In the past few days, thousands of protesters took to the streets to support Black Lives Matter, the social movement against violence and systemic racism towards black people. The tragedy of the murder of George Floyd was the fuel that added to the already burning fire, mobilizing people to risk their lives in the middle of the pandemic and speak about the blatant injustices towards black people by the very institutions that are supposed to protect them. Talking about this very important topic, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen speak about the ongoing racism in the country and the different parts of the world. They discuss the broken system and systemic oppression that spurred the anger and the need for a national upheaval that has been a long time coming. Recognizing their privileges, Jason and Whitney then talk to those who are retreating from the issue to radically rethink the societal problems that have made others feel unsafe and to really see the struggles of those who are not afforded the same rights and opportunities. Don’t miss this very necessary conversation to see the reality of how we have been living with a system that is completely broken.
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Black Lives Matter: Radically Rethinking Societal Problems
We are recording this episode on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020. It’s no secret that the world is going through and experiencing a lot of tragedy. We are moving through sadness, confusion, and uncertainty in many ways. The United States especially is very focused on the tragedy of George Floyd and a number of people that were affected and/or lost their lives due to racism. It’s an important topic. I’ve often felt a little frustrated that our episodes don’t come out the day that we record them because so much can change within a week or so that they’re edited. For you, as a context, as a reader, we record our shows at least seven days ahead of time. They are submitted to an editor who edits the show and publishes them and creates the show notes. I feel the need to share that because it’s such a whole production, and it’s not necessarily off the cuff. We’re not sharing them and posting them immediately. I found myself wishing that we were doing more of that and trying to think about how we might be able to have more timely conversations. Simply because so much can change in seven days. The past seven days in the United States have been a bit unpredictable, things are constantly changing each day. This might be the seventh day of protest. I know in Los Angeles, they started this past Saturday. That’s when it felt like there was a massive shift. There may have been some protests before that time.
This is technically speaking in terms of the large-scale stuff and the mobilization of large groups. I think this is day five.We're all experiencing different things and trying to figure out our truth. Click To Tweet
It depends on which city because there is a lot happening in Minneapolis previous to this. That was due to the fact that that’s where George Floyd was based and that’s where the incident happened with the police there. The whole country has been responding. Now people around the world are responding to this and it’s incredibly important. I begin this episode talking about that to give that context because we never know when you’re reading. Whether you’re reading the day the episodes out or sometime in the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen by the time you read this. However, I feel like this subject matter applies as no matter when you read because we do live in an ever-changing and evolving world. Some of the things that we’re going to talk about also apply to COVID-19, which is still happening and constantly changing.
It’s interesting how there’s been a big shift of focus where so much of the world was paying attention to the COVID-19 developments for the past three months or more. COVID-19 started in December 2019 or January. It started to impact the entire world at the end of February and the beginning of March. Now, we have this that we’re facing and it’s bringing up a lot for all of us. Uncertainty, that’s a huge keyword. There’s a lot of focus on mental health right now, and how we can deal with that having a show that’s very focused on mental health and offering different perspectives and possible solutions. We want to do our best to contribute in a way that helps you, the reader, work through a lot of this.
We are also the first to say that we don’t have all the answers, and sometimes new answers and realizations come to us on the spot. That’s one of my favorite parts of the show. The other thing I wish that we had more of was a live connection with you, the reader because we’ll get feedback here and there, but so many people read and never share their feedback or share their opinions. After an episode goes out, I wish that we could have adjusted it based on some of that feedback. Maybe in the future, we will find some live element of this. A little bit of backstory for you as we gear up for this. Is there anything else that you wanted to add to any of those points, Jason?
I have so much on my heart and mind right now. I have so much that I’ve been listening to, wanting to learn and understand. I feel an interesting mix of emotions right now of compassion, sorrow, hopefulness, and confusion. I have a lot of feelings I’ve been sharing with them more on social media. I’ve had some interesting responses and reactions to those things that I’ve been sharing. I texted you. I needed to speak from my heart, write from my heart, and share from my heart and how it’s going to be received. I’ve had some fascinating reactions and responses to some of the stuff. I haven’t had a chance to discuss that with you because I’ve been sitting with the emotions of it all.
A lot of us are in the same boat, especially when it comes to the midst of uprising that we’re having right now as the result of George Floyd’s death. In the ongoing racism we’ve had in the country and all different parts of the world, there’s a lot of asking ourselves, internal reflection and external conversations. Through COVID-19 and the shift that we’re facing in our country, I have been talking to people deeply and frequently than I have. I’m not someone that usually gets on the phone with people that often or loves to text. I wait for opportunities and get together with friends and all that, but because of quarantine, I haven’t been seeing people in person as much. I’ve also felt the desire to not only check in with people but find out what their perspectives are. I’ve been asking all of my close friends and people I haven’t talked to very much, “How are they doing? What are their feelings on this? What are they learning? What are their struggles?”
It’s been wonderful in that way because I feel like I’m learning so much and feeling more connected to people than ever. That is the silver lining here. Also, it’s part of how change happens. I feel like we need to consider things from different perspectives, and that also leads to things feeling very confusing because so many people have different opinions. Whether it’s COVID-19 or racism, the protesting and the looting. All these different reactions you’re hearing from people. Sometimes you find yourself disagreeing but I think that when you disagree with somebody, it can also be a great opportunity to think about, why do you disagree with them. Do you disagree?
Maybe there’s something that you agree on within that disagreement. Is it 100% disagreement? Is it two sides of the same coin? There’s so much that we can examine within ourselves. By listening to other people, especially people that may be outside of our usual circle, that’s one of the most important things right now too. Listening to people who are different than you and trying to understand them as best as you can. We touched upon this in our episode about cultural appropriation. I have several links pulled up. As usual, I do some research and I have something very specific I want to talk about. I can jump into that, Jason, unless you had anything else you want to share.
First of all, to have a very brief moment of levity, when you said, “I have links,” I thought you were going to make reference to my cat, Lynx. We have an inside joke. Whenever we hear Lynx, we go, “Yay, he named Lynx.” I thought you were going to have a moment of levity. Anyway, I have a good cat. His name is Lynx. That’s where I thought you were going to go.
I’m sorry to disappoint you.
It’s all good. I did have something I want to, if I may before you jump into the links. I want to loop back to something I briefly mentioned. Cancel culture is something we’ve talked about a lot on this podcast series. I have been experiencing that. I’ve been posting things that I feel are enlightening, compelling, and elucidating regarding Black Lives Matter, equality, and regarding this sweeping cultural movement that we are all in the midst of. I’ve posted things that I wrote from the heart, things that other people have commented on. I’ve had people unfollowing me and not observing them unfollowing me, but them telling me. I posted a quote from the book, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. In my first year of college at age eighteen, it was the first experience I’d ever had in reading about the troubles, tribulations, and oppression that black men face in America. It was the first eye-opening experience. I posted my experience with reading this book, being in college, and having my mind, my heart opened, and my stance on this movement. My stance on listening to black and brown voices and people of color, me wanting to learn and be open-hearted receptive.
I’m sharing whatever the hell I want to share right now. I’m reposting whatever stories I want to share. I posted this quote from Ralph Ellison and my commentary on this movement and then I posted for Blackout Tuesday, which is a whole another level of controversy. People saying it’s a rigged thing. Here’s my thing. There’s going to be people with opinions, perspectives, viewpoints, and thinking they have the truth and, “No, this is the truth and you’re wrong.” There’s a lot of infighting right now. I mentioned to you it reminds me of a lot of the bullshit that goes on in the Vegan movement and the Eco rights movement. Everybody criticizing everybody else for how they’re doing shit.
I’m trying to write and speak from the heart, from a place of openness and learning as much as I can right now while also sharing what is on my heart truthfully. I had people comment, “I’m unfollowing you,” sending me DMs or actually in the comments section being “hashtag unfollow” I’m like, “Cool. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Bye.” My opinion is this. It goes back to one of the things that we were hearing about Marie Forleo and some of the other leaders in the coaching movement or the transformational space. I’m not calling out Marie specifically, but as an example, people saying that she and other people in the wellness movement have been tiptoeing around making definitive statements about how they feel about things. There’s a perception that they’re afraid of losing customers. They’re afraid of losing business, so they’re not taking a hardline stance.America is failing in how we treat one another with our racial injustice and our economic and healthcare disparity. Click To Tweet
I’m in a point where I’m like, “If you all want to unfollow me, you don’t want to buy my books, you don’t want to watch my TV series, and you don’t want to watch my YouTube or listen to our podcast, goodbye.” I’m speaking from the heart and speaking from my place of belief. Standing for the friends and colleagues that I have that are black and brown people of color, I’m standing with them. The ones that are for real. People are unfollowing me right now and I could give half of the shit because I don’t want your money. I don’t want your following. I don’t want your support if you are going to unfollow me because of my perspective and me speaking from my heart. If this triggers you that much, this is that confrontational, please don’t follow me. Please don’t buy my products. That’s where I’m at with all of it.
Did you see how Seth Rogen was handling this too? He went off. I would say I have been paying more attention to the news and Twitter than I usually do. I find the news helpful in figuring out what’s going on locally, around the country, and the developments. I feel the urge to stay in the know. Twitter has been helpful in a lot of ways, seeing what’s trending, because that’s where a lot of the conversations are. You get to hear what people are saying all around the world and in the country. You can narrow it down to people that are in your area. It’s been great for me. One of the things that were trending was Seth Rogen because he put up a post saying, “If you don’t agree with me, unfollow me.” All these people were commenting, “I’m unfollowing you,” etc. He would respond to each and every one of them like, “F-off and good riddance,” and aggressive reactions to it.
There’s a part of my that’s like, “This doesn’t feel great,” because that anger is unsettling for me. There’s a lot of people that are angry now and I’m sure that people are angry all the time, but right now we’re seeing it. Not because I don’t feel angry and don’t have those reactions doesn’t mean that they’re not warranted, and everyone’s dealing with them in different ways. The benefit is that he’s taking a stand. He believes that Black Lives Matter, as do each of us, Jason and Whitney. Each of us has a different way of expressing it. Even with Marie Forleo, I’ve been following the developments of that, and how she’s tried to address people’s concerns. I sent Jason this one Instagram video of Raquel.
I watched the whole video and I was like, “Speak your truth.” That’s the thing that resonated quickly with me though, I’m not speaking about Marie’s character because we’ve only met her once. I don’t know Marie personally. Her point overall, just to do a call back really quick, was like people tiptoeing around stuff because there is a possibility they might be afraid of losing business, losing followers, losing clients. Her opinion is like, “Fuck it. Stand on our side.” If you are taking black people’s money and enrolling them as clients or followers, stand for your community, stand for your people. I had to say I resonated with a lot of the stuff that she was sharing about that.
This is part of the conundrum is that I can see both sides. I find myself, in general, having a very balanced perspective. I tend to not want to take sides unless I don’t want to take the side of an oppressor, but I don’t know if I would say that Marie is trying to oppress people, even though some of her actions might’ve seemed that way. She went on to try to explain it and some people think it’s a performance and that’s the word that keeps coming up. Even on Blackout Tuesday, people are sharing black images on their social media. If you look at the comments of some of these, a lot of people are typing the word performance or something similar to that.
They are saying, “You don’t feel this way. You’re doing that because everyone else is doing it,” or “You’re doing it because you feel you have to. What is it that you believe?” It’s tricky because some of us don’t know how to articulate our beliefs, and some of us are questioning and redefining our beliefs. Previous to seeing everything that was developing with Marie Forleo, I saw a wonderful video on TikTok from a black woman saying that her advice for white people is to speak their truth and not be afraid of messing up because each of us messes up. It’s in that Instagram video that we’re both referencing. Both of them were talking about how we mess up. As long as you’re speaking your truth, then that’s what’s most important. I would say the same thing to you, Jason.
I know that you took the time to reflect on what you wanted to say. It’s tough right now because there’s simultaneous pressure to say something and not be silent and yet some people are being criticized for what they say. What do you want? Do you want me to be silent or do you want me to say what I feel right now? Why can’t you be okay with me making a mistake? That’s how I am reacting to this. I felt that Marie is coming from the heart and has been working hard to help people for a long time. I forgive her for making mistakes, but I also understand that some people don’t have any tolerance for it. Even if you do make a mistake, they’re done. We can’t fault that fault them for that either. We’re all experiencing different things and we’re all trying to figure out our truth. I shouldn’t speak for everybody. It seems like many of us are trying to figure this out, and we approach it from a lot of different perspectives and experiences. There’s no right or wrong way, in my opinion, but some people feel more comfortable believing there’s a right or wrong way.
It’s the complexity and the diversity of how many layers of change, upheaval, introspection, and justice. We have the backdrop of COVID and global economic devastation. That’s the other layer to this too. Understanding that this isn’t about George Floyd. For the readers, it’s not about this single incident of this innocent man being killed. It’s about the buildup and the confluence of hundreds and hundreds of years of violence, oppression, apathy, greed, separation, and segregation. You add that to people being locked in their houses for months at a time. You add it to a disproportionate ratio of people of color having their health affected by COVID. That’s statistically speaking.
You then have the other layer of the people who are most vulnerable in our society, economically being devastated by the lockdown. People are like, “Why are people so angry? Why are they rioting?” I’m not talking about the looting. Why are they protesting? It’s a confluence of so many things that come to a head at once. In my opinion, it’s not a single incident. It’s about so many factors, and so many ingredients, if you will, in this soup boiling over. People are angry, they’re fed up. They’re at their wit’s end. Anderson Cooper did an interview with Cornel West. Cornel West is an incredible voice. Even prior to this, I’ve always enjoyed hearing his commentary and his viewpoint. He’s a Professor Emeritus from Princeton, a black man who was talking about how he believes that America is a “failed social experiment.”
To paraphrase what he said in this video, all of the factors of how we treat one another, our racial injustice, economic disparity and healthcare. He says, “America is failing. It’s not this one thing, but we, as a country, are failing.” That’s a charged statement, but I have to agree because I don’t think this is not about reforming the systems, as much as it is blowing up the systems we have and replacing it with things that are much more kind, equitable, balanced, and ethical. I don’t think a bailout is going to help this. I don’t think having more corrupt politicians in positions of power is going to help this. In some ways, I agree with him. It’s a failed experiment and we collectively have to figure out what’s going to replace all of this. That’s where I’m at with it.
I feel good in a lot of ways about what’s happening, the anger, and some of the destruction. I feel bad for people that are directly affected, but the truth is there haven’t been many injuries or death, at least not that had been reported. The news is constantly changing. I read on an unfortunate case of one man. It might have been in Louisiana that I don’t know if he was killed by police. It’s so hard to keep track of all of this. My point being, relative to the amount of anger and crime, intensity and action that’s happening, things have been relatively sane and organized. Even though looting has been organized. The police have been organized and changing in a different way. The protesters have been more organized and it’s been fascinating to see that.
There’s so much in this country and the world that doesn’t work very well. I’m cheering for all of these people that are taking even the drastic action because it’s bringing attention to this. It’s saying t6hat we’re no longer going to ignore this. I’ve participated in the Women’s March after Trump got elected, and I’m not sure how much changed as a result of that. It felt good to be there. I loved being around all these women. I felt personally empowered and I was making a difference that day, but it fizzled down fairly fast if I remember correctly. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile.
I’m saying that in contrast to what’s happening right now feels very different. It feels like people are speaking out and acting in a much louder way, and that’s very needed. I have been, in a way, feeling more pressure than ever to educate myself on things like racism, listening to more conversations from a wider diversity of people, reading more books, and feeling more sensitive. I’m paying attention to my words and also pushing myself to speak out in ways that I might not have felt comfortable doing before. I’m trying to embrace the experiment and realize that people might unfollow me and that’s okay. People unfollow me all the time anyway, no matter how hard I try.
As I said to Jason before, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” I’ve spent a lot of my career tiptoeing around things. We talked about this in the cultural appropriation episode and how I’ve tried to take the path of least resistance or how can I please the most people and make the most people feel good. That’s out of compassion. Sometimes when we’re trying too hard to be soft, it doesn’t make the difference that’s needed. I feel this collective energy of intensity and anger is very important and needed. Even in the moments where I feel unsafe, maybe it’s good for me to feel unsafe because there’s a lot of people in this world, and this country specifically, that feel unsafe every single day.Sometimes when we're trying too hard to be soft, it doesn't make the difference that's needed. Click To Tweet
What’s wrong with me experiencing that? I’ve had the privilege of feeling safe for most of my life, whereas a lot of these people haven’t. To anyone that has been complaining about things, I can understand it. If you have a business, you feel upset about the looting. The truth is if you have insurance or money put aside or the structure in your business, you have something in place that will help you through this. A lot of the people that are upset right now feel unsafe every single day and don’t have the resources to help themselves through this. They don’t feel like they’re being paid attention to. It’s important for us to step back and look at it from a relative perspective, relative to our own life. It makes sense to complain and fear for things, but relative to the other people in this world, we don’t have very much to complain about when it comes to what’s going on right now.
I love that you phrase it that way because for us to experience confusion, fear, discomfort, lack of safety and security, to your point, there are people who face that, and that’s all they know. That’s their existence. The other thing too is the thing that I think about is how many layers there are to all of this. It’s tempting, systematically speaking, to go back to “normal.” We keep hearing that over and over. We’ve talked about it in past episodes of the coded language of the new normal. This is the way it’s going to be in all of this. My whole thing is we can’t address this a level of causality, we have to go to a symptomatic level.
It’s not only from a cultural perspective, looking at the learned behavior and the generations of racism and the generations of oppression and things that are learned. It’s going deeper than that into the economic injustice of looking at the industries that on the lowest tier of their workers. The people that are making minimum wage are proportionally higher people of color. It’s like the systems of not only the racial divide on a cultural level but also an economic level. We go back to talk about Amazon for a second. Jeff Bezos, he made an extra $50 million to $55 million so far during COVID. He’s trying and has in the past, tried to oppose a minimum raise wage to $15 an hour for his most vulnerable workers.
We need to address the fact that the system is completely broken. It’s broken if people are having to beg for $15 an hour to support them in their families and a basic wage in basic healthcare. You have a person who is on track to potentially become the world’s first trillionaire. Something is massively broken and it does affect people of color. If you look at places like animal agriculture, farmworkers, or people that work in warehouses, it’s people of color who are doing these jobs. Especially in places that are high-cost of living like Silicon Valley, San Francisco, LA, and New York.
At a certain point, we have to start dismantling the systems that are crushing people. They’re crushing the life out of people. When you have people making billions and billions of dollars and people begging for $15 an hour. We have to dismantle and recreate it anew. I believe that. I don’t know what it’s going to be moving forward. Whether that’s going to be a universal basic income, as some people like Andrew Yang and other politicians have suggested. I don’t have answers. I know that the system we’re in right now is crushing the life out of people.
The topic I wanted to focus on is relevant to this. Maybe it’s not a solution, but it’s something that can help us mentally reframe. When I was preparing this, the protest started. I was looking at it through the lens of COVID-19. I wanted to start by talking about it in that context. I also tried to find some ways that it has been interwoven into the climate of the country and the world. This first article is from The Guardian. This one is entitled How to Mentally Prepare for more COVID-19 Uncertainty. This came out in early May 2020. Part of the article said, “The more relevant question to ask is not when will this end, but how can we cope with this dragging on? One healthy thing you can do is to preemptively curb disappointment by readjusting your horizons. Some of us may still have our hopes fixed on an event in the future. The way things are shaping up, there’s a lot of uncertainty of what’s going to be open. Is there going to be a second wave of outbreaks? We just don’t know.
Looking forward to plans can be psychologically beneficial, keeping us engaged in life, but given the current circumstances, either focus on the right here right now. We will have a lot more control over the next week. Try focusing on the more distant future maybe a year or more from now. This advice dovetails the wisdom of the US Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale. Stockdale, who spent seven years as a prisoner of the Vietnam War is renowned for his articulation of what is now called Stockdale Paradox. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst ethos captured by his quote, ‘You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.’”
To me, that goes into this idea of bypassing. One thing that I’ve been paying attention to is toxic positivity. That’s one thing that I’ve been seen being talked about of high vibes only. There’s room for positivity, don’t get me wrong, but when positivity is being trumpeted from the rafters or on social media, or the rhetoric of bypassing the gravity of the moment. That’s what brings it up for me is people calling out toxic positivity. I’m glad that’s being discussed. I wanted to bring it up in reference to the quote you shared of, “Let’s not feel shame for shame’s sake. Let’s not feel guilt for guilt’s sake, but also let’s not high vibe our way out of this shit.” Let’s dig into the gravity of the moment.
“Stockdale observed during his time in the Vietnam War. When he was a prisoner, his cellmates, the optimist, believed that they would be free by Christmas. When that didn’t happen by Easter and so on, became demoralized and died of a broken heart. While our circumstances are distinctly unlike Stockdale’s, his wisdom regarding how to cope with uncertainty still resonates. We cannot afford to spend the entirety of this pandemic expecting normalcy to manifest around the bend. Doing so only compounds our pain.”
There are no expectations. If we expect things or projects into the future too much, there’s pain and potential disappointment. If we lament and regret our choices in the past, there’s pain there too. In a real way, practicing presence, being in the moment, and dealing with what is right in front of us right now. We’ve heard it a million different ways in an enumerable number of times, we’ve heard from so many different spiritual teachers from so many lineages and religions of like, “Be here now, be present.” This moment in human history, that is one of the grandest lessons. It’s what is right in front of me right now. How best can I respond to it? That’s what it is.
I wanted to see if I could find anybody talking about the Stockdale Paradox more recently. I found this great article on Medium called The America I Can’t Quite See. The author did have some great points in this. He said, “For there to be love, there must be the truth. Let me state for things that are true. Number one, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sean Bell, and Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, whose names I do not have the space to print, should be alive. Number two, Christian Cooper should be able to watch birds, and the Americans of African descent should be able to go through the basics of life without the possibility that a chance encounter with someone who fears or loathes them could end their lives or diminish their dignity. Number three, the reason behind the first two truths is racism as old as our country. Number four, it is on every single person who bears the title of American to solve this.”Toxic positivity is when positivity is being trumpeted while bypassing the gravity of the moment. Click To Tweet
His article his quite in-depth here. He does mention the Stockdale Paradox. I’m going to skip down to that. He says, “We will have to embrace a civic version of the Stockdale Paradox.” He does a little bit of description about it as I shared in the other article there. “Let’s confront the brutal reality that George Floyd and so many others who we grimly memorialized were not just failed by the criminal justice system. They were failed by every system in our society. By an education system whose outcomes are more determined by your zip code than your aptitude. An economic system that clusters wealth, even as workers become more productive. By a healthcare system that even during the pandemic serves too few people of color and others too numerous to name.
There is a false choice that posits are that the only two courses are to either accept the current unacceptable status quo because it is too hard to change or to tear all of our systems down because they are too far gone. We must create a third choice to burrow to the core of each of these systems and transform them entirely so that our country can live its creed. This choice is the hardest, most uncertain, but also the only one that can deliver what we seek. A country in the world where I don’t have to explain to my son why another man who looked like him died for a reason he can’t understand.”
This article is wonderful, in-depth. In some context, he’s a Technology and Human Rights fellow at the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. He holds degrees from Tufts University, Harvard University, and many others. He ends us by saying, “I choose to have faith. As someone who grew up in the church, the good book has a lot to say on the subject. It is generally defined as a belief in the unseen. The America that I cannot yet see where my son’s life is as valuable as anyone else’s is the inheritance I intend to leave him. I have seen glimpses of it in my own life where people who did not look like me helped me in ways that did not benefit them and cost them. These glimpses are nowhere close to enough, but they show me glimmers of what can be. As the Bible also says in the book of James, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ No matter what you look like or how affected you are about by what has happened in America for too long, my son needs your work. We all do, and we need it now.”
The other thing that comes up for me and I don’t know who this quote is attributed to, but off the top of my head, “Without vision, the people perish.” It’s so important for us to have a creative vision for not just America is going to be moving forward but the social justice and economic systems moving forward in the world. We’re here in America. You and I live in Los Angeles. It’s what we’re mostly focused on. If I look back on some of the choices that have been made from the economic bailouts of the banks, the hedge funds, and glossing over the systemic racism, or throwing cookies or the minimal reforms we’ve had in the criminal justice. There are a million examples we could bring up.
I feel it’s like you have a teapot that’s shattered into a million pieces and you’re like, “Just duct tape it. We need to pour the tea.” It’s a horrible analogy, but the proverbial duct-taping of the massively fractured things in our systems, we can’t do it. The most challenging part of what he expressed in that article is how do we form a new vision. That’s where the hard work is going to be for all of us. Can we agree that the system we’ve been and are in is broken? We have to have some form of agreement with that, but then what do we want to create from the ashes of this?
That to me is like the total. The reason we haven’t, Whitney, other than people wanting to uphold their own personal power structures is that it seems daunting to think about creating a new economic system? A new healthcare system, a new system of cultural reform, criminal justice reform and all of the things. That feels so heavy and so daunting. At this point, are we going to go back to the way it was? We can’t. That’s the reason why so much of this protest and upheaval is more people are realizing we can’t go back. It’s so broken, unjust, and cruel that we have to move forward, even if we don’t know what we’re moving forward into.
That’s all about getting uncomfortable. A lot of the reasons that change doesn’t happen is simply because we want to be comfortable so badly. It’s a deep human desire, but we have to remember that everybody wants to be comfortable. A lot of people have not lived lives of comfort. To your point, bringing up Jeff Bezos, there is that inequality. Why should he have the comfort of all this money, but his employees don’t? It’s far more complicated than I can understand at this moment. I don’t think it’s as simple as, “Pay them more. You have so much money.” I don’t know how his financial structure is. From the outside, it looks like he is living a much more comfortable life. Part of the solution for something like that is to explain it more and be more transparent. Maybe he has a structure for a reason. If we could at least understand his reasoning, then we could at least be more accepting of it.
It doesn’t mean that it’s right. It doesn’t mean that it should stay that way. It makes me wonder is the lack of communication in place so that we feel confused, and thus we can’t try to change something. For me, the more information I have, the easier it is for me to approach something. When I feel confused, I tend to get a little bit paralyzed. I don’t know what decision to make. I’ve seen this with COVID-19 and this is happening now. Are we being kept confused for a reason? Is there a conspiracy? Is that part of the plan? Is it that things are complicated and it takes a while to sort through them? There may not be a black and white answer. We may need to choose different paths.
My compassion within me wants to give a lot of people, if not everybody, the respect that things are in place for a reason, but they should also give the respect back to us to explain themselves as much as possible. There’s this ego of, “I don’t have to explain myself to you. That’s the way it is.” For me being a big why person, when I can understand what your motives are and your reasons for something, then it makes it a lot easier for me to accept it. We have to continue to have open dialogues. I even feel this way about Trump. There’s a lot of things I don’t understand. I don’t feel like I understand him, period. I wish I did so at least I’d be able to say, “I agree to disagree, but at least I understand your reason for it.”
The open dialogue and people willing to come to the table right now to share ideas and share perspectives, I think it’s critical. The danger of hating a specific group of people for their perspectives rather than trying to understand them. It’s not giving them a pass. It’s not condoning or giving people a pass for inappropriate, hurtful, charged, violent behavior. To your point, if we had an understanding of why people feel the need to oppress others psychologically, why they need to amass unconscionable amounts of wealth, it has two examples. Why do you feel the need to do that? I think about this all the time on the basic level of human psychology. I don’t know the answers but I ponder. What is in a person that motivates them to want to have $100 billion? What’s inside of a person that automatically makes them hate a person of another color, religion, political system? There are a million examples of why people choose to hate each other.
Is it as simple as a xenophobia type of argument of what they don’t understand and don’t know, they automatically push away and hate? Is it a xenophobic attitude? Is it something they learned from generations from their father, grandfather, and great grandfather, and they never chose to question it? I remember as a little kid, some of the male figures in my family, I’m remembering some of the racist shit that they would say. My grandpa and my uncles, not all of them, but some. I even remember as a young kid feeling this sick feeling in my stomach when they would say those kinds of things. It wasn’t that I understood the context of what they were saying, but I felt their energy behind it. I felt the hate behind it, the anger behind it.
I remember as a kid being like, “Why are they so angry at these people?” Later I came to disassociate myself from it. It begs a question of even though I had those impressions as a child of racist attitudes of some of the men in my family, my curiosity in my family context was why didn’t I adopt it? Why didn’t I take that on? Whereas other contexts of family, you’ll have a very similar situation, and then it spreads generationally. The kids are like, “I see my dad or my grandpa hating those people, so it must be okay to hate those people.” I wonder why I didn’t take that on, whereas other family dynamics, that’s a given. I get so curious about the psychology and the imprinting of that on young minds.
I think about that with myself too. It’s hard to say. How we are shaped like human beings is very complex and there are so many factors involved.” I’m a big proponent for education and awareness simply because that’s helped me so much. Being around people that are well-educated and people that have different perspectives. Education also doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a degree. Education could mean that you read a lot of books, you have a lot of conversations, you watch a lot of documentaries, or you are doing things to evolve your mind. I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of those people and I’m incredibly grateful for it. I continue my education on a daily basis through research. That helped shape me. I’ve been a naturally curious person. Some of us are not given or encouraged to be that way, so that’s why I advocate for it.
Another article I wanted to bring up is a well-articulated one. I was searching for discussions around these things. I came across one that was An Open Letter to the GreenBiz Community written by Joel Makower, who is a Chairman and Executive Editor at GreenBiz group. He had some articulate points in this article. I’ll start here, “The calamities of 2020, the physical, economic, social, and psychological crisis we’ve already been confronting these past few months have contributed to this raw movement. The culmination of centuries of systematic oppression and institutionalized racism. Words of comfort, of healing and hope, aren’t cutting it and they shouldn’t. This is a moment for the private sector to step up, not in helping to calm and heal, though that will be a critical task in the coming days and weeks, also to lobby for justice. Economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, climate justice, and to deeply understand what these terms even mean and how they relate to creating the societal value that is the beating heart of the business.
This is a seminal moment that is testing all of us. Those in sustainability, certainly, along with most everyone else. As we work on or support societal solutions, and there are likely to be countless ideas coming out of this from every conceivable source, it’s important to ask some simple, but profound questions. Who’s setting the rules? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s being heard? Who’s left out? Who’s benefiting from the status quo and the proposed solutions? Does it empower the marginalized or merely placate the restless? These are the kind of questions that have been woefully absent in the past. We are living with the result. If we are to change the course, not simply aimed to get back to some elusive normal, these questions will need to be asked and answered. Failure to do that will lead us to the right to where we are.”
I don’t know how to respond to that other than I think it’s incredibly eloquent in the sense that everything is interrelated. Everything that we’re looking at right now, all of the changes, evolutions, upheaval, and uncertainty, it’s all an interwoven fabric of the human existence. To address one thing in a vacuum solely thinking that it’s going to address other things, and maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why comfort, people staying silent, and people backing away from challenging issues because people feel on some level it’s so daunting to change all of this. Why even bother? Look where that attitude’s gotten us. Status quo, keep going. If anything, we realize that the status quo needs to be detonated at this point. I love that creates this truth of it’s all interwoven. The climate justice, the animal rights, rights for people of color, rights for minorities, rights for the homeless, the houseless. If I can summarize it all, we need to do a better job of taking care of each other. We can do a way better job of taking care of each other. In a lot of ways, we haven’t been taking good care of each other. It’s been everyone out for themselves and everyone is selfish, myopic, and focused on their own stuff. Whether it’s the animals, the planet, people that are different than us, we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of each other.
That sounds wonderful in theory, but it’s not that easy because we’re fighting against a lot of history and programming. The one thing that I felt compelled to share on my personal Instagram account was a graph of what’s happened in America and the kind of history of racism from slavery and segregation. When I saw this image, I knew I had to share it because it showed me the perspective and realizing that this has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years. When you see it in that visual, it can help understand how complex this is, how long this has been going on, and why people are so fed up.
Similar to what we were saying about how we’re shaped as human means we are working against a lot of that time. Our brains as human beings take a while to evolve. Our society takes a while to change. What I’m thinking with the Stockdale Paradox is that we can’t expect that things are going to change that quickly. Even when we’ve had presidents that I felt very aligned with, there were still challenges in this country. We’re dealing with this by an individual level, a city level, a state level, on a governmental level, and then a global level. There’s all of that each working through all of our situations and our histories, and then we’re working through our parents and our grandparents and all of our ancestor’s histories. There’s so much there to unpack and to work through and to consider.We can do a way better job of taking care of each other. Click To Tweet
I’m a very optimistic person, but I also need to face some of the reality here, and see what can I do right now in this moment? What can I do that’s going to have a bigger impact? Remember, it may get worse before it gets better or it may slowly get better. We might not see a lot of these changes in our lifetimes. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking action, but as human beings that tend to be very impatient, this is part of like what happened or the ways that I was feeling with the Women’s March. It was like, “I went to this march. Where’s the change?” That change may take many years to come to fruition.
COVID-19 is another great example. We don’t know how long that’s been going to be going on for. Even when you get infected with it, it takes a few weeks for you to even have symptoms sometimes. There’s not a lot of immediacy here and change, in general, can take a lot of time. It’s this constant reflection on what’s going on right now. What can I do right now? I need to be patient and consistent. We talk about consistency so much here. We have our program, The Consistency Code, and that was developed around the fact that we need to do things over and over again. I’ve seen this too.
We can’t like, post an image on Instagram and donate to a cause, and think that it’s going to solve everything. We have to be posting regularly and having conversations with people in our lives. We need to be educating ourselves, donating money, and fighting regularly or taking action on a regular basis. It’s not going to end after a week. People keep in my friend group keeps saying, “When’s this going to be over? When are the protests going to be over, when is the looting going to be over?” Just because those things are over doesn’t mean that this issue is solved or over.
This is going back to what I was saying earlier. The problem is once their protests end, does everybody forget why they were happening? The reason I feel good about the protest continuing is that it’s a daily reminder for me. A lot of us need daily consistent reminders of what the reality is outside of our own lives. We need to be talking to people and finding out how we can take action. We need to step out of our self-centered viewpoints and consider the impact that we’re having on the entire world and all of these different levels.
I remember when I first started researching animal rights and planetary rights and making the transition to a vegan lifestyle years ago. The quote was, “Think for at least a few moments of the atrocities of which you spare yourself, the site regularly.” What you’re saying about this consistency, “When is this going to go away? When are things is going to go back to normal?” There can be no normal after this. I need to go there for a second. Anyone who’s clinging to wanting things to go back to the way they were, in my opinion, that’s a pipe dream. Whether it’s global devastation, the Amazon’s burning, animals being slaughtered, people of color being beaten to death in the streets, and the police brutality. Name any damn thing.
If we don’t expose ourselves to, “I can’t watch that video.” I’m not judging anyone, but there are some times where you need to watch the video because it’s like, “I don’t want to see that. Out of sight, out of mind.” Sometimes we need that. We need that to see what other people who are different than us, other species, other races of people, and different economic classes. It doesn’t mean we have to directly experience that horror, that atrocity, but to have our hearts and our minds open to what the other person or other being is going through. It’s important to consume that in whatever degree people want to. We have to open ourselves to on a very fundamental level understanding what these atrocities are about. I believe that.
That’s where I’m at this moment. I’m continuing to pay attention, to educate myself, to listen, to be curious, and to question myself. As many moments as I’m considering it, it’s that what is my action? What is a helpful action right now? It takes going outside of our comfort zones. I’m trying to figure that out for myself. Maybe it’s a little extra tricky right now because we were already pushed a little outside of our comfort zones, in a lot of ways through COVID-19. Now I’m starting to feel comfortable in quarantine. Being outside of quarantine sounds uncomfortable for me. It’s like, “We’re being asked to change again.” As we said many times, change is the only constant. It’s sometimes more subtle than others.
For me, I have to examine what my comfort zones are, how they serve me, and how they serve the world and how they don’t serve me in the world. I’m also tuning into I feel pressured. As we talked about in another episode, I don’t want to take action because I’m pressured to take action. I don’t want to take fake action or performance action. I want to be doing things that make sense and resonate with me, but I can’t wait around for those to happen. I can’t sit in that resistance and thinking overthinking all the time. I have to be willing to make mistakes. Jeff Bezos, he has a great theory around how you have to create things before they feel fully finished. That’s part of his success is contributed to putting things out there and fixing them along the way. That’s an important thing to remind ourselves that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Even if people unfollow us or shame us, or tell us we’re doing things wrong, what’s so bad about that? If that’s the worst that’s going to happen, we’re doing pretty well because there are a lot of horrible things happening in the world. If our whole reasoning and motivation for something are to make a difference in this world, it’s okay if some people don’t agree with it or align with it and you never know they change later on. We don’t have control over how people perceive us. We don’t have control over whether or not someone likes us. We can do our best. We talked about this in the Cultural Appropriation episode, we’re going to make mistakes sometimes. We have to examine them as they happen, but not let that get in our way of us taking action.
I was on a call with a group of plant-based entrepreneurs, green entrepreneurs. I was invited by an acquaintance to come on and answer some questions about social media marketing. One of the brands asked me about the situation with COVID-19 and with Black Lives Matter and the social unrest and the cultural changes we’re all going through. He said, “How do we speak? How do we communicate in our emails and our social media right now?” I said, “First of all, don’t be afraid to lose followers. Don’t be afraid to lose customers.” I know what economic stability, especially for small business owners, the last thing we want to think about is losing business right now.
I said, “If you feel compelled to speak from the heart and you sit with like in your heart, what is your truth? What is your perspective on this? That’s what you write in the email. You speak from your personal voice, not from a script, not from what you think you ought to say, not from someone else compelling you to say something on their behalf. Your heart, your truth.” You need to get to what that is, and if you feel like you want to express that right now, a lot of the tactics of marketing are crumbling. People could see through the BS more than ever.
I said, “If people feel like your brand values are mirroring your values as a CEO or a founder, I think those two need to be inseparable. My opinion is that your brand stands for justice. Your brand stands for health. Your brand stands for equality. Your brand stands for, assisting the mental health and emotional wellness of people because it was a CBD brand. People are struggling on all sides right now. The activists are struggling. The people losing their loved ones.” You want to focus on uplifting people’s emotional health and mental wellness. That’s where you go. You speak from the heart, you address what’s going on, but you do giveaways.” You offer people assistance, you offer discounts. You donate a portion of the proceeds, like whatever is in your heart to do.It is a really important thing to remind ourselves that it is okay to make mistakes. Click To Tweet
“I’m not going to tell you what to do. As a businessperson, as a brand right now, you got to come from the heart because people will feel it. If you lose followers and you lose customers, fuck it.” People appreciated me saying that. That is how I feel. We go back to you and me as content creators, as coaches, as hosts, as people who are in the wellness industry, the vegan industry, or whatever, the way people recognize us. We have to speak what is in our hearts, when we want to speak, at how we want to speak and stay open, stay humble, and keep learning. People will respond to react to it, how they do. We have no control over that. That’s where I’m at this moment. How can I speak the truth of love and support and service to the people that I believe in? That’s it. Who knows how this is all going to unfold, but I think for all of us to stay open-hearted, open-minded keep learning, stay humble, speak our truth? That’s my foundation right now.
With that, dear reader, we thank you for always going on this journey with us. We have no idea where it’s going to go, what the twists and turns of these conversations are going to be, but we appreciate you. We appreciate your subscribership. We appreciate you sharing this on social media if it feels compelling to you. Also, you joining the conversation, whether that’s shooting us an email to [email protected] to chiming in on our social media feeds at Wellevatr or going to our website and commenting on the show notes. With that, we’re going to keep getting uncomfortable. It is our commitment to do that, to stretch ourselves, to learn, to admit we don’t have the answers, to admit we’re always growing and evolving. That’s what the experiences here on This Might Get Uncomfortable. Until next time, keep fighting the good fight, speaking your truth, stay open, stay humble. Thanks.
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- Invisible Man
- Marie Forleo
- Anderson Cooper interview with Cornel West
- Cornel West
- Andrew Yang
- How to Mentally Prepare for more COVID-19 Uncertainty
- The America I Can’t Quite See
- The Stockdale Paradox: How Optimism Creates Resilience
- An Open Letter to the GreenBiz Community
- The Consistency Code
- On Veganism and Cultural Appropriation – Previous episode
- [email protected]
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