MGU 85 | Digital Blackface

 

So much is happening all over the world that it is so easy to become physically and emotionally drained these days. Yet, in times like these, we should have more reasons to push through anyway. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen push through the uncomfortable and speak about a necessary issue that is long-overdue and needs to be addressed: racial injustice. With the Black Lives Matter Movement gaining momentum, more and more people are aware of the various injustices faced by the black community. People are now calling out influential people and businesses that profit from the community’s struggles, culture, and identity, signaling a shift in the people’s attitudes and consciousness on the importance of rightfully giving respect and credit where it is due. In particular, Jason and Whitney dive deep into the digital blackface and responding to anti-racist outrage. They discuss the businesses that are currently in hot waters and reflect on it in terms of cancel culture, cultural appropriation, white privilege, and systemic oppression. This conversation, as difficult as it is, is very necessary. Hear what Jason and Whitney have to say and reflect on the ways racial injustice has impacted and hurt so many lives.

Listen to the podcast here:

Understanding Digital Blackface: On Anti-Racist Outrage, Cultural Appropriation, And White Privilege

We’re starting off this episode in a way that I don’t think either of us intended and this is something that we both feel uncomfortable about. We wouldn’t be in full integrity with who we are in the point of this show if we didn’t get uncomfortable at times.

I’m exhausted. That’s the other thing too, when we started the show, I’ve realized it’s not about performing for the readers. It comes as you are and part of the lessons I’m learning and doing this with Whitney is breaking out of this mold of being that I had embodied a lot on YouTube, social media and videos. If anyone has ever seen any of my videos out there on social for a long time, I felt like I had to be like, “I’m in presenter mode. I’ve got to get the energy up.” Now, we’re doing this show, I’m fucking tired. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted. I haven’t been sleeping well, but you show up anyway.

If we’re going to have an uncomfortable conversation, I feel in a way in this show, my hope at least is that it mirrors an actual life conversation. We always say, “We don’t like to do interviews. We don’t like to interview each other. We don’t like to interview guests. We like to sit down and have a conversation,” because even if you’re tired, uncomfortable, exhausted, and you don’t necessarily have the “right answer” at the moment, you show up and you connect anyway. That’s my rant on the ethos of what we hope comes through in this show is you show up as you are, how you are, how you feel, and connect and bring it. That’s what we’re all about here.

I’ve been learning a lot. It is mid-June 2020, believe it or not. Time continuously throughout life ebbs and flows and our relationship with time changes a lot. I certainly feel like, during COVID, it’s been reframing a lot. During this time of uprising and striving for racial justice, I have had a lot of awakenings and time to reflect on my viewpoints, not just about race, but life in general, how we communicate, and how we relate to one another. What you’re saying Jason reminds me of a lesson I learned from watching what happened with Marie Forleo. For our readers who are not familiar with that name, she’s a wonderful and respected entrepreneur. I have not stayed up to date on what’s been happening. She was one of the first people I saw who was getting some backlash for how she responded to Black Lives Matter, right around the time when the protests started when George Floyd was killed. Do you know what date he was killed?

It was May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis.

That was a quick time period on the 25th. I associate it with a Saturday, which was 31st or 30th of May 2020. That was when things shifted for me.

It was a Monday, Memorial Day on the 25th.

The timeline was a Monday, the 25th and then a lot started to build. It came to this point in this pivoting period on May 30th, especially for me. I remember that Wednesday, May 27, 2020, things were starting to shift in Minneapolis and it felt distant. It started to hit home for me on May 30, 2020, when the protest started to happen and the looting was happening in Los Angeles, but also conversations were growing and shifting. I saw this backlash something that Marie Forleo had posted and tying it into what you said, which was part of her response at first was that she and her team were not working over that weekend.

They were in a way telling their audience that they would get back to it on Monday. A lot of people were saying, “It’s unfair that you, as a white woman, are using the weekend as an excuse not to take action because all of us who are fighting for racial justice, we don’t get to take a break. We don’t get to take the weekend off.” I thought that was such an important point to make. I understand as business owners, we want to take breaks, but we are doing this show on a Saturday afternoon. The day of the week does not matter that much to me since I became an entrepreneur, I haven’t been able to use the weekend as an excuse.

We don’t work a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule. We don’t clock out. In essence, we’re always working, except if we consciously decide to take a break, but sometimes the breaks are a couple of hours. They’re not necessarily a whole weekend as some people have when they work certain jobs. I want to thank you, Jason, for doing this despite feeling tired. As podcasters, there are many times where we don’t feel like we’re in the mood to record something, but we do it anyway. We have to push through that and that’s not a direct comparison to fighting for racial justice. It’s a different thing, but in a way, relatable. It ties into what I wanted to discuss, which is moving through the discomfort, whether you’re feeling like you don’t have the energy to do something, but you push through that anyway.

It’s uncomfortable to push through tiredness. It takes a lot of mindfulness and personal awareness to say, “I don’t want to do this because it feels uncomfortable, but I’m going to do it.” That’s also true when it comes to our emotions. What we wanted to start off this episode discussing is an emotionally uncomfortable thing for both of us. Before we did this, I said to Jason, “We should talk about it even though it’s uncomfortable. We can’t skirt around things or ignore things.” Part of our mission with this show is that we want to share with you the conversations we typically have had offline because a lot of the times, it feels uncomfortable to publicly discuss things.

I’ve been working through this a lot trying to figure out what I’m going to say. To be honest, I have not set as much as I would like to because it feels uncomfortable. Almost every single day, when I go onto social media, I wonder, “Have I said enough? Have I done enough? I have these thoughts, am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Am I doing enough? Am I not doing enough?” On one level, I think that that’s not good for our mental health to constantly be feeling like we’re not enough, we’re not doing enough. We’re doing things wrong. I don’t want to subscribe to that mindset, but I still struggle with that even though I try not to put myself in this right or wrong mentality.

On another level, I’m used to that. That’s a habit of mine and it’s been an interesting thing to observe my relationship with social media these days because I want to stand up. I want to show that I’m an ally. I want to be a good ally. I want to be a strong ally. I want to make a difference. I want to keep this movement going, but there are a lot of times where I hesitate because I don’t feel like I know what to say. It takes a lot of work to figure that out. I don’t want to have a knee jerk reaction and post whatever’s on my mind because I want it to be thoughtful. Sometimes we overthink things and then we don’t end up doing anything because it becomes exhausting to think about what we’re going to say.

MGU 85 | Digital Blackface

Digital Blackface: Shame is not a tactic that helps people make a change themselves. It hinders them more than it helps them.

 

It is analysis paralysis.

That leads me to the discussion that we want to at least touch upon lightly here on the show, which is uncomfortable for us. It’s something that we’ve already addressed a little bit in a previous episode we did on cultural appropriation. It was interesting because that episode came out the same week as George Floyd’s death. That came out probably on the May 27, 2020 or something.

It was the last week of May 2020, that episode debuted.

We didn’t know. When we did that episode, that was before George Floyd was killed. We were discussing that because it was a timely thing in our lives. We certainly did not plan it by any means and in that episode, we talked about the Thug Kitchen, which is a brand. Some of you may be familiar with it. It’s a vegan cooking brand. They have books, blogs, social media, and merchandise. It’s run by two white people, Matt and Michelle, who we have known since 2015. It is when I first met them. I met them at a party and you were there too Jason, but I don’t know if you met them at that same party. It was at MooShoes in Los Angeles.

I didn’t meet them until later.

I remember I connected with Michelle and I don’t know exactly how the arc of our friendship happened, but we were close. At this time, I haven’t talked to her that much. There was no inciting incident that I can recall for that, but for whatever reason, we have not been in touch with each other. On a personal level, it’s always sad to me. I like having people in my life, but it’s been interesting because Thug Kitchen has been a polarizing brand. They’ve been successful in a lot of ways. They’ve been bestsellers of their books. They’ve had three bestselling books. They’ve had a big audience on social media. They’ve been recognized on many media platforms and celebrities have shouted them out. To me, it’s been a wonderful thing in a lot of ways for the vegan movement. However, their name has been the subject of criticism and debate for many years. I don’t remember exactly what we said in that episode. Jason, you recall more of the words because you’re reading the transcript, but what we touched upon there was that it was tough for us.

Most of my experience with Thug Kitchen came after I met Matt and Michelle. I remember finding out about their brands. I was familiar with the brand before I met them, but so much of what I associate with that brand is Matt and Michelle as people. I’ve listened to Bryant Terry’s interview on KCRW and he talked about this. There was an op-ed that he did about years ago. That was probably in 2014, I suppose. He brought up this concept of digital or cyber blackface. He talked about how he was affected by Thug Kitchen because many people got familiar with the brand without knowing who was behind the brand. People like Bryant assumed that the people that created Thug Kitchen or the person, a lot of people didn’t know that it was run by two people for a while. It was this anonymous blog and then the book came out and then the news came out that it was run by two young white people in their twenties.

It struck people like Bryant in a negative way because he assumed this whole time that it was a black kid, a black teenager or a twenty-year-old or someone like that who was using a lot of the terminology of Thug Kitchen to reach people in a different way to introduce them to plants. For a while, I think the popularity of Thug Kitchen was like, “This is a cool way to talk about veganism. We’re glad that it’s reaching a different audience and a different culture.” When it came out what their identities were, people started to feel like that was cultural appropriation. I feel like we had a discussion about this before we met Matt and Michelle, do you have any memory of that?

No, my assumption was also to mirror what Bryant was talking about. I remember in 2012, the first time I heard of them, a good friend of mine who was an art director and a composer forwarded me their website and was like, “Have you seen this?” I was like, “Interesting.” I remember being like, “This is a fascinating take.” I remember seeing their blog in the beginning in 2012, but my initial impression was the same as Bryant Terry’s which was like, “This is some cool black kids somewhere using vernacular language and black aphorisms to sell veganism.” I thought it was cool and funny and I had the same assumption he did.

I don’t remember what I assumed. At this point in my life, I don’t associate the word thug with a specific race. Listening to Bryant Terry’s perspectives, I’m starting to learn more about the history of it and why people associate that word with an urban black person. The different terms in that interview that he did feel like I was getting an education on this and how Matt and Michelle would use phrases that were often coming from black music. It felt like they were pulling from that. Honestly, I don’t know if they would do it, especially because we haven’t been in touch with Matt and Michelle, but it certainly would be nice to talk to them about this. Where we’re at is based on our personal experiences.

Sometimes, we overthink things that we end up not doing anything because it becomes exhausting to think. Click To Tweet

In the cultural appropriation episode, it’s tough when you know somebody, or at least you think you know somebody and you see their side of things and then you see the world against them. I felt defensive about Matt and Michelle because I enjoy them as human beings. I got to see their hearts and their intentions. I thought they were doing a lot of great things for the vegan movement. It has been interesting as these debates have come to the surface again, seeing the reactions and cancel culture around it. There are some people that are shaming them publicly and saying like, “You’ve been ignoring us all these years and you have to face reality. You have to own up to your mistakes and all of that.”

We have talked a lot about this offline and how neither one of us are fans of cancel culture. I’m certainly a big advocate for not shaming. I don’t think shame is a good tactic at all. In fact, it is something I study a lot in my work. It is something that I’ve been spending a lot of time developing. I’m working on a new program specifically around shame. I’m a huge fan of Brené Brown, who does a lot of work on that too. I’m deeply immersed in that. I’m also personally affected by it. I can tell you from my research and my firsthand experiences, that shame is not a tactic that helps people make a change themselves. It hinders them more than it helps them. It’s gut-wrenching for me to see people attacking Thug Kitchen.

When I see the term, Thug Kitchen, I’m thinking of the people behind it, Matt and Michelle, the people that I know. I feel protective over those people, but I’m trying to open up more and listen to the perspectives and try to understand them because I also don’t want to take sides. I want to understand both sides. I want to give respect and honor to them, especially during this time, it’s important for us to be allies for people of color and the black people out there that have been struggling so much. We need to give them that stage. That’s why Black Lives Matter is incredibly important. It’s been an interesting emotional ride. The reason that we decide to speak out about this again is that Matt and Michelle announced that they decided to change Thug Kitchen. I have not read the post yet. Have you, Jason?

Yes, I wanted to pull it up. The actual graphic post says, “We’re changing Thug Kitchen.” The caption reads, “When we first launched TK in 2012, we wanted our name to signal our brand’s grit in the otherwise polished and elitist food scene. Over the years, as our critics pointed out the racist connotations of two white people using the word thug, we tried to contextualize it by talking about our backgrounds and our beliefs. We realized, however, that whatever our original intention, our use of it reflected our privilege and ignored the reality that the word is assigned to black people in an attempt to dehumanize them.”

“That’s fucked up and we’re not at all what we stand for. We apologize. We recognize we need to do better. Our end game is to widen the table in our countries conversation around food and to add more chairs. We want our body of work to reflect inclusivity and empathy. In that spirit, we will change the name of our company and website, discontinue the use of Thug Kitchen as the title of all of our previous cookbooks and closely reevaluate the content of each book. These changes are underway but will take a while longer while we finish the work. We’re serious about being advocates for change and that starts with us.”

I want to commend them. I feel the awe of it because we have been following this development, but we’ve also been aware of it for many years. I feel like that takes an enormous amount of humbleness. That’s a lot of self-awareness and it is not easy to apologize, first and foremost in such a public way. As of the moment, that post has almost 18,000 likes and they’ve got a huge audience there. I’m sure they posted it on their Facebook where they have a bigger audience. They’re going to be talking about this a lot. They have a podcast as well and they have a massive platform. They’re reaching millions of people with their message and that’s a lot of pressure. It also shows a lot of growth because they have been receiving this pressure for many years and stuck to their guns and did not want to change. That they’re going to be changing the titles of their books, whatever that means, they’re going to have to go back and revamp everything that they’ve been doing since 2012 of work.

There was an interesting suggestion in that post that I thought was super creative from one of their followers. Thug Kitchen responded and acknowledged this. They said it was a great idea that with their publisher who is Rodale, that they would print new cover sleeves for their books for $5. Anyone who wanted to purchase a new cover sleeve with the new brand name and new book cover, they would donate all of those proceeds to moving forward black justice and racial justice and donating to worthy causes. They said, “That’s a phenomenal idea.”

To be honest, having spent several years with this brand being successful, for them, wanting people to keep their books and keep using their books, I assume they want that. I don’t know who the author wouldn’t. I loved that idea also of reprinting the new brand, the new title on a new jacket for the book, and then donating those proceeds. That’s a great idea. To your point though, Whitney, I listened to Bryant’s interview with Evan Kleiman on Good Food on KCRW. I went back and looked at his original article, his op-ed piece on CNN. Back in 2014, he commented on this. He said, at that time, people were not giving it much lip service. He has been linking back to that CNN article, but what I wanted to say, Whitney is on Bryant’s feed and also on Thug Kitchen’s feed, people commenting, “Don’t celebrate them. Don’t give them a pat on the back. Don’t give them a cookie. Changing their name isn’t enough.” People are saying and pressuring them to donate all of their revenue to reparations. They didn’t use the word reparation but it’s being implied that for any Black Lives Matter or racial injustice that they donate all of the money they’ve made over the years on the TK brand.

People are saying, “Changing the name and the brand is not enough. We need you to do more.” There’s a growing movement of people saying, “They need to step up, donate, get rid of their money, and apologize for appropriation.” It goes back to the thing you talked about shame versus cancel culture. It’s an interesting thing psychologically and I want to pass the baton back to you, Whitney, of, “Do we acknowledge that in the psychology of people changing their behavior and making strides to move forward?” We say, “Excellent, that’s amazing. Thank you for apologizing. Thank you for changing and if you want to go the next level of empathy, compassion, and aligning as allies with the black and brown community, how about you donate this? How about you do this?” Instead, they’re going, “Don’t celebrate them. Don’t give them a cookie. Fuck them. They need to do more.” I have a lot of feelings about that.

As do I. I’m steep in researching the psychological impacts of shame and what makes us take action. I think that it comes down to our own unique way of handling this. I was reading about it in one of the books. I believe that there typically two types of people that are driven by rewards. The cookie, as you referenced Jason like, “Let me give you a pat on the back.” Some people are driven to get that like, “I need to be validated. I need to feel good. I need to make money. I need to get whatever it is that you’re after.” Once you get that reward, it’s satisfying and maybe you will stop once you get what you’ve been looking for. Some people are driven by avoiding punishment. It’s like, “I don’t want to be criticized, so I’m not going to do.” For me, I’m driven by deadlines, for example, because I don’t want to get in trouble for missing a deadline. I also like rewards to an extent, but I’m more motivated by avoiding negativity. It’s like, “Are you avoiding something bad, or are you striving for something good?”

It’s the carrot and stick scenario as they contextualize it.

The problem is that when you shame somebody if you’re using that as a tactic to get them to do something for you if you don’t know how they work psychologically, it’s useless because they may not respond to it. Knowing Matt and Michelle on a personal level, when they feel attacked, that puts them in defense mode. I think that’s also why it’s taken them long to make a change is they’ve been attacked a lot, but they’ve also received a lot of praise. I’ve gone through their comments, but there are a lot of positive comments. There’s a lot of people thanking them and saying, “Thanks for what you’re saying. Thanks for what you’re doing. Thank you for making veganism accessible. Thank you for making it enjoyable.” There’s still a lot of positive feedback on them. My point is that we have to consider and this is not specific to Thug Kitchen is because we want somebody to change, we can’t force them to do it our way or on our timeline.

We have to know those people have a lot of work to do, personally and professionally. It’s not as simple as snapping your fingers and changing your name, especially when you’ve been working on something for years. They have these already published books. They have domain names. There is so much work that goes into picking a name. How do you choose something that resonates with you? Do you pick something that sounds similar? Take it from me, I’m in the process of changing my brand myself to moving from being known as Eco-Vegan Gal to just being Whitney Lauritsen. That’s a lot of work that I’ve been Eco-Vegan Gal for many years. That shift is going to take me many years. Also with us on this show, we have the brand, Wellevatr, and we have to spell out the name of our brand every single time to reinforce what it is. It’s going to take a long time to build that brand.

I’m not excusing it, but I believe that Michelle and Matt chose the name Thug Kitchen with good intentions. I do believe that it may be done out of ignorance and not realizing what they were doing was going to be offensive. Who knows how long into building that brand they were before people started to criticize them? It’ll also take a long time to build up your name recognition to the point where people even care. It might be years until somebody points out that they don’t like the name Wellevatr. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but let’s say that here we are, years into Wellevatr and someone’s like, “You should change your name.”

We have to go back and change it in all this area. We have to cognitively be ready to change it. We have to agree with that. This is not an easy thing. It’s like your typical armchair expert, the person, the crowd, the trolls, people that are sitting behind a keyboard, and telling you to do something that they don’t like or to change something because they don’t like it. You have to remember it’s not that easy. I can understand the reasons more than ever, but I also remember when I used to defend Thug Kitchen because I was ignorant. I wasn’t even attached to the brand in the way that they were, but I truly was ignorant of it. I remember reading Bryant’s article and thinking that I could understand his perspective, but I was also pissed off that he was targeting people I knew and cared about.

I remember when Matt and Michelle would talk about their book signing cancellations. They had some of them at some wonderful restaurants. They got canceled because people were protesting Thug Kitchen and insisting that these businesses not support them. That was hurtful to Matt and Michelle. I remember feeling hurt alongside them. I was like, “How dare they cancel your book signing? You deserve to have a celebration for your book.” I also have to take accountability for the fact that I was ignorant about a lot of things. I did not know the history of the word thug and the context in which they were using a lot of these terms. My heart was not fully open to it in the way that it is now.

For anybody that’s saying, “Too little, too late, you haven’t been listening.” We have to remember that awareness can take a long period of time and each of us is awakening to the world around us in different ways and timelines. It cannot be forced because forcing it is often superficial. You could fake it. You could fake that you care and you understand, but that’s not where real change happens. Real change happens when you know something. There’s that term, grok, which is in my definition, to understand something on a deep level, on a cellular level, and posting that Black Lives Matter does not mean that you fully grok it.

MGU 85 | Digital Blackface

Digital Blackface: We must remember that awareness can take a long time, and each of us is awakening to the world around us in different ways and timelines.

 

I think what we’re bringing up is this idea that people can evolve. People can change. People can start to empathize, acknowledge, and modify their behavior, the more that they not just cerebrally understand because anybody can issue an apology and anybody can throw out an Instagram post. The way that I perceive it in this whole process of awakening one another and educating one another if I zoom out on all this, that’s what’s up with everything that is going on in our society. Before I say what I’m going to say, it’s like not giving people a pass per se but acknowledging as looking at a newborn baby. This is the analogy in getting angry at them, shaming them or getting pissed at them because they’re not walking yet, “Why aren’t you walking because you know how to walk yet? What the fuck is the matter with you?”

“You have a whole year to learn how to walk.”

That analogy fits because you can’t expect anyone to be on the same level of understanding, compassion, empathy, and perspective as you. People are tired. They’re emotionally exhausted. They’re physically exhausted and they are out of patients. I’ve had a lot of friends in interactions like, “I acknowledge that you are exhausted, you are impatient, and you won’t to change.” Trust me, I can’t even imagine thinking about dealing with that level of violence, oppression, pain, and all the lineage stuff that’s carried through generation. Understanding people’s impatience and their desire to accelerate progress, understanding, and change 100%, but you can’t force people to do it.

I am trying to be mindful of a lot of things and what I’m being mindful of is people who are making apologies, changes, and reparations. Are they doing it in a way that is going to have a long-term effect in the sense of they’re being genuine about wanting to change the course of their behavior, their business practices, and what have you? Are they doing it because of the pressure and the shaming to appease people? If they’re doing it as appeasement, that doesn’t get to the root of the systemic problems we’re having of the oppression, the exclusion, the white privilege, and the racism. The word systemic means that appeasement, displays, or performative acts are not going to change shit about the systemic parts of all this. We know that. I don’t know what Thug Kitchen’s intention is to circle back.

I don’t know if this is going to be them going to another level of this and donating money, giving out reparations, taking more direct financial, or energetic actions beyond changing their name. The thing that I’m being mindful of with even myself is like, “What am I physically doing? How am I contributing my energy in a way that is positive?” Going back to Bryant’s perspective, I like Bryant Terry. I love how eloquent, well thought out, and well-spoken his research and his perspectives are on the Good Food and CNN looking at what he’s been posting.

I’m glad that it was audio versus a written response, which he’s done both on a social as you’ve seen, Jason, but hearing his voice and his tone helped me. I felt like he was striving, at least in that term. There’s still part of me that’s like, I hope that he isn’t thinking like, ‘I told you guys.’” I hope it’s not an ego-based response of like, “You didn’t listen to me years ago, but now you’re listening.” I’ve been seeing a lot of people respond to them that way. That to me is triggering because it’s like, “Can we take the ego out of it?” I don’t know. It didn’t seem like his ego was there. I think that he’s bringing up the reference to his article from years ago simply to give it some context like, “I’ve been trying to say this for so long. It’s a relief to hear people finally acknowledge it and listen to it.”

It’s almost like the #MeToo Movement people that are like, “You weren’t listening to me before when I was telling you that I was harmed by this person, and now you’re finally listening. Thank you,” but there’s also almost this resentment like, “Why didn’t you listen to me before?” I can’t fully relate to that in that way because I can’t think that I’ve been through that, but maybe in minute levels. However, aside from that judgment that I had that maybe Bryant was a little like, “You’re finally listening. It’s about time.” His tone of voice made me feel like he’s acknowledging it and relief from it and finding an articulate way to explain it to people in a way that they can understand. I think that’s needed. We need people like him that can be educated and share their personal experiences, their perspectives, and say, “This is why it needs to change.” He did a beautiful job with that.

The other part of it too is with Bryant and some other black leaders, not only in the vegan movement, but I’ve been turned on to many new black and brown voices, which has been exciting to me. I want to hear people’s stories. I want to hear people’s perspectives. Two things, the connotation and the meaning in the euphemisms attached to the word thug, I did not realize the full extent of the connotations of that word and how many people feel that in context, it’s a euphemism for the N-word. I had no idea. That was an eye-popping moment for me. That added a level of not only understanding but gravity to that word and understanding that point.

As we talked about in the cultural appropriation episode, if you want to read to that as well, it’s an extended version of that. This is part two in some ways, but what I came to realize in that episode was that there is a privilege in our ignorance of those things. There’s a privilege in the fact that “I didn’t know. I did something that hurt people’s feelings, but I’m innocent because I didn’t know. I use this word and I didn’t realize that word was hurtful, but I can use it anyways because I’m a white person.” We have the privilege of being able to use words in our own context. That’s the whole point of cultural appropriation. It’s taking something from somebody else and using it in our own way without acknowledging that that belongs to somebody else.

Here’s the other point I wanted to talk about beyond the deep understanding of how terminology is used to oppress. To your point, white people that are using things without understanding the level of pain or discomfort it’s causing other people. That’s a big shift in our privilege is realizing like, “I need to be more mindful of how I’m using language and the depth of it, the meaning that’s assigned to it.” You talked about appropriation and one thing too, that Bryant wonderfully detailed that has given me a different perspective is a digital blackface. Blackface, from what I understand, was white people back in the vaudevillian days, pre-Hollywood, or pre-movies dressing up as black people and imitating them and making fun of them for entertainment value.

When we want somebody to change, we can't force them to do it our way or on our timeline. Click To Tweet

With digital blackface, Bryant was talking about in the context of Thug Kitchen, proverbially speaking, instead of Matt and Michelle painting their faces with black, painting their brand and their messaging black. I had never heard that terminology of digital blackface. I was like, “This is interesting. I am learning something new.” This might be apples to oranges, but I understand and support Bryant’s stance on it. He explained why it’s dangerous in the sense of a white person taking black language, black aphorisms, black vernacular, black style, and then profiting off of it. The question that I have though is how far do we hold people accountable for this? I’m big into food and this is a conversation about food, culture, and appropriation, but I always go back to music, which is my other big love.

If we’re honest about it, I think about not just white rappers. I think about probably the most famous white rapper of all time, Eminem, from my hometown Detroit. Do we go after Eminem Marshall Mathers of cultural appropriation because he’s one of the richest, successful rappers of all time who took something that was born from urban black youth and took it and made millions on it? Do we hold him accountable? Where do we draw the line? Moreover, if we go into the roots of musical history. We go back to the Library of Congress field recordings from the ‘20s and the ‘30s that went around into the South and recorded black blues artists playing their acoustic guitars.

We’ll go back into Robert Johnson and those early blues artists, rock and roll, rock music, dare I say, all of popular music. I will make that claim. The chord progressions, the song structures came from poor, subjugated black people in the South that were creating the blues because that came from the slave hymns. That came from people in the fields being forced to labor, being raped, oppressed, and getting the horrible things that happened with slavery. They sang because it was their way to try and free their soul and soothe each other and maintain their African culture.

We go all the way back to the blues and the slave hymns, you can make the case. I agree with this that all of our modern, popular American music would be fully appropriated from the blues and slave hymns. It’s an honest question of in this line of thinking of financial appropriation and creative appropriation, all those things, how do we address this instead of using Thug Kitchen as an example? How far down the line do we take honoring African-Americans and Africans for their contribution to society? How far down the line do we hold people accountable for that? I’m curious about it.

I’m curious too. The same thing goes for dancing. Much of our dance culture is based on a lot of black dancers and movements and things that they were doing and that we took on because they looked cool. I come from a place of ignorance because I haven’t studied that far back. One of the things that I’ve been striving to do is to increase my education. As somebody who loves to do research, read books and understand people, that’s one of the best things that I can do, or at least my starting point is to become more educated. I encourage everybody to do your best to be educated because a lot of the times, we speak out on things that we assume are true or we’ve been taught were true.

That’s part of the issue here is that using words like thug, without realizing the historical context, doing a dance move without understanding the historical context, supporting a rapper without understanding, who shaped them and why they are who they are and how they acknowledged that history? It’s like if you use a quote and you don’t attribute it to somebody and people assume that you’re the one that said it. You have to attribute the sources of your information like you would in scholarly research or a publication. You have to give credit back to where it came from and not take it as your own. That’s part of the issue here too and then going in and understanding the roots of things. It helps you understand the root of yourself, your parents, and the people around you.

The problem is a lot of us don’t want to do the education. We are focused on what’s going on in our world that we don’t fully understand the context of it. I think that’s part of the issue with racism. If you go into my @EcoVeganGal account, the one thing I have posted on Instagram aside from my story is I only have one post addressing this. I haven’t posted anything since. The thing that I felt most tied to was the historical timeline of racism in the United States because that was incredibly eye-opening to me. When I saw it as a graph, seeing how long racism has been going on and how long we’ve been abusing black people, the violence and the oppression. That to me was incredibly valuable because this has been going on for way too long. This goes on far beyond someone like Thug Kitchen.

They’ve been in business for several years. That’s nothing compared to this timeline of hundreds of years in America alone. We need to go back and address those things. We need to see what’s been passed on to us in all of the circles of people that have taught us because there are all these biases. We’re biased when we’re learning from our teachers. They may choose not to teach us certain things because of their own personal biases or the school system and how that structured. Perhaps, certain things are kept away from us in a way to protect us because there is the belief system and we have religion.

It’s a complicated thing and people get overwhelmed by that. They don’t want to educate themselves, but we have to. We probably should have for a long time, but we’re being encouraged to in a new way. I want to be part of that encouragement of pick up a book and understand the history, go and research the history of this person whose music you’re listening to. Who were their influences? Who were the influences of that person’s influence? Track it back so that you can at least understand what you’re supporting.

I’m not doing this to throw anyone under the bus, but I want to bring up something else. That’s not my intention. I think touching back on how deep and how far do we go in terms of examining credit, respect, apologies, and appropriations. This is a deep conversation that I’m interested in continuing to have outside of this show. I remember when Moby’s biggest album play came out in the late ‘90s. It came out in 1999. He was the first artist in history at that time to license every single one of the tracks on that album for commercial use. He’s not only making money off of the album sales, touring, and merch, but Moby, to my understanding, made a lot of money by selling each one of those tracks and making it available for commercial licensing and advertising.

I remember a lot of the samples that Moby created in his songs on that album were from that Library of Congress recordings and were not covered by copyright. There are some articles that I looked up about Moby, Black Appropriation, and White Electronica, talking about the history of the Beatles, Elvis, and rock and roll artists that took black music and made millions on it. Moby on this album on play sampled a lot of these Southern blues recordings from the ‘20s and ‘30s. I remember reading more articles that the families of these blues artists were trying to sue Moby because they received zero compensation for the singers that he had sampled from these early blues recordings. This whole Thug Kitchen situation brings up a lot of those memories of reading those articles about Moby from not wanting to pay these families for use of those recordings.

Probably because he could get away with it. That’s part of white privilege as well as the power balance. It’s saying like, “If I can get away with something, I’m going to get away with it.” A lot of times, one of the big elements of white privilege is that because of the power we have, in essence, we can get away with doing things like that that might not be good. Without speaking to Moby directly, we don’t know the context of why he did that. Was he ignorant of it? This is part of the thing that came up and I think Bryant mentioned this in his KCRW talk, which wasn’t just an issue with Matt and Michelle. It was an issue with their publisher.

This is something that I brought up too in the cultural appropriation episode because the whole reason we did that episode was based on an email I received about the name of one of the recipes in my book. It’s something I said, “I’ll take personal responsibility and acknowledged that a lot of my decisions were made out of ignorance, but what about the editors? What about the people that looked at my book as well? Why did they not catch something? Why didn’t they see it as cultural appropriation? They’re learning too.” I’ve since learned that the publisher that I worked with on that book is taking strides to be mindful about how they name recipes versus perhaps using a term that would be part of cultural appropriation.

What Bryant said about Thug Kitchen is that, “Why didn’t anybody on the Thug Kitchen team stop it?” Part of the reason may be that there are a lot of white people working in the publishing business. There are a lot of white people working in and having positions of power in a lot of different businesses. I’m sure the same is true with the music business. That maybe somebody in the music business said, “Moby, it’s okay. You can do this. Don’t worry about it. It’s legal or whatever.” Who knows who else was on the side of him? It wasn’t solely Moby’s decision. I’m guessing I could be wrong, but my point is, we can’t assume that one person that’s solely responsible for something. When it comes to business, there are usually multiple people. If all those people are white, if all those people are in positions of power, then that often can be part of the reason that these things happen.

MGU 85 | Digital Blackface

Digital Blackface: Cultural appropriation is taking something from somebody else and using it in our own way without acknowledging whom it belongs.

 

That’s the system. This is the system we’re talking about. There was an interesting image that I reposted on Instagram about looking at the statistics of people in the most powerful positions of our society of billionaires, CEOs, Wall Street executives, owners of professional sports teams, and owners of ad agencies. Without exception, except for one line item, there were perhaps 15 to 20 aspects of these positions in society. They were all white people who were in the 90th percentile of most of these positions of billionaires, executives, and Wall Street types. The people who are wielding senators, Congress people, and judges. If we talk about the roots of systemic oppression and systemic racism, it makes complete sense because if you have a myopic viewpoint of a specific type of person, also known as, mostly white males. Let’s bring that to the conversation.

White men are in most of these positions, then you have a system that continues to perpetuate itself. You have no new perspectives and you have no new senses of compassion. If these white men who are predominantly in the 90th percentile in positions of power, in our society from the government to economics to law to everything, unless someone is going to have a title shift in their awareness and their action and their consciousness and their empathy. You have thousands of people in these positions of white power as men changing the system becomes nearly impossible without new voices, new hearts, new cultures, and new perspectives. Part of changing the system or rather maybe even dismantling it, I’m going to go so far as to say removing white people and white men from their positions of power and the people say, “That’s anti-capitalist and that’s unfair. They earned it. They deserved it.” That’s a sweeping generalization.

As an example, if we were to tax the wealthiest 1% of the billionaires and do a 90% tax on their income, could they still live a good life? Let’s say someone’s earning $1 billion a year and we tax them 90%. They’re only making $100,000 a year, I don’t think anyone’s going to cry about that. If I was in charge, that’d be one of the first things I would do and then re-appropriate that money into education, into reimagining our police force or defunding the police, putting that towards health care to that are underprivileged. Maybe starting a universal basic income so those that are most at-risk, black and brown people in our society have a monthly universal basic income. I’m going on a massive rant, but these are some of the things I believe in. To your point, Whitney, the record executives, the publishers, the CEOs, the executives, if they’re mostly white men, what the fuck is going to change? It’s the same parroting of ideas, ideologies, and beliefs over and over again.

We go back to this is not an easy change. We see this in our government too. We see a lot of older white men in power. What about female energy? We’ve had more women enter into the government, but it’s still not quite enough. There’s still a power struggle between men and women. This is true with a lot of businesses. Getting more women into the position of power is important, but we also need that diversity. We need different backgrounds, different voices, and different cultures involved in these things. We need more of the equality and the overall justice here of making sure that it’s not biased ultimately. We need to have different perspectives here in order to have more equality. That’s going to take some time.

It’s not just snapping your fingers and making it happen. Also, it’s because somebody who is black is in a position to power doesn’t mean that person is a good person. It doesn’t mean that they’re not influenced by people that are white. We had Obama in office and he still did things that not everybody agrees with. That’s perhaps due to him as a person because he’s black doesn’t mean that he’s perfect. It doesn’t mean he’s going to make all the right decisions and that he’s doing good for all of the black people in the world or the country. We also have to remember that because he’s black, that doesn’t mean that he’s not surrounded by white people. From my understanding, there’s still a huge majority of people in the government who are white and male.

It’s that progressive change that we have to make here. We need to have more balance. We need to be more educated. That comes down to our work as white allies. That’s something that I’m working towards is I may not be able to change the color of my skin, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t contribute in as many positive ways as possible by educating myself and to get involved with that. That’s also where change happens is that we have to be willing to change as individuals, regardless of our backgrounds. We have to be willing to be less ignorant, to be more educated, to apologize, and to let go of our ego. That’s part of the reason I feel like what Thug Kitchen is doing is a bigger step than more people are giving them credit for. It takes a lot to be able to admit mistakes and be willing to make changes.

That, to me, deserves a lot of recognition. This has been a big push towards them, even though people have been saying things for years. We have to recognize that the shift is happening. The pressure is on and the awakening is happening in a way that it hasn’t before. Sometimes it takes that big push for changes to happen. I’m certainly seeing this within myself when I want somebody to come. Coming back to what I said, I do not respond well to shame when somebody says, “Whitney, you’re not doing enough.” This happened when I put out that cultural appropriation episode. That was a lot of work for me. That was a tough conversation for me to have. I don’t necessarily need a pat on the back, but having somebody come and say, “That’s not good enough. That is not helpful to me.” That makes me feel small. That makes me not want to move. That makes me want to give up. That makes me feel like I’m not good enough. That causes me to be less active, but when somebody says to me, “You’re doing a good job. You still have ways to go but good job,” it reminds me of a marathon.

Change happens when we are willing to change as individuals, regardless of our backgrounds. Click To Tweet

They know they have a long road ahead of them. There’s a reason why people gather on the sidelines to cheer them on. Imagine if you had hecklers when you were trying to run a marathon and someone was saying, “You’ve run 10 miles, but you still have a long way to go. This isn’t good enough. You can’t stop. Your pace is too slow. Pick it up. I can’t believe you’re drinking water. I can’t believe you’re pausing to use the bathroom. How dare you do this? Why aren’t you running this fast as a person in front of you?” Can you imagine trying to finish a marathon if all you heard were hecklers along the way? What if you crossed the finish line and the first thing someone said to you was, “You’ve crossed the finish line, but you still need to run more. You need to run faster next time.” If that was all you heard after you accomplished something big for you, do you feel like you would be motivated to keep going?

It depends on how you process information, but I know for myself, when I accomplish something, I respond well to praise or constructive criticism. I do not respond well to somebody telling me that it wasn’t good enough. That is the opposite of what I need to hear and that is for me. We have to come from where we’re at. We have to recognize that our perspectives, our knowledge, our experiences are different than other people. We have to meet each person with where they’re at. We need to do our best to have compassion for them and to understand who they are and how they work. That’s also a huge part of this conversation. We can’t assume that we’re all the same. We want to have equality, but equality is about everybody being respected for who they are and where they’re at, not trying to make us all the same. It’s treating people the same. It’s not trying to force them to be the same.

It’s also reserving your resources for people that are open to change, evolution, and transformation. Sometimes I find that whether it’s a conversation about racial justice, equality, trans rights, gay rights, black rights, women’s rights, animal rights, and Earth rights. The things that I am passionate about advocating, but also learning about is if I get a sense that someone is completely shut down and not open to receiving those perspectives on why I feel that?” The sentient beings I mentioned are worthy of love, protection, respect, safety, and having a platform to speak their voice, but if someone’s like, “I don’t believe that women are equal to men or black or brown people or animals, or the Earth has rights.” I come across someone who’s completely shut down.

I’m not going to spend my energy or heart resources on that person trying to convince them of shit. If we acknowledge that people are genuinely open to expanding their awareness, their understanding, their empathy, extending respect, and equal rights and all the things that we’re collectively fighting for in our own ways. It’s not to say, “You deserve a cookie, you performed well,” but to your point, Whitney, I think that psychologically, if people realize that they’re at least being acknowledged for their efforts and one can make suggestions for doing more beyond that. If we do things in a punitive way, in a shaming way, and in a way of, “You didn’t do shit. You still have more to do.” The marathon analogy you had was a great one.

I’m mirroring you in the sense that if someone comes at me and says, “I love that you showed up this way. This was cool what you did, but have you considered doing X, X and X? Have you considered donating here or standing with these people? Did you know about this issue?” If someone’s coming at it not trying to hand me cookies or like, “Great job. This was cool. Have you ever thought about this?” I do feel it’s way more constructive and I am more receptive than someone who’s like, “We don’t believe you. You’re a piece of shit.” That doesn’t motivate me to stay open.

This also comes back to something we’ve talked about in a number of episodes, which are The Four Tendencies and how there are four different types of people according to Gretchen Rubin and the tendencies that each person is. It’s a framework for understanding how somebody takes action in their life. How do they respond to things? Jason shared that he’s a rebel, which means that he’s resisting expectations, outer and inner. Rebels do what they want in the way that they want to do them when they want to do them, and they need to act from a source of feeling free and having choice and self-expression. When someone else gets a rebel to try to do something, a rebel’s going to resist it.

I bet you that Matt and Michelle are rebels knowing them. Knowing that I think that that’s why they’ve been resistant to that. I’m making an assumption. I don’t know what Matt and Michelle would identify from, but I’m assuming that if they are in fact rebels, then when somebody keeps saying, “You have to do this. This is the only way.” A rebel is going to resist that. The more that we can understand who we’re talking to, the easier it is to communicate with them. For me as a questioner, that means that I’m someone who’s questioning expectations. I want to know why I should do something. Once I understand that I will have a deeper commitment to it because my framework is based on logic and efficiency.

I want to have more information. I want to have a justification. I want to feel motivated to do something. That takes me a while to process that and that’s part of the reason I’ve been having trouble posting online is that I’m trying to collect that information so that I can come at it from a place of deep understanding and alignment. What’s tough about the state that we’re in is there’s so much shame around saying and doing things right or wrong. When you see somebody like Thug Kitchen being shamed a lot, it can have a ripple effect for somebody like me who’s like, “Look at them. They’re getting so much shame. I’m afraid to say anything because I don’t want to get that shame too.” A lot of people are struggling with that now. They’re afraid to say, post, and do something because that criticism and the shame are rampant.

There are also two other types of tendencies of these personality types. The other is upholder, which means that they’re a person that’s good at meeting inner and outer expectations. They thrive under rules and expectations. They’re keeping their resolutions without much of a problem. Those people are probably thriving. They’re seeing all of these cultural expectations being put out there. They’re probably the ones that are posting a lot because people are telling them what to do when they’re doing that without even questioning it. They’re doing it without that resistance that a rebel and a questioner would have. The fourth type is an obliger and they’re easily meeting outer expectations. They’re doing things on time.

If people are counting on them, they’re going to make it happen, but they struggle with inner expectations. If this person is basing everything on what other people are saying, it’s easy for them to make those actions, but they might be struggling internally because they’re not quite sure how they feel about things. This is a framework that you can use when you’re trying to communicate and understand people. Instead of making assumptions that we’re all the same, we all think the same and we act the same, we can step back and say, “If this person’s a rebel, how can I communicate them in a way that they’ll hear me versus resist me?”

I sighed because what you’re talking about is a level of such nuance and the art of conversation of, if we were to have these deeper levels of understanding who we’re talking to. It’s hard on social media. Before we respond to someone, are we going to say, “Which type are you? Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s work?” It’s not realistic, especially on the level of what’s going on with Thug Kitchen and Bryant Terry, and all of the social commentary around digital blackface and cultural appropriation this entire episode.

My point is if you learn about the four tendencies, then you can make an educated assumption about somebody else. You can see the signs in their behavior that may indicate to you what type of tendencies they are. You then can evaluate fairly quickly how to communicate with them effectively and test it out. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get it right unless you ask them, but I’m saying that you can use that information as a communication skill.

There’s also a balance here between listening to public opinion, people’s perspectives, and their heartfelt pleas for justice, equality, and recognition, especially people of color bringing to light. We felt this way for millennia, for generations, and here’s why. Being hopefully listened to, acknowledged, and having action taken on their behalf more than there have been the last 400-years-plus. My point was that it’s important with any kind of movement online to remain open, but also to stay in the mode of trusting your intuition and listening to yourself. We saw this with COVID and we’re seeing it with Black Lives Matter. When there’s a lot of outrage over something, there’s a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon and say, “I agree with that too.” Whatever the perspective is, whether it’s a pro-con, pro-against, there’s a conspiracy theory, there’s not. There are as many perspectives on all of these things, as there are people on the internet.

I’m trying to be in the mode more than adding my voice too much to the conversation sitting back, learning, watching, and seeing how I feel about things. The last thing that I want to do is jump on an outrage bandwagon per se. I’m not saying rage and anger are appropriate. It’s all appropriate. Anybody’s response authentically to something they’re experiencing, especially in the face of all the things we’ve been talking about, the deep systemic injustices. I’m saying that with the deluge of perspectives and information like, “You should do it this way. You shouldn’t do it that way. This is real, that’s not real.” There’s so much information, perspective, ought to’s, should do’s and shouldn’t do’s. I want to stay open-minded, open-hearted, but ultimately trust my gut and my intuition on things because there’s a lot of people with a lot of agendas and a lot of misinformation. There is so much of all of it that I want to stay open, learn, and listen, but I also have to trust myself. If something feels like bullshit, feels like an agenda, and feels not right to me, I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon.

One thing that I initially planned to bring up in this episode, which is something we can touch upon and explore more in future episodes is the health effects of racism and how it can cause emotional and mental harm to us. There is an article that I read on CNN. It’s short, so I’m going to read most of it. In this article from CNN, they talk about how racism is a health problem that takes a toll on people of color and contributes to the development of other chronic diseases. “Structural racism causes emotional and mental harm. Sustained exposure to racism in all of its forms increases our stress hormones, such as cortisol, which causes havoc on our physical bodies. While we know no race is a social construct and has no biological and genetic basis, racism can change the patterns of how genes are expressed. Whether we’re talking about more people dying of COVID or at the hands of police, racism is ultimately the disease. Social disparities, including lower incomes, crowded housing, and lack of medical insurance are all contributing factors in the higher number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in minority communities. The loss that we’re seeing in COVID is a symptom of institutional and structural racism. It’s the manifestation of it versus the actual core reason.”

It’s fascinating to hear them talk about police brutality and how it’s probably the most reprehensible symptom of the disease of racism in this country and the most obvious. It’s time to recognize and call upon all of our institutions of medicine to denounce police violence as a public health threat. Trauma is playing a role in causing chronic health conditions and how the driving of low-grade inflammation is associated with all of the diseases that plague black and brown people and indigenous people in a more impactful way from heart disease to depression, obesity, and diabetes. Even witnessing violence is impacting a person’s physical and mental well-being.”

This is an important thing to pay attention to and why I think it’s increasingly important that we address this, that we have conversations around this, and that we’re aware of these things. It’s another element of white privilege as well. Health is a privilege in general, but it’s not equal. Our health is impacted by our genetics. It’s impacted by where we’re living, the people around us, what we have to access to, the money that we have, and our government. There are many elements to it. We are big advocates for overall health and we’re going to continue to do what we can to stay educated so that we can support you, the readers, from an emotional, mental, and physical level.

MGU 85 | Digital Blackface

Digital Blackface: We have to be willing to be less ignorant, be more educated, and to apologize and to let go of our ego in order to change.

 

I also want to comment on something I’m particularly passionate about in this conversation about systemic oppression in terms of health and wellness. I want to say this from my perspective, having grown up in the City of Detroit, when I was in college, having lived on the Southside of Chicago. I’m living in a brown neighborhood in Los Angeles, where I’m one of the few white people. I’m the only white person on my block. I’ve noticed also in traveling, we have both had great privilege and blessing to travel a lot for our work, but in particular, being in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and living in black and brown and multiethnic neighborhoods that access to healthy, good, organic, affordable food is still a challenge.

This idea of food justice and food deserts is still an extremely relevant part of this conversation about the death rates and disease rates and the lack of access to food. If you go to a lot of neighborhoods in Downtown Detroit, near where I grew up, the Southside of Chicago, or here in LA, it’s tough to find good, healthy food. You see a disproportionate number of liquor stores, fast-food restaurants, and you barely see any places to access. When I say barely, they’re there but it’s disproportionate in the number of liquor stores and fast-food restaurants to places that offer affordable fresh produce places like farmer’s markets or places that have affordably priced organic resources, even fresh local produce.

It’s still something that there are outposts, for instance, Eastern Market in Downtown Detroit is one of the oldest, if not the oldest farmer’s markets in the entire country. That’s still going on, but by and large way too many barbecue joints, fast-food restaurants, liquor stores, too much access to inflammatory, acidic, and toxic foods that are killing people. Why is that a problem? It’s not the restriction of access to healthy, affordable foods, but it’s another layer deeper in the food oppression structure of the fact that our federal government is still giving massive millions of dollars of subsidies to the animal agriculture industry. Who thrives on the animal agriculture industry? Fast-food corporations. They’re getting a fixed price. It’s an illusionary price.

When you go to McDonald’s, Hardee’s, Burger King, KFC, and others, the price that you pay for a value meal is not the actual price of that food. That’s the price that has been offset by the millions of dollars of lobby and subsidies that continue in the federal government to offset the cost of not animal agriculture and slaughterhouses but cheaply grown, genetically-modified corn, wheat, soy, and oats that are fed to the animals. We have to understand that the systematic oppression and the food justice is not restricting access, but it’s artificially modifying prices to make toxic destructive food cheap to the economically oppressed black and brown people because that’s all they can afford. It is fucked many levels.

We certainly have a lot of passion for this and there are a lot of topics that we will continue to explore throughout the episodes and in full transparency. One thing that we have been working on as we develop this show is working with sponsors and brands. We had an intention to mention one of them with this episode and it did not feel like the right time to pause. Usually, we will mention a brand or a sponsor. Sometimes we partner with brands on what are called affiliate programs, which means that we recommend a product. If you purchase something based on a recommendation, we may receive a commission from it. One of the brands we are going to mention is called Rapid Release. I’m going to talk about them and be transparent with you since you’ve made it this far in this episode and how we structure things and money is such a delicate thing.

We want to continue doing this. It takes money to make this a priority and to buy the equipment and invest a lot of things. That’s part of the reason that we have a Patreon, a way for you to give back to us as we try to give back to you as much as possible. Jason, if you think this is a good idea, what we’ll do is we want to provide as many resources for you as possible. That’s part of the reason we have the show notes at Wellevatr.com and we’ve been creating a lot of free resources. If you go to our website, you can download free PDFs and videos where you can learn more about well-being. In this episode and future episodes, we’ll be talking about some of the different resources that you have.

Rapid Release is a brand that makes one of our favorite devices for personal care, which is massage. The stress that can come up in these conversations, we need to relieve it in some way. It can build up in our bodies in such an uncomfortable way. While we won’t go nearly in-depth about it, as we were planning to, I’m going to mention them in transparency so you know what to expect from us in future episodes. As we dive into these conversations, we’ll be weaving in brands that we love. You can learn more about them on the website. You can get discounts from us. For example, with Rapid Release, we’ll share the discount codes with you.

We’re committed to helping you find the most affordable ways to take care of your well-being because these are tough times and a lot of us are suffering, not just on an emotional and mental level, but we’re struggling a lot physically. That’s a holistic thing. Jason is talking about food here and finding accessible and affordable food. Throughout our website, we’ll link to as many discounts and affordable things as we possibly can and brands that we love. We may mention pricey brands like Rapid Release, it is an investment in your health. Some of our favorite brands are organic and they tend to be a premium. I think this ties into what you were saying, Jason, too is sometimes we think things are cheap and we buy things because we feel like we can’t afford to pay more for them, but there’s a long-term effect.

One of our favorite phrases is, “You pay with your purse or you pay with your person.” It’s sad that things are set up structurally where things are seemingly affordable, but they have a long-term ripple effect on us. I am to make things as accessible financially, but also we want to keep you in the loop about when we feel passionate about investing your money, whenever you can. There are often creative ways to afford things like Rapid Release. For example, it has a payment plan. That’s incredibly affordable, so you don’t have to pay for it all upfront. That’s one thing I encourage each of you to think about when it comes to investing in your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is like, “Are you buying something because it’s cheap and affordable? Can you maybe see if you can get creative with things and find ways to get access to things that may not be presented to you initially?”

Sometimes we see a price tag and we think, “That’s not for me. I can’t afford that. That’s not something that’s for who I am. That’s made for somebody who’s in a different position in their life. It doesn’t look like me or whatever.” We make a lot of assumptions. That’s part of the issue we need to address with health is that there are lots of misconceptions about what’s for us, “That’s made for somebody else. That’s not made for me. I don’t deserve that.” That can be a level too. Part of what I want to do is unravel these misconceptions that we have about health and make it more accessible on an emotional level too. Maybe you’re used to going to fast-food restaurants because that’s all you see around you. Maybe there are other things that are available to you either in your neighborhood or online that you haven’t even sought out.

I want to sprinkle that in that we are committed to introducing you to all types of different resources and finding ways to make them accessible for you. If you ever have questions about things that we bring up and why we are an advocate for them, I’m trying to open up my mind as much as possible to the different positions that people are in and not assume that because I like something or I can afford something that everybody can afford it. When you bring up this organic thing, Jason, it’s like, “I’m passionate about organic living,” but a lot of people see that word and they think, “That means it’s expensive.” To your point, Jason, not because something is cheap at McDonald’s doesn’t mean that it’s cheap.

We don’t know what the whole financial structure is. We have to keep that in mind too. If we’re supporting a small business, it might be more expensive to support a small business, but there’s a reason for that because it might not be subsidized. Jason, feel free to chime in. I know that you are probably trying to be polite, but I’d love to hear your opinion on this too. I want to be transparent with the readers about what we support and why we support it. We do so much research on all of these brands that we recommend to you. I also want to be transparent that we’re running a business as well with this. It costs us money to make these episodes.

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We have to pay for the software that we use and the people that are editing this and the equipment that we buy. We’re looking for ways to support you and support ourselves so that we can continue spreading this message. That’s often why we bring up things like Patreon so that if you want to chip in a few dollars, that makes a huge difference for us. If you want to buy a product that we recommend, use the links that we have on our website or the discount codes that we share with you because that also supports you and us simultaneously. We’re doing our best to recommend things to you that are great for your long-term well-being and we want to see each and every one of you thrive.

I want to chime in on that Whitney is twofold. I love this idea of acknowledging where people are at in terms of their level of ability to invest in themselves. That’s a big word that I approach and I’ve always approached my health and wellness is looking at it as an investment. We usually hear investments in terms of finances, saving money, or putting it in a stock market. This was born from a philosophy that my mother, Susan, instilled in me at a young age, which was instead of buying the cheapest thing you can, you have to try to invest in something that is going to bear long-term fruit. Mind you, I was raised by a single mom in the City of Detroit who worked three jobs at a time.

We were not rolling in the dough, but my mom, even with her limited financial means raising me, her philosophy was, “I’m going to get the best of what I can leverage the money that I have.” As an example, one of the biggest things is that I’m a huge car guy. This is also related to health and wellness. Rather than spending whatever $5,000 on this car, if you can stretch a little bit and spend say $7,000 or $$7,500, borrow the money or figure it out. Even with limited means, a deeper level of investment is going to probably ensure that a more reliable car is going to last you longer. Food is the same thing with whatever means that we have. We are both passionate about not only endorsing and bringing to you the brands that we love, the products we have used, and the things that we championed because we’ve experienced them.

That’s a part of huge integrity for both of us is we’re not going to promote things that we haven’t used or experienced directly in our own lives. Beyond that is this idea of investing in yourself. You spend a little bit more than you think you can and you buy something of higher quality, higher reliability, higher yield whether that’s your health, your wellness, your physiology, or your mental health. I think that philosophy of investing in yourself and buying something of higher quality that’s going to last you, to me, that’s a philosophy I’ve lived by ever since I was a little kid through my mom. I still live by that to this day, even with limited financial means.

We’re trying our best. We’re learning every single episode and committed to tapping into who you are as a reader. We’d love to hear from you because this show is about to hit the six-month mark and there is so much more that we need to learn. As we say at the end of most of our episodes, we’d love to hear from you publicly or privately. You can reach us on social media, which is @Wellevatr. You can send us an email or direct message to reach us privately. Our email is [email protected]. Once you go to the website and click the Contact button, we’re here to hear from you and we want to have you as part of the conversation.

As we talk about these things, we’re trying to keep in mind our own perspectives and our own privileges. In talking about Rapid Release, our aim was we want to encourage you to take good care of your body and your muscles and release any of that tension that you’re holding because every time we hear each other sigh, it’s like, “These are heavy subject matters.” A lot of us don’t do good things for our bodies, let alone exercise. With exercise, we need to release our muscles. Eating well, we need to move our digestion and our organs around. There are many benefits of something like a massage. We want to talk about these things, but also be mindful that they’re expensive and they’re investments in yourself.

I want to make that transparent that there’s a reason we recommend things, but we want to be aware of your own financial situation. I hope that we’re doing our best to speak to you. We want to hear from you so that we can learn more about who you are so that we know who we’re talking to basically. We hope that we bring a diverse audience of people. We hope that we’re not talking to other white people all the time or other people around our age range. We hope that we’re talking to all sorts of different people with this show and they’re reading. They feel included and that we never come across as privileged white people that can afford to invest in their health. I wanted to open that up here and be transparent about who we are, where we’re at, why we do things, and remind you that we care a lot.

As we talk about these brands in upcoming episodes, being mindful of recommending things that resonate with you too, and we’d love to hear your feedback. I think that’s a good place to end is thanking you and encouraging you to be part of the conversation and learning how to communicate more effectively. Being mindful of the people that you’re communicating with and to continue to educate yourself as much as possible. Know that we’re right here, along with you, whether we’re educating the state of things in the world or we’re educating the emotional, physical, and mental sides of well-being. We are all in this together. We cherish your input. We’re always open to new topic ideas, explorations, and anything that you want to share with us. We want to make this show as valuable as possible to you. Thank you for reading and we’ll be back soon with another episode. Thank you, Jason, for exploring this with me too. I know that you were a bit resistant to it, but we dove in, we got through it and it’s all a piece of the big puzzle at play.

That is true and whatever resistance or hesitance, diving in is good M.O. for life. On that subject, I’ve been holding my pee for 45 minutes. I don’t know why I felt the need to share that. Maybe TMI, maybe not.

Maybe the name Rapid Release. You’re like, “I need to go.”

It was subliminal. On that note, dear readers, thank you for being here with us as we grow, as we encourage each other to grow and we will be back with another episode soon. We love you and appreciate you!

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