women’s lives can literally be saved?
Brandy: But then you’re talking about what we talked about before which is this work, which is if people are not doing any of this work, to see what any of this is, then how can they even do that? They don’t even know to do it.
Brandy: Oh man.
Deidre: And again, this work is a choice, right?
Deidre: That personal work is a choice.
Brandy: I mean there’s so much here that’s just so tangled and layered and complicated, but I think people don’t want to have these conversations or even look at these things because it’s so overwhelming.
Deidre: Oh, yeah.
Brandy: As I try to be like a white woman that’s thoughtful and caring to all people, and people of color specifically, I think like, “Okay, what can I do that’s in my frame of possibility,” and there’s a part of me that as a mom, is doing what we’re all doing, trying to keep our kids alive, trying to have a little bit of self care for ourselves, possibly having relationships with our partner, cooking – I mean all of these things. And then on top of it, it’s like, okay well I also have to dismantle racism and learn about LGBTQ people because I also want to be able to support that and the kids at this next generation and… there’s all of these really important social things that are on thoughtful people’s plates, and sometimes it feels so overwhelming because I’m… Like even the other night I was thinking to myself, “What more can I be doing?” And I’m trying to think realistic. I’m trying not to think like, “Okay, so I’m going to become members of all of these groups, and I’m going to go march and do all these things. I’m like, “What legitimately can I do to help educate myself?” Then I went online and it was like, “Books white women should read about race.”
Deidre: Oh, nice.
Brandy: Yeah. What’s funny about it is ironically, so the first thing that pops up, I look at it and I’m like, “Okay, the first job I have is to check who wrote this and see if they’re white or black.” Because I don’t want the white woman’s guide, I want the black woman’s guide. All I could find was fucking white women’s guides.
Deidre: Yes. But you know why? Because black women don’t want to do that work, and so –
Deidre: And the thing is you can trust white women. I think this is the job of white people, and when I say white, I mean in general, using your privilege to educate others in your race. And so there are phenomenal books out there written by… well, it’s for the sake of using the word, “woke” white women out there who want to educate and who have the ability to educate. Because like I don’t really want to write a book about race.
Brandy: Yeah, and you shouldn’t have to.
Deidre: I think it is hard because like, now how do I discern?
Brandy: That’s what I’m getting at, is everything is so layered, everything is like a landmine, because here’s the thing. So I’m looking at that and I’m thinking, “Well, I don’t want to read a list from a white woman because what the fuck does she know really about it?” I want to hear from a black woman what moved them or they feel is important, but then I’m screwed that way because a black woman shouldn’t have to do that work.
Deidre: Right. They’re out there. So it’s like, “Now, how do I find those women?”
Brandy: Right. So it’s like every step of the way, trying to be the most thoughtful in my way of doing it, is kind of a death sentence. So I’m feeling like, you just have to start somewhere. I’m thinking like what are things, and I’ll just ask it to you if you feel like answering it at all, what are things that white women or white people can do that make a decent impact, that would make your life easier or help your struggles?
Deidre: I’m going to talk about maybe just me because I’m not speaking on behalf of all black people. It’s finding out how you can make those small changes in the conversations that you have with others. When you hear either other people making jokes, use your voice to stand up or like, “Oh we’re just making really big assumptions.” I had a friend who was here last night just thinking about, “Ugh, my colleagues are so…” and she is of majority culture. And so she will stand there and make it a little uncomfortable for them because they know she stands for something different than what they believe, and what she truly believes is a little bit more better and right and compassion for the world. If –
Brandy: That’s an interesting, real fast, the making it uncomfortable. So many people shy away from that.
Deidre: Oh yeah.
Brandy: That’s kind of one of these, how do you get people to be who they aren’t? Like we talk about in birth, how do you get somebody who’s a people-pleaser to show up at their birth and be like, “Here’s what I want…” and stand up for themselves like that? That just isn’t going to happen overnight. So that’s part of it, we as white women have to welcome the uncomfortability –
Deidre: Oh my gosh, yes.
Brandy: A lot, yeah.
Deidre: Yeah. I feel like that’s my job as a doula, which is one of the only reasons I can… well not one of the only reasons, but one of the reasons I consider going out, in a way, to educate white women about this is because my job is to sit with women, when they’re probably in the most pain of their life and tell them, “You’re going to make it, you’re going to walk through this. I’m here, I’m not leaving you,” and that’s kind of what this race thing is for some, especially when it does seem so daunting, and what do I do with… how much do I need to know?
Brandy: And it’s hard to not be let down or feel like you don’t want to keep doing it when you do that and you lose people in your life. So for example, I posted a couple of years ago on Facebook, on my personal Facebook page about, it was basically “stop killing black people.” It was just… there was no, like I didn’t tag anybody specifically, anything, and one of my really good friends who I love came at me, and I’ve lost a friendship over that, which is because her husband is a policeman.
Brandy: And so in that moment I was like, “Oh my gosh, this sucks,” and also, I couldn’t back down. This is the duty, this is my sacrifice. I feel like people of color have sacrificed so much and been through so much that this is so minor compared to that, that to be uncomfortable and to maybe not have that friend for the greater good. But I mean, so –
Deidre: That’s hard.
Brandy: But then what goes through my mind is like, “But is there even a greater good on that?”
Brandy: So is this person just still close-minded or does this person think, “I really blew that out of proportion? Because I know Brandy wasn’t saying my husband is like that. I know that there’s a big thing that’s actually legitimately happening that she was speaking to and this was nothing personal to me.” And that I guess is, again, is where we talk about the personal growth because without it, it’s just, everything’s so cut and dry with people. You can have a conversation that’s uncomfortable and it may change your entire relationship with them.
Deidre: Right, yeah. And, just speak up with what you do know, and so if you don’t know all the things – nobody knows all the things, nobody’s ever going to know all the things. And you know what? This, unfortunately, to be 1000% realistic, is probably not going to get solved with our generation.
Brandy: Right, no.
Deidre: But how am I going to help perpetuate change for the future? The more that we have those uncomfortable conversations, the more comfortable we become sharing. How can I do better? What’s one small thing that I can do. So we’re not having to eat the whole elephant at one time, but maybe you can get that one little piece of dried skin, you know I think –
Brandy: Wow. (Laughs) Did you just do an eating an elephant analogy?
Deidre: I did. (Laughs)
Deidre: It’s not going to get solved.
Brandy: Is this something you use often? (Still laughing)
Deidre: It depends on the situation. (Laughing) But hopefully this is an analogy that everybody can relate to. It’s okay and it’s okay to make mistakes. Like you said in the beginning, sometimes we’re so afraid to do the thing because we don’t want to get it wrong. Hello, guess what? You’re going to fuck it up! And now does it feel better because now you have permission? You have permission to at least speak, mess up, and figure out how can I do it better now?
Brandy: Well, and that’s what I think is beautiful about what’s happening now with some of the conversations on social media and things like that. People of color have been really gracious about, we’d rather you try and fuck up than not try at all.
Deidre: Exactly, yeah.
Brandy: And you didn’t have to be that gracious, you could have said, “No, we just need you to do it right now,” but for the most part I’m hearing a lot of this sort of thing, which is a nicety that us white people should really think about and act on, is not having to get it exactly right. There was a moment, maybe about three years ago, I forget, there was something that had happened. Maybe it was the thing with Trayvon, I don’t remember, but I remember posting something on my Facebook page that was like, “My friends of color, whatever it is, I’ll do it! Just tell me what.” It’s so silly to think back now.
Deidre: It’s okay.
Brandy: “Tell me what it is, tell me what the thing is. What is it that would be most helpful to you that we could be doing?” And I had a couple of likes or hearts from my friends of color, but I think somebody messaged on there in a really sweet, kind way, which they didn’t have to be, and was like, “It’s not our job to do this for you, you need to figure out what to do.” That was such an eye opener for me, and it was also that moment of feeling very uncomfortable because on Facebook… it was like out to the world, I had just been not woke. I had been not woke publicly.
Deidre: You felt very vulnerable, I’m sure asking that question. And in that moment that was the most meaningful thing that you felt that you could do and then you got that response –
Brandy: Yeah, but it was stupid. It was out of my frustration, like I’m so upset about racism and so I can get really emotional, like I cry really easily as you probably saw about 10 minutes ago. I’m trying to hold it back because I’m not going to be the weeping white woman who’s crying my white tears for your experience, that’s another thing that I’m like, “You got to sack up a little bit, and if you’re going to have conversations like this, you can’t fall apart and you can’t be like, ‘this is hard’.”
Deidre: Yeah, it is hard.
Brandy: But it is hard, and it’s hard to not be who you are, but this is part of the work – doing better and realizing which parts of our personality are not helping, and to try to step out of those. And so another question I have for you is parenting-wise, are there things that you specifically feel like, “I would love it if white parents were doing X, Y, Z with their kids?”
Deidre: Oh, this is a great question. I want to say all the right things and I probably won’t.
Brandy: Deidre, you don’t have to get it right. You don’t have to get it right, let me just tell you.
Deidre: Thank you. I think making your children, in whatever child appropriate way that looks for you, aware of their privilege. Educate them about what black history is like, educate them about why this race thing exists, that it’s really a construct, that it’s an idea in people’s heads, it’s not really real, and if we can help break down that for our kids, our kids can see that a little bit more openly and honestly, yeah.
Brandy: If they can see the system –
Brandy: Then there’s so many things that maybe don’t need to be specifically taught as much because the system is the system.
Deidre: If they’re encountering a privilege because of the system, how do we use that space of privilege to either give a hand up to somebody else or give opportunity or, oh, you’re invited to the seat because of who you are. Well now your children could say, “Well, I have this privilege. I would like to give the seat to somebody else.” We want to teach that now so that they can hopefully take those opportunities when they see how their privilege kind of affects them in the future as well. And again, caught versus taught like, how are you doing this now?
Brandy: Well, I was going to say but then you have a bunch of parents who don’t know, can’t realize their privilege –
Deidre: So go back to education, figure out what does that mean?
Deidre: Are you listening to podcasts? Are you reading books? Are you… Do I have to do all of the things at once? But when you take small bites of information, now how can you examine that and mirror your life now, from now that I know this one thing – you can’t know the things you don’t know, but if you know this one thing – how am I doing better because of this one?
Brandy: So this feels huge to me because it feels so overwhelming. Like so, okay, I’m going to read these books and then what? I’m going to join groups and I’m going to get the word out and I’m going to march all of these things? But I’m thinking about it in this way, which is, so if I read a book or listen to a podcast and I get some new ideas on my privileges, one of the easiest, best things that we can do is take that knowledge and then talk to your kids about it.
Deidre: Exactly, yeah.
Brandy: So it’s like I’m feeling the problem is out here, it’s outside, and it’s society. But if us parents can start to realize what our privileges are and then teach that to our kids, and then also teach them a piece about, “Okay, so here’s your privilege and now how do you help somebody who doesn’t have that privilege? How do you give your privilege to them?”
Brandy: There’s also, on the other side of it, I’m curious what your take is on over – like “savior complex?” So that’s the thing with my son is I want to be cognizant that I’m telling him, “Listen, you’ve got this privilege and so part of your job is to be vocal and stick up for people when you see terrible shit happening, and that could be in a lot of different ways. That could be vocal, that could be physically, that can look a lot of different ways.”
Deidre: Yeah, definitely. That is another aspect, white savior complex.
Brandy: Yeah, but then not to also be like, “Hey, but they need your help because they’re fragile and you have the power,” Like –
Deidre: It’s finding a way to work with the community as opposed to doing things for the community. And I think that is the delineation, yes, you want to advocate for others but how are you doing with them?
Brandy: Yes, because that’s the thing is even I noticed this in myself, which is I feel this need to make black people feel super welcome and basically try to undo all the terrible shit my people did to them, but I noticed that that in itself is an otherness.
Brandy: And so I’m trying to find a way to be like just… I feel like my whole life could be described as the fine line. I am trying to find the fine line in everything, the balance of motherhood and myself, and finding this fine line between being welcoming and working with the community, but also not being so fucking annoying and making them feel other that it’s like, “Dude, I’m a person, I’m not just a black person.”
Deidre: Right. So here I love this story. I’ve probably heard it on NPR or something like that and it’s a story where the Peace Corps went into this little village in Africa and they were suffering a from hunger.They come in and they set up their camp and they do their thing and they’re like, “Oh my goodness, these people should totally have food. Why don’t they have food? Look at this amazing place right here where they could grow their food.” The villagers are looking – they haven’t really established a relationship. They go to this plain that looks so rich and very fertile, they plant seeds and the plants grow and they’re like, “This was so easy. It’s just been a matter of months,” and as it’s almost coming time for harvest, they’re getting ready to harvest but it’s not quite time yet, hippos come in and they eat and they trample everything. And this was like a place where the hippos come through as they go to their watering ground and it was gone. And they’re like, “Oh, well if you had talked to somebody in the village, because somebody could have said every year the animals come through to rip it up,” but they didn’t take the time to be your friend, to build trust, to listen to what the needs are, to show themselves humble. Like I don’t want to just come and save you, but I want to, again, work with you. So I feel like some of that, relationships take time. We don’t have microwave or instant relationships.
Deidre: And sometimes, and again, white people should not take offense to this depending on the group that you’re working with or the black person that you’re working with, depending on that background of the history, again, not making assumptions, they might come and have a lot of reservations. Like what is your intent? Are you another white savior or do you really, really want to get dirty? And so there might be, for lack of a better word, a hazing period, but then how do you not take that personal? How does that not become a barrier for the person who wants to help? When the white person wants to help, I mean like, “Oh, they don’t like me, I feel so unwelcome there.” And there might be some spaces – oh, I’ve had this conversation, let me cool down a minute… where it is a delineated safe space for people of color. And then not taking offense when you’re not invited or you’re excluded. And it’s not because it’s not welcoming, it’s just that it feels like every space is a white space –
Deidre: Every space is a white space, and even though there are well-intentioned white people in the world and even people who we feel safe with as white people, that is in general, especially in our current political climate, we cannot make the assumption that I will be safe if I go to this particular event or that particular thing. Because number one, I might be the only, or just a few, one of a few, or this might not be safe, or I might feel threatened in some way, and it’s not because that was the intention that was put out there, it’s just that maybe the language or the whatever, or the topics that are presented, or the way that it’s being approached, you’re just like, “No, that’s just not for me.” Again, not taking offense to that either when, “Oh, we’ve created the space, why aren’t people of color showing up?” Well did you even include a person of color in your planning? Did you have one? Is it majority? What is your approach to this? I think that’s one thing, is not taking it personal.
Deidre: And then the other thing is creating something with the intention of welcoming and doing for, again, not necessarily as a savior. Let’s say for you, if you want to create a something, whether it’s around literature or if it’s a birth thing or whatever, can you now build relationship with other people of color who are like-minded in your mission and let them inform what is the best way, and again so that you are working with and not just for?
Brandy: Right. It’s something that you said about the relationships, and it sounds like it’s tricky with the relationships because black people may be like, “What kind of white person is this? What are we dealing with here? Are we dealing with the lady that wants to save me, who is thinking about black ‘people’ versus me as a person?” And when you said something before, it really hit me that it’s… which is stupid because it’s pretty simple, but sometimes I feel like we get caught up – and I want to help and be a friend and an ally to black people. But people, this person, this specific person who is in my life. How about start there as a person?
Brandy: Same thing as with parenting your kids and the work that we’re doing, the reading that we’re doing, or the podcasts that we’re listening to, or just taking in this other point of view is I’m thinking so big and I’m feeling like I need to bring this small, into my bubble.
Brandy: Yeah. I’m wondering if other people out there are feeling that same way.
Deidre: There is a woman, her name is Layla Saad. She has created this free… Has it gone across your consciousness yet?
Brandy: Mm-mm (negative).
Deidre: She’s created this free workbook called, “Me And White Supremacy.”
Brandy: Oh yes.
Deidre: It’s 132 pages.
Brandy: Yes. I have seen it.
Deidre: And you can download it for free. She’s giving this away because she believes in this work, if a person chooses to compensate her, you can choose to compensate her too. That is a great tool for self-examination.
Brandy: Yes, so this could be the thing. So people who are listening, who are like, “Well, I want to do some of the work, but I don’t really know what the work is or what to do,” this might be a good…
Deidre: It’s a self reflection tool.
Brandy: What about on the parenting thing? Things that you wish white parents would do with their children? Tell their children?
Deidre: Just maybe give them… Well, I’m trying to figure out how to say this carefully, but giving them black experiences so to speak. The first thing that comes to my mind, there was this woman right after she was an elementary school teacher, right after Martin Luther King…
Brandy: Oh, I just saw her –
Deidre: She was on the Red Table Talk.
Brandy: She was on the Red Table Talk. She was amazing, yes.
Deidre: Jane Elliott, her name’s Jane Elliott.
Brandy: Yes. So yes, go ahead.
Deidre: Anyway, so she did this project. It was I guess 1968, she taught third or fourth grade. She lived in super white Middle America. She’s like, “How do I teach my kids that this is wrong?” And basically what she did is she went in, she had these scarves, and she said, “Everybody who has brown eyes,” she gave them the scarf, and she told the other half, “Blue eyes, you are superior, you are smarter, you are all of the things, and these, they don’t know anything.” And that’s all she told them, and how they started treating one another, how the blue eyed kids started treating the brown eyed kids, she was completely blown away with how the cruelty that they had and the animosity… there’s a whole documentary on it, you could watch it. And then the next day she flipped it. She was like, “Oh no, I got it wrong. Blue eyed kids are the dumb ones, brown eyed kids you’re smarter.” And again, they just flipped it. And then on the third day they have like a check-in about it and they talked about, you know everybody’s equal. Could you choose the color of your eyes? No. You had no agency in doing that. There are people in this world that are different and we treat them different because it looks like this. There’s a study that follow these kids all these years later as adults, how it’s affected them. The documentary kind of goes back and kind of talks about that, and so having them understand in a very gut inherent way –
Brandy: Yeah, like an embodied way. Yeah.
Deidre: An embodied way, and then also show them what “other” looks like. Maybe it’s a celebration or a festival. Some white families will intentionally attend a black church so that this can become normal for them so that they can see these people – it’s humans not just like others. If that’s not within your spiritual practice, what else? Like you would have to brainstorm other things that are happening. If you’re showing up and you’re showing up and you’re showing up, then we want to build relationship. Why are you here? What are your intentions? How can we start working together?
Brandy: And people probably have to get over the uncomfortableness because they’re all of a sudden going to feel like when they go into these black spaces –
Deidre: I’m like, where we go, everywhere we go.
Brandy: Exactly, right. Which is a total shift, which is, “Okay, I’m going in this space and we’re the only white people here possibly,” and it feels uncomfortable. Everybody’s looking at us like, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Deidre: Exactly. To have a conversation with your children about that, how powerful would that be?
Deidre: And to think, every time you are in a space and you only see one black person, know that they feel that way too, and then how can you minimize that for that person? That would be really powerful.
Brandy: That’s powerful, yeah. And those are things that we can do.
Deidre: It’s going to take a little research, you probably have to Google Facebook events to find out what’s happening in your communities, but they’re happening, and they’re out there.
Brandy: Where do you feel like us white women are getting it wrong?
Deidre: Oh, that’s hard.
Deidre: The inability to deal with the discomfort. I’ve encountered a person when I’m in a conversation with a group of women, this person, when we start, when the conversation veers towards this, she will leave until she feels safe again, and to come back. That really frustrates me. I’ve had instances where I wanted to have an event around black birth and I was asking my colleagues who are also, well I thought were passionate about it, and I write a proposal and, “But we feel really uncomfortable about this. It seems like you’re excluding others.” Because others aren’t dying because of having babies!!
Deidre: Like can you… you have your discomfort, but then we have people DYING. So, can you be uncomfortable for five minutes because people are dying?
Brandy: Dying, seriously.
Deidre: It’s hard to understand that when your world isn’t compromised of that. Like I bet if you and I, we switched IGs for a minute, and if you were flipping through my IG and I was flipping through your IG, that’d be obviously really different. You’d probably see things that you’re like, “Oh fuck, I’ve never… I didn’t even think about that before.”
Deidre: And so –
Brandy: Can we do that?
Deidre: We should.
Brandy: We should.
Deidre: Let’s do it. Let’s do it. It’s constantly in my consciousness because everywhere I look, whether it’s like a positive thing, like to celebrate black men or celebrate black fatherhood or, oh my gosh, this particular shooting happened and everybody is emoting and like they’re feeling all their feelings or it’s … Mine’s going to be super birth heavy. You will see a lot of brown vaginas.
Deidre: All of that, it’s just not in the consciousness, but I feel like the way that I’ve decided to set my life up, it’s just like, it’s always there for me. There was a time where it wasn’t like that, and I felt super blissful, but I also knew there’s that like niggling behind you. Like I could be doing more, I could be a little bit more aware. I mean, even for myself, like when I started out, I was like, “Yeah, I just found out I was black,” it’s more, not necessarily that I just found out I was black, I am consciously choosing to listen to and be present with a black experience on a more macro level.
Brandy: Got it.
Deidre: I was complicit in the way of, I wasn’t paying attention all the time. I knew that black birth was an issue when I became a doula 13 years ago. I wasn’t consciously making an effort to look for black clients. In that time span, Brandy, I was at more than a 100, maybe 150 births, like maybe three of those were with African American families. And so I had to shift and I had to open, and I even had to go through a little bit of… Ughhhhh, that this is how I’ve been complicit because I am responsible for what I do and what I take in. I don’t necessarily have to be responsible for how anybody receives it, but I can be mindful to be kind and be loving if that is my intention. I think the people that, especially my white friends who want to be a part of solution, can also forgive me if I step on their toes a little bit too.
Brandy: That’s such a great point, that is such a great point. One of the things that we can do is actually not doing anything. I’m not trying to give us an out here, I’m not trying to make it easier on white people, but like… because I often feel like, I’m just trying to survive over here as a mom, much less dismantle racism, but this is what I wanted to talk about. These are the little things that we can do, which is let the black people in your life get a little angry and step on some toes.
Brandy: Be gracious about that. Because one of the other things I want to ask you is how do you manage the anger that you, I’m just assuming, and maybe it’s just an assumption –
Deidre: That’s funny, yeah.
Brandy: But I’d be fucking super angry because I am for you and I’m not even the one on the receiving end, how do you manage that?
Deidre: I think I’m still learning how to, and I don’t think I, in general.. and again, it’s mostly because of my upbringing I think, in terms of like “just do your best, keep your head down and power through.” So I, especially with this last transformation or transition from being a married person to an unmarried person, being in touch with my feelings and my emotions, that has been one of the biggest births that I’ve had to experience through this transformation. I don’t know if I was taught or it might’ve been something I caught from my parents’ relationship, it’s just like your feelings are feelings, but whatever, you can’t let them get you down. And so I feel like I’ve only just begun to feel safe enough to embrace anger, to embrace rage. I would just separate myself from it, but then as you grow and you realize if I’m desensitizing myself to that, then I’m desensitizing myself to love and to joy and to feel it in its fullest. I’m trying to teach myself and then by proxy teach my children, that is a fuel to do something more positive.
Deidre: Like rage was not an option for me a long time ago. So I feel like it’s a new thing for me and I might be… who knows? In another three years, I might be screaming…
Brandy: Well, I’m wondering if you’ve had… I don’t know the level of rage that’s been waiting at your door that you haven’t opened, but because it has been something that you haven’t been allowed to feel, do you feel like, “if I open this door, I’m going to drown in this? I have to just barely let a little bit in and then tame it and then let a little bit in because of that much unexplored aeration of rage.” Is it waiting for you or do you think it’s just not there?
Deidre: In this moment, maybe because we’ve already talked so much, I feel like it isn’t there, but it really depends on… No, it’s there. Sorry, my memories are just like, “Hello, just tell the truth.” It depends on, I think it’s there, but I have to be mindful of my triggers and it’s easier for me to get triggered if I’m tired, if I’m not meeting my basic needs.
Brandy: Yeah, right.
Deidre: And then this comes along with doing this work. Like what are your basic needs? Where do your cup needs to be filled? Obviously I need to eat, I have to have rest, I need to be hydrated, and I need to have had a little quiet in my life, and this would be for any mom out there.
Brandy: Right. So shifting gears a bit, what’s your take on blind spots and biases? Do you have anything to add to the conversation?
Deidre: I think especially when looking within yourself, you just don’t know what you don’t know, and so it is a matter of if something strikes you, and your soul feels like when you hit on your funny bone like that… I’m like, “Oh that feels so weird.” When your soul is hit with that, feel into that, why does it feel so weird or awkward or uncomfortable or why does it hurt so much? That pain kind of invites us to check ourselves a little bit. Maybe it does get knocked up against an agreement that we didn’t even know that we had or maybe it does kind of challenge the bias that we had and we thought all X amount of X people do this. If it kind of rubs up against what we thought we knew about this world, it’s going to feel uncomfortable, and I think when we question it, then we are able to see it kind of as a door. Or when it comes across our consciousness, like when you posted about the Band-Aids. Who thinks about that?
Brandy: Right. And by the way, that post was about how there are Band-Aids that are for people of color that aren’t light white, go fucking figure, right?
Brandy: That was such a moment of like, oh my gosh, Band-Aids. I’ve had bandaids for my color my whole life, and there were people on that thread who were like, “Oh, come on, who wears a Band-Aid to have it match their skin?”
Deidre: But it’s created to match their skin.
Brandy: Literary the fucking Band-Aid industry did… Yeah, anyway.
Deidre: But again, so like you’ll bump up to ignorance, you’ll bump up to that, but not taking some of those things personally when you encounter that externally, and then not judging yourself when you encounter it. If it becomes an aha moment, don’t be like, “Well, I should have, I should have… ” Too late, you didn’t. Now you do, now how are you going to do better? Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” When you have a moment like this, note it. Don’t just let it pass by, and that’s how we’re going to know what we didn’t know.
Brandy: And for people out there who don’t know what are blind spots, well you have a blind spot to blind spots is what I would say. That is one of your blind spots.
Deidre: Yeah. (Laughing)
Brandy: But it’s these areas where we do discriminate or we are racist or we have a bias about somebody, a certain type of person, and it can be for not just race, but it can be sexual orientation, it can be a lot of different things, and that we don’t know.
Deidre: Anyone different from you, sometimes.
Brandy: And so it’s something that you don’t even know. You could have the best intentions and say, “I’m not a racist,” and yet you can’t help but have some of these because you were brought up in a world that has a system of racism. If you were brought up in the US you have, I mean anywhere really, but you have blind spots. When I first started thinking about this, it feels really gross and bad because you think, “But I’m not racist,” but it’s like, “No, you do. You are.” And so I’m just kind of trying to figure out for myself, how do I learn those so then I can make better choices. I think that White Supremacy And Me book, I think that’s going to be on my Christmas list. My Christmas lists are always so ridiculous. One year it was, I wanted a reverse osmosis water filter for our whole family, so we had cleaner water. I feel like my Christmas lists are always for the greater good.
Deidre: Exactly. The equivalent of world peace in your family.
Brandy: That’s exactly right, so like, “Me And White Supremacy.”
Deidre: And like going back to what you were saying about, people say, “Oh I’m not racist,” – this is the way that we were taught to think even before we could think.
Deidre: If a person wants to know where to begin. I mean, it’s not that I don’t have resources, it’s just like I have to Google them just like you! I know them in my head, but I don’t know where to find them. There’s a podcast called “Scene on Radio,” and they break down a bunch of different topics, but the host, after feeling compelled, really wanted to speak to this issue and create a space to do the research or do the work for himself. He has an umpteen part series on whiteness in America.
Brandy: The beauty of podcasts, as I’m sure you all realize is, this is something that you can be doing while you’re doing drop-offs and your Target run and grocery shopping and things, so –
Deidre: And it’s free.
Brandy: And it’s free.
Deidre: It’s called “Seeing White,” there are 14 parts and the name of the podcast is “Scene on Radio”, and it’s like a TV scene, so S-C-E-N-E, instead of like eye “seen.” A few other people to follow, there are quite a few black women doing the work of helping white women to dismantle their perspectives. Sometimes they have free resources.
Brandy: Thank you to those women by the way. A huge thank you to those women.
Deidre: A huge thank you, and if you really want to thank them in a tangible way, they have PayPals and Venmos or Patreons.
Brandy: Yeah, who are your tops?
Deidre: Yeah. So my top, Rachel Cargle, and it’s Rachel and her last name is C-A-R-G-L-E, and she is a veteran and currently a student in at Columbia University. And as she’s in school getting her degree in anthropology, she has had online challenges through Instagram to help challenge the beliefs and create a space for women to learn. She is in school and she’s still going around touring to do workshops about White Supremacy.
Brandy: This person does not have children, correct?
Deidre: She doesn’t have children, she just turned 30.
Brandy: She sounds like she’s got juuuuuust the right amount of motivation that somebody without children can only sustain.
Deidre: Right, her tour is called Unpack White Feminism.
Brandy: Oh, yes!
Deidre: Yeah, like the thing is her things get sold out so quickly, like within a matter of hours.
Brandy: Oh wow.
Deidre: And of course she has limited tour dates because she’s in school.
Brandy: She’s like Monday, Wednesday, Friday from three to five, I can do it because I’ve got Tuesday, Thursday classes and then…
Deidre: Right, so she’s one. Another person is Layla Saad, like we were talking about before. There’s a woman, her name is Catriceology, is what she calls herself.
Brandy: Is it K or C?
Deidre: Is a C. So her name is Catrice M. Jackson. She’s written a couple books for women. She has a 30-day crash course for white women online to kind of explore this more. She is definitely somebody who’s like, you do your own emotional work and I will just answer your questions about white supremacy. There is a book she wrote called White Spaces Missing Faces, Eight Reasons Women of Color Don’t Trust White Women.
Brandy: Wow, I would like to read that.
Deidre: So you can read that. That’s a… it’s really great one. And she has a couple of other books. One is called The Becky Code, and it’s basically for black women interacting with like the generic white women.
Brandy: That’s like our Karen. Poor Karen and Becky. I recently met our Karen and she was like, “I’m so bummed,” which was such a Karen response. (Both laugh)
Brandy: Sorry for all the Karens out there.
Deidre: Sorry, Karen.
Brandy: Okay. So in sort of like a recap, maybe one of the things for everybody out there, and for myself, I’m saying this for myself too, is to bring the issue closer.
Deidre: We’re not asking everybody to solve the big problem. How can you start beginning the work from within, essentially, and that’s when we’re going to come to more collective solutions.
Brandy: Yeah. And that’s what I’m sort of realizing today as I’m talking about all these bigger things that I feel like – I want to fight the fight and I want to do the stuff – that it really is more within.
Brandy: And it’s within your little ecosystem, like how can you affect your ecosystem? So that means being uncomfortable, that means possibly disrupting some friendships if racism is going to be a problem, or if sticking up for people who are being discriminated against is a problem for your friend, that friendship might be a problem. And also what you’re parenting, the way that you’re parenting your kids. So the work that you’re doing, even if it feels little, even if it feels like, I just read one book this year about race, but then how that informs your parenting and the choices that you make every day and the conversations you have, if everybody was doing that or at least half, I mean 20% –
Brandy: Half, most…
Deidre: Somebody. Right, yeah.
Brandy: And also there’s a lot to juggle these days. Was my mom like: cook organic meal, have thoughtful conversation with child, don’t yell, manage screen time, dismantle patriarchy, and also racism. I don’t think my mom was doing all of that. So we do have a lot on our plate and yet we can still find time to do these things that will help make our kids more compassionate and loving, and that will help make us more compassionate and loving, and therefore make the lives of people of color and anybody who’s non-white, better. I feel like that’s a doable thing, so no excuses out there, this is something that you can do.
Brandy: Deidre, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you in so many ways, but for sitting here and educating us and sharing your stories with us and finding these resources, these are all things you didn’t have to do.
Deidre: Thank you. I was a pleasure to sit with you to have these conversations. I feel like this is a great way to have it. I can just say, “Oh, you want to hear what I have to say? Go and listen to this podcast now.”
Brandy: Actually that’s genius.
Deidre: Yes. “Oh, you want to know? Here, listen to this.”
Brandy: Yeah. “Let me just link you out here real fast.”
Deidre: Exactly, “Check your phone.”
Brandy: Wow. So, Dorothy and the red ruby slippers. Sometimes when we feel like we need to travel all the way to Oz for something, we really just need to look no further than ourselves and our feet. In this case, feet are a metaphor for kids. I don’t know. It works. Make it work. Make the metaphor work!
Brandy: So a few things. I was all ready to download the “Me And White Supremacy” workbook and even make an online group with whoever wanted to go through it with me, but it is no longer free, which ,good for you Layla! And so it comes out next February, so it will have to wait, but it’s definitely on my list.
Brandy: Also, something I just found out about is a Facebook group called Reparations, Requests and Offerings. It’s got over 15,000 members and it’s a place where people of color can ask for requests and white people can offer to help in tangible or intangible ways. So for example, I’m in a podcasting Facebook group and someone posted there and said, “Hey everybody, I’m looking for a graphic designer to do a logo for a woman of color in one of my reparations groups, can anyone help?” So I thought that was pretty awesome.
Brandy: Also, the Adult Conversation Podcast now has a YouTube channel for anyone who can’t figure out podcasts. I know that’s none of you, but if you have a friend who you think would enjoy this, but you know they don’t do podcasts, well now they can on YouTube. All they have to do is just click play. It’s like a VCR. It’s super simple.
Brandy: Lastly, did you know there is an Adult Conversation Podcast Discussion group on Facebook? There is. If you want to chat with others about the content from the podcasts, find us there. I also have a robust community on my Adult Conversation Facebook page, which is where I post the most, and a growing one on Instagram and Twitter. You guys, how does everybody survive the tire fire that is Twitter?? I don’t know this yet.
Brandy: As always, thanks for listening.