MGU 74 | Cultural Appropriation

 

We live in a globalized, multicultural society where there is a real possibility for something you say to hurt or offend someone of a different ethnicity or culture. Content-creators in all platforms are no strangers to being accused of cultural appropriation or being offensive or discriminatory towards people of other cultures. In a lot of cases, it is not even intentional but merely reflects a lack of awareness and sensitivity, which can be mitigated with conscientious effort. In this episode, Whitney Lauritsen unloads such a burden to her co-host, Jason Wrobel, as she shares an email conversation with someone who felt offended by some of the content in a book they released. Listen as they engage in an extremely uncomfortable conversation and come to important realizations about cultural appropriation, awareness and sensitivity, power dynamics, and receiving feedback.

Listen to the podcast here:

On Veganism And Cultural Appropriation: A Question Of Awareness, Sensitivity And Intent

I’ll start by saying that I feel a little vulnerable about the topic of this show that Jason doesn’t even know what I’m going to mention yet.

I’m curious because in our episode that came out about mental health and veganism, I felt like we got super vulnerable and it seems like we’ve been hitting another level of, “Let’s rip off all the Band-Aids and peel back all the layers and dig in deep.” It’s been cool to feel that and meet you in that, Whitney. I’m curious if you’re feeling vulnerable, sensitive or emotional. I’m curious where it’s going to lead because it’s been leading to some deep interesting places.

That’s worth exploring before I get into this is that a lot of us are afraid of getting vulnerable. I don’t know if it was in that episode or this might have come up in one of the books that I’m reading. I’m usually reading a bunch of books at once and one of them was talking about how we try hard to avoid criticism and that’s something I can relate to. I’ve done that in my life. We try to be passive sometimes or we’re passive-aggressive. Some of us are aggressive and there are all these different elements of our communication styles. A lot of us are trying to tiptoe around things because it’s scary to offend somebody or reveal something about ourselves that we don’t think will be accepted. I had that feeling too, Jason, when I read that mental health episode you’re referencing. It’s called Where The Vegan Diet and Mental Health Collide.

It sounds almost a movie trailer, “When veganism and mental health collide, all hell breaks loose.” It’s not a clickbait-y title but it is much like, “This could be incendiary.”

Also, part of the vulnerability I felt was that people might make assumptions before they read, and then if it didn’t match their assumptions, they’d be offended. I felt fear coming up for me, a fear of being misunderstood and saying things the wrong way. Shortly after I was having those feelings, I was having a conversation with somebody a “celebrity” who was in the news because she sang the lyrics of a song and said an offensive word that was part of the song. People were all up in arms and there’s this whole debate. It’s like, “Is she being a certain way because she says a word that’s in a song or does it count when we use a word in a context of a song? Does that mean that’s her own opinion or a word that we would normally use?”

It was this huge thing and I thought, “It’s fascinating how easily we can jump on board of making assumptions about somebody because of a word that they said or how a sentence could be taken out of context.” We’ve talked about this cancel culture of, “This person did something that offended me and five seconds of their lives, we should destroy them because if they made a mistake then they can never take it back. That probably says everything about them.” This comes up often with celebrities online. You find an old tweet that they posted and suddenly you don’t like them anymore because of one thing they said.

I get nervous about that happening to me, but I’m not going to let that rule my life because that’s part of our culture. I’m not aiming to reach them in the first place, but then on the other side, the problem with being careful about what we say all the time is that every once in a while, instead of offending somebody, we will open up someone’s mind. They may be temporarily offended, but realize that they misunderstood you and that happens too. That’s a big part of what I wanted to go into. Should we dive in or did you want to say anything else?

I wanted to say that I don’t know the secret to happiness per se. I feel like I’m getting clues along the way. Whitney, you and I, are doing this show and a lot of our content and teachings on the basis of being life experimentalists. I don’t know the “secret or keys to happiness,” but I do know that trying to please everyone and trying to tiptoe around being too piecey and too careful about our thoughts, feelings and viewpoints is also not going to allow us to be happier or live a fulfilled life. There’s an interesting balance thereof being fully ourselves, self-expressed, feeling free to express whatever it is on our minds and our hearts without fear of retribution, being shamed, or trying to please everyone. That’s something that I’m increasingly focusing on is how can I more clearly and accurately express my truth and what’s on my heart and mind without fear of again, retribution, being shamed or trying to please everyone? Because that is a path to unhappiness and some level of a deep fracture in our collective psyche if we are constantly tiptoeing around and being too careful about what we say and what we think.

Without you even knowing what I was going to bring up, we are already starting to discuss it. Let me share what inspired me to start this conversation. This is all coming from an email I received and a conversation that I had via email with somebody who’s technically anonymous. They chose not to tell me their name. Part of me is like, “Did they make up this fake email account to reach me because why aren’t they telling me their name?” The good news is I would have kept them anonymous anyways, but I don’t have to try that hard because I have no idea what this person’s name is. I’m not sure off the top of my head if it’s a male or female. For some reason, I assume it’s a male but I could be completely wrong.

MGU 74 | Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation: Today’s digital culture is conditioned to have people launch into a diatribe of criticism, feedback, or even hatefulness without qualifying anything.

 

I had this fear that they would feel uncomfortable with me sharing this and I’m not going to share any details about them. I feel like this is an important conversation to have and it’s also interesting to me. I have this fear that they’re going to be upset about me discussing this and I have this desire to tiptoe around and not say anything that would offend them. There’s this part of me that thinks, “These are important things to discuss and I don’t think there’s anything in this context that I would perceive as offending this person.” That’s a huge part of this email exchange. Instead of being vague, let me dive into it.

I received an email, it was from an email I didn’t recognize and this person didn’t say their name. They did start by saying that they’re a fan of my YouTube channels and that being an Eco-Vegan Gal. They were interested in buying my cookbook, which came out in 2020 called The Vegan Ketogenic Diet Cookbook. As they were previewing the context of the book, they noticed that one of the dishes was called The Buddha Bowl. They felt hesitant to email me about this because they know it’s tough sometimes to receive constructive feedback and didn’t want me to take their perspective in the wrong way. I was grateful that they said that right off the bat because that immediately took down my defenses. Jason and I can relate to receiving a lot of feedback over the years from people. I would say in most cases, when somebody is giving constructive feedback, it’s more constructive criticism at best and typically criticism. Even if somebody doesn’t mean it to be, they might come off in a way that I interpret as critical and maybe condescending, rude, or not fully taking my feelings into consideration. That’s the norm for me.

I’ve mentioned this in an episode. If people in my life are aware of it, of course, a stranger on the internet or a person commenting on YouTube or Instagram probably wouldn’t be aware. If someone is reading this blog and wants to provide feedback, I prefer in my interpersonal relationships to reiterate what I mentioned in the episode that people approached me with, “I have some perspectives, feedback, or viewpoints on X that you did. Are you open to receiving?” For me, someone taking that approach of getting the buy-in from me first, as you said, Whitney, I’m able to drop any preconditioned reactive responses or defensiveness that may come up for me, which is apt to.

As opposed to when people launch into criticism, judgment or feedback without even asking my permission if I want to receive it. That’s still something I’m working on and it’s still tough for me. Depending on what’s going on in life and my level of sensitivity, struggle or how I’m feeling emotionally that day, there are times where I simply am not receptive to feedback. I don’t want to hear it. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it ever. It just means at that moment I’m not ready or willing to receive it. This may not be for everyone, but for me, I’m trying to be mindful of and my interactions are asking a person, “Are you open to receiving my viewpoint, perspective and feedback on this thing?” Getting the buy-in first. I’m trying to be more mindful of that because that’s how I prefer to be engaged with.

That’s an important thing to bring up. I feel like I would almost rather somebody tell me immediately because in the context of an email, having to wait for somebody to respond is also uncomfortable. Do you ever get a text message from someone that they’re like, “Can we talk?” If there’s a gap between the next text or the phone call or whatever else, it’s uncomfortable. This happened to me. I reconnected with an ex-boyfriend of mine and the anticipation of waiting to have that conversation with him felt more uncomfortable than the actual conversation we had.

Once we started talking, everything was great but previous to that, it was uncomfortable for me because I’m like, “This going to be awkward. What’s going to come up and how is he feeling?” There was that whole unknown. I get what you’re saying, Jason. I was reflecting on what I have liked for this person to have done that before they went into their feedback. Probably not because I got to read it in my own time and not have to wait. It sounds funny in the case of a comment on a video or Instagram DM, like, “Can I give you some feedback?” Pausing, waiting and then putting it in the next comment. It depends on the context in which the feedback is coming.

I know that it’s not necessarily appropriate or people aren’t able to qualify or vet you for your willingness to receive. In the culture, wherein Twitter probably being the most high-profile example of this. People launching into all criticism, hate, and spam and all things. Our digital culture is conditioned honestly, to have people launch into a diatribe of criticism, feedback, or even hatefulness without qualifying anything. There’s this notion that a lot of human beings forget that there is a human being with feelings and emotions on the other side of that tweet, comment, and piece of email. I’m always trying to be mindful when I send a piece of information to someone else to remember that this is a human being with sensitivities, feelings, and thoughts. I’m being mindful of how I’m being mindful of the right communication and making sure that I’m speaking my truth and not trying to be intentionally hurtful or reactive to that other person.

As we’ll explore, sometimes you try to be delicate, and that even comes off as hurtful to somebody. We’re not in control of whether somebody feels hurt. We’re not in control of how they feel, react, and interpret things. There are many different scenarios. Are you giving the information via text? Is it via voice or is it in-person? Do you know this person? How are they feeling that day? There are many variables and part of this is that dance we play whenever we’re talking about something uncomfortable. The big theme of this show is, This Might Get Uncomfortable, having a conversation, giving feedback and expressing something important to you might get uncomfortable.

Going back to the email that I received, they wanted to discuss the name of this recipe in my book called The Buddha Bowl. They assumed that I was Asian, which that’s a little aside. I hope that doesn’t come across as offensive at all but throughout my life, a lot of people have thought that I was Asian. I have grown to find it such a compliment because Asian women are gorgeous. When I was younger, I was a little offended by that because I felt like I was being misinterpreted like, “That’s not me. That’s not my identity.” I am not Asian. The farthest I go towards Asia is as being 25% Ukrainian or 25% East European according to 23andMe. No, I don’t have any Asian heritage and yet somehow, I have features like that.

When people say things that are offensive to you, it’s more likely to be out of complete ignorance rather than malice. Click To Tweet

I found out that because I’m part Irish, Ukrainian and Scandinavian, maybe some of those parts of the world have Asian features in their eyes or their hair color. I’ve got to learn a little bit about my background over the years when people have assumed that I was Korean, Japanese or Pacific Asia, all of that. If you were ever wondering about that, about me, no, I’m not technically Asian. This person thought that I was and that’s part of the reason that they wanted to have this conversation around the name Buddha Bowl. Before I get into this, Jason, since I’ve mentioned it, where do you think this is going and what comes up for you when you think of the term Buddha Bowl? Is this a term that you’ve used? Do you have that in your book?

I don’t, although there was a restaurant in Los Angeles that served an Asian fusion cuisine called Buddha’s Belly. I don’t know that they’re still in business. They were on Melrose or Beverley here in LA, but the references to the Buddha are not anything new to the culinary world. I’ve seen that come up, not in the context of this one restaurant or the recipe in your cookbook, Whitney. I’ve seen it on occasion popup in other recipe books of references to Buddha Bowl or Buddhist stir-fry or stuff like that. It’s not an uncommon reference. If I had to guess where the context of this email is going, there’s going to be something about cultural appropriation here. This seems to be a sensitive focus in our culture of people appropriating different music, art, styles of dress, or culinary inspirations. It is to say, the way that I understand cultural appropriation is that one ethnic group will start to take from the style, music, art, culinary influence of a completely different ethnic culture and then pass it off as their own.

The thing that comes up to me since I’m such a huge music fan and a musician for many years is remembering Little Richard who passed away. There were many people sharing clips of him talking about how he was the progenitor of rock and roll and he was wild and flamboyant. Him saying in his Little Richard way of like, “Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, who do you think they got it from?” In a way Little Richard had a point because he was doing boogie-woogie, rock and roll, and this wild flamboyant, sexually charged style of music way before any of those “white acts” were doing it. That’s a way roundabout way of saying that the person who sent you this email is going to talk about the sensitivity of cultural appropriation. Am I right?

You’re correct as you would say. The email goes on to say that this person feels like calling a dish Buddha Bowl is disrespectful to those who are Buddhist and come from such a culture. There would surely be an outrage if a dish was trivialized through Christianity and called the Jesus Bowl. This person says they’re not religious at all. Although they surely think that cultural appropriation and disrespect to people of colors, cultures and religions are often found ubiquitous throughout mainstream ‘vegan culture’ can deter people of color who would otherwise have possibly tried to be vegan. I can’t tell you how many times a person of color has told me that being vegan is a white thing and it’s precisely books that contain dishes called such things as Asian Salad or even worse Buddha Bowl is a prominent aspect of what most know of mainstream vegan culture. I’m hoping maybe after possibly reflecting upon this topic that you could mention or talk about this in an upcoming video of yours.”

That was the end of this email but there’s a follow-up to this. I’ll tell you how I responded to this. We can discuss it and then the follow-up emails even more in-depth and it’s interesting. My response was to thank this person for writing and sharing their feelings. I told them how much I appreciated the way that they approached it. It was gentle and respectful. I went into some context, which I’ll share for the readers as well. First of all, I coauthored my book, The Vegan Ketogenic Diet Cookbook, with Jason and my mutual friend, Nicole, who has been on our show. I also wrote this in collaboration with a team of editors and publishers. Nicole, the chef, picked the name of the recipes, and the editors and I approved them. Some of these decisions were not fully my role or within my control. However, I did not think anything about the name of that dish. It never crossed my mind and the reason being is that I’m not personally sensitive to things like that.

Part of this conversation is that it’s tricky to communicate as human beings because sensitivity is relative. Since I’m not Asian, nor would I call myself Buddhist, although I’m drawn to Buddhist culture and lessons and there’s so much about Buddhism that is incorporated into my life, it’s not something that I think about that much in terms of an offense. I’ve gone through stages of my life of Christianity and I’m not that connected to the word Jesus but I also don’t think that I would be offended if somebody called something to Jesus Bowl. It would sound unfamiliar to me.

Part of the reason that the Buddha Bowl didn’t occur to me as being offensive is simply that I’ve heard it many times. To Jason’s point, I’ve seen it in a number of cookbooks, blogs and restaurants as Jason mentioned as well like Cafe Gratitude. That’s what I first think of. Generally, a Buddha Bowl is a collection of different vegetables of vegetarian food. Often in Chinese restaurants they’ll call it something, a Buddha’s Delight. There’s also a tradition of naming vegetarian dishes after the Buddha out of a sign of respect or honor as well as some people use that to reference the big round Buddha belly shape.

After receiving this email, I went and looked it up. Jason and I know a chef who he considers himself Buddhist. I think of him as being a Buddhist person. He has also used that recipe name on his website and he’s somebody I respect. For me, not defending myself, but simply explaining my rationale when my book was going through a review, it never occurred to me. The chef that I worked with, although she’s also white, it didn’t occur to any of the editors or people on the publishing team but I’d be willing to bet most of them if not all of them are white as well.

The truth is, it’s a bunch of white people writing a book and maybe none of us are offended by things like that. Did it go through a series of asking different people from different backgrounds if any of this offended them? No. Maybe that would be helpful. Maybe that’s something I’ll think about in the future, but it’s tricky. My big question is, to what lengths do we go to try not to offend somebody? It’s interesting to me because when I publish this book, I was afraid of people judging me and being offended because I was talking about eating a low carb, high-fat diet. It never occurred to me that somebody would be offended by the name of a recipe when it was never my aim to offend them in the first place. I also wasn’t the person that named it, but I did have some input on whether it was called that. What’s happened here is, it is an example of culture appropriation. Sometimes people do not mean to take something from a different culture and call it their own or use it flippantly. To me, it doesn’t have energy behind it. We have to ask ourselves, “Is it our responsibility to examine every single word that we use in every different context?”

MGU 74 | Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation: A lot of times, we are simply used to saying things without realizing that they could be inappropriate or offensive.

 

I think this is a case-by-case basis. I don’t want to offend anybody. Am I going to comb through every single word again and again and try to observe it from perspectives that I simply do not have? Do I go and bring it through a series of different people with different perspectives to see how they feel about it? That would be wonderful, but in the case of this book as another behind the scenes, this is a fast turnaround project and to an extent, this was the publisher who is making a lot of these big decisions. This is also my first time publishing a book. I’ve never even run into these situations before. I’m not trying to make excuses for myself. I’m simply saying that a lot of the times when these things come up, it’s done out of complete ignorance. It’s not an intention.

It’s interesting when you offend somebody and it wasn’t your intention to offend them, but you also have to take that personal responsibility for your ignorance and say, “It never occurred to me. I didn’t mean to do this to you and I am grateful that you brought this up for me to give me a chance to examine it and be more aware of how I could impact people.” It’s tricky, I will say. One of the challenges of being a public figure or somebody who’s publishing content is you’re opening up yourself to a wide variety of people and you can easily accidentally offend somebody in many different cases.

Being open and receptive to learning from other people. In this case, I haven’t read the rebuttal email or the response email or what the next exchange was between you two. For me, if I were to be in your position, Whitney, first of all I would be curious like, “I had no idea that this was an area of sensitivity.” My attention being brought to that would be, “Even though it wasn’t my intention to appropriate something culturally in terms of Asian cuisine or Buddhism, to be apologetic and also be curious so I could learn more.” That’s the first stance where I would be in my response.

The other side of it too is interesting because in terms of a sheer creative perspective, if we’re talking about naming recipes, often I prefer as a chef, a nutrition educator and someone who’s also written a cookbook and been in the food business for many years, to name recipes as to what is the primary foundation of what’s in those recipes. If I were to make a Tempeh with black garlic, sautéed Bok Choy and Quinoa, I’d probably call it Blackened Tempeh with Garlic Bok Choy and Quinoa, instead of like, “The rainbow dragon bowl.” I prefer from a creative perspective, not to get into cutesy pootsy names per se, or try and get too creative. I try and for me call it what it is.

There are a few exceptions. There are a few in the cookbook that I named not exactly what it was or tried to get more creative, but generally speaking I try and name things what they are. That’s not the point of what we’re digging into. The point of what you’re presenting, Whitney, is what level of mindfulness, awareness, and sensitivity can we bring to our creative endeavors. It comes back to intention. If I think about any creative endeavor, whether that’s music, art, or the culinary arts, we can’t escape our influences. In the sense that if I’m exposed to a level of music and listening to all these records growing up and being influenced. By growing up with Motown, R&B, Soul music, and Rock and Roll, the stuff I like to listen to and the stuff I like to record, I can’t escape being influenced by Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder.

If that stuff creeps in, could someone go, “You’re trying to appropriate Motown or Soul music?” I grew up as early as I can remember, listening to those vinyl records with my family. As opposed to say if a company, an agent, a manager or someone comes to you and says, “This stuff is hot. Could you learn to rap so we could make you a rapper?” Even though you didn’t grow up with it and even though you weren’t influenced by it, there are many tales from music history. As one example of artists being convinced by a manager, an agent, a record label to “do what’s hot.”

In those instances, I could see that being labeled as appropriation because you’re doing something that’s completely inauthentic to you, where you’re doing it simply to make money taking someone’s art and taking someone’s culture and using it to make money. As opposed to something that moved you and touched your soul, that you can’t escape as an influence. Something that’s imprinted on you that naturally is going to come out in your artistry and your creation. To me, there’s a big difference between appropriating something culturally to make money and “cash in” versus something that’s touched your soul that you can’t help but be intertwined with your own artistry. Does that make sense?

Absolutely, and that’s a big part of the point here and it does come back to a lot of ignorance. I haven’t talked to Nicole, the chef who created that recipe we’re referencing that named it. My guess based on my experiences with her is that it was a completely innocent thing and she was simply used to calling it that. It comes back to conscious language in general. A lot of the times, we are simply used to saying things or using terms for things without realizing that they could be offensive or realizing that they’re inappropriate. I’ve had these experiences many times in my life and it’s an interesting thing because maybe other people felt the same way that this person did who emailed me but has not said it to my face because they’re like, “What’s the point? This bothers me, but I’m not going to speak up about it.”

I want to commend this person for bringing this up because I’m grateful for this as a learning experience. It’s challenging because first of all, I don’t know what I can do at this point. It’s not like it’s a blog post or a social media post that I can go edit. I could email the publisher and ask them for future prints of the book to change the name of the recipe. That’s probably the best I could do in this scenario, but I can’t change any books that have already been published and there’s a sense of helplessness here as thinking, “I made a mistake that I don’t know how much I can change.” That’s a tough thing to navigate.

We tend to put more focus on criticism, which gets so magnified in our brains that we forget about all the positivity. Click To Tweet

It’s similar to what I referenced before with celebrities who said something who didn’t realize it was offensive. They didn’t mean for it to come across that way. Maybe they said something that they believed in the past and they no longer believe now and they can’t go back and delete it because somebody took a screenshot of it. Even if they did delete it, that doesn’t mean that there’s no evidence of it anymore. What do they do? What they can do is apologize for it and say that they won’t do it again. I feel apologetic to anyone that I have ever offended and it’s a tricky thing to do. It’s a tricky thing to navigate even in our personal lives.

I’ve been in positions where I’ve said things and ruined friendships over words, and I wish I could go back and take it back or be explained and I feel misunderstood. Was it ever worth saying those things? No. It comes back around to like, “How careful are we?” The opposite side of this is, sometimes we become afraid of offending people that we have trouble speaking and we have trouble making progress because we worry that anything that we say could be taken out of context, misinterpreted, or offend somebody.

I know as a podcaster, it’s incredibly tricky. In every episode, we’re speaking for an hour-plus on average. There’s a word that could come out of my mouth that I didn’t mean for it to be said. There’s an opportunity to edit it, but it might not get edited out, and then it’s out there in the world. Things I’ve said in my YouTube videos, my blog posts, and my social media on and on. Luckily, I have not said many things that have offended people that I know of. I haven’t been in a cancel moment that I know of, but I guarantee there have been people that have offended and they’ve unsubscribed, unfollowed or in this case, decided not to buy a book of mine.

I’m not sitting here upset that this person didn’t buy my book. I’m not trying to position myself in a way that people will buy things from. I don’t want somebody to buy something from me if I offend them. I wish more that I had the opportunity to shift things so that in the future more people will feel included and that it would feel like a fit for them. I want to create things that make people feel good, enrich people’s lives and that’s the aim of my cookbook. It’s not going to fit everybody and moving forward, it’s a great opportunity to take a little bit more time and aware in cases like this. I remember this came up years ago. Somebody emailed me and it was because of the use of the word, exotic. I’d use that.

Another time that comes to mind was I made a video about the benefits of getting massages. In the video I was giving tips like, “How to prepare for a massage.” I said, “Make sure that you shave your legs.” That’s because I feel more comfortable getting a massage when my legs are shaved. Somebody wrote me a comment on that video saying like, “I can’t believe that you said that. You’re perpetuating this culture that women have to shave their legs and there are plenty of women that choose not to.” I remember thinking, “I had never even thought that could be deemed offensive but this person had a great point.” Yes, I’ve been in the position many times where I’ve been humbled and somebody as has explained something to me that got me a chance to think about it differently. As I’ve said several times, there’s also a part of me going like, “How do I continue to create and move through this world without being afraid of offending somebody?”

Whitney, where you’re bringing up in terms of receiving this feedback from a person also, their energy and their approach have a lot to do with, I feel like the level of receptivity of taking the comment in. If someone’s reacting with the energy of like, “You’re an awful person, you’re insensitive. I can’t believe you did this.” It’s not impossible but it’s difficult to get tonality and pitch from a text, an email and a DM. That’s one of the most difficult things I think about our era of digital communication is to receive something that might be emotionally charged. It’s hard to read sometimes unless it’s in all caps with a bunch of exclamation points. You can probably infer that person is yelling or at least emotionally charged about it.

One of the most difficult things is to give or receive feedback digitally through a bunch of characters on a screen and somehow hope that the other person is going to receive your tone, your pitch, and your emotional position without being able to have a phone call or a face-to-face conversation. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have misinterpreted a person’s intent, energy, and emotional state based on a text or a DM because you don’t get that. It’s incredibly dangerous and challenging in human communication to try and read into all of that from a few characters on a screen. That’s the first point I want to make.

The second thing too is you wonderfully stated that your intention is to bring people together and be inclusive. That’s why we’re doing a whole episode on cultural appropriation and receiving feedback and opening our awareness to other people’s perspectives. I’ve talked to a lot of comedians about this in fact, and how the nature of comedy has changed as an art form. For a lot of good reasons, there’s a higher level of sensitivity and awareness around people being offended and hurt by certain stances, words, or perspectives when it comes to our culture specifically in the context of stand-up. Whereas I feel like perhaps in the ’70s and ’80s after people like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor and those guys busted comedy wide open into the mainstream. There was a ‘no holds barred’ aspect to a few topics being off-limits for stand-up comedians to discuss.

I was watching a stand-up special with Richard Pryor and Robin Williams from the early ’80s and some of the stuff they were talking about, I was thinking as I was watching it and laughing going, “There is no way in hell that most comedians would touch this stuff with a ten-foot pole nowadays because the firestorm on social media would be chaotic.” It’s interesting to see that. How do we express ourselves authentically as artists and communicators when I feel like the level of awareness goes up? Alan Watts talks about this too and we’ve mentioned him in The Wisdom of Insecurity and some of his other Zen writings to go back to a Zen Buddhist perspective. His position is that as your conscious awareness grows, your level of receptivity and awareness to pain and pleasure is heightened as your awareness goes up. A deeper lesson going on here is, as we’re growing our awareness of people’s sensitivities, and as we grow more sensitive, our receptivity to other people and our own pain and pleasure spectrum is heightened as a result.

MGU 74 | Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation: As we grow our awareness to people’s sensitivities, our receptivity to other people and our own pain and pleasure spectrum is heightened as a result.

 

It does show a lot of our growth. One thing I’m reflecting on is how I would have responded to this email in different stages of my life. There have been times in my life where I would have been offended, taken aback, or defensive. One thing that these types of scenarios give us a chance to reflect on is, where we’re at and our state of mind and how we’ve “matured”? What lessons have we learned that brought us to this place where we can receive feedback like this and come to a place of an apology, a place of humbleness, or taking the time to take information in without taking it personally?

Part of what I’ve struggled a lot with throughout my life and a relatable thing is this desire to get it right. Sometimes we like defensive because we feel like, “I’m trying hard, I can’t say anything. Everybody always takes it the wrong way. I’m misunderstood. No matter what I do, somebody gets upset about it.” Someone like Kevin Hart in noticing how he was responding to what happened with him when somebody dug up an old tweet of his. He was supposed to host the Oscars and he was asked to apologize. It was this whole back and forth, and I felt for him in terms of his struggle. There were phases where he felt defensive. There were phases where he was apologetic and you’ve seen a lot of public figures go through this.

We can even look at someone like Donald Trump. No matter what he does, somebody finds a flaw with him. Every single day if you wanted to, you could find a flaw with every public tweet or talk that he gives. Regardless of where you stand on Donald Trump, that’s got to be immensely challenging. When every day your words are being taken apart and somebody is hurt. I cannot imagine that. I’ve only experienced this a few times that I can recall in my ten plus years as a content creator. I can’t imagine going through this every single day of my career and the weight of that, the responsibility.

You get to this point where you might have so much armor and you’re like, “Screw it. I’m going to say whatever I want because no matter what I say, it is going to bother somebody. I’ll go on.” As a content creator, it’s also this feeling. We have been opening up ourselves. There are moments where Jason and I seem like we don’t give a fuck about how somebody interprets us. We say swear words and those might offend people. That’s why our show is marked is explicit. It’s incredibly challenging at times. I look at people that I admire in the podcasting world, like Joe Rogan, and I don’t agree with everything that comes out of Joe Rogan’s mouth. On the grand scheme of things, he’s done amazing work. He’s brought in a lot of thought-provoking guests on his show. I don’t need to agree with everything that he says.

I have felt a little offended based on his stance on vegans or some of the things that he says about women. Those offend me but I continue to have an open mind about him. My hope is that the same will be felt about me, but I also have to remember that I don’t have control about how other people perceive me. I am going to do my best every day to express myself the best that I know how on that day and know that I’m growing as a person. My consciousness is constantly evolving. We’re like a river. We are flowing, we are always a different person, and we’re evolving and changing even if we don’t even realize it.

That’s an important point, Whitney, is to honor the fact that people can grow, evolve, and change. I often feel that people who say the phrase, “People never change,” are the ones who never do. If I look back similarly to what you hinted to at my potential response to criticism or feedback when I was younger and hadn’t learned how to deal with a lot of my anger, frustration or fear in life, which I still wrestle with, in my twenties and teens, I was a lot more reactive to things. To honor people in their growing awareness, if they’re dedicated to it. If they’re like, “I want growth, evolution, and awareness.” They’re consciously seeking those things out, then holding someone accountable in a punitive way for something they did years ago is not allowing the full honoring of their evolution and change as a person if they don’t have that perspective anymore.

Secondly, this is a big hot button for me, “I’ll go here.” It shows that there’s a lot of work still to be done in terms of our level of forgiveness for each other in our society. One of the things that I get triggered by often is people that are publicly extremely religious or spiritual and perhaps align themselves with a religion or spiritual set of principles that preaches forgiveness, healing, and letting go that are not apt to forgive people or let go. It’s like, “Can you also walk your talk?” Forgiveness is something that we collectively as human beings need to get better at because there still is this deeply held set of values. We don’t bring people out into the public square for the guillotine anymore. We guillotine their reputation. We throw them under the bus and try and destroy who they are as a person. Not physically kill them, but kill their reputation and their livelihood. We do that now in society rather than physically killing their body.

For us to deeply look at this tendency if someone in earnest is apologizing for their lack of awareness and understanding how their actions or words might have inadvertently hurt other people, then why don’t we take people for their word? If they genuinely are coming from a place of, “I’m sorry that I said this or did this thing. I didn’t have the awareness or sensitivity I do now.” Why do we find it so hard to forgive people and let it go? That’s a deeply disturbing part of human society that I still wrestle with is, “Why do we still feel the need to engage in this cancel culture and this public massive shaming and guillotining of a person’s reputation even when they apologize sometimes wholeheartedly for their actions?” I find it disturbing.

That’s a fascinating thing about our culture, but we also can’t be too general because there are many people that don’t even express their feelings. We often hear more from the critical people than we do from the praise or we have as human beings, a psychological tendency to put more focus on criticism over positive feedback. The criticism often gets magnified in our brains that we forget about all the positivity. One thing I love about this person who’s been communicating with me about this is that they have continuously added in moments of like, “I respect you and I care about the work that you’re doing and I’m grateful for it. I want to bring this to your attention.” They’ve had this big aim to communicate. I’m grateful for that because it’s helping me re-examine my language and be more aware of myself and the ripple effect. I want to go back to the second email specifically that I received in which this person was a little bit more in-depth after I responded to them.

We tend to put more focus on criticism, which gets so magnified in our brains that we forget about all the positivity. Click To Tweet

Here are a few different gems within that long email that they sent me talking about this. One of them was that their aim is to be cognitive and aware. If something that they’re doing is problematic in real ways for another or other groups of people, they’re doing their best to reassess and redirect their actions and speech. Even if it may not be offensive to them on a personal end. That’s beautifully said, is how can we examine, be aware, and redirect our actions and speech as much as possible? That’s a huge part of consciousness and compassion. That’s a huge element of being vegan and mental health is simply being aware. That’s a common thread through in most of our episodes.

This person said, “Being aware of what people of color and those who are potentially people of color who might be vegan are dealing with and redirecting our actions and words accordingly.” Part of their hope is that if white people are aware of how their actions are affecting people of color, it may give us a greater chance of opening up different cultures to veganism. I certainly hope for that, but I also will say that because I’m not labeled as a person of color and based on my heritage, my DNA and the color of my skin, I don’t associate myself with that. I don’t know that much about that.

I grew up in a white family and neighborhood. I’m surrounded by a lot of white people. There’s a bias that I have and ignorance that I have about different cultures as a result. I can educate myself as much as possible, but it’s a lot of work. It’s a long road and I may never be able to understand somebody from a different culture because we’re in different cultures. It’s like going to school and studying something. That is a lot of information that we’re taking in and trying to interpret it. When somebody is living something every single day of their life, it’s not that easy to understand it just by studying it. The next thing I’ll bring up is this person’s point that for the dominant society, which they say is the Western countries though typically somebody who’s white, like Jason and I are. Although Jason is part Puerto Rican, I don’t remember what percentage you are, Jason. When you do your 23andMe, you learned a little bit about yourself on that end. Do you remember off the top of your head?

It’s Puerto Rican and Spanish from my dad’s side, which is about 40%. My dominant ethnic background is not Latino, but 40% is pretty high. Do I identify as a public advocate for Latino culture? No, because I wasn’t raised in a Latino family. My father’s family from Puerto Rico was there. When people find out like, “You’re Latino.” You don’t wave that flag. I’ve had some interesting interactions with people over the years of some people saying, “You need to champion the Latino culture, being healthy, being plant-based and wellness.” Because by and large, a lot of Latino ethnicities are not focused on health, wellness and eating well. They’re like, “You could use your power for good to reach that.” I’m like, “I don’t speak Spanish all that well. I wasn’t necessarily raised in heavily Latino culture.” Part of it was, but once my dad left, and my mom and dad broke up, a lot of that Latino heritage went with my dad leaving the family. It’s been an interesting seesaw for me over the course of my life because people assume that I’m white and then when they find out I have a high percentage of Latino blood, they’re like, “You should do this and that.” That doesn’t feel right to me. I feel like I’m appropriating that culture that I don’t identify with because I wasn’t raised with it. I know that’s a sidebar, but you touched on a hot button that’s gotten a lot of interesting feedback, Whitney, from other people.

Part of me bringing this up is that I can’t study my way of fully understanding somebody of a different culture because I have never lived in that culture. If I immersed myself in it, perhaps, maybe if I went and lived somewhere else or lived with a family of a different culture. I’m already at a certain age point, “What about the rest of my life where I haven’t experienced that?” I don’t know if I could ever “catch up” and fully understand something if my full life has not incorporated that. Even if it’s in your blood, it’s me trying to say, “Because I’m part Irish, I understand Irish culture.” No, or part Ukrainian, I barely know anything about Ukrainian culture. I happen to have that background because of where my grandparents were from. I can’t pretend to know what it is to live that way.

This doesn’t preclude us from having the awareness of the sensitivity and concerns, even though we don’t have a direct experience of it. It’s the first to say that I have no idea what it’s like to fear for my life from wearing a hoodie, walking down the street of my neighborhood. There are people in this world based on what has been happening in our society that let’s say for an African-American man of having fear for their life. I’ve talked to some mutual friends of ours about this who are African-American of like, “I don’t know what that’s like in my life to be afraid to walk or run down my own street with a hoodie on.” That’s a genuine fear and for good reason based on a lot of the things that have happened.

Can I do my best to have a sensitivity and understand and use my privilege, even though I have no direct understanding of that concern and that fear? How can I best leverage awareness and a sensitivity to assist you and the policies and the conversation in our culture to have a growing awareness of compassion, unity, and concern for other ethnicities even though we don’t have a direct experience of it? I hope that makes sense of like, “I can’t know what that’s like to live in that fear-based on my skin color and what people identify me as. If I can have a sensitivity and awareness and somehow helped to shift the cultural narrative, I want to know how I can do that.”

This is starting to remind me of the times where people got offended about Thug Kitchen. For the readers, Jason and I have known Matt and Michelle who wrote Thug Kitchen for many years. We’re not as close to them as we were at different points, but we have gotten to know them fairly well. I remember feeling defensive about them because people were attacking them for using the term thug and using terms and lingo in their books and social media. It brought up a lot of strong feelings from different cultures and people posting about it and interviews. I remember feeling defensive and it has also given me a chance to reflect on my reactions to things. It wasn’t even about me, but I felt defensive because I knew Matt and Michelle.

I felt defensive because I thought that they were doing something great for veganism and I still stand behind that. Through this conversation I’m reflecting on the fact that I don’t know what it’s like to be somebody of a different culture that feels offended by that. I know people that were Latino, I felt we’re offended. Some people were offended that were African American and it was bringing up a lot of strong emotions. In hindsight I feel a little weird about being defensive about that because who am I to try to defend somebody when I don’t understand the other side that’s offended by it?

MGU 74 | Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation: We all want to be understood. There’s a lot of fear tied into being misunderstood, and that’s where the defensiveness can come in.

 

There are other elements to this in the sense that as friends and colleagues of ours, there was a natural tendency to be like, “We know them and we know that they’re not doing this to be inflammatory or intentionally appropriating cultural language or Afro-centric language.” From my understanding, it was this criticism isn’t necessarily just the criticism but the anger and the vitriol to me were warranted back then. I was like, “I know them and I know that they’re not doing this from a place of intentionally appropriating, being inflammatory, or being disrespectful.”

On the other side of the coin, there’s this part where it’s like, “What is their intention behind it? Were they doing it to be humorous?” We go back to stand-up comedy or comedy and think, if someone does an impression of someone on a stage that is of different ethnicity, depending on the words and the context and the situation they’re painting in their stand-up routine, does it automatically mean because I do an imitation? You know me, Whitney. I do voices and invitations all the time. Could it be that someone could go, “You should never ever imitate a British person? That’s disrespectful. You should never imitate an African-American and French person.” I do accents and characters all the time. If I examine my heart, “Am I doing it to be damaging or inflammatory or detrimental?” Absolutely not.

I could see that if someone were to bring it to me and say, “That’s highly offensive.” I would want to know why. I would be curious as to like, “What about this is potentially offensive?” To go back to the Thug Kitchen thing, I agree with you, Whitney. At the time, I was not as sensitive to the concerns of other people in our community that was bringing up because I was like, “I know Matt and Michelle, and I know they’re not being dicks about this. I know they’re not doing it for ill-begotten means.” I can understand that if someone was feeling triggered, slighted or disrespected, it behooves us to bring humanity closer together. Honestly, on the biggest level to not be dismissive and defensive but listen to each other. No matter what the outcome is, to sit down in a nonreactive state to listen to one another. That’s the first step.

That brings me back to some other points in the email that I thought was enlightening. The person said that, “There’s no connection and oftentimes no knowledge of the significance, struggle history behind the use of a dish and is used in a flippant trivial manner by those who often think of it as a kitschy/catchy bowl of the day. In doing so, it is trivializing a person of colors’ culture and thus reinforcing unequal power dynamics.” That to me is where I am starting to understand this person’s point here. When I say like the use of the word Buddhist Bowl or Buddha Bowl or it is like, “It’s just a word.” To me, “It’s just a name.”

I know what a Buddhist person is. I’m not Buddhist, so who am I to use that word and it’s not just a name. It feels like a name to me because it’s familiar but there is the importance of personal responsibility for understanding that this could be perceived as trivializing somebody because I’m using it as a catchy term. That in itself could be perceived as reinforcing unequal power dynamics. That’s probably why some people were triggered by Thug Kitchen because it was two white people using terms that felt associated with different cultures that they were not.

They became successful because of the use of those terms, which in essence gave them more power. That’s the power dynamic is where I’m starting to feel like, “This is important to me because I am passionate about equality.” I also know that I was born into privilege and we’ve used these terms privileged before and to acknowledge them the privilege of that being a certain color of your skin gives you in different parts of the world. If your skin color is perceived as dominant or powerful like that’s something you didn’t have a choice over but it is a privilege. The privilege to grow up in a family that had money or that gave you a certain education that lived in different parts of the country that surrounded you with things. Giving you different advantages gives you a different dynamic compared to other people. It doesn’t help us to be defensive about those things. What, Jason, you were helpful in bringing up here is that it is important for us to listen to other people and we may not fully understand or agree with them. We may not even be able to fully understand somebody but simply listening and trying not to react or defend ourselves is an important step forward.

This idea of power dynamics goes into the power of coded, conscious language, the meaning, and how we can create new meaning around words. I go back to music because it’s one of my great loves. One of the biggest genres of music that has been talked about in terms of dynamics is hip-hop and rap music. I’ve talked about the parallels of specific movements within music coming from disillusioned, disenfranchised, lower-income, impoverished groups of people. Looking at where hip-hop and rap music came from, you look at Queens and Bronx and those parts of New York City. You look at Detroit, Chicago, groups of disenfranchised, lower-income, African-Americans taking this style of music. In the ’80s it rising to what eventually now became one of the most successful genres in music history. Hip-hop changed the world.

I remember reading some in-depth articles about the use of the N-word in Hip hop culture. People being curious, “Why is the N-word being used colloquially and why is it being used in this context?” For some artists, back in the day, especially in the ’80s, it was this idea that we are taking a word that has been encoded with a ton of negative, hateful energy around it. We are re-appropriating, reusing and recontextualizing it in a way to say instead of like, “Brother, what’s up?” Using the N-word in a context that is a completely different energy and coding than it was used for, at the beginning, which was a completely derogatory ethnic slur.

It depends on the context and who’s using it and why they’re using it. This probably goes back to, and I don’t want to guess, but the celebrity you brought up. You look at the power dynamics of this word and the African-American community taking this word recontextualizing and reusing it in a way that does not have the hateful, shameful, detrimental energy that it was used for hundreds and hundreds of years. You can understand this point, this person’s making your email about the power dynamics of certain words that we use and why it can be offensive. It makes complete sense. That was one example that brought up for me is like, “People are reclaiming or using certain words in a specific way.” When we have not faced perhaps the stigma or the pain of those words in ways and don’t have an understanding of the depth of why they’re using those words, you can understand why people would get pissed off about it for sure.

It behooves us to bring humanity closer together on a higher level by listening to each other. Click To Tweet

This is fascinating to reflect on. I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore it. Taking each of these different perspectives and talking about them and reflecting on them in this conversation and then beyond this, it’ll continue to be in the psyche. The realizations that I can have as part of this is important because it doesn’t get brought up in my life often. When it does, it’s a great opportunity and I hope that the readers experiencing something similar are having some a-ha moments. We invite you to be part of this conversation with us as well. If you have any other points that you’d like to make as readers, you can do so by going to our website, Wellevatr.com.

Part of it is that there’s a little bit of arrogance or ego like, “I can say whatever I want. We have freedom of speech and you don’t own that word. Nobody owns words.” For lack of a better word, arrogance sometimes that we can feel and that we want to be able to say whatever we want to say, but our words do have a responsibility. We have to be as conscious as we possibly can. I hope that we will also simultaneously be mindful of how we interpret other people’s words in their context. The respect that we would give to us, we need to extend to other people. Open up dialogues with them as this person did with this email. Being unattached to the results is the big key here. We all want to be understood. It’s challenging to be misunderstood. There’s a lot of fear tied to being misunderstood. That’s where the defensiveness can come in, is trying to force somebody to understand us.

Having an ongoing conversation about things is important where each party, person and perspective is given respect and given the time to be heard. Doing our best, not to fight for something, but simply to let it go and say, “This is how I feel and I’d like to hear how you feel. I’d like to try my best to understand you,” and going back and forth. Sometimes we may feel understood and sometimes we won’t. I’ve been in all different types of situations. I’ve had people unsubscribed from my YouTube channel. I’ve lost friends over conversations and fell completely misunderstood in both cases. There have also been beautiful times where I got into an uncomfortable conversation and felt like I would never feel understood or that I would never understand somebody else. Somehow, we worked through it and it was a beautiful thing. The key is not to be attached to either.

There’s a wonderful phrase, I don’t know who it’s attributed to but the phrase is, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” That’s pedantic because I don’t think happiness is the goal, especially in this context. A better re-imagining of that phrase would be, “Do you want to be right or do you want to have equanimity and peace?” To me, it doesn’t guarantee if we are understood and fully communicated that we will have equanimity and peace. Yet, when people come to a sensitive, uncomfortable conversation like the one we’re having around cultural appropriation, the use of language, identity, sensitivity, and respect around all of this is if I’m fixed to a position of, “I want to be able to say whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t care about how other people feel about what I have to say.” That to me feels like an infantile adolescent position. “I’m going to say whatever I want. I’m going to do whatever I want.” It feels like an immature perspective from my perspective.

Whereas there’s a balance that can be achieved of feeling free to express oneself while maintaining the aim of equanimity, peace, and understanding with other people that are radically different from you. It’s one of those things too where I’ve opened my mind to a lot of this, of the sense of, “I’m genuinely curious to learn from people who have different ethical, political, scientific, sociological perspectives than I do and feel way more stimulated by getting those different perspectives.” It’s interesting too if we talked about the upbringing, Whitney, of me growing up on one side of Latino family and the other side an Eastern European family.

I remember the neighborhood I grew up in Detroit as an example was unusual. The next-door neighbors that we had, and this was the ’80s, mind you. It was a mixed-race, gay couple that lived next door to us. In the ’80s in Detroit, that was unheard of a mixed-race, gay couple living next door to us. It’s not just them as a solitary example, but growing up in a neighborhood that had African-American, Middle Eastern and white families, I had an experience being young of being exposed to and having relations with people that were different from me. I’m sure that for me, that shaped my life perspective as opposed to being around people that were the same as me. People of different sexualities, ethnicities and backgrounds. I’m grateful for my mom first of all, for fostering that openness in me, but also having the environment that I was in, which in the ’80s in Detroit, that was unusual but I reflect on that now. At least for me, my point here is that my curiosity to understand other people and not be right but learn, be open and receptive was fostered by the environment that I grew up in.

The more that we can be open-minded, openhearted, and expose ourselves to other people even if we’re not hoping that we’ll fully understand somebody. The key is like, “Can we be more accepting and conscious?” It’s not about, “Can we completely understand somebody because we may never be able to?” It reminds me too, Jason, of how you’ve been committed to feeding the homeless and that’s going outside of your comfort zones and that’s taking you to be around people that are in a completely different state of living than you. It’s not necessarily a cultural thing, but it’s exposing you to the realities that other people are experiencing versus staying in your bubble and being focused on yourself and your problems while being ignorant of other people’s challenges and experiences. That’s another conversation on its own, but it is similar in a way. It’s like, “What are we exposing ourselves to and why are we doing that?”

It ultimately comes down to safety. We associate being around like-minded people, people that look, think and act like us have the same experiences that feel safer to us. That’s more of the known, that’s more comfortable versus exposing ourselves to things that are about uncertainty, and uncertainty is scary to a lot of people. It feels threatening. We think that because we don’t know what something is, that it might mean that we won’t survive in that scenario. A lot of the times, making that assumption is incorrect. Just because something is unfamiliar doesn’t mean that it’s bad for us or hurtful to us. We have to push ourselves out of that comfort zone in order to experience that and that takes a lot of awareness.

It’s human nature. We have been conditioned in a lot of cases to stay safe and familiar and to avoid change. Even though change and uncertainty are all around us. I know that during COVID-19, it’s brought up a lot of those feelings. It’s showing us that the world may be isn’t as safe as we thought it was and we have to face that reality. As a result, maybe we’ll be more compassionate to other people, aware and willing to acknowledge those people. To summarize this email, I love this one line here about vegans, which was one of the themes in this email. This person that wrote it said, “If vegans from the dominant society and those outside the race of Asians are creative/innovative enough to find ways to recreate, reinvent omnivores/carnivorous dishes, then it’s more than reasonable and easy enough for them to create titles that are less problematic and isolate people of color from calling themselves vegan and wanting to be vegan.” That shows me the ultimate aim here is that this person believes that it’s important to be inclusive if we want more people to try something like veganism.

MGU 74 | Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation: There’s a balance that can be achieved between feeling free to express oneself and maintaining the aim of equanimity, peace, and understanding with radically different people.

 

For us to acknowledge when we are part of a dominant society and to acknowledge the people that are outside of that and know that we have a lot of power. I hope that we have power regardless if we feel dominant or not. Whatever we do have, it’s important for us to be creative and do our best to be mindful of how our words have an impact on others whether it’s titling a recipe in a vegan book. I never would have thought that one recipe would cause somebody to feel excluded from reading my book and that is sad for me to hear and acknowledge but it is the truth of the scenario. The good news is that raising my awareness will help me include more people and that’s important to me.

This whole conversation is showing me how important that is and how complicated it is too. It’s not an easy solution. I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong way to talk. Sometimes we say things that affect people in a way that we didn’t intend to. We can take that personal responsibility to be mindful of our words and do our best throughout our lives to be inclusive to other people so that everybody feels as equal as they possibly can, even if that seems challenging, even if there is a dominant society, culture, race or whatever that means. I would love to see more equality and invite that in.

I think about that with our show too, Jason. Frankly, we could do a better job of bringing different voices in. I often focus on balancing the male and feminine voices that come in, but we need to bring people in from different backgrounds as well. We have a lot of white men on our show and that wasn’t purposeful. It’s not like we were thinking that, it’s just that we’ve been drawn to white guests, but we’ve only had not that many people on our show that have even been women let alone non-white, people of color.

This is a good observation, Whitney, and it’s interesting because we do have people in our friend circle and circle of colleagues that are of different ethnic backgrounds and are of different sexualities. To your point, I don’t think it’s been an intentional choice to exclude anyone. It goes back to the theme of this episode, which is awareness. As you’re saying it, it’s obvious yet it makes me want to continue to reach out to more diverse people because that certainly fits in the idea of bringing people out of suffering, growing our awareness and having a deeper understanding of one another.

As you say that it’s not like a “duh” moment, but it’s like, “Right, exactly.” It completely fits with our ethos. It’s not that we didn’t think of it, but why has it taken us so long to go, “We should bring in people that we know already with different perspectives, cultures and experiences?” It’s almost like there’s this subconscious programmer script that runs us in life that once we become aware of that subconscious programmer script, then we have the opportunity to take a different action. Once my awareness expands, it’s not, “I’m aware of something.” It’s like, “What action are we going to take?” I want to thank you for publicly saying that because that feels right to expand this and bring different people on.

I look forward to that. I will say one more time that I’m grateful to have this conversation. I’m grateful for the author. We invite you, the readers, to be part of this conversation. We invite uncomfortable conversations because we want to transform the uncomfortable into comfort or at the very least, we want simply to be okay with being uncomfortable. We are @Wellevatr on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. You can find us and you can email us at [email protected]. We read every single email and we’ll do our best to write you back as soon as possible and you may even be part of a future episode. We will keep your name private so that your privacy is protected there because that’s important to us.

That being said, we appreciate you being in this ever-evolving conversation around growing our awareness, our compassion, and our understanding because over everything else we do believe that we are one human family. A diverse, unique, interesting human family with many different experiences, histories, and dreams. To us, it is our intention to open this up in all ways to understand one another. We always love to hear from you, as Whitney said. You can follow along with us on social media. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Any topic matter, emails, communication that you want us to discuss here on the show, we always welcome those conversations. Thank you, dear reader, for getting uncomfortable with us yet again. We will see you soon with another episode. Thanks so much.

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