Fostering Understanding in Our Community
Part 1: Black Lives Matter: How to be an Ally?
Fanshen Cox - An award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and educator, and moderator.
Courtney Haile - RACE Matters SLO, Gina Whitaker - SLO County UndocuSupport, Erica Flores Baltodano, Esq. - Civil Rights Advocate, Michael Boyer - Diversity Coalition SLO County.
WATCH: Part 1
Good evening. Welcome to the Diversity Coalition, San Luis Obispo County's four-part series on Fostering Understanding in our Community. My name is Cornel Morton. I'm president of the coalition. I'd like to welcome you and tell you that we are so excited about this evening and about the next several weeks as we undertake a series that we believe will be instrumental in creating added dialogue in our community. We're excited about our panelists that we have with us tonight. We're excited about the moderator who will moderate this session and share at first, her own experiences and some of her own observations about what we're here to talk about tonight. Just a very quick history. The coalition, some of you already know, grew out of an unfortunate situation in Arroyo Grande back in 2011, it was actually in March of 2011, when a local family experienced a cross burning in their yard. Needless to say, this was determined to be a hate crime. Individuals were prosecuted and in fact were jailed.
When people came together to support that family and decided to continue to work together, out of that coalition of citizenry, came the Diversity Coalition San Louis Obispo County as we know it today. We are better than 400 strong in terms of our membership. We sponsor educational programs throughout the year. Working very closely with local schools, especially our middle schools and our high schools. We're excited to bring people to our county from different parts of the country and different parts of California to speak at community meetings that we sponsor at least on a... I'd say not monthly basis, but perhaps quarterly basis. So I would encourage you to continue to stay in touch with the coalition. Our website as you know is diversityslo.org. I'm going to very quickly share with you a little bit more about what we have in store over the next several weeks.
Tonight's program is all about how and in what ways we create allyship, how to be an ally? On August 12th, which is a couple of weeks from now, we're excited to sponsor another series or another program titled, How to be an Ally: Fostering Understanding in Our Community, Black Lives Matter. How to be an Ally: A local public safety perspective. And then on August 26, we've invited members of the faith community and that program, How to be an Ally: Our local faith based communities perspective. And then lastly, on September 9th, How to be an Ally: Looking forward, what do we all share? Again, excited to be able to do this. Tonight, we are going to have a fantastic conversation. We would invite you to weigh in at the appropriate moment when our moderator opens the conversation for your observations, your questions, your comments. Let me introduce our panelists for tonight.
I'm going to start with Gina Whitaker. Gina relocated from San Jose to Arroyo Grande 40 years ago with her African American husband, Jerry Whitaker and their son, Josh. Their second son Justice was born in Santa Maria that December. Gina has been a social justice activist since 1960 at the age of 16, when she joined the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. Her Unitarian Universalists faith calls her to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person and act on that principle. Gina has spent most of her life working to understand her place in the struggle for human and civil rights. She graduated from Kansas State University with a BA in English. San Jose State University with a master's in public health and from Cal Poly with a teaching credential. Gina proudly serves on the boards and steering committees of People of Faith for Justice, Allies for Immigration Justice and R.A.C.E. Matters San Luis Obispo County.
Most recently, she has been working with a coalition of non-profits and The Community Foundation to promote the SLO UndocuSupport fund, which has been raising money for undocumented families in SLO County during the COVID pandemic. She lives in Arroyo Grande with her husband Ken Hill. They are very active with Unitarian Universalists, San Louis Obispo. Welcome Gina.
And now I'd like to introduce Courtney Haile. Courtney is originally from San Francisco and moved to San Luis Obispo in high school. After stints in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, she returned to San Luis in 2013, co-founding R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County in 2016. She was a speaker at the first Women's March in San Luis Obispo in 2017. In 2019, Courtney conceived R.A.C.E. Matters BELONGING, the R.A.C.E. Matters BELONGING project. This included her producing the short documentary, Kut to be the Best: The Last Black Barbershop in San Luis Obispo. Recently, Courtney and R.A.C.E. Matters have received an outpouring of support, have a higher profile and more responsibility. RACE, R-A-C-E stands for Responsibility, Action, Compassion, Education. The mission of R.A.C.E. Matters is to center the lived experiences of black and other people of color through anti-racism education and cultural projects. Welcome Courtney.
Michael Boyer. Michael has been a business and community leader in San Luis Obispo County for over 20 years with continued business involvement in Epic Entertainment, Doc Burnstein's, Digital West and Pismo Beach Homes. Michael is committed to the community through his non-profit board involvement as the chair of Stand Strong, a director at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital Foundation, a director at Big Brothers Big Sisters, a director at the Rotary Club of Pismo Beach, a director at San Luis Obispo YMCA, a director at Diversity Coalition and a director at the St. Patrick School board. As a self-described jack of all trades, Michael loves getting his hands dirty in many different things, from home remodeling projects to jogging a half with his wife, to Saturday morning business discussions with friends, to adventurous hikes in Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains. Michael lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife, Ashlea and his son Jack. Welcome Michael.
Erica Flores Baltodano. Erica Flores Baltodano has 20 years of experience as an attorney, policy advocate, professor and writer in the areas of civil rights, environmental justice, employment law, and constitutional law. Ms. Baltodano spent the first decade of her career serving black, Latinx, and low income communities and reshaping the environmental justice movement to address the civil rights and health equity issues associated with access to public resources like parks, recreation, beaches, and forests. In 2010, Ms. Baltodano moved to the Central Coast and became managing partner of an employment law firm she co-founded with her husband with a mission focused on workers' rights and access to justice. She currently teaches constitutional law at San Luis Obispo College of Law, serves as the district three civil service commissioner for the county of San Luis Obispo and is board president of San Luis Obispo Legal Assistance Foundation.
A passionate advocate for student and equity in education, Ms. Baltodano sits on the board of San Luis Coastal Education Foundation, where she has taken a lead role in supporting the educational needs of the district's most vulnerable families impacted by COVID-19. As a member of the Common Ground Advisory Task Force, Ms. Baltodano also advises the superintendent on issues related to diversity, inclusivity and equity. The daughter of a Mexican American father and Jewish immigrant mother, Ms. Baltodano graduated with honors from UCLA with a BA in sociology and minor in public policy. She received her JD from UC Berkeley School of Law, where she was awarded the prestigious Francine Diaz Memorial Award for her steadfast commitment to public interest law, the first of many recognitions she has received for her public service.
The proud mother of two school-age boys, Ms. Baltodano has written a series of essays called Mommy Esquire, merging lessons in the law with lessons in parenting. In January 2017, Ms. Baltodano delivered the keynote address at the first annual Women's March in San Luis Obispo, which attracted 10,000 participants. You are invited to learn more about this and other aspects of Ms. Baltodano's work at her website, www.baltodanofirm.com. Thank you, Erica and welcome.
Fanshen, Fanshen Cox, our moderator. Fanshen is an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and educator. Fanshen Cox recently completed touring her one woman show titled One Drop of Love. Fanshen travels throughout the nation, performing her show, which explores the complicated realities and perceptions of history, family, race, class, justice, and love. Cox has been featured in the New York Times and on NPR as a spokesperson on using the arts to explore racial identity. Reared in Cambridge, Massachusetts by a Pan-Africanist Jamaican born father and white Northwestern mother, Fanshen uses her multifaceted background to spark conversation and challenge notions around race and class in America and beyond. She expanded her world view as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cape Verde West Africa, and has designed curricula for and taught English as a second language to students from all over the globe. Cox has been honored with the Peace Corps Franklin H. Williams Award, Peace Corps fellows and Hollywood Foreign Press Association scholarships and distinguished alumni awards from CSU LA and Teachers College, Columbia University.
She holds a BA in Spanish and education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, an MA in TESOL, which is Teachers of English to Speakers of other Languages from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an MFA in TV, film and theater from California State University, Los Angeles. Her show, One Drop of Love is co-produced by herself and childhood friends, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Fanshen is also a co-author of the inclusion rider, which was announced at the 2018 Oscar Awards by Frances McDormand. Welcome, welcome Fanshen. And thanks again to each of our panelists and to our moderator. I'm going to stop there and turn it over to Fanshen And we are all in store for a grand evening. Thanks Fanshen and thanks to each of our panelists.
Thank you so much Cornel. It's wonderful to be here. I'm truly honored because I got to spend some time a few months ago in San Louis Obispo, getting to do my show One Drop of Love for young people and older people. And I got a chance to speak to the Diversity Coalition of San Luis Obispo, and I'm so impressed by and excited and inspired by the work that you all are doing. So I thank you so much for asking me to be a part of this. I feel really proud to be with you all in doing this. I want to mention that we have sign language interpreters. We have Elijah and Sarah, and they'll be alternating every 20 minutes or so. If you are in need of the sign language interpretation, please make sure that you pin Sarah who is listed as [inaudible 00:00:14:38].
So Sarah and Elijah so that you can make sure you're seeing them along with the speaker. We have such amazing panelists, and we really mainly want to focus this evening on the general idea of how to be an ally. And we want to make sure we always get back to what are the specific action steps that you can take starting right after this panel and then tomorrow and the next day, to make sure that you are living fully as an anti-racist ally. And so I'm going to very quickly go through some terms that you might hear our panelists use, give you some examples and some quick definitions, but after that, we will open it up to the panelists. They'll have some opening remarks, and then once they've each had some time for opening remarks, we will then open this up for Q&A. There's a Q&A button down below. So click that if you have a question and we will get that question from you.
So very quickly, some things that you will definitely hear tonight that we want to make sure everybody's on the same page around. So one is systemic racism and I'm guessing, because a lot of you all are the Diversity Coalition folks, you know these, but it's worthwhile to kind of everyone get on the same page. And as always, Google is your friend, but so we'll just quickly go over these. So systemic racism, we have racism that affects kind of our interpersonal relationships. In One Drop of Love, I talk about the challenges that come with my father being Pan-Africanist, my grandmother being Jamaican, my mother being white, but having a Blackfeet and Cherokee lineage as well in the ways that within our relationship, there's this constant strain. But also I present the racial categories on the US census as a historical backdrop to the show.
Those categories that were really created by the government in order to count people by different races. That's an example of how systemic racism begins, because it is when governments, it is when schools, it is when larger institutions take racism to that level where it doesn't matter how much you may love your interracial or your mixed race child as an example, if there are still systemic structures in place that are reinforcing racism. So it's important to always look at both and where we're going to give the most mileage is dismantling systemic racism. Another term that you'll hear, we'll be talking about a lot tonight and I talk about it in my work and I know all our panelists do. Whiteness, white privilege and white fragility. Whiteness is huge and complex, but really if we look at the history of the invention of white people, it's really clear that it's... For lack of better terminology, a lie.
So there isn't really any such thing as a white person. There's also no such thing as a Caucasian person, but there are lots of people who are labeled that and labeled that front since the 1600s in this country who then, because they were labeled and therefore their children were labeled and their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, and many of you have now been labeled as white, you have white privilege, which is the next term. And white privilege, I like this definition by Merriam-Webster when they talk about privilege, which is privilege is a right or immunity granted as a particular benefit, advantage or favor. And a lot of us think about privilege and white privilege in terms of rights. White people are able to do this. We know during Jim Crow, white people could use different or always better water fountains, access to schools, buses, but it is also an immunity. And I think this is the piece that when you're thinking about privilege and white privilege, something that we don't think about a lot.
There's an example of a study that looked at people crossing the street. So they took 20 year old white men and 20 year old black men all dressed exactly the same. And they walk up to the street to indicate to cars, to the pedestrians' crosswalk, to indicate to cars that they want across the street. Well, when the black men came to the street to wait to cross the street, they had to wait three times as long as the white men. Again, they're all dressed the same, they were all the same age. There was no reason for any discrimination other than the fact that these black men were black. This is an example of an immunity that if you're a white person, you can go about your entire life and never actually feel. So this is an example of something that we want to push when we think about white privilege, not only is it rights that you have, but it's also that you're immune from a lot of experiences.
We know also having to have a conversation with your children about police brutality. So that is white privilege. White fragility is what some of you may be feeling right now and maybe even some of us panelists, because when we start to think about whiteness and white people and white identity, we're not used to it and why have you see, I just swallowed. We're not used to it. We're really uncomfortable with it because we've grown used to white people being the default for just human being. So white is just regular human and everybody else's a specific racial category versus white people also being racialized as white, Dr. Robin DiAngelo coined this term, white fragility. She has a New York Times bestselling book about it. It's not lost on we marginalized people of color that a white woman is gaining a lot of money from something we've been talking about for a long time.
So that's something to keep in mind, but I think the work is important. I'm sure the panelists agree that what she does is break down what happens when a white person starts to feel racialized for the first time. She describes feelings you might have, embarrassments, sadness, anger, and then she describes behaviors that come with those feelings. So if you're feeling sad, that might lead to tears. You might've heard the term white women's tears. And what that does is in front of the marginalized person of color that you're in front of and you're displaying these behaviors, you are centering your own experience as a white person. You are taking your white fragility and making it the most important thing in this moment, when meanwhile, the racially marginalized person, the black person, the Latinx person, the indigenous person is the one who is actually suffering from the oppression.
So if you haven't read it, it's a great book. But also we invite you to question why you were able to hear it from Dr. DiAngelo and not from the black and brown people in your life. Intersectionality, very quickly coined by the wonderful, incredible Kimberlé Crenshaw. She has a great Ted talk on intersectionality. Very quickly, it is looking at the various oppressions that make up our experience. She came up with it because she was working with a black woman who was suing her job for discrimination. And the company said, "We're not sexist, look at all of these women we hired." And all of the women were white women. And then the company said, "We're not racist, look at all of these black people we hired." But all of the black people they hired were men. And so Kimberlé Crenshaw said there is a particular important point about black women that they get marginalized outside of looking at women's issues, outside of looking at race issues. And there's this particular experience that we need to know.
So that is intersectionality. You'll be hearing it tonight. And again, watch Kimberlé Crenshaw's Ted talk if you haven't heard it. And microaggression, I'll just give you some quick examples. Don't go up to a black person and touch their hair, because what you're doing is you are telling that black person that they are other. It's like you're saying they're something that you've never seen before. That's an example. Don't tell mixed race people that they're so beautiful and they're so lucky because they got the best of both worlds. These are anti-black. These are microaggressions. You might think that you're doing something good, but you are planting seeds of oppression that people of color have to deal with all the time. I'm so sorry, I'm giving you the cliff-notes for this but you'll be hearing these again. Last one is unconscious bias. There's a great resource put out by Harvard University called the implicit bias test and it shows that even when you believe you are anti-racist and you put in all the work, you have subconscious, unconscious, implicit ideas that messages from the world that the world has given you around people who are different from you.
So racially, there is racism in your head even if you are trying to do all of the work. That is unconscious...
... If you are trying to do all of the work, that is unconscious bias, you can go to implicit bias test online, take the test. I'm telling you, you will find out how racist you are, no matter how much you think you aren't. And I'll just quickly say that these terms, microaggressions and unconscious bias, I often think of them as actually terms that we use to make people feel better about their racist behavior. The truth is they are racist too. And so no matter what you call it, and no matter what your intention is, if the impact is that a person feels oppressed by racism, you've had the same impact, whether it's a microaggression, unconscious bias or other. Sorry, that that went so quickly. But I'm so excited to turn this over to our wonderful panelists. And so I'll do this in the order that Cornell introduced them. And so we will begin with the lovely Gina Whitaker.
Gina, make sure you unmute yourself.
Thank you so much, Fanshen. I'm so happy to be here today. I began my social activism in the '60s as a teenager who believed that I should stand up for those who were oppressed. Then, as now, the oppressed were definitely African-Americans. I identified as a liberal white woman, and I did not define myself as anti-racist. I only knew or thought I knew that I was not racist. In my seventies now I've been undergoing transformation from not racist to anti-racist. I've learned and studied about systemic white supremacy and how I am complicit by just being a part of the sea of white supremacy culture in which we all swim here in the United States. It's important to me to understand the more subtle definition of anti-racism, because I have two grown Black sons who are soon to have children of their own.
I'm about to be a grandmother for the first time, of a biracial child. I so want to protect my children and my grandchild from the pain, in as much as there is pain, of being Black in this America. And I know I can only do that by understanding myself better. One of the reasons I was invited today was because of my experiences raising two Black, biracial rather, sons in Arroyo Grande between 1981 and 2000 when both my sons left the Central Coast. My experiences and the experiences of my sons have caused me to reflect on how my social justice activism as a white middle class woman has developed and how it has affected my family. I hope that what I share today can our listeners knowledge of how to be an ally and what that can mean in today's America.
I married a Black man in 1971. Jerry Whitaker [inaudible 00:28:10] of his formative years as an Air Force brat, he had spent much of his young life in Japan, living off base steeped in the Japanese culture. His father left the woods of Georgia, as he would say, to uplift his family from poverty and racism and make a career in the military. Consequently, Jerry lived on Air Force bases and had white friends at a young age, which was uncommon for most Blacks growing up in the United States. He excelled in school and got teased for talking white. He often said he didn't know he was Black until he returned to the US at age 12. When I met him in college, he was 19. Jerry returned home after army infantry service in Vietnam and we married in 1971 and lived in inner cities while we finished our education and had our first son Josh in 1974. We were poor students living on the GI Bill, so we lived in poor communities with lots of crime.
After experiencing two home burglaries and witnessing a street shooting just outside our home, we decided to move to Arroyo Grande in 1981, where our second son Justice was born. We had friends here who told us that the Central Coast was a place of beauty and peace, and we wanted to raise our children in such a place. Life in Arroyo Grande as an interracial family was good for the most part. There were a few overt or covert racist experiences. I was often asked in the grocery store if my kids were adopted. Once in the beach parking lot, someone used the N word and then looked over at Jerry as we entered Fins for dinner. We could have felt like outsiders, but instead we became active in our community.
Jerry coached soccer for 25 years in Arroyo Grande. He loved acting and was cast in many San Luis little theater productions. He was an artist, loved African culture, music, and dance, and shared his joy with those around him. As a physical therapist, he helped heal many people and started a chair massage business. I was teaching in local schools where my children excelled in many sports, speech and debate, Odyssey of the Mind competitions, and drama. We were noticeable in a positive way. Despite those occasional overt or covert racist experiences, we did feel welcome and confident.
There were a few interactions with law enforcement as our boys grew. One incident was especially meaningful for Josh. He was a junior at AG High School. He was partying with some of his senior friends who decided they needed more beer. So he and several other boys went to the Pismo liquor store and stole a case of beer. They were stopped immediately after driving away. We got the call any parent dreads, "Come pick up your son at the Pismo police station." When we arrived to pick him up, the officer told us what happened and said something to the effect of, "We know you guys are a good family. We know Josh is a good kid, football star and all. Don't be too hard on him. Coach [Huss 00:31:27] of the AG football team will probably be harder on him than we will." I was furious when we arrived home. I said to Josh, "You are a Black man. This is serious. You could have been shot. In some other city you might well have been shot."
That was a real teaching moment for him. He got it, that he could be endangered just for his skin color. More than that though, the AG football program taught him the most important lessons he learned in school. Coach Huss stressed that the three most important things in life where your reputation, your health and your family, in that order. Anything you do to damage those things will be your biggest regret. I decided to call Josh the other day and get his perspective on growing up Black on the Central Coast. He began by recounting that he had only been called the N word about three or four times in his whole life and he's now at 46. The first time he ever heard the word was from a girl in the first grade in San Jose. The second was from the husband of a daycare provider, also in San Jose, who referred to him, "As you little nigger." The third time was that fellow in the beach parking lot near Fins. He also recalled beating up a boy in the sixth grade at Harloe School who called him the N word.
Josh surprised me by saying he was in eighth or ninth grade before he had a conscious racial identity. It sounded similar to what his father had said. Josh spent most of his time fitting in with white surfer and skater friends, making his mark in soccer and football. When I asked him if he felt he'd gotten information about his racial identity from conversations with his dad, he stressed that he had learned the most about Black versus white experience in America from politically conscious rap music lyrics in the '90s. "Dad never even mentioned Malcolm X to me. I learned about him from Public Enemy.", he said. Rap music taught my son about what it was like to be a Black man. He began to see there was a lot of fear connected to being Black in America. His dad's unique worldview countered that fear.
Jerry did not view life through a racial lens. He walked the walk beyond race for many reasons. He was a trained soldier and knew how to use any weapon. He had trained in martial arts for many years and was a black belt in karate. He was educated and refused to live in fear. His lessons were beyond race. Love was his motto and he taught his children to be bigger than those who would use racism as a weapon. "When they go low, we go high." Was his approach. Josh said, "He was more like a Black hippie." "Racism is ignorant and narrow in scope.", Josh continued. "I figured there would be some racism here in AG because it was, after all, country. But I learned there are more realities that can be taught.", Josh said. "You can rise above racism. Racism can be a crutch."
Josh is about to become a dad himself in a few months for the first time. When I asked him how and what he would teach his child, he responded, "Well, that will be my journey, won't it?" Times have changed and yet they're still the same. What should we tell our children about being Black in America? Can we raise race conscious children without injecting fear into them, but rather teach them to meet the world with courageous love as Josh's dad has? The pandemic has shined a light on the inequities that already existed since before COVID-19 and will probably still exist if we insist on things going back to normal. Personally, I don't want to go back to normal because normal has had its limitations and its false security.
I want to close today with some reflections on what I believe makes for a good white ally and this new America. Listen to Black voices. Stop talking and really listen to their lived experiences. Read more books than you think you need to about the history of these United States, the formation of this nation, the institution of slavery and how it built the country. Read for truth and meaning. Discuss with other white people what you were learning from the books, films, and webinars, et cetera. And center Black voices when you have that opportunity in groups. Thank you so much for this opportunity to tell my story.
That was beautiful. Thank you so much, Gina. Especially for being so vulnerable in sharing personal stories. I think it's really, really meaningful to start there. And thank you for all of the great work you're doing and continue to do. Okay. Our next speaker is Courtney. So again, she will make some opening remarks and then we'll open up to questions after everyone has.
Hey, everybody. Everyone can hear me, right? Awesome. I'm Courtney Haile. I'm the co-founder of R.A.C.E. Matters, SLO County. And so just a little bit about myself. Racial identity has already been discussed and I'm going to continue to discuss it because I imagine a lot of white folks out there who especially are aspiring to be better allies are also checking in with their racial identity at this time. I mean, I would think. And so a little bit about me, like the intro said, I'm originally from San Francisco and grew up with very politically involved parents. Grew up in a lot of predominantly white and Asian spaces there in the city as well. And then moved here to this very white community my 10th grade in high school. It was a culture shock in many ways, and I reference it because I think it does continue to inform my work, doing this racial work in a predominantly white community.
And so in terms of my racial identity, I, like many who grew up in predominantly white communities, didn't have a sense of my racial identity, I'll speak personally, until college when I was able to take African American studies. And so having a Black professor for the first time and learning more about my culture. But not just learning more, it was I remember being in that class and feeling cool, like our culture was portrayed in a cool way and the Black people in the class were the cool ones and looked at, almost, with envy. As compared to, I remember elementary school, Black History Month, feeling a sense that people felt sorry for me, everyone turning around and looking when there would be a slide show in the library about how Black folks, people who share my heritage, were treated. Silly questions like, "Are you related to Martin Luther King?" And this is in liberal San Francisco. So which everyone compared to here thinks it is so diverse, but just shows that being one of the only Black children growing up can be just an isolating experience.
And so for me, it took until taking African American studies and that wasn't until college. I tended to draw myself towards and attract white friend groups. And I was someone who for the way I speak was told that I act white and went through a long journey with that, with my racial identity. And so felt perhaps a false sense of safety with white friend groups. And eventually the microaggressions would start. And sometimes I would almost kick it off drawing to my difference. So I'll make a joke about my hair. Like, "Oh, I have to wear a scarf to bed to protect it or it stays sticking out." But then they would chime in and then I would get uncomfortable pretty quickly and it would turn. And so advice for anyone out there, if there was a self deprecating joke, sometimes that's done as sort of a protective shield. And it's sort of a tactic to just get through the day because you feel like if you put it out there, someone else won't.
And so people raising kids here, especially, and when you're in those situations, just a pointer. And so my undergrad was in communication. I transferred to USC my junior year and did a lot of study of media, race, gender, class, and society. And I admittedly watched a lot of television when I was younger and took in a lot of pop culture. And in the '80s, that was a lot of whiteness, with the exception of like the TV shows we all know. And so that affected me watching like Saved By the Bell and Lisa Turtle was the only Black girl. She never had a boyfriend, the rest of them had boyfriends. I picked up on that. And so in college I was able to gain the structure and the skills to provide structure to my feelings. And so I lived in LA for a while and worked in publicity. And then I worked at the Museum of Tolerance where I gave tours [inaudible 00:41:15] gig I guess, and got positive feedback there.
I ended up going to the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State for my masters. And oddly enough, the title of my thesis was Confessions of a Tragic Oreo: A Reflective Exploration of African American Identity in Predominantly White Communities. So you could say that I kept [inaudible 00:41:40] for sure into my graduate school years. And I interviewed my peers, some people I knew, some I didn't, who grew up here and then I was in San Francisco. So it was the positionality of like now I'm in the big city and now I go back and talk about what it's like to grow up there. And so that was another experience in which I could just gain structure and come full circle in terms of unpacking. The lights were going on and off here, you might notice. And so cut to, I moved back to San Luis Obispo in 2014 and ended up co-founding R.A.C.E. Matters in 2016.
And so the impetus for that was the shooting of Philando Castile in Minneapolis. And for me, it was just... And one isn't one too far really, because there have been so many of these killings on and off camera, but there was something about that where I at the last minute sort of hastily, I had never organized a protest before, I did call Gina Whitaker over at the Unitarian Fellowship because they had a Black Lives Matter banner. So I thought, "Okay, well maybe they know something about this." And so we ended up collecting emails that day and the thought was that we should keep meeting and not just put the signs in our trunk and go home and wait for the next traumatic case of police violence. We've been on this sick cycle where these incidents happen. We take action for a second and then, and then go back to our normal lives. And then it happens again. And so we didn't want to do that.
We wanted to keep, at least, the dialogue around race here. And so we started with that basic fact that we feel like people need to acknowledge racism and talk about race more and also provide space for Black and indigenous and other people of color to be heard. And so cut to today, our mission is to center the lived experiences of Black and other people of color through anti-racism and cultural projects. And so we have a two pronged goal; educating the larger community, but also centering especially the Black community. And that includes social events and parties and times where we don't always want to talk about our racial trauma or about race. Sometimes we want to drink wine like other people and dance and do other things. And so the social aspect is important. Cultural aspect, our Belonging project featured photography and interviews and quotes. We had a panel supporting Black businesses.
I did produce a film on the only Black barber shop in town, directed by Justice Whitaker, who you heard a little bit about earlier. And that film's an important part of R.A.C.E. Matters' work, when we talk about being our authentic selves and feelings of belonging and spaces where we can be free from the tokenism that sometimes happens when you're in a predominantly white community and you might be seen as a Black representative or feel like everything's reflecting on your people, which can be a lot of pressure. And so cultural space remains an important part of our work. Let's see what else here? Cut to today, right now, things are very intense here. Let's be honest. It's a new day in San Luis Obispo. And we have a protest movement here that we haven't seen here in terms of taking the streets and non-sanctioned protests. And it's complicated and people have a lot of opinions.
And those who are in conversations that are I'm sure are really uncomfortable right now, both online and in person, I guess my personal ask, as you're striving towards ally-ship, is to try not to judge or condemn the way other folks express rage and joy. And that we might necessarily not agree with every choice made, but that certainly with R.A.C.E Matters and our mission to center the experiences of Black and other people of color, we're wanting to listen to those who are expressing rage and also guide that towards tangible change. And it's not easy, it's hard work, and I'm sure everyone on the panel knows that. And I want to thank the Diversity Coalition for, especially at this time, putting together this series, because community does want to move towards healing, to move forward towards change. And it's going to take all of these wonderful organizations that we have and everybody in their different lanes however they're affecting change to join with us. We're going to need everyone with all of your wonderful skills out there. So that's it for me. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Courtney. As soon as it's possible and healthy and safe to do so I would love to come and join you in some drinks [inaudible 00:46:59] for the joy part. I think it's such a good point that we need to experience joy within all of this. Obviously, there's so much happening on top of facing racist oppression. And so having those moments of joy, thank you so much, and also for sharing your journey. That's awesome. Okay. Our next panelist is Erica Flores Baltodano and she will let us know a little bit about herself.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Can everyone hear me?
Maybe a little closer, Erica. Yeah, the mic.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
Okay. Got it.
Well, I first want to thank the Diversity Coalition of San Louis Obispo and Dr. Morton, Ms. Cox for moderating tonight, and my esteemed co-panelists for including me in this important conversation this evening. I try to do my best to be an ally and an advocate in my various leadership roles in this community, where I often find myself to be the only person of color at the table. But my experience as both a person of color and an ally to the Black community dates back to my personal upbringing and education and my very intentional professional choices that I've made throughout my career. I was raised in a blended home by an immigrant mother from England who is Jewish and a Mexican American father who grew up in a border town in Arizona. My own diverse background was bolstered by my dad's professional work. He was a, well he's a now retired, licensed marriage and family therapist and professor. And he focused very directly on diversity, multiculturalism, multicultural studies and bias.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
I'm so sorry to interrupt. Some people are having a hard time hearing you. So I wonder if you're able to either sit closer to the mic?
Erica Flores Baltodano:
I don't know how much closer I can get.
Your face is gorgeous. So you can get as close-
Erica Flores Baltodano:
Is that better? This is a real close up.
Yeah. And if you can project some too, that'd be great. It's so important what you're saying. So thank you.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
Okay. Thank you.
So my own diverse background was bolstered by my dad's professional work as a licensed family therapist who focused specifically on multicultural and diversity issues and bias in his profession. So I had an early appreciation for the Native American experience and Black American experience in this country. Even as I was doing the hard work of understanding my own unique ethnic background. And I also understood and-
Erica Flores Baltodano:
And I also understood and was fascinated in and appreciated the fact that this country was simultaneously founded within a context of indigenous genocide and black slavery and anti-immigrant xenophobia. And so it was my interest in these forces and their intersection with gender and with class and their modern day expression in the form of systemic racism and unconscious bias. And then this country's failure to fully live up to its ideals of freedom and equality that all led me to study sociology, public policy, and then go on to the law.
So after law school, I had the privilege of practicing law at the intersection of civil rights and the environment alongside civil rights advocates, seasoned civil rights advocates for about a decade before my family relocated to the central coast. My work in Southern California, which was considered pretty cutting edge at the time, was eventually replicated statewide and nationally. And it was based heavily on historical and demographic data demonstrating that black, indigenous, people of color, they carry more than their fair share of environmental burdens, and they have access to less than their fair share of environmental benefits. And this is usually tied up in a discriminatory history of land use planning and housing policy as well.
So the legal team I worked with and the black and brown community organizations that we represented were the first to identify access to parks and open space and beaches and forests as a matter of civil rights. And we were amongst the first to identify health outcomes and climate change as a matter of racial justice. So the fact that, recently SLO city council identified or voted to identify systemic racism as a public health issue or as a public health crisis demonstrates how far we've come, but we still have a long way to go. And I presume that's why all of you are on this call tonight.
So I share my, my background just because it has shaped the work that I've done in this community over the last 10 years, and also provides lessons to those who are wanting to understand how to be an ally. And so in that regard, I'm going to focus on two main concepts to shape our conversation for tonight. And one is that to be an effective ally, it's really important to take a multi pronged approach, similar to what Courtney was just saying, the education component and also black centered focused, focusing on the joy. And so the early civil rights movement relied on a variety of strategies to bring about important legal changes.
And my work in Los Angeles followed a very similar model. We formed diverse coalitions based on shared values, conducted strategic media campaigns, and this was before social media. We did legal and policy advocacy outside of the courthouse and also initiated public education campaigns and then used impact litigation as a last resort when necessary. So as an ally to Black Lives Matter in this moment in time, right now, I would suggest a simple multifaceted approach whereby we focus on what we can do internally and we also focus on what we can do externally to be an ally. So internal allyship would include, or should include, a lot of self reflection. A commitment to better learn, and sometimes unlearn the history of race and racism in this country. I so wholeheartedly agree with Gina that you cannot stop learning or reading about these things. And that involves reading nonfiction and fiction and immersing yourself in art that represents the diversity of black experience in this country.
It will also require you to be a teacher with your friends, and especially if you're a parent or you work with young people. But it will require, it will demand that you remain a student always. You're going to be always learning. And it will mean that you think long and hard about the decisions that you and your family are making, and will those decisions advance or preclude the advancement of justice for black lives? And even when that's uncomfortable. I would suggest that being a good ally means that you're going to be uncomfortable at some times.
Now examples of an external allyship would include, donating to the grassroots organizations that have been doing this work for a long time and continue to do this work. There is no shortage of good work to be done. It could be in the context... It could be a local organization, a national organization, could be in the context of education or criminal justice reform or the arts. Anything that is interesting to you. But there's always a shortage of resources. And so sometimes just being a financial ally is a really important thing to do. Other forms of external allyship might include volunteering with one of these organizations, attending public events, like the one that you're participating in tonight. And I thank you for that. And participating in protests and demonstrations, that also has an important role.
And then two very important things that are important to me. And one is making sure that you complete the census for 2020, and just a reminder for all of you to do that. I don't have time to get into how that has racial implications and implications for justice in our community, but it absolutely does. And so if you can do anything to ensure that black and brown folks who are historically under counted in the census get counted, that's really important. And that goes along with doing everything in your power to elect individuals to local, state and federal office who will lead with the premise that our democracy demands, or it depends on the notion that black lives do indeed matter.
And then the second point I would say is that being an ally in support of Black Lives Matter will also require a recognition of one's own lived and learned experience. And a conscious recognition and consistent recognition of the lived and learned experience of others. I've lived a lifetime in my brown skin and I could share a life's worth of stories demonstrating the ways in which the color of my skin compounded by my gender, but frequently tempered by the privileges of education and profession that have shaped my lived experience. But my skin is not black. So I have had to rely on the work that I've learned or what I have learned over the course of my lifetime and my career about the black American experience.
And so I ask you, what has your lived experience of race been and what do you need to learn to become a better ally? If recent events have motivated you to think about race more than you've ever thought about race before, or if it's forced you to rethink your views regarding systemic racism and unconscious bias, then I imagine you probably have a lot of learning to do. Maybe you don't have as much lived experience or your lived experiences one of the benefiting from white privilege, but you have a lot of learning that you can still do.
So in closing, I just want to briefly tell you about Allison Lane. Ms. Lane is a 34 year old bartender in Washington, DC, who is black, but she didn't consider herself an activist until recent protests prompted her to organize the bartenders in her community to amplify black voices and provide supplies and sustenance for protestors. She was moved by the diversity of the recent protests and the death of Representative John Lewis, and also her own lifetime of lived experience as a black woman. So she's new to activism much in the same way that many of you might be new to this notion of allyship and being an ally. And so in a recent Washington Post article, Ms. Lane said something that I think we should all strive to accept. And she said, quote, "I'm falling every day. Every day I don't know what I'm doing. That doesn't mean that I'm not smart enough or won't figure it out." And so I just want to thank you for joining the conversation tonight and for committing to figuring it out.
That was awesome, Erica. Thank you so much. And I love that we're seeing with the panelists... We're actually seeing within the panelist this multi pronged approach. We've got the interpersonal stories. We've got the community activism. From you, Erica, we've got these legal aspects. Thank you so much for bringing up the census. We will talk about that again in our Q and A. We should absolutely reiterate at the end of this, that everybody needs to fill out the census form and make sure children are counted. Make sure the black and brown folks in your lives are counted. So thank you so much. I think our last panelist needs no introduction. I think this is the very popular man out here in San Luis Obispo, certainly a big part of putting these panels together. So we're thrilled to now hear from our final panelist Michael Boyer.
Thank you so much. So first I want to begin with a story of lived experience that really relates to this allyship idea. First, I was adopted as a boy and as a baby, into a white family. I was the youngest of six kids. We lived in Anchorage, Alaska. The interesting thing is I'm 53% Norwegian. I'm also 18% African and I'm also 10% Jewish and a few other European nationalities. But really when it comes down to it, in America, I appear black. I was raised white with the confidence and expectations of a white person and the privilege of a white family and the wealth of a white family.
I only had the full realization that I was different after being physically assaulted by Todd Palin and his gang going to junior high school in Wasilla, Alaska. We all know that person. It took me years of attacks and the forms of assault, slashed tires, police harassment, verbal abuse, all of these things to really realize that I would never fit in to the white community as other white men do. So I was raised in my head looking in my body as though I was a white person.
Tell you a story about the first time that I traveled to San Luis Obispo. This is before I met my lovely wife, Ashley. It was the summer of 2000 and I headed, headed here for my brother's bachelor party. Never been anywhere near here. I just turned 30, I was with my brothers and on all of their friends. The first night we were in town we went to Mother's Tavern, in July of 2000. We walked into packed bar, I ordered three drinks for my brothers and I. As I turned around holding two of those drinks, I found myself face to face with white Cal Poly rugby player, sneering at me in disgust. He swiped across my chest, knocking the drinks into my face, and then he laughed and went on to try to order his own drinks. This would be my first experience of San Luis Obispo.
So my very first allies, my brothers and their friends were literally surrounding this man without him knowing it. They were all white, I was the only black person in the facility. They came to assist me, not because of anger per se, but really because they wanted to support their brother. My oldest brother convinced the gentleman to buy us all a drink. Really it was interesting, it really worked out because I finally figured out, I was 30 years old, 30 years into my life, that we need to have white allies. It's a powerful tool that will help us. I would have hate to seen me walking into Mother's Tavern that day without allies. So it's just one example.
A couple of things about allyship. And I'm going to start with a passage from Martin Luther King and his letter from Birmingham jail. I've almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negroes greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the white citizen's counselor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice. Who constantly says, I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with their methods of direct action. The reason I bring this up is because those white moderates today are the same white moderates of then. And it really comes down to education today. In order for us to be successful in assisting others to be allies, we must teach them the basics of real American history.
So many people I have deep respect for have not learned the basics. The interesting thing was systematically not taught in school. So people don't realize it because they didn't learn it. And literally they didn't learn the history. If you don't learn the actual history, you don't know that redlining actually happened in our county all the way up to 1980. In our County. Redlining has happened all across the country up until 2015. We have banks today, they're paying fines for redlining.
You don't know that emancipation didn't actually happen in 1863. You read about that in history books, it happened 1863. Yes, the proclamation happened, but people weren't emancipated. You wouldn't know anything about the Tulsa race riots. You wouldn't know anything about 4,000 plus lynchings that were actually recorded by county clerks. So all of these things from the Tuskegee syphilis study spanning 40 years into the 1970s, with 600 victims. We must teach our children and adults, the real American history and stop teaching what feels good or what follows a current narrative. This education builds a foundation of allies who can begin to understand and walk beside those of us who are living it every day. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Michael. I love that each of the panel is really, both there are these universal themes around what allies can do, but also each of you had some specifics. I think your focus on history, the nondominant narrative of history, is so incredibly important. So on this note, we will now begin our Q and A session. We do have a couple of questions, so I'll go ahead and share these questions. And what I'll do in the interest of time is I'll pick a couple of panelists for each of the answers and ask you to keep your answers succinct, because now we really are focused on making sure we're leaving all of our participants with some clarity around what specific things they can do after leaving this call to be allies.
So the first question is from Laura. And Laura, I won't read the whole question, but I'll make it succinct just so that we can get to the answer more quickly. But Lauren does want to let you know, Erica that she calls every day. And now it says it's answered. But I think I just... Okay. She wants to know how does an ally balance between listening to black and indigenous people of color, but also at the same time, not burdening the black, indigenous people of color with having to do all of the work. I think it's a really important question. How do you balance that of listening, but also doing your own work? So Courtney, I'll ask you to begin with that response.
Yeah. And so I will say at Race Matters, we have an interracial steering committee. So we have black members and we have white members, currently that's our makeup. And so internally, we have discussions on what labor's appropriate for who and then also when some of us are overburdened, we say so and say, you know what? I think it's okay for one of the white members to speak up on this or to do this one. And so it is because we're like "Black voices, black voices." And I get that. And so I can tell how some folks were like, "Should I do this?"
I think writing into organizations and saying, "Hey, I do have this idea for this petition. Or I do want to do this event, is this appropriate? I don't want labor to fall on you." And so there are folks who have done that, who have had ideas for entertainment events, or artistic events or what have you. And they plainly ask what's appropriate and what they can do and what they're offering. And so I think when there are organizations that you can reach out to, and then individuals in your life who are also maybe politically or inclined to activism can make the personal ask too. But I think asking and putting it out there, what you're offering and what's appropriate.
Awesome. Thank you so much. Our next question is from HV two, and forgive me if that is not how you pronounce your full name. And the question is around human rights. So the question is really about since racism and racial discrimination and police abuse are human rights issues, why aren't we focusing more on this as a human rights issue? And Erica, I'll ask you to begin.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
Yeah. I've thought about that recently in this community. I don't know much about the existence or what a human rights commission or human rights component of any of our local governments consists of. I certainly know that we had that in Los Angeles, which is a much larger community, of course. So I'm not sure from a government perspective what that role is. I know that there's going to be a new emphasis on diversity and a coalition that's forming for SLO City, but I don't know much beyond that.
Certainly these are all human rights issues. And I think that it was actually a sliver of humanity that has somewhat sparked the recent protests and the coming together of a diversity of people. It's not like Mr. Floyd was the first black man to be murdered at the hands of the police. It was not even the first one to be videoed. But there was somewhat of a sense of shared humanity perhaps during the time of this global pandemic that we are all experiencing in different ways, for sure, but all simultaneously experiencing, that, perhaps, heightened the humanity of people to open up minds and hearts in a different way, in a new way. But from a legal perspective, we talk more about federal and state civil rights in terms of equity issues, equality, and fairness, distribution of public resources and that sort of thing.
Human rights tend to be often at the United Nations level, more of a global level. And I know for example, that it was the United Nations that had the bill of rights for children, and that very much included the right to play. And that was something that we certainly, as advocates for brown and black children in Los Angeles, and we were working on open space and bringing the first state parks to urban communities in downtown LA and in South Los Angeles and in Northeast LA. We focus on the fact that these parks are a human right. And that children do have the right to play, they need to play. And so we certainly incorporated that into our advocacy, but I think that's something that could certainly be explored more locally.
Awesome. Thank you so much. So it sounds like there's something for you, HC HV two, to go ahead and look into maybe via the United Nations. It's a great question. Okay, Gina, I'm going to send this one your way. So this question is as a white person ally, what I really don't understand are the racist attitudes of other whites. And they give some examples of...
Just attitudes of other whites and they give some examples of experience they've had and they want to know why they don't get why politicians and police say there isn't racism. So, Gina, I think for you as a white ally, this might be a great one for you to answer.
Oh, dear. I was hoping you wouldn't ask me anything. No. So the question is how to deal with people who say that there's no need to change. Is that the question you're talking about?
I think it's worthwhile to answer two things. One is why? I mean, why are there white people who don't see racism? And then the other is what can you do about that if you're confronted by it?
Well, I think there are white people who don't see racism because of this, the level of integration into our culture of white privilege. You don't necessarily feel privileged. It's happening without you having to do anything to make it happen. So then that... There's just a lot of... What's the word. There's a lot of things that people say. There's like, "Well, if black people would just work harder, pull up by the boot straps." All these sort of ideas that it's the victim's fault for being victimized. And I don't know what the answer is, but I do think that we should focus on people who want to learn and want to change their viewpoint. Because right now we're seeing that there are thousands of those people that are apparently interested in understanding better.
And so like some of our marriage equality, let's go to the movable middle. Let's not try to change the minds of the most against marriage equality because probably they're never going to change their minds, but let's go to the people who are interested in learning and trying to figure out what's happening. Like the people on this, they are asking questions, like what books can I read about the history of the United States that will give me a more balanced view and not so many lies. So that's one thing. And then the second part of the question was how to deal with it when you're confronted by it.
I'm embarrassed to say I haven't been confronted by it that often. I tend to... I'm embarrassed to say that I don't reach out to people who don't think a lot like I do very often. They don't come through my normal day. And I'm not sure about that, but I would just try to bring it down to the baseline which is, why are black people still dying? And why are we still killing them? And I think that might...If people can answer that question, then maybe they're ready for a larger discussion.
Awesome. Thank you so much.
[inaudible 01:18:33] answer that much better than I did.
Oh, that was wonderful. I thank you. I want to come on everyone's amazing answers but you're saying it all so perfectly. There's nothing more for me to say. Thank you. Okay. Next question. Let's go with Courtney and Michael for this one. Camille says, "I know this..." Well, I'm not going to read this part, Camille, because it's not petty at all. We're opening this up and asking you for these questions. So it's not. But this person wants to know, is it okay for a white person to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt or other apparel with black leaders represented on them? So Courtney and Michael.
I'll start. I mean, gosh. Oh, am I unmuted. Yeah. So I'm just speaking personally. And again, I don't speak for everyone and more certainly not a monolith. I say, "Yeah, go for it." I'm just saying, if there's someone I know who's doing it like excessively, I would start to wonder if maybe there's a reason they're trying super hard at that. Or maybe even a fetishization. If it's just all blackness all the time. I don't always say it out loud, but I'm not going to lie. I might start thinking along those lines. And so it's definitely up to you. Black Lives Matter. Go for it. And the support's great, but when it's maybe excessive, I might notice that, but I don't speak for everyone.
Thank you. Michael.
I agree with Courtney. Definitely, I think support is good. I think that if you have your Black Lives Matter T-shirt on, or you have the sign in your yard, I love it. But no. I agree 100% with Courtney. There are times when in any situation, you get somebody that is a little obsessive about it. Yeah. You do think a little bit about it. Why are they doing that? And are they just trying to take advantage of this opportunity?
Oh, the questions are pouring in. So thank you, participants so much for being so interested in asking questions. I think this is a great one because it really looks at you locally. Oh, Gina.
I do have one thing to add. I'd like to add. And that is, we hung a banner at the Unitarian Universalist that said black lives matter, but we were critically aware that hanging a banner without doing the work is not particularly helpful. Wearing a T-shirt without being willing to do the work of understanding our history and listening again to the lived experiences of black people. It can be ingenuous. And I encourage people to do more than just wear the shirt.
Thank you. That actually brings up another term that we could have defined at the beginning, which is performative allyship. So performative is what we saw from a lot of celebrities. As an example, around the George Floyd funeral was kind of these statements. All of a sudden, after all these years, Black Lives Matter just on their social media, but not actually doing anything. So that is, if you wear the shirt, you better be about it. And if we question you on what you're doing and you're not able to answer, then don't wear the shirt. All right, let's go on. We'll get through as many of these as we can. This is for everybody on the panel. But once two people answer we'll move on. So whoever wants to answer, but it's great because it's a local question. So what can you do locally here in your community to adjust the American story? The story of let's say the United States of America. What can you do here locally to adjust that story to tell more truth?
I'd love to take that one. At the diversity coalition, we really focus on education and it's education across many different situations but our community outreach meetings are all about teaching people what real America is like. And what I mean by that real America is, are their stories that typically white people never hear? Whether they don't hear them because of inadequate schooling or they don't hear them because the media doesn't cover them. But our quarterly meetings such as the one you're on, it's very similar to the one you're on right now brings in world class speakers. We talk about these types of issues. We want to make sure that people continue and talk about them more and more and not ignore them.
One way is to really foster conversation. To have these types of situations, whether it's at city hall, whether it's on zoom with other organizations like Race Matters or whoever. We have to have more of these conversations.
Thank you. And I said, I'm going to let two of you answer, but I won't so that we can continue these great questions. Very quickly, Lavella, you asked for me to repeat the name of the book I referenced. White Fragility. Yes. It's called White Fragility. And the author is Dr. Robin de Angelo. Having said that if you want to hear from black folks who have been speaking about whiteness for a very long time, James Baldwin pretty much anything from James Baldwin, but certainly The Fire Next Time. Tony Morrison has spoken about it. WB Dubois has spoken about it.
So make sure again, it's performative. If you're only going to read and give money to Dr. Robin de Angelo. Although again, there are some really important concepts within. Okay. Oh man. This is a good challenging question. By the way, we're slated to finish at 7:30, but I think it looks like we can stay a little longer. Courtney will have to leave. Courtney. I think she's already gone. Thank you, Courtney. But we will continue just a little bit longer. This one I thought was really strong, important question. How should white allies engage with people of color who are opposed to people of color empowerment movements such as Black Lives Matter? Erica, I see you doing a little side-eye and a little smile. So Erica, I'll ask you to answer that one.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
Well, I'm sorry. I gave the impression that I had a great answer. I was just thinking like my dog thinks, when I say, "Do you want to go outside?" Okay. So what to do when a white individual approaches a person of color who is not woke essentially? Right? I would start by the lived and the learned. Right? So your lived experience is whatever it is. Your lived experience may be that you're white, but you've recently been doing a lot of work to sort of figure out what that means in society and your learned experience is what you're learning. And then maybe just beginning conversations to sort of figure out what their lived and learned experience is. This actually takes me back to what my thesis in undergraduate at UCLA in a Chicano Studies class was Ethnic Identity Development. And it's based on a psychological theory of development that is then transposed to a person of color.
And the fact that we go through stages in our ethnic identity development. And just like grief may not be a linear process, one's ethnic identity development may not be a linear process. And it's going to be influenced by a lot of different situations. I would say that I was much better versed in African American history and culture than I was in my Chicano Studies culture. Chicano Studies history until I got to UCLA. And I started studying that. So we just go through different stages. So I think we just need to be sensitive to where people are at in that moment. And I think we need to also be sensitive to what people's experiences are. There could be lots of reasons for them not feeling a certain way, just I'll end it on this note. As part of my thesis, I surveyed my dad and his siblings.
This was just a small sample, but the idea was, my dad is one of 10 children. And they were all raised by the same mom and dad in the same household, but they all identified differently. Some of them identified as Chicano, some of identified as Mexican American, some of them only identified as American. American of Mexican ancestry. It was all across the board. And so you had 10 individuals from the same family who had had whatever different... They had had the same experiences, but also different experiences. Some had gone into the military. Some had not, some had left the small border town and experienced life outside of a predominantly Mexican American community. Some had not. So it just depends. And I think that the same can probably be said for all of us. I wish I could give you a more precise answer than that, but those are some things to think about.
Thank you so much. I think you might be getting at, if you are a white ally, probably don't... What I always say to white allies is remember your primary role is listening. So you should work to have an authentic group of black friendships and let them handle those of us who might be experiencing our own internalized racism. Those folks can handle that. I think if you are a white ally, that is something that you can, as Erica was pointing out, have empathy for and sympathy for. Understanding what this country has done to all of us in terms of our thoughts, but there are internalized things that are for our community to work on. And so tread lightly. I think, is a response to that. There are so many great questions but we've got to wrap this up.
I want to shout out to you. KTB your question about the LGBTQ community within the Black Lives Matter movement and how that needs to be uplifted. Although we should mention that the women who created Black Lives Matter are queer women, but the murders of black trans women misogynoir is a big question in this community. That all goes back to that what we were talking about around intersectionality. So thank you for all of these amazing questions, but I'm going to finish the panel by asking each of you one more question and just quickly, but tell us what is the single most important resource that you read or experienced that made you who you are or helped to make you who you are? And I'll go very quickly. An incredible book written by a black woman, Dr. Dorothy Roberts called Fatal Invention. It changed my full understanding of the construction of race in the United States. So let's go with Gina first. A book or a resource, film, anything. One thing that really did it for you.
Well, Oh gosh. I didn't read all of it, but I have been listening and reading and thinking a lot about Abraham Kennedy's book, how to be an anti-racist. So I would have to recommend that to anyone who wants to really explore anti racism.
Thank you. And Michael, unmute. You're muted Michael. You're muted.
I'm here. Okay. That's a really good one. Thank you, Gina. I went to see Dr. Robin de Angelo at Cal Poly last year was wonderful event. And I would have to say in the recent past, it would be her book, White Fragility. And mainly because I have a little bit of a unique scenario of having this white thought process. Right? And kind of living that way. And it actually has helped me get through some of my prejudice thoughts and feelings. Right? And really start thinking about, well, "How do I think about myself when I look in the mirror and I appear black?" Right? And so it's really interesting, but right now I think Dr. Pol book is sold out, but definitely you can find it on Kendall.
Thank you so much. And Erica.
Erica Flores Baltodano:
It would be hard for me to name one book. I would recommend that you pay attention to project 1619, that the New York times has been doing. It's a series of essays, all focused on reframing the story of America through the lens of race. It's not really reframing. It's just telling the truth. And the opening essay in particular is phenomenal. I try to incorporate it into my constitutional law class to frame that class as well. I have to tell you, as a high school student reading Roots, the book Roots by Alex Haley. Reading the autobiography of Malcolm X. Reading any number of books, classics like that at a young age was critical. And I have school aged children now who are really starting to read these sorts of things as well. So that, that learning process starts early.
And then more recently, Joe Lepore is a historian from Harvard who has written up history of the United States. It's kind of like the first comprehensive history of the United States that has been written by a woman. And it was written recently within the last couple of years. And you can follow the thread of race and racism throughout the history of this country from the very beginning. And it was just really fascinating. I really enjoyed that tremendously. And there was something else I was going to mention but I'll just...Oh, one last thing is a reading of the Declaration of Independence with Daniel Allen I believe also at Harvard. And she talks about equality and how the Declaration of the Independence belongs to all of us and really a close reading of that document like you've never read before and you will never look at it the same again, and it will motivate you to do good work.
What awesome panelists. I just want to piggyback on the idea about what you're sharing with children, with young people. Young people start to recognize race and racism and start to perpetuate it as early as three years old. There is no, it's never too early to start to talk to children about this so that we don't have to keep repeating this as adults. The more we start to open it up... Yeah, Gina, you've got something.
For those of you who don't read much. And I have to confess I'm not as much of a reader as I used to be. Podcasts have been my saving grace. I love Kimberley Lenore intersectionality matters. I love code switch. I love the 10 episodes of 1619. Were awesome. And I listen to sometimes truth be told is another good one. There's a whole bunch of black cultural information on podcasts. So I urge anyone to do that. You can do one of those anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and you get a lot.
Thank you so much. There's also Seeing White. That's out of Duke university. It's excellent. Yes Seeing White. The podcast itself is called scene on radio S- C- E- N- E. And the series is called Seeing White. Cornell. I believe you are going to close us out.
Yeah, we can hear we can't see your lovely face though.
Oh, well, let's see. Oh, there we go. Thank you. Thank you so much Fanshen. Well, very quickly, what can I say? I just want to thank everyone who participated, who signed in, who joined us. Excuse me. Everyone who joined us tonight. Thank you so much. Just a reminder, August 12th, we will be examining, discussing, getting into some real dialogue as well around local public safety perspectives. Our local public safety perspective. And so you can find out more information about that on our website, diversityslow.org. Thank you so much, Fan shen. Thank you, Gina. Thank you, Courtney. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Erica. Thank you, Elijah and I'm trying to recall the name. Michael. You'll have to remind me of other-
Sarah. Okay. Thank you. So everyone, have a great evening. This has been a delight and boy, I tell you we've got a lot to digest and continue to do good work. Thank you so much.