There is no denying that many things and events that came up this year have brought along with them a confluence of factors that affect people’s physical health and mental and emotional wellness. On today’s podcast, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen explore a fascinating topic – the social determinants of health or SDOH – which is about how nonmedical factors such as race, nationality, and poverty can influence people’s health. Diving deep into this topic, they also take a closer look at some of the most critical issues today, such as diversity, ethnicity, the roots of racism, white privilege, and more. Turning a blind eye to these issues is not an option. Tune in to this episode to be in the know and become part of the solution.
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Social Determinants Of Health, Diversity, And Other Global Issues
There’s been a massive upheaval in the number of fireworks, not just here in Los Angeles where Whitney and I record the show. I’ve been also reading a lot of articles from New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, my hometown of Detroit and most major US cities that for whatever reason, there seems to be a massive upswing in the use of illegal fireworks this year 2020 including M-80s. Fireworks that resemble some of the ones that I’ve seen close to the stuff that you would see at a county firework show. There are some ones that have gone off that have been flabbergasting how huge they are. It was the 4th of July and during the summer seasons, we always do see an uptick in the use of fireworks. I don’t use this term flippantly because I don’t mean to discredit or try and compare what we’ve gone through anyone who’s been in an actual war zone, but the sounds have been what I would think would be a war zone.
One of the biggest concerns that I’ve had in reading about the effects of fireworks is people with severe mental illness, war veterans who have extreme PTSD or closer to home for us because we don’t have those experiences with the effects that it has on animals. The number of animals that run away or end up in shelters or are mentally, emotionally traumatized by all these fireworks. Over the course of this firework season, I’ve been experimenting with different things to not only manage my own emotional reactions and mental health, because it’s been bad in my neighborhood. Trying to come up with ways to deal with it for my own health, but also the animals has been a challenge.
One thing though that I’ve noticed and for those of you who have read our CBD episode, you know that we are big fans of the medicinal use of plant medicines, myself in particular and Whitney has experienced the benefits of CBD. I am using a brand called Alpen Organics. They make a CBD formula that is tailored specifically for companion animals. I’ve been experiencing with giving double doses to Bella and the cats. If anybody doesn’t know, I have a French bulldog named Bella and four felines here at the house. I have to say, that formula has been working well. It has been brutal here in my neighborhood, as I mentioned and they have been more relaxed than I have. I need to up my dosage of CBD. The CBD has been working wonders for them. I ran out of rescue remedy for pets, which is another formula that I’ve found to be beneficial in the past for fireworks season. I’m still working on my emotional reaction to all of this. The past few nights were tough for me.
To clarify Alpen Organics, I looked it up because it sounds familiar. I was getting it confused with another CBD brand. I looked up Alpine Organics and what came up was a complement. I think of you singing that complement song. We talked about this in another episode.
Then the name of the CBD brand to clarify is Alpen Organics. It’s a premium CBD company for humans and for animals.
That is the brand that I had in mind, but Alpine Organics is another cool brand. We’re shouting out for two reasons. One is one of the first hits that I got when I looked up Alpine, it came up with Complement. Now, I’m getting confused too. I don’t know if this is the one that our friends with No Meat Athlete where we’re working on for the website it went to his Dr. Joel Kahn‘s website. I feel it is the same thing. It’s been rebranded a little bit, but it’s cool. They’re B12 vitamins, D3. I tried this a while back. You tried it too, didn’t you, Jason?
I did, when it was in a liquid tincture form. The cool thing about it is they’ve identified that these are the big three potential nutrients that most vegans or vegetarians would miss, which is B12, vitamin D3 and DHA EPA. We’ve talked about that on the show. I’ve mentioned it a lot in my Good Mood Food course and a lot of the nutrition for mental health stuff that I’ve put out. It is important for people that are eating plant-based, organic vegan, vegetarian to be mindful of things like K2, D3, B12, folate, and DHA EPA. I love that they’ve combined all these things because I think they have another formula that has iodine, zinc and K2. For years in the early days, maybe for the first decade, I wasn’t paying attention to supplementing all that. We have another episode talking about supplementation. Once I started paying attention to some of these potential deficiencies, it made a huge difference.
Now, that we’ve clarified Alpen Organics, I’ve tried as well. These were sent to me while back. They have the gummies, they have the products for pets or companion animals. They have topicals and all different things. I’ve tried them as well. They are vegan gummies which are really satisfying. Did you get some of those too, Jason?
I have. I plowed through the gummies quickly to be honest. It’s smart because I think that if you take the classic approach like Flintstone vitamins from our childhood. If you disguise healthy things in the form of a candy-ish type of thing, people are more likely to take it. The gummies went pretty fast around here.
Speaking of CBD which as Jason mentioned is a topic that comes up a lot. I got an email from a neat or it was a press release, a media email. I wanted to give them a shout out because it sounds an amazing company. I don’t have experience with this company yet, but I have used a number of the products that they sell. As I’m going to go through their website, I’ll see if Alpen is on here. There is a marketplace called Greenly Organic, which is owned by a husband and wife duo. They call themselves the one-stop shop for top products and information in the CBD and hemp market. It’s founded by this Florida couple and it’s a black-owned business. They’re encouraging more ownership and equity in the African-American community. They’ve partnered with an amazing awareness program called the Believe In Me Foundation Football & Educational Community Awareness. Have you heard about this too?
No, I’m curious to hear about this week. Is there more information there?
It’s called Believe In Me Foundation. It’s a nonprofit that is aimed at creating a positive and influential environment that allows the youth within the South Florida community to achieve success. They’re committed to emphasizing the importance of education, violence prevention, community service, and health and wellness. I have to see what the connection is. It’s a partnership that the Greenly Organic has done. Greenly Organic in summary is a curation platform. It’s a marketplace where you can go and they sent an email summarizing some of the things and some of the brands that are in here. I don’t think that we shouted these two out in our CBD episode maybe. I know one of them you love Mary’s Nutritionals. Do you remember if we talked about them in our CBD episode? If we didn’t, we should have, because their products are awesome.
I don’t remember exactly the brands. It’s interesting because when it comes to certain brands and we’ve talked about this in past episodes in terms of different food products, but also consumer brands like Tesla and Apple and investing in things that are effective. I don’t know that I necessarily have used Mary’s all that much.
I know you have, because you love their patches. It’s the black and white logo and they have the patches that you raved about.
I’ve used them topically for pain relief when I pull a muscle working out. When you’re attempting things you’ve never attempted before, you can get yoga injuries. I’ve had more than a few share of yoga injuries, but beside the point, Mary’s has been great for topical pain relief. I liked them for that purpose.
I wanted to give Greenly a shout out. We’re trying to be mindful of shedding out small businesses and diverse businesses as well especially black owned businesses is an incredibly important topic right now in this time in our country and being mindful of that. That reminds me of something that I found interesting when I was looking up current topics for the audience. If you haven’t heard some of our recent episodes, we’ve been highlighting a lot of different things that we found online. One of them that I thought was super fascinating is about the social determinants of health and how nonmedical factors such as race, nationality, and poverty can influence people’s health. Social Determinants Of Health is often shortened to SDOH. Have you heard of this at all? Is this a topic you’re familiar with?
It’s certainly been coming up a lot this year. I’m glad you brought it up, Whitney, because I think there is a confluence of factors that affect people’s not only physical health, but also mental and emotional wellness. We talked about in a previous episode the proliferation of food deserts in a lot of urban environments that primarily are comprised of people of color, black and brown people. It’s extremely difficult where I grew up in Detroit with few exceptions. It’s improved somewhat, but a lot of parts of downtown Detroit are food deserts. There’re still food deserts. You may have a random liquor store on a corner that’s selling beer and alcohol and chips and artificial foods, things that are not good for humans.
When you combine that with an economically depressed blighted area, and municipal systems that are not designed to help elevate people out of poverty and hopelessness, you have a deadly combination. Not even mind you the genetic factors, which you touched on Whitney, but the long answer is I’m interested in this. It’s not from a food and nutritional perspective, but how all of these factors of economics, genetics, food, nutrition and mental health. How these things combined together and how certain ethnicities, races and economic brackets are more susceptible to mental health issues and health issues in general as a result of these things? It’s a real thing.
It is and it’s important to discuss it and to explore it. I started reading the book, White Fragility, and it has opened my eyes to the way that I’ve been operating in my life. We’ve talked about this a bit at least indirectly. We’ve explored many things related to black lives matters recently. For me, it’s fascinating to examine the whole world of wellness, health and wellness, wellbeing, mental health, all of these things that are going on. We’ve talked about how COVID is affecting but we’re also thinking about, what’s determining your ability to be healthy? Whether it’s your knowledge, your access, and your financial, place in your life. There are many things that I think as white people we take for granted.
One thing that I’ve been examining within myself is a mindset I used to have, which is, “If I can do it, you can do it,” which is coming from such a place of privilege but I didn’t realize it in the past because I was hearing it much. If I look back on who was saying it, it was a lot of white people. It still is. People still say it and I cringe when I see things like that. I also remember why I was saying them, which was this belief system that, “I’ve struggled. If I can work through my struggles, anybody can do it.” We’re trying to empower one another yet because we’re white because we have that privilege. How can we possibly speak for people that aren’t white in that sense? In a way a lot of people have been excluded, non-white people I should say. Even white people can be excluded a lot as well.
When it comes to their financial situation, we should never assume because of the color of your skin, that you have access to things. However, in the book, White Fragility, it’s pointed out that’s not an equal playing field. There’s a huge difference between white privilege and anybody of color. That’s been eye-opening for me. Based on my education, my upbringing, the culture and many other factors we’re not as aware of the racism within ourselves. I want to be more mindful and taking the actions and promoting wellness in a way that’s not going to be heard by people of privilege and people that are white.
It does and I’m glad you opened this up Whitney. There are many things that I want to share on this topic too and some offshoots of it as well. In terms of not as raising our awareness, but adjusting our behaviors and our actions and how we’re leveraging our energy in the world. From our business to our personal relationships. I saw a meme that came out and I laughed. I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t remember who made it or who shared it, but it was a spoof on the “Maybe it’s Maybelline” jingle and it was, “Maybe you manifested. Maybe it’s your privilege.” It hit me and I started laughing. I never will forget this meme because it made me back up and look at not this idea of manifesting and some of the people who are at the forefront of this.
There’re a few people in our general wellness or wellbeing community that are still beating the drum of manifestation. If you look at who they are and what their background is of being white and coming from middle-or upper-class families. That’s easy for you to talk about manifesting when you have these massive advantages that are backing you, from wealth or connections or the color of your skin or whatever the case may be. It’s interesting because if I look at these leaders in the spiritual movement, most of them who talk about manifesting like, “You can do it too. Anybody can be a leader. You can make seven figures. You can manifest your dreams. You can do all this stuff,” most of it is white men talking about it.
Mostly white people, but mostly white men and. This situation and educating ourselves in gaining perspectives of people that are not in that class of people makes you go, “It is a little bit pedantic and reductive to talk about manifesting when you have all of these advantages.” The idea for me of being “self-made,” that’s been something that’s come up a lot. I guess the entrepreneurial world is people trumpeting that there are self-made successes are self-made millionaires, are self-made billionaires. This is also reductive and dismissive of the fact that no one’s creating success for themselves in a vacuum. This time in the world is showing how connected and interdependent we all are. Name a person that you might perceive as being successful. They had a massive amount of advantages, connections, serendipity. They initiated a vision and it came to fruition.
There’s no guarantee that it would happen, but you can’t tell me that anyone’s creating success or movement or growth in their life in a bubble. Life doesn’t work that way. No one’s doing this in an echo chamber or isolation tank. No one’s doing this. I want to take this opportunity wit to jump off at this point in the intersection of racism and privilege and whiteness and success to say, “I believe all the rhetoric and the spiritual jargon around manifestation and success. You can do it too.” A lot of it is coming from ignorance and privilege and people not talking about the advantages they were born into or all the people that help them along the way. That’s not talked about enough. It’s easy to say, “Look what I’ve got. Look what I did,” and not be fully transparent or fully honest or fully taking responsibility for all the legs up you got along the way. That’s important to speak to.
A lot of people are not aware. That’s one of the huge benefits I see to the current Black Lives Matter place that we’re in. It’s brought awareness to me. If it weren’t for that and George Floyd’s death and all the protests that were happening, I feel I was confronted. That’s why I started reading this book or talking to other people and watching videos and raising my awareness. I’m incredibly grateful for that, but that in itself is also a privilege too. It feels weird to be like, “I’m grateful for George Floyd’s death because that taught me something that I needed to know.” That’s also disturbing when you think about it. I’m laughing out of discomfort. I pulled up an article because I was looking for a few key points. I haven’t finished reading White Fragility yet. There’s a lot to unpack in your life as you’re reading through the book. It could take me a while and it’s one of many books that are on my list.
My next is How To Be Antiracist. I feel talking about these books is also a little cliché because many people are reading them but that’s great. It’s a good form of cliché. I pulled up this article from NPR, which was, Interrupt The Systems: Robin DiAngelo On ‘White Fragility’ And Anti-Racism. Robin’s the author of this book and one of the points that is summarized in this article is that humility is key. You can’t know all you need to know. It is a bit asking how to get in shape by Monday morning. You won’t be. You can only get started by Monday. It will be a multi-part process, diet, exercise, sleep, and on and you will never be in a fixed state of shape. It’s an ongoing practice that must be integrated into your life.
Anti-racist practice is an ongoing practice. You will never arrive. It’s a journey, not a destination. I love that because that’s true about health is wealth as exactly as it’s saying. It also reminds me of how I feel a lot of the messaging in health is all about arriving somewhere. It’s like, “If you follow these steps, you’re going to get these results and certainly your life is going to be better.” That’s a marketing thing. The system set up that you’re never arriving. In one way, that’s great because life is all about the journey. The only arrival, we have is death and we shouldn’t be in a rush to get there.
I guess my point being is that we also have to examine different elements of the wellness world and the racism within it and then also all this pressure. We talk about this a lot in other episodes and being an anti-hustle culture and getting out of that productivity culture. We talked about that in a recent episode especially Millennials are affected much by that. The Millennial voice is super loud. Maybe it is because I’m a Millennial as we discussed in that episode. Other voices are allowed as but it seems our culture is influenced by the Millennial culture or generation. There’s much in this about being productive all the time.
I also mentioned in one of our episodes, that may be part of the root of that as well as you can there’s you could trace that back to slavery. It’s how slaves were being driven to always be performing and never to slow down and not to rest. There’s this great movement of napping and targeting people of color because there’s been much pressure for people of color to never rest. I found this to be true. There was one point where, one of the authors and her name is escaping me. She’s actually someone I’d love to have on the show, but her work is The Napping Ministry. She had pointed out in an article how it’s hard to find people of color in stock images especially when it comes to sleep.
I don’t know if I had that bias in my mind when I was researching, but I’m looking for some stock images to use for a few projects. It’s incredibly challenging to find authentic, non-cheesy stock photos of black people doing things related to wellness. It might have to do with this specific site that I use. I have an account on Depositphotos. I haven’t broadened my search to all the different search engines but as far as I’m aware, most of these stock image sites all use the same images. It’s depending on where your membership is. Maybe there’s a black stock photo site that I need to go look on to find more diversity. Maybe the one that I’m looking in is targeted towards white people.
This is one of the things that you have to start to question, “What is this that I’m using?” I can’t assume that this represents everybody. Maybe there are stock images, stock companies that are more about diversity anyways. Within Depositphotos that I use, I was taken aback by how hard it was to find the right type style of photo. When you do a search, there is a cool feature where you can search for pictures of black people, for pictures of Asian people or Hispanic or Latino. You can narrow it down. If you don’t turn on the ethnicity filters, it’s mainly white people that pop up in the stock photos search.
That reminded me of that article I read and how it’s challenging to find photos of black people resting. It was part of this idea that these photos aren’t being taken. These photos aren’t being shared, are people of color not being hired as models and are they not being used in those types of photos? I guess I’ve started to question a lot of those things and looking at my perspective as I’m trying to bring more diversity to my work too and be mindful of that. Not always show pictures of white people, because if I do that, then I’m perpetuating. I’m used to seeing pictures of white people in wellness is part of my point. If you step back and look at this, if you think about social media influencers, I think of a white young woman. If I think of pictures at my yoga studio, it’s probably a white woman.
The more that you step back and start to examine it in my experience as a white young woman, that’s what I’ve been exposed to. There have been many eye-opening points as I start to examine my own life and my own relationship and what I’m seeing. The part of White Fragility that I paused on the last time I read it was about our education systems and how many of us in our age range for me and Jason were raised to know that everybody was equal, despite what they looked like. Yet, in my small town in Massachusetts, it was mainly white. It was probably at least 90% white people that lived in my town. When I would think of the students in my school, there was a couple people of color and yet I was aware on a logical level that we were all equal.
If you’re not raised around enough of those people, if you don’t have that diversity in your life, there’s a big difference between your logic and your experience. That’s a huge point in the book in the section that I’m reading. I can’t think of that many non-white teachers I had in high school and the book was saying how a lot of us don’t have a non-white teacher until we go to college. It’s fascinating when you start to reflect and all of these things and realize there’s a lot more racism than in my life than I realized. Now that I’m in this world of wellness, I can start to examine it within my career as well.
There’re a couple points of this brings up for me. One is a short point and the other is a much longer point. On one hand, if we are in an echo chamber with people of similar backgrounds, ethnicities, skin colors, and motivations, when you bring up the preponderance of white females dominating the wellness industry. I often feel when I’m scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or not so much TikTok, but some of the longer players in the social industry, it seems the same messages and type of images being recycled over and over. It gets boring. I have to imagine that in terms of growth and expansion for ourselves that at a certain point you get sick of the echo chamber and you want different perspectives and you want people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, spiritual perspectives, and lifestyles, giving their input.
That’s probably one of the only ways that we get to expand is by consciously and intentionally that we expose ourselves not for the sake of intellectually absorbing something, but trying to understand on a deeper level the experience of someone who’s different than us. If there was a willingness for more human beings to do that and not be in this echo chamber where your own beliefs and perspectives and lifestyle is being reflected back at you all the time. That’s comfortable to a lot of people when you think about it. “I’m going to surround myself with people that are familiar. People that are me, that believe the same things, practice, the same things, worship the same things.” As we have a foundation of our show here, comfort doesn’t get you all that far in life.
By willfully exposing yourself to different people who believe in different things look different than you act different than you, there’s an expansion process there. Through that discomfort, initially, you begin to realize how much you don’t know. That’s also another one of the tenets here that we want to reinforce to you dear audiences. We reinforce it for ourselves is we don’t know. For as much as we think we know there is a massive amount of life and people’s experience, life stories, histories and perspectives that we have no idea about. To me, learning from other people that are different than me is one of the most exciting parts of life and what a wonderful opportunity that we’re all in at this moment to be able to do that, Whitney.
It’s like we willfully dig into those places and see how ignorant we’ve been. When I say ignorant, it’s not a knock. Ignorance is not the same as stupidity. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge and awareness. If we acknowledge that we are all ignorant because no one is omniscient and no one knows everything. There’s a level of ignorance with every single human being on the planet. Acknowledging that we don’t know what we don’t know, and that we are ignorant to a lot of things, that creates a space for learning. It creates a space for me at least of receptivity.
I was looking at stock images of diversity. I found a great resource that led me to a stock photo website that’s specializes in higher resolution photos of black and brown people. It’s free which is neat. Although you do have to be cautious when you use free images. As a side note, one of my friends got in trouble illegally for using a free stock image that she found on a website. There’re now lawyers that will specifically target bloggers and other content creators out there that are using stock images without having the rights to use them. How some of these free stock photo sites are not as royalty-free as we think that they are. A little side note to anybody listening, who’s also interested in finding diversity in their stock photo usage. Be careful and make sure you read all of the licensing elements of it. This specific website is lovely, at first glance. It’s called Nappy.co. It’s interesting because we were talking about napping although I don’t think that’s what it meant to me. I was hoping when I first saw it, I was like, “Is it about photos of people napping?”
Talk about niche as niches can be.
It is neat. There’s a section called Why nappy. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of traditional stock photos? White backgrounds, New York City skyline, and executives with their arms crossed. Traditional stock photo websites have always been somewhat of a joke mostly because they are unrealistic representations of real people doing real things. Thankfully, over the years we’ve seen a rise in free stock photography websites, offering high quality and free photos. These sites are great. They’ve made it easier.” They list out some of the major stock photo sites. The creator says, “I’ve noticed that all of their content could use a little bit more diversity.”
This is made by an influencer management agency for black and brown creators called Shade.co and they’re intentional about cultural and the work that they do. They weren’t always able to find the photos that they needed. In my experience, it was eye-opening because I wanted to make sure that I was showing representation of people of all different types, ages, genders, races and body sizes. All of these different things are incredibly important. Nappy makes it easy for companies to be purposeful about representation on their designs, presentations and advertisements neat. If you’re a photographer, you can actually submit your photos there too, which I think is incredibly important.
This highlights with as you’re searching for stock photos that are representing a more diverse swath of black and brown people, people of color. It reminds me of the movement that was happening and still is happening about more black representation at the Oscars. How big of an issue that’s been over the last three years of the lack of nominees of people of color for acting roles and how much attention has been brought to that. For me, what I reflect on in that is zooming out and looking at not the lack of representation on that level but a lot of our mass media. What I mean by that is stereotypes get enforced not across the board. In a lot of cases, black and brown people are subject to typecasting in a lot of mass media, TV and movies in particular. We’re talking about photos, but it’s an interesting offshoot.
As an example, I remember when I was little and I’ve mentioned this on the episode talking about Father’s Day and talking about my dad. When my dad was acting in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He’s passed, but he was Puerto Rican and Spanish and was a Brown man and was clearly Latino. He got typecast. My dad would play roles the drug smuggler, the thug, the body guard, and the criminal. More than often, I can’t even think of a roll off the top of my head where my dad wasn’t playing a “bad guy.” I don’t think that’s coincidence because if you look at a large amount of, especially men in particular, women are subject to the two stereotypes. Black and brown people being portrayed as criminals, as thugs, as prisoners, as drug dealers, as “bad guys.” I’m not saying it’s across the board. There has been some incredibly progressive performances and other projects that come to mind if you zoom out and look at it. Within the media in general, there still are massive stereotypes being enforced where people of color are playing crazy people, criminals, bad people, and villains. It’s disturbing when you zoom out and look at it in that way.
This also brings me back to that stock photo site in terms of the name. I was reading it and thinking like, “I have some negative connotations with that word nappy in my head.” I wasn’t sure why so I looked it up and found another NPR article about the layers of meaning and how that’s a triggering word for people. It’s interesting when you see a word that used in a positive context with that stock site. Then I’m thinking, is it weird for me as a white person to be nonchalantly using that word? These are the things that are important to discuss as well. Another point that stuck out for me in reading White Fragility is how the way that we’re raised to talk about other people and use certain words and how words can be intense at times.
We covered this a lot in the cultural appropriation. I wanted to bring this up because it seems that stock site that I discovered is a positive thing, but is that being used for cultural appropriation? It could be. You could be using stock images to try to seem you’re woke and whatever else. It’s important to understand the different comfort levels. In this book, it was mentioning there was a great example that triggered something within me. I could put myself in the place of this situation and the author was asking like, “What would you do if your child innocently pointed out to a black person and yelled Mom, that guy’s skin color is black and the mom would probably tell the child to be quiet?”
The next question is what if the kid pointed out to a white person and said, “Mom, that person is white?” It would be something that you would easily laugh off, but how we have a lot of shame around using words like black and I certainly feel uncomfortable around using that word and I’m like, “Should I say African-American?” I’m starting to realize that there’s discomfort in using certain terms. Then this book is helping realize the root of it because for most of my life, it felt uncomfortable to talk about black people. We don’t want to acknowledge somebody for the color of their skin. It’s not for black people but talking about them even using the word, brown, is uncomfortable. I’m perfectly comfortable talking about white skinned people and acknowledging that they’re white-skinned.
The whole point is that’s part of the racist culture as that we have shame bringing attention to the color of somebody’s skin. For me, as I’ve been used searching for stock photos, I’m like, “I want to show diversity, but I’m also afraid to show diversity.” I don’t want to performative. It’s that strange place that I’m finding myself in, which is wanting to not be racist, but still trying to figure out how to do that. That’s why I’m dedicated to reading these books. Going back to what I was saying earlier, it is a journey. You have to step through all this uncomfortable territory and then paying attention to the history. I looked up this article about The Racial Roots Behind The Term ‘Nappy’. How this was used as a racial slur for a long time. Some people will own it confidently. There are books like Nappy Hair. There is another book called Nappily Ever After that was turned into a Netflix movie or series. There’re some people that use it proudly like the stock photo website, but there’s some people that say that word’s always going to be uncomfortable and triggering for some people.The benefit of sharing stories is it can trigger similar experiences that other people might not have thought about. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about encoded language. You brought it up the use of words and what the meaning that we assigned to words. Think about when we talk about a lot of negative experiences or circumstances that we go through as human beings. When someone is say cut out of an industry or cut out of a line of work intentionally, what do we say? We say, “They’re blackballed.” When something is made inaccessible or something like that, we say that, “They’ve been blacklisted.” When we say we don’t someone’s energy? What do we say? We say, “They’re dark.” If you go into a lot of the phrases and colloquialisms we have in the English language, there’s more than that. They’re not coming to mind at this moment. A lot of them have the word black in them or dark in them.
You might say, “I don’t see a corollary there,” but on a subconscious level, there is a corollary. If we’re constantly using these negative associations, blackballing, blacklisted, darkness, in the black on and on there is a subconscious association that’s made in our neurochemistry. Where we associate those things with negative experiences. I do believe that colors for lack of a better term, our life experience of how we deal with people of color. We’re constantly using those phrases in negative associations. That has massive power. Language has power, especially the meanings and the connections that we associate. I wanted to bring that into light because you’re talking about words, Whitney. I’m doing my best to me much more mindful of my word choices and how I’m using language. Diffusing the associations, I’ve made with terminology like that and using other words to try and describe those situations.
It’s incredibly important to be mindful and conscious of the words that we use and how we talk about with them with other people as well as the energy behind it and any shame. That’s why I love that part in the book because I hadn’t thought about it that way of how a mother might be embarrassed if their kid pointed out that somebody was black. It’s those little moments in our lives that have a ripple effect on us. It perpetuates shame. That energy of you should be ashamed for having nappy hair or you should be ashamed for the color of your skin. We’re afraid to talk about you. It’s almost making somebody invisible if you are afraid to use those words. There’s this place where as a white person, it can feel challenging to use those words.
Another example, not just words, but holding up your arm with the fist is something that I associate with black power. You saw it a lot during the protest for the Black Lives Matter. I was like, “Should I be doing that as a white person? Is that me appropriating something?” It is open to a lot of interpretation. There isn’t necessarily a rule book for what you can and can’t do. This is true when we were talking in that Cultural Appropriation episode, which feels a lifetime ago. Much has changed since we recorded that. It was that idea of no matter what I say or no matter what I do, there’s always a risk that somebody is going to be triggered by it. It’s that fine line of being conscious of your languaging, but realizing that its ongoing journey. It’s not about always saying things and doing things perfectly. It’s unfolding and unlearning in a lot of ways. Reflecting is the best thing that you can do. Then raising your awareness, becoming more educated about it and being unattached to doing it right.
It’s progress, not perfection, which is another one of the foundations, Whitney. I know you agree with me that that runs our own self development and also this brand, that we do with Wellevatr and This Might Get Uncomfortable. We don’t expect people to get it right the first time. We’re recovering perfectionists in our own way in diffusing our desire to be perfect with things. With the education and self-awareness and ways that we authentically want to be allies with our friends who are people of color in this movement of human rights in general.
To me on the biggest level, this is to me about human rights. This is about people feeling safe enough to be in the world without threat of oppression and violence and hatred and a system that’s designed in my opinion, in many ways that we’ve talked to. The food system, justice system, the economic system, the media that are portraying and keeping these people in ways of thought that are often negative and depressed and systematically so. This is not something that is going to happen overnight. There are layers of this.
One of the biggest things that I’ve been looking at, which has been interesting has been reviewing my life and looking at ways that I have been racist. Taking a serious look at that. It has been eye-opening because it’s brought up situations in my life that I have not thought about in years, decades. Some of them from childhood young adulthood. Things that I’ve gone through in my life. Where I have to take accountability for feelings of hatred, anger, indifference and apathy that I have felt towards people of color and different ethnic groups. That is immensely uncomfortable to admit and talk about. It’s important that we do. I’m going to open it up now.
I thought maybe we could do this in a different episode, but I think it’s important to go because I’m flowing with it. Beyond the self-education, which is important, I’ve looked at like, “How do I take ownership and admit?” This is the first time you’re ever going to hear about this. You’re my best friend. I haven’t thought about this in decades. I grew up in Detroit and the neighborhood we were in, my mom and I, was diverse for the time of the ‘70s and ‘80s. I had mentioned this in a previous episode that one of our neighbors was a mixed-race gay couple, which was unheard of in Detroit at that time. As far as my mom reflects back to me. We had Middle Eastern people. We had white people, black people and gay people.
The neighborhood physically was and was interesting if I reflect on it. I felt the exposure to that was good for me. I remember the first feelings of racism that I had in my life was when I was in junior high. This is interesting because it was through a direct experience that I had. I want to talk about this if I look back on it through rhetoric, hate speech or things that people in my family were repeating or parroting to me. I adopted as a child that wasn’t that. Although there were certain men in my family and women in my family, that if I look back on, they did use some racist talk that I made me uncomfortable.
Specifically, what happened to me and me taking ownership of the racism I felt and experienced in my own heart was in junior high, I was severely bullied specifically by young Middle Eastern men. Men that were from Iraq and Lebanon. This is hard to talk about because it’s bringing up much for me in this moment of being shoved, punched, literally spit in my face and made fun of. We had a high concentration of young Middle Easterners in general, from different countries in my high school and in my junior high. I was for years between junior high and high school, those six years hurt physically and emotionally in many, many different ways.
I remember between my sophomore and junior years, I had flunked out of Chemistry and Biology and I had to go to summer school. The summer school I went to between those years was actually a primarily black school. I remember I was one of the only white people in that summer school. I remember talking to some of my new friends that I met there about being beat up and picked on and bullied at my school. This is hard to even say publicly. I was so broken and beaten down emotionally Whitney that I thought about bringing a knife or a gun to school. I was sick of being punched and spit on and beat up and all that shit.
I remember as a result of that experience, carrying hatred in my heart toward Middle Eastern people for years after high school. I remember carrying hatred in my heart for people of Middle Eastern descent. In my mind I had fallaciously associated that experience of being bullied and beaten up and picked on with, “They must all be this way.” Looking at the roots of racism, that’s one of the biggest sources of it is when we have a negative or deleterious experience with someone of a certain ethnicity, religion color, we blow that out and extrapolate that to, “They must all be this way.” I carried much hatred toward Middle Eastern people as a result of that bullying experience.
It took me years to undo the hatred in my heart I felt. It was through me looking at the fallacious association that I had made of, “They must all be negative, violent, hateful people.” Through opening myself to having business relationships and friendships with people of Middle Eastern descent. Some of them are good friends of ours, Nadine, Justin and some business associates, Ayaaz, Kazam in the past. I’ve had a lot of examples of people of Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian, and Persian descent, that some of them are dear friends of mine that I adore and love. It took me a long time to get to the root of the anger and hatred I felt toward Middle Eastern people.
It wasn’t because of a lot of people think about, “Was it because of 9/11, terrorism or Islamophobia or Muslims?” It had nothing to do with that. It was the link I made in my mind between, “I’ve experienced violence and hatred and bullying from these people. They must all be that way. I’m going to hate and avoid them.” I haven’t thought about these feelings in so long but sitting with this has allowed me to reconcile the hatred I had in my heart for so long and how much healing I’ve done through friendships and business associates that are Middle Eastern.
The healing that they’ve brought into my life as part of the love I felt with them and for them. The reason I’m saying all this is acknowledging the roots of racism, Yes, it can be learned and passed down as parroting from our parents or our caregivers or our family or through negative, violent, painful associations we have in our life and saying. “They must all be that way.” It’s a dangerous way of thinking. I’ve had to admit it now for the first time publicly and to you, and also take responsibility for carrying that in my heart for many years of my life.
First of all, I want to thank you for your vulnerability in sharing that. It doesn’t sound like it’s an easy thing for you to share. It’s interesting because it doesn’t change my perception of you at all. A lot of times, our fears and the shame in sharing something that we feel shameful about is like, “What if somebody doesn’t look at me the same after I admit this?” Is that part of it for you?
Absolutely. I haven’t shared this publicly until now. This is the first time I’m talking to anybody about it. The fear of people may perceive me as a hateful person or, “He carried racism in his heart and he carried hatred in his heart.” It’s the fear of being judged for it. I can’t control how people are going to proceed per perceive how I’m sharing of this. It’s been a gift for me to reflect back on this experience I had in my life of the bullying and the physical violence, the emotional bullying. What I allowed that to engender in me and the process of untangling that and undoing it. Not only that, but also looking at where else have I had negative experiences in my life? What other fallacious or ungrounded or racist associations have I made as a result of those experiences?
I’m still taking the proverbial magnifying glass and looking into my heart where maybe those things are still being harbored. I wanted to say this because I think it’s important for me to be doing this work right now. I’m saying this in the hopes that for you or any of the audiences or people that are reading this on social media, that they also take a look in their hearts and seeing where maybe some remnants of those things or maybe where there’s some healing that’s been done already around this. This is critical for us to do the deep inner work around this.
Part of the benefit and sharing these stories is it can trigger similar experiences that other people might not have thought about. That’s one of the reasons I love to read so much. I find this in a lot of books, especially when the book shares personal stories. I’m somebody who is often on the hunt for lessons. I want to skip over the personal stories and in sections of books especially if they’re long-winded. I’m learning not to skip over them because some of the best lessons are within them. When you hear somebody that shares a story in depth with details, or even minor, simple details, but those details will trigger us and remind us of things that we forgot about like you and that’s what happened.
For me, I have this visual from White Fragility, in my head of the grocery store. In my head, that’s where this scene was that the author described of the mother with the child and the child pointing out a black person. Even though I’m not sure that I had that exact type of experience. I was able to relate to the shame of pointing out somebody’s color. Once I read that story, it opened it up and reminded me of experiences I’ve had. It’s wonderful that you opened up and shared that because who knows what the audience is experiencing. It’s certainly having me reflect back. In this moment, I don’t have anything quite like that, then I wonder, because it’s a privilege not to experience bullying first and foremost.
It’s a privilege not to experience a traumatic situation, whether it was physical violence or it was sexual abuse. I find myself sometimes trying to look for things that, “What if I were pressed? What if I had an experience that I don’t remember?” I have this fear that I’ve repressed certain moments in my life. That’s another important thing. For you sharing this, it brings about that bravery. It has each of us examine, “Where are the things that we’ve buried within us because they were too painful to address or they were too shameful? Because we didn’t want to speak them out loud to somebody else, we kept them to ourselves in a way we start to forget them, but they’re incredibly important.”
As we know what the issues be in our tissues if we’re holding on to them, who knows what kind of ripple effects? I’m encouraging you, Jason, and the audience to examine these tough to examine things. When you release them, not only do you get to cognitively learn from them but it’s like you’re releasing them and maybe they’ve been sitting there as part of the tension that you’ve been holding. I examine the racism that I noticed in my parents or my grandparents. I don’t want to call out family members. I don’t feel comfortable with that publicly, but I certainly have noticed that through family members. Whether they’re cousins or parents or grandparents or anyone else and beyond family too. It’s friends, teachers, schoolmates and all of these other people.
Reflecting back on all these experiences and one thing I’ve realized too is that when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to people of color. I grew up in a predominantly white town and a white school system. I remember always thinking, “I’m not racist.” I remember distinctly learning about civil rights. I remember exactly where I was in school watching either Martin Luther King speech. It was something related to race. I have a strong memory of sitting on the carpet. It was in the library of our school watching probably Martin Luther King speech, something like that next to a person of color. One of my schoolmates, there was only a few of them. There were only a few black kids in my school and a few Asian. That might’ve been it.
I think we had one Middle Eastern person that I remember. It was definitely under ten. I went to a small school. It was 80 to 90 kids in each class, ten of them were of color or non-white. I have limited experiences. They all seemed pleasant people. I don’t have any strong memories same in college too. I went to a predominantly white college. I don’t know what the ratios were, but I definitely had friends that were of color. I didn’t have that many experiences. Even though I wasn’t bullied or I wasn’t abused, or I didn’t have those something as intense as what you experienced, there’s also something to be said about the lack of experience.
For lack of a better term. I don’t mean this directly, because it wasn’t an intentional choice, but it was you were sheltered a bit.Racism is a complex topic. Examining it, addressing it, and doing something about it is so incredibly important. Click To Tweet
For sure. I think you could use that term. Going back to my other point with what was passed down to me and what experiences do my parents have that they pass down to me through their parenting and what experiences did their parents have. The state of the country that they were raised in and all of the things going on. It wasn’t about my sheltered experience. It was about their decision to shelter me, their decision to raise me in a certain part of the country and their decision to live there. There’s so much that’s passed down.
With racism being hundreds of years and all of the things that have been going on, it’s not as simple as our firsthand experiences. It’s also the whole society around it. This is a complex topic. The more that we can examine it and then address it and do something about it is incredibly important. That’s why it continues to come up. We didn’t even plan to talk about that this now but it evolved there. As I said before and shared from that article, it’s the journey of the ongoing conversation about this. It leads me to something else that’s interesting as we move towards the end of this episode. What we have been doing recently is shouting out people, especially small business owners or brands we love.
We’re being more purposeful about bringing them up as I did earlier with that wonderful CBD company and Jason bringing up a few. This whole conversation started talking about Greenly Organic and CBD and the black-owned business. The foundation that they’re partnered with and then our conversation about how it’s important to support black-owned businesses or businesses owned by non-white people. Being aware of who’s making what you’re buying. My intention was to talk about this brand Swanwick. They tie into this conversation because we were talking about wellness and napping. Swanwick is one of our favorite.
They make blue blocker glasses, which you may have heard us talk about. We’ve dabbled in it. If you’re on our Instagram, we have pictures of us wearing them. We love these. They’re a huge part of our wellbeing routines. I wear mine every day. I wear mine when I’m reading at night as I’ve been reading White Fragility, I read it on my iPad and I’m wearing my Swanwick glasses. The reason being that helps with eye strain. There’s this belief that we’re exposed to much blue light, that it can disrupt our sleep and harm our eyes in some ways. There’s a number of other health effects from all this digital exposure. For me being determined to read on an iPad every night, the compromise is wearing the blue blockers. How about you, Jason? You’re a big advocate for Swanwick as well.
I’ve noticed in conjunction with a lot of my other evening routines, that it has been a great adjunct and supplement. I’ve been wearing them. I think I got my first pair when did I shoot that commercial in New York for Aetna. I shot that in 2017. I’ve been using them for almost three years now. I find that especially right around sundown, as we do as artists and content creators and entrepreneurs here on the show work often gets done at night. I find whether I’m reading a book or I’m working on the laptop or I’m on my phone, which is apt to be done after 8:00 PM, they’ve made a big difference. I noticed that I’m not up with my brain buzzing before I go to bed. Also, they look badass every time I wear them. We have a friend, shout out to Brian Alexander of USA Today, who’s like, “You look like a young Tony Stark.” I always get the Tony Stark comment, the Ironman comment. I’m like, “That’s good. That’s a nice ego stroke.” I’m channeling my inner Tony Stark when I wear them too.
That leads me to the other way that we’ve used them in the segue I’m about to make is that we’ve used them in our speaking appearances. I discovered as we were recording, I went to the Swanwick website and there’s a picture of you on their website. I don’t know if you know this. They have this collage of people wearing their glasses and from one of our social media posts, they pulled this image of you wearing them. It’s a great image of you. It’s at a speaking appearance that you and I did. I took this picture of you during a presentation. You’re in your maroon suit and wearing your glasses, looking like Tony Stark.
What was that?
This was the event that we did last summer, where we spoke about wellbeing and social media and all that. This leads me to my next point though. This is something that I’d love to explore publicly in live with you. It’s a little concerning to me. I went on the Swanwick website and social media, and they’ve a little diversity. There are some people that might be Hispanic or something and more a brown shade skin tone shade. The company was founded by two white men, Australian. We are big advocates for what they’re doing and intentional about mentioning brands like them. I am concerned that they didn’t seem to acknowledge Black Lives Matter at all in their social media. I did a quick comb through their Twitter, which is not being updated but their Instagram and Facebook, it looks they proceeded as business as usual.
I have mixed feelings about that. There are maybe a few photos. I saw one photo of a black woman, but every other photo is of white people. It makes me wonder. I imagine it’s not intentional. I don’t think they’re a racist company. If they are, we will find out and we will no longer support them. Maybe they’re caught up and then this is bringing it full circle. Maybe they are not aware of the importance of showing diversity. Maybe they don’t have people of color using their products as much. Maybe they haven’t done intentional photo shoots. I want to call out Swanwick and I want to call up any brand, we encourage you the audience to do the same as ask them. You can do this in a kind way. I would love to compose an email with you, and send it to Swanwick and say, “It’s concerning to us. We want to see more people represented.”
That brings it back around to this question and the point made towards the beginning. If Swanwick’s about wellness, self-care, preventing burnout, if you’re going to be productive, you got to find a way to take good care of yourself because they have that message. They’re much about biohacking and optimizing and productivity. They’re also saying, “Take care of yourself too.” That message needs to be extended to everybody, not white people. We have to be intentional and it brings around this question of making sure that the brands that you love, the products that you buy are doing it not for woke capitalism. My question is, are they not addressing Black Lives Matter? Are they not addressing that on their social media because they don’t want to come across as performative? That would be my first question for them.
I think also there’s, there’s also an aspect to the consideration of how different countries are handling this. Here we are in Los Angeles, the United States and clearly the history of oppression and slavery and systematic injustice, and we could go on and on about how this country was built and founded on. I don’t want to get into that political discussion because inequality, systematic oppression, slavery and using people to build this country is a fact. It’s not even a political discussion. Other countries don’t necessarily have that much of an embedded history of slavery, racism or systematic injustice. It is a worldwide global issue, yes, but it could be that in Australia, perhaps, although I’m sure if we dug into it, there probably is some history around aboriginals. Racism is a global issue is my point. I’m saying that depending on who is having the perspective of where they’re coming from. Maybe they don’t see it as pressing or important of an issue based on their experience.
Isn’t that racism being the privilege of not needing to acknowledge it? By the way, I’m continuing to go through their Instagram and did find more images of people of color. There’s a black woman, there’s a black man used in an image about sleep awareness, which is great. There are several Asian people on here. There is some diversity, but if you did a quick glance like I did, initially your impression would be, it’s all white people you’d have to look closely for people of color. That shouldn’t be the case. We need to shift that in our marketing, even if it is used for capitalism, it still should be. There’s part of me that feels it’s worth the risk of coming across as performative, simply because we need to go to those extremes. Over-correcting is that the right term where you have to go out of your way and make a bold statement, because that shows that you’re an ally.
That’s part of it as well. Then it’s going to take some adapting and bringing it back it doesn’t feel as performative and it doesn’t feel a marketing tactic or whatever. It’s important and if there’s anybody reading, who’s a social media manager or works in marketing, we want to encourage you to be mindful of what you’re doing. It’s okay if you’re afraid that it’s coming across as performative. You can test things as well. You can put something out there. Ask people’s opinions. You can see how it’s received. This is a work in progress when we come back to this journey. We’re calling out for Swanwick to have more diversity. We love them. We hope that they will include that. We hope that they don’t have racism embedded in their culture, or if they do, they can examine it and make a statement around that. That goes for any other brand.
Coming back around to the brand that we talked about the beginning with Greenly Organics. I want to make more of an effort to highlight brands that are owned by people of color or are doing a lot in the world to connect with people of color to represent and include them in the work that they’re doing in the marketing that they’re doing of their products. It’s an incredibly crucial thing now. There was one other brand that we wanted to shout out. It’s a local to Los Angeles. If any of our audiences live in LA, as we do, which has Liberated Salon, Jason. You want to talk about your recent experience with this company.
Quick bit of the backstory of the owner, Brandon Balderrama. He is somebody that I’ve been going to see for years now. You were the first person who introduced me to him back in 2012. I’ve been seeing him ever since. I love Brandon because he’s vegetarian. All of his products at the salon are plant-based and certified cruelty-free. Many of them are organic. His ethos though runs a lot deeper. The reason I love supporting him is for those reasons that I mentioned is his own personal ethics being infused into the business model. He has done many fundraisers at the salon for not only animal adoption and local animal adoption organizations, but he’s done a lot of fundraisers for people of color and LGBTQ+ organizations. He’s done drag shows there. He’s done music shows. He’s done DJs. He’s done amazing creative stuff to support animals, people of color, Trans Lives and LGBTQ+.
To me, it is important to politically vote. It is more important with the daily choices of where we are funneling the energy of our dollars and our wealth to, “Where is that going?” It’s not what is the product or the service we’re getting in return for it? The energy of that money is supporting what? What are the ethics of the owners and the founders and the people that run the company? Where are they funneling those dollars to? On a small local example, supporting Brandon and his company in Liberated Salon, I know that my money is going to help support other causes that he believes in. That’s meaningful and deep to me. I want to endeavor to do more of that in my life. It is important more than ever for us to support local business. With the COVID situation, people have been burning through financial resources at an unprecedented rate. Local, mindful, organic, helping underprivileged people, helping support animals, trans lives, LGBTQ+. My whole point is let’s be more mindful than ever of where our dollars are going and who and what they’re supporting.
That brings us to the newest segment that we do on our show. We’ve been doing this for over a week now. I don’t remember exactly when we started it. For the audience, if you’re brand new to our show, welcome. We appreciate you being here and reading all the way through to our episodes which average around 90 minutes each, sometimes two hours. We know they’re lengthy, but we to go in depth and make this conversational. We hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please subscribe. You’ll be notified when we have new episodes, which are released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday and Wednesday are our solo episodes. Meaning it’s me and Jason and on Fridays, we bring on a guest to be part of the conversation.
We’ve had incredible guests. We’re working hard to make sure that there’s diversity in our guests too and different voices whether it’s gender thing. There was a period where we had a lot of men on our show. Then we had a lot of women. We’re trying to represent people from different racial backgrounds and different lines of work and different ages. Diversity in every way possible especially as we started off talking about in this episode, the wellness world is predominantly white, and we want to make sure that we see a shift in that because it needs to happen. It needs to happen in every industry. In the health and wellness world, we want to see a more inclusive, less racism and a lot of awareness brought to that. We want to be part of that with our show.
This segment that I’m teasing here is called Frequently Asked Queries. This comes from queries that we’re seeing come up on Google analytics. Meaning somebody is typing something into Google and finding our website or show or there’s a great website called Exploding Topics. It shows you the hot topics and that was responsible for what we brought up today with this whole discussion. That’s something that I saw mentioned in Exploding Topics, which is the social determinants of health. I am grateful because the fact that people are searching for things online and having conversations about it, we can be part of that as well. What we like to do here is try to bring up something, a funny query, an interesting query and/or a serious one. Sometimes interesting and serious go hand in hand should we start with something funny.
Yeah. I think it would be good considering the tone of this entire episode has been introspective and deep and serious. A little comic relief would be good.
Maybe this one’s not that funny. I didn’t find anything extremely funny, but this came from Exploding Topics. Something that was trending is cat toothpaste. Since I don’t have a cat and you have four cats. Jason. Have you ever thought to brush your cats’ teeth or use toothpaste? Is that something that you’ve come across in your world of companion cats?
It is something that I am aware exists, yes. It is more about their willingness to receive the treatment.
Is this something that’s recommended because for dogs, it’s incredibly important to take good care of their oral health? It’s recommended that you brush their teeth. I have toothpaste for my dog and I brush her teeth every single night. I’m curious if you’ve done anything for your cats’ oral care and if you’ve ever thought about getting cat toothpaste?
I have, but again, I think that judging by their general demeanor, I’m not sure how long they would sit still without being, squirmy-wormy is for me to actually execute it. It’s worth a try. It could be an exercise in total disaster and failure.
What if it was CBD infused cat toothpaste? That would be the best of both worlds.We have as much control or as much responsibility for what shows up in our life. Click To Tweet
That’s a good business idea right there.
We started talking about CBD for animals now.
It’s worth a shot. What else am I doing with my summer? I’m staying home. I brush everyone’s teeth. Why not?
Here’s another funny one that’s related. Somebody was searching for and found our show and the term was Awkward Cat Grin.
I think of the Cheshire cat.
That’s exactly what I thought of. It’s pretty funny. If you search for that phrase, there is a slew of image results that come up. It’s a meme. I’ve seen this before. It’s a black and white cat that looks uncomfortable. It’s called Polite Cat. The funny thing is one of the captions for this cat’s face is, “This cat space makes me uncomfortable.”
I need to see the image.
I’m sure you’ve had it. Look up polite cat or look up awkward cat grin. It’s a black and white cat kind of your cat Figaro.
I’ll look it up.
I don’t think it’s photo-shopped. I think that’s literally the cat’s face. If you have not yet seen this cute cat looking simultaneously polite and awkward. This is a good example of how you should do more with your cats by taking pictures of them. You have noticed that your cats get the most likes on social media when you post about them.
I don’t even bother posting recipes or any food anymore because I will get almost four to five times the amount of engagement on a cat photo. I’m like, “You guys want a cat photo? You’ll get cat. There you go.” The second half of 2020, I’m turning it into a cat account. “What about the recipes?” You didn’t like the recipes. You liked the cat photos that’s what you’re going to get.
Here’s our interesting query of the day. This one is interesting to me because it references somebody that we know. Someone was searching for more information on this. Maybe you can share what of the subject. The query was Chef Ito, Vow of Silence.
When did we mention Chef Ito?
We talk about a lot of different things. For the audience, Chef Ito is one of our favorite vegan chefs. Who is at this phenomenal restaurant called Au Lac. They specialize in Asian cuisine, all plant based. Is it fully Asian or do they have a little bit of fusion in there?
He created a term called Humanese food. In my palate, it feels he has borrowed influence and experience from Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and Indonesian cuisine. I see the influences of a lot of different ethnic cuisines. He’s dubbed at Humanese which I think is cool.
Tell us what about this Vow of Silence.
I don’t know when it started, he’s never told me directly. I know it’s at least ten years. The first time I went to Au Lac was in 2007. He’s done it as a form of solidarity for all of the animals who don’t have a voice to speak for themselves, their rights and oppression. For him, the Vow of Silence was a solidarity to align himself with the voiceless animals that he has chosen to protect and uplift through his art and his activism. Ito is amazing not only as a chef and the creator of this incredible food. He’s an amazing photographer and he’s also an incredible activist who we’ve seen a numerous number of times not only at the pig vigils at the Farmer John Slaughterhouse in downtown LA. He’s also one of the organizers of the March of Silence. I had the privilege of speaking on a panel last year 2019 after the March of Silence in Downtown LA. We love Ito. Shout out to Chef Ito. His activism, his amazing cuisine, his art and if anyone is in Fountain Valley, California or Downtown LA, Au Lac is a must go to in terms of amazing cuisine.
I look forward to the first time I have their shrimp. That’s probably why it came up. It was because it was National Shrimp Scampi Day and we started talking about vegan shrimp. Our favorite vegan shrimp of all time is at Au Lac. It’s outstanding. I look forward to having that. I haven’t had it since the shutdown happened due to COVID. The last time I went there was in February of 2020. It’s now July. It’s been a long time. It was delightful. Chef Ito has such a big heart and he has proven to me that you don’t need words to communicate. He communicates through hugs and waves and smiles. His facial expressions. He doesn’t use sign language, but he has his own way of using his body to express things. He’ll move his lips sometimes and you can read his lips. Sometimes he writes down.
It’s been a beautiful journey of learning how to understand somebody who’s not speaking your language. I appreciate that about him. I’ve known Ito for a long time. I have videos from Au Lac. Embarrassing videos on my Eco-Vegan Gal channel of me reviewing the food. I think I’ve published those, but I have recorded them. I’m like, “Maybe I never released those.” I remember doing videos around Ito. He never wants to be on camera. That’s also a big thing of his. He doesn’t to have his photo taken and I think that’s a spiritual thing too.
I’ve never asked him. I don’t know.
I guess I assumed it was maybe it’s a preference. He doesn’t want to be on camera. I’ve probably known or first met Ito back in 2009 or 2010. It’s been a long run and I’ve never heard him speak.
I found out you can get carry out from Au Lac through all of the delivery services here in LA. I know what I’m doing for dinner. I’m getting that yum shrimp and egg rolls and noodles. Now that we’re talking about it, that is my dinner plan.
Go support that small business. The last query for this episode is something that’s people have been searching a lot. You are a great person to discuss this. I’m sure you’ve mentioned it in some other episodes, but I love for you to share a little bit more about Abraham-Hicks. That’s a big point of interest on Google Analytics. A lot of people searching for Abraham Hicks and finding our show. Can you share with anyone who doesn’t know who Abraham-Hicks is and then your experience, your knowledge, anything else you’d love to share on that subject matter?
I was first introduced via the movie, The Secret, that came out in 2006. They had been doing a lot of work and wrote many books for Hay House specifically around manifestation. They were one of the first people I became aware of in terms of the process and the practice of manifestation.
First of all, who’s they? Second of all, it is full circle. It occurred to me because we were talking about manifestation towards the beginning of this. I did not intend for that. I’m curious with not giving some context for Abraham Hicks and who they are and when you reference. To be clear for anyone who’s learning about this person or persons for the first time. With acknowledging the manifestation side of it, what did you think when you learned about The Secret back then and what your perspective is now about Abraham Hicks?
It’s a woman named Esther Hicks and for many years before he passed, she was on tour and doing these programs with her husband, Jerry. Esther is a channel for a non-physical sentient entity or collection of entities beings, that she calls Abraham. Abraham Hicks is a reference to these non-physical beings, entities called Abraham. The physical female human channel, Esther Hicks. I’ve seen many videos and listened to many recordings of her channeling this wisdom and perspective from Abraham around leveraging our energy on the planet and how energy is important in terms of manifesting people, situations, jobs, wealth, success, all of these things. It’s the first book I remember reading is called The Vortex. It’s about lining up your energy and managing your thoughts and how thoughts have energy and thoughts are become thought forms and thought forms become physical manifestations on the planet.There is no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to experiment and practice what resonates with you and let go of the rest. Click To Tweet
If I look back on my first exposure to them and their philosophies in the secret, I have to laugh. I remember there were scenes in that movie where there was one guy who was sitting down in his lazy boy chair. They were talking about like, “You can’t think about it. You have to physically embody being in the situation you’ve already manifested.” It showed a Ferrari and he’s in his lazy boy and he’s acting he’s driving the Ferrari and then boom. The next thing is he’s in the Ferrari. Now that I reflect back on it, I’m like, “I take a little bit of umbrage with how they presented it, which is line up the energy and stay positive and don’t give up hope and imagine you’re already in the Ferrari and you’ll get the Ferrari.”
Be honest with your love for cars like that, there’s part of you that saw that scene and was like, “That’s all I have to do?”
Of course. I’m in my ‘20s when I see that and I’m like, “All I have to do is sit in my chair and imagine I’m driving the Ferrari as if it’s already in my driveway?” I think they simplified it way too much.
If it was true and this movie came out 2006, then you could technically have manifested this car by that time.
I hear the detractors like, “You didn’t line up your energy long enough and you lost faith that it could happen and your energy dissipate.” Let me break this down for a second. Do I believe that we have the ability to create a quality of energy within our being that can draw or help to magnetize certain situations to us? I do believe that, yes. I believe by working on ourselves through mindfulness, meditation, accountability, taking responsibility for our responses and not our reactions in life. Paying attention to how we’re showing up energetically in the world. Does that have an effect on what shows up in our life? I do believe that. Do I believe that there is as much control or as much responsibility for what shows up in life? I think that it has been blown out into a realm of hyperbole and giving ourselves way too much influence over reality.
Here’s what I mean by that. They make it sound like, “Line up the energy and do all this stuff.” We go back to the privilege and manifestation conversation. I think that it’s been simplified. I use the word pedantic and oversimplified. Now, have a lot of dreams that I’ve sat and meditated on showed up in my life? Absolutely but for me to take credit for it and be like, “Look what I did. I manifested it.” It’s not taking into account all of the people, all of the serendipities, God, the universe, spirit, my family, my friends, the advantages, and the privileges I’ve had, all of that’s a factor. I’m not the one solely responsible for manifesting it and the umbrage I take with the whole manifestation conversation is people in my perception putting way too much stock in “they did it.” Which to me in some cases feels outgoing and myopic. At a certain point, we have to acknowledge that we are not the ones fully in control.
It’s fascinating. We should continue this conversation because I want to dive into it deeper and look at different perspectives on the privilege. Looking at the cast, it’s a mostly white cast. It’s a mostly older cast of gray-haired people. I don’t know exactly how old they are, but older than me. Let’s put it that way. Not Millennials, mostly white, with the exception of Michael Beckwith and Lisa Nichols. I think everyone else is white. That was in that movie, The Secret. I did learn about The Secret from Oprah. She’s an interesting case of a person of color, a black woman who believes in that and has found that it’s worked for her. She’s in a lot of ways in the class of her own.
You can’t say, “It worked for Oprah so it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or whatever.” I have a lot of ignorance around that. I’d love to dive deeper into the privilege side of things this. This has certainly opened up my mind to it. It’s a complicated thing because I agree with you, Jason. There’s one side of like, “If you don’t believe it, it’s never going to happen.” Then the other side, the extreme is. “If you believe that it will happen, but what about the gray area in between?” Believing something doesn’t work, but not believing something also doesn’t work. What do you believe? Is it a comfort thing? Are you doing it to make you feel you’re more in control when you’re not? Is it a coincidence? Is this something that works out? I don’t know. I’ve had a lot of different experiences with manifestation myself. It’s hard to pinpoint. I’m not an expert on it. I would like to believe it’s true, but I am curious about examining the privilege side of visualization and manifestation.
As we wrap up here, Whitney, it’s an ongoing examination to have a spiritual rhetoric that’s been dominating the wellness and conscious, and self-help communities for a long time. Is that there’s a lot of jargon, rhetoric and techniques that get passed and talked about over and over again. What this has comes down to for me is, you practice things. You see how they work. You make more experiments, you make more practices and you keep what feels it works and what resonates and you let go of the rest.
It’s important for all of us, whatever advice, techniques, tips, books, guides, etc., that it’s not a one-size fits all approach. We go back to this over and over again is, sometimes things work and they resonate and they feel good. You see results and sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t mean that you’re broken. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean you did it wrong. It’s an experiment. I think over all of this in examining ourselves, Whitney and taking a good look at ourselves and wanting to do better and wanting to be better global citizens, we’re going to experiment. There’s going to be that work. There’s going to be experiments that fail.
There are going to be things that work for a while and stop working. It shows us that we’re constantly evolving beings. We’re constantly changing and the environment and the containers we’re in keep changing. If we’re dedicated to learning and growing and evolving and improvising and stumbling and all the shit that makes us human. That’s the journey. In summary, that’s how I’m feeling about all this is certainly right. During this time of social upheaval and awareness and planetary evolution and social justice and COVID. The whole damn enchilada, we have to be open to try new things and looking at ourselves and experimenting in new ways we’ve never done before. That’s one of the only ways that we’re going to get through this as a human family.
Thank you for sharing that. One last side note and one fun little piece of trivia for you that’s completely unrelated. It is National French Fry Day.
Now, I want French fries. It’s lunch time and I’m hungry.
You got to go eat your lunch. I ate my lunch before we started. I’ve already been thinking like, “What’s my snack going to be? I wish it was French fries, but it’s not.” Ever since I went low carb, I’ve cut down on the number of French fries that I eat. I have started to introduce more carbohydrates into my diet again. It is a wonderful thing that I cherish. A big side note there, thank you to the audience for being us with us on this journey, especially towards the end where we go all over the place. That’s part of the fun is exploring all of these different, funny, interesting, and serious things that people you search for on the web. How that ties into the overall conversation about things racism, manifestation and wellness and the journey of self-discovery.
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