“I’m also making myself center stage and I don’t wanna do that either. I just have a really loud articulate voice that people listen to. And so, I need to learn how to use that without erasing the voices of the black women that I’m trying to lift up.”
Cher is a self-taught principal software engineer at Apple and has been in tech for 15 years. She is a high school and college dropout, a mom, and passionate about mental healthcare, equitable justice and opportunity, music, and science.
Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone. And welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast. Today’s guest is Cher; their pronouns are she/her, and Cher, if you introduce yourself to the audience, please.
Cher: Sure. Hi, I’m Cher. I am an ICT-4, which is like a staff principle-level software engineer at Apple. And I’ve been—I taught myself how to code more than 20 years ago, and I’ve been in the industry for 15 years.
Kim: OK, so we start this show as we always do with two questions. Why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene?
Cher: So, to me, it’s important to cause a scene because there is so much inequity and inequality, not just in our industry, but in the world, and it’s really hard for me to see people not have even enough to, you know, live off of or, you know, opportunities. And it just feels like there’s so much, I don’t wanna say unfairness, but I mean, it is unfair. There’s so much injustice that people, I think purposefully, ignore because they’re benefiting from.
And so I think it’s important for me, who’s somebody who does benefit from those things, to try to do the work to first, you know, draw attention to it and then actually work to change it so that everybody has a fair shot to change their life or even if they haven’t had anything wrong with their life, to have those same opportunities that other people in the same exact positions as them, to live life in a way that is productive and comfortable.
And how am I disrupting the status quo? I think just by talking a lot about my own privilege, and I used to just talk about that, and I found that people thought of me as being inauthentic, and so, you know, in the past couple of years, I’ve kind of slowly tapered up to opening up about my past and things that I’ve done, and then talking about the ways that my being white, and attractive, and sounding like I have a college education allowed me to overcome those things that I have done in the past, and to essentially just start a new life when I decided to.
Kim: OK, so if you haven’t picked up on it, Cher is a white woman. [Laughs] And y’all know that I have very few white people on here who’re not talking about specific technology or some theory, or—because I really don’t give a shit about the perspectives of white people because that’s what I’ve been bred to know. I know white people better than white people know themselves. And yet there are certain people in our community who I watch, who I—on occasion—set up to engage with individuals. And they fuck up, they see it, they apologize, and they make amends by moving forward. And I can say that Cher is one of those people.
Cher came into the community—I believe it was shortly after the GDI (Girl Develop It) incidents, and she stumbled, she gets back up and she fights the fight again. And I can appreciate that. I can really appreciate a person who is actively doing the work, recognizing that they cause harm, fixing it—or trying to at least fix it—and learning from those mistakes and to apologize to me means not to do that shit again—and moving forward.
And also, Cher actually puts her money where her mouth is. So, talk—I don’t even know where I want to go with this, because I know there were some things that you wanted to get off your chest. And I just want to set the stage for whatever you want to share so that people understand that first of all, it’s a privilege for a white woman to come on my show. I’m just gonna be honest.
Cher: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Kim: It fucking… it doesn’t happen. [Laughs]
Cher: Like honestly, like when you asked me, I was like, I… being honest, is like, really cool. [Laughs] Like, whoa, people are really understanding that I’m not what I seem, you know, and that—and I really appreciate that. But I think, you know, it’s funny because you mentioned the GDI thing, but you and I actually crossed paths, maybe like a year or two prior to that.
Kim: Oh shit, did I rip you a new ass?
Cher: You dragged my ass, and the thing is is like, I don’t…
Kim: It’s so funny, because people think I hold grudges; I don’t remember this shit.
Cher: I know! [Laughs]
Kim: What happened? [Laughs]
Cher: I’m just gonna be honest and like…
Kim: Oh no, you know this is an adult show. Let’s go.
Cher: I know, I know. I just… I said… [laughs] oh my god! I said, “all lives matter.” [Laughs]
Kim: Oh fuuuck. Oh no you didn’t.
Cher: I did. And the thing is is like, the cross section between where I was then is like, I have always thought of myself as being somebody—because of how I grew up—as somebody who is very like—let’s use a cliché, tired word of woke. [Both laugh] I really thought that I was, you know, because I’m like, “Oh, no. I care about all of these things.” But I started really looking back after this incident happened, and being like, “Why did I feel the need to say that?” It’s like, “Oh, because I’ve suffered so much that I don’t want to feel excluded from this…”
Kim: Oh shit!
Kim: That’s deep! That’s fuckin’ deep!
Cher: [Laughs] From this Black Lives Matter thing where they’re like, “Oh, they’re killing because of police brutality. And it’s like, while I recognized what was happening was that Black people were being unfairly racially profiled, and killed because they’re being Black, and seeing that the same thing does not happen to white people; I understood that part of it, but deep down, I was like, “I have suffered so much in my life. Why doesn’t my life matter?” You know?
And bottom line, I needed to take a step back and realize this isn’t about me right now. And the—honestly—the reason why people weren’t talking about my issues—not in general—was because I wasn’t even talking about them. How would anybody be able to validate being like, “You know, I’m sorry you went through this and everything,” you know, and so it was this combination of really not fully being engaged…
Kim: So it’s like hijacking of our trauma because you have not communicated your own trauma.
Cher: Exactly. Yeah. And so that was something that I had to work through. And there’s a lot of…
Kim: I think that’s fuckin’ gross. I’m sorry, I gotta stop. That’s fuckin’ gross.
Cher: It is gross. It’s so gross.
Kim: Oh fuuuuck. Fuuuck.
Cher: But it’s like… I think that…
Kim: But I’m glad you brought it up though; I’m glad you called a thing a thing, because that’s what we see so often.
Cher: Umhm. Exactly. And that’s… I think that that’s like the core tenet of what I try to communicate to other white people who have been through suffering, who are like, “Well, I don’t have privilege, I don’t have privilege,” and it’s like, “Yes, you do. You’re just focusing on all of this other shit that you’ve been through,” to try to be like, “Oh, no,” you know, it’s kind of like a trauma Olympics or something. You know, they’re like, “Well I’ve suffered in x, y, and z ways”. And it’s like, “OK, sure, but you have not suffered in this way, and this is what we’re talking about right now.”
Kim: Oh, my god. And so I love how you frame that because it’s the same… I’m trying to be mindful of the triggers. So let me…
Cher: It’s OK. I don’t think you’ll… well, I guess I don’t know. [Laughs]
Kim: That’s what I’m sayin’. No, it’s not just you; I don’t want to trigger the audience.
Cher: Right. I forget that we’re not just talking to each other. [Laughs]
Kim: So… [Laughs] so I’m gonna use something kind of benign. So, it’s the… I… ooh god, because I want to say—the thing that comes ta my head, I definitely want to say—so I’m trying to figure out a way to get around that so people get the seriousness enough… OK, so it’s the same as—well, not the same; let me be clear, because we’re not trying to compare experiences, and that’s where we get into the problems. Let’s not compare experiences. No one has—I mean, you can be siblings in the same house with the same parents and still have different lived experiences. So I don’t understand how people can do that and know what that is and yet cannot extrapolate that out to other people.
So what we’re saying is, it’s the same as—let’s say we’re all baking a cake. Let’s talk about baking a cake. So we all have the same ingredients. This is also the equity / equality bullshit, too. So we’re baking a cake, there’s you and there’s me, right? And we’re put in—we’re in a baking competition—we’re put in these kitchens. I immediately see that there’s a difference in our experiences. We both have a stove. We both have ingredients. Your stove is top of the line. Your ingredients are name brand; they’re fresh. My stuff is something that somebody donated because they cleaned out the cabinets. My stove barely has a pilot light on. My utensils are old and won’t make for a beautiful cake.
So although we’re both in the same competition, or so people think, we’re in the same competition of living and trying to get through life, how you access and what you have access to to bake this cake is a totally different experience than what I have access to. And our cakes are going to be fundamentally different just because of how we go into it. So we may have—we may be both making cakes and running around that kitchen, but I’m gonna have a harder time making my cake meet the standard of your cake because my tools and space and lived experience are not equitable.
And that doesn’t mean that your cake needs to be shit to match my cake. It’s—no, I need equitable services and utensils and things so that my cake can match your cake. Then now we’re in competition. And if we’re there, then we can compare experiences. But we can’t get there. Because no one wants to talk about, “What? The elephant in the room?” Race, race, race. Racism. Racist. White supremacy. No one wants to talk about the things that could truly make us get past equity and talk about equality.
Cher: The interesting thing to me is that the experience I had with the “all lives matter” incident was that it… I can tell you that it hurt, right? And I know that—I mean, I can’t remember exactly all the ways I reacted—but I was just like, “This isn’t me. The person you’re talking about is not me.” And it hurt, you know, that I was just like… and I just had to shut up, basically just stop arguing.
Kim: So wait a minute. Stop. Right, so explain what do you mean that it wasn’t you? Cause that’s… come on, let’s talk about that. So, did you separate your words from the consequences of them?
Cher: I think at first it was not that I separated my words from the consequences of them, it’s that I didn’t see what was wrong.
Kim: With your words.
Cher: Right. Because to me, I was like, “I’m saying everyone. Like, equal. I’m saying everyone; that includes Black people, not just, you know.”
Kim: Oh, it’s the color blind theory.
Cher: Oh! Oh yes, and I can tell you a story about—just thinking back of all of this stuff where I’ve never saw myself in this way of being this person who’s totally just ignorant of all of the ways that being white makes my experience so different.
Kim: So let’s talk about the color blind story. Uh-huh.
Cher: So, this was—oh gosh, I had to have been 19 or 20; It was before I had Alexis—and I had just moved to St. Louis, which I mean, I grew up in the Seattle area, which is mostly white and Asian, and I did—the neighborhoods I lived in—I knew Black people growing up, so it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’ve never seen a Black person before,” but it was like—the community here is like 50% Black, and so it was definitely a lot more. And so, I think that at the time I was saying a lot of things that weren’t cool, but I didn’t know and nobody ever said anything to me about this. But there’s this one incident in particular that I recall. But again, I mean, this is literal color blindness, and at the time, I’m sure I would have been like, “Oh, that’s so benign. It’s just ’cause I don’t see you that way.” And now I understand that that’s not good, you know.
But so, I was at this bar and there was my friend Mark, and he was Black, and I had known him for a few months or whatever, so we went out together and did stuff together and totally cool with each other. And I had earlier that day gone tanning at a tanning booth and there was this poster in the tanning booth of a naked woman. And I was just like, “What?” And so I was with him that night and I just couldn’t get this shock that there was this poster of a naked woman in the tanning bed. And so I was like, “Hey, have you ever been Hollywood Tan?” And he just looks at me and he’s like, “What?” And I was like, “Men go tanning, too.” And he’s like, “Cher. You do know I’m Black, right?” And I was like, “Oh. Yeah.” I was like, “I guess I never really noticed.” And he of course didn’t say anything, you know?
But now, looking back, I’m just like, “Oh man, I wish I still knew him so I could run up to him like, “I am so sorry that I said that I didn’t notice that you were Black!” Because of course I knew he was Black, you know. If somebody was like, “Oh, describe your friend Mark,” I probably would have told them about his size, whether or not he’s shaved his head, he’s Black; I would have said that. So to say, “I didn’t notice you are Black,” was literally just discounting his experience, right? I’m just—for me, even though I don’t think I felt uncomfortable with it at the time—I do think that I felt uncomfortable saying that I knew he was Black because I think deep down, subconsciously, it made me feel like, “Oh, if I say he’s Black, does he think I’m racist?”
And it’s not; it’s like the opposite. I was being racist because I was putting so much pressure on—basically on him—to exist as just a person, whereas him being Black really affected his life, and I did not see that then at all. And so now, I would never say like, “Oh, I don’t know you’re Black.” I will acknowledge that you’re Black. I’ll ask you about your experience and how I can—what I can do to be a better white person living in this space together.
Kim: Oh, that’s interesting, because this is the very reason I say “whiteness”, because no one asks—I mean, we walk out the house, we’re Black; and yet white people get so offended when someone says they’re white. And as you just stated, it’s to the point that our Blackness is easier, it makes you more comfortable for it to disappear then to acknowledge it. And yet when I say whiteness, it’s like this thing, it’s just the sting of, oh my god, I just cursed you out. And it’s like, no one ever asked me what kind of Black I am; you’re white. That is the default.
And it was interesting before I even got into unpacking all of this. Just the conversation… I can say that growing up where I was in the South, my godparents were white, my stepfather was briefly—my stepfather, I was about to say was briefly white. [Laughs] My stepfather—there was a brief marriage—was white. And I can say that my mom… oh, everything I did growing up, I was the only. I was the only Black kid there. ‘Cause I was in acting classes at some of the best places; just because my mom wanted to expose me to so much, I had gone to the symphony and ballets and all these other things. My mom really sacrificed to expose me so that I knew some things, or at least had seen some things.
And in all of those spaces, I was always the only and gaslit all the fucking time. Oh, my god, I’m still working through the trauma of being in white spaces and people trying to ignore that I’m white—I mean, that I’m Black—and the trauma that caused. I literally remember my godfather—like I said, my godfather—and I don’t know my mom did this—I’m sure she didn’t do this; she was just trying to expose me to the best. It’s because of that that I’m not afraid to talk to anybody, I’ve never been. From the president of a organization to the custodian. What does that mean to me?
I have always just been around all kinds of people, but I could tell you being around white people and them not wanting me in those spaces gaslit the hell out of me, because eventually I would leave out of my own discomfort. But because it was never articulated that it was the space that was not welcoming, it always felt to me as if I couldn’t hack it, that there was something in me that I didn’t belong there. So it became my fault that I was uncomfortable and that I had to leave and end up in Black spaces that I felt welcome in. And that is so much trauma. So much.
So even with me thinking about trigger warnings… oh, shit! This is good! OK, so even me thinking about trigger warnings, it is about… to have this conversation we were just having? It never includes my experience, so even in the trigger warnings, I’m triggered. And that’s what people need to understand. Even in my attempt to protect the community as a whole, I end up being traumatized. And that’s what folx has to understand about me doing this work; again, I say I am educating the oppressor while also processing my own oppression. And that is not “all lives matter”. At all.
Cher: No. No, no, no, no, no. Yeah. God, so embarrassing. [Laughs]
Kim: Well, you know. You came through. But I’m happy you are honest and told these stories because so many—this is why people’re like, “Oh, you hate white people.” No, I don’t hate white people, but y’all need to acknowledge how ignorant you are. And then maybe we can move forward. I need y’all to stop actin’ like y’all can lead this shit. You cannot lead this.
Cher: No. [Laughs] No, we have to… and that’s—I think that there’s a lot of internal struggle that—like, I think with the GDI stuff, and then with the Ken Wheeler stuff, you know, what happened with Tatiana Mac, you know? I think that that for me was a pivotal moment where I’m like, “I want to help,” but I’m also making myself center stage. And I don’t want to do that either. I just have a really loud, articulate voice that people listen to. And so I need to learn how to use that without erasing the voices of the Black women that I am trying to lift up.
Cher: …Black women that I am trying to lift up. I think I’m still in the process of figuring out how to properly do that, but I definitely think I’ve come a long way from that and that was not even a year ago I don’t think.
Kim: Yeah, that’s huge, because I have the same conversation with Kristen. And I’m looking forward to her comin’ on the show because I want people to see that yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s possible. And there is some good will on the other side, because you’re absolutely right, some of the things that I have challenged you on since you actually came to my awareness, have been those things of—and you’re not the only one—of when I’m highlighting some bullshit and white folx will come in and repeat exactly what I said, and then the person will thank you because you said it in a nice way, or you come in and you start sharin’ resources that are already being shared by a Black person who’s in the thread already.
And I need you—before you start engaging—do the research and see what the whole conversation is about, and see—it’s more important—and you say, “Well, Kim or Erica, whoever, just told you this. This is what they said. You’re not listening,” instead of coming in and and white translating [laughs] what we’ve just said for the comfort of whiteness. ‘Cause y’all know I’m not here for the comfort of whiteness. I’m here to cause as much discomfort and pain as possible, because until that happens, until you got called—I chewed your ass out about “all lives matter”—you just would have been boppin’ along; boop-ba-boop-ba-boop-ba-boop.
Cher: Thinkin’ I’m just doing the best I can when I wasn’t at all. [Laughs]
Kim: [Laughs] Exactly. And it’s not—and I come from it from a learning development strategy—so I know there’re a lot of people out here just wilin’ out, but when you come into this community, everything I’m doing, every amount of engagement, I’m thinking deeply about—which is a fucking lot of emotional labor—and being strategic in who I call out so that others can see: this is routine, people. We gotta stop this shit. And figurin’ out how to do it in the ways that—so some people I just rip a new ass. I just don’t give a fuck, because first of all, there’s usually some person who doesn’t follow me. If somebody adjacent to somebody who’s an asshole… and I don’t have time for all of that. It’s just the classroom management; I’m not giving my classroom over to an asshole to cause harm to everybody else. That’s not gonna happen.
And then there’re people who do follow me who fuck up constantly. And I have to make a calculated decision: is this gonna be a direct tweet? Am I gonna quote-tweet, or am I gonna DM? Man! And that becomes, like, “Goddamn! OK, who is this? Let me go look at the timeline. Let me see what they’re talking about. Is this some shit they do all the time or is this just a sidestep?” There’s a lot that has to go into thinking about what I do, and people think I’m just out here just—I’m just reacting because I’m angry. No, intention without strategy is chaos. And I don’t…
Cher: You say that all the time and yet people still think that you’re… and that’s the thing is like, I can say that you’ve DM’d me about things and then you’ve publicly said things you about—not about me, but to me—about what I said, you know? And it’s just—it totally depends on the context. And I think that, I mean, there’s some things that I think that you know other people do a lot. And so that’s a learning opportunity for other people, and you know that I’m probably not gonna escalate it, I guess. Or, you know, I know that you have a reason for why you DM me about some things versus when you say something directly on Twitter with a quote-tweet or in the thread.
Kim: Yeah, when I—I’m gonna be honest—when I DM you or, let’s say a Chad, it’s because I see that you’re doing the work; what I see is that you’re shifting into centering yourself and whiteness. And so I’m like, “Mmm, I don’t want to derail that whole conversation that’s happening,” so I bring that to, “Hey, watch what you’re doing. You’re centering yourself here.” Now, if you’re publicly fuckin’ up, I gotta publicly say something about that. [Laughs]
Cher: Right. And I mean—which is fine. You know, a lot of people don’t get it yet, I would say. They’re like, “Why are you friends with her?” Like, “Look what she just did to you.” And I’m like, “She didn’t do anything to me. I did something and she held me accountable and taught me something and other people learned something in the process.”
Kim: And what’s so funny is people make assumptions that I have friends. It’s like, Cher and I are not friends; we’re cool. [Laughs]
Cher: We’re peers. [Laughs]
Kim: We’re cordial. [Laughs] Yeah, exactly! But that’s the default again; it’s like, I don’t get autonomy. I don’t get agency over anything about me. It’s either I’m a bitch—I can take that—I’m a Black woman. I’ve been called worse by, you know, fuck these and fragile-ass… I mean, if you gon’ come at me, you need to be able to come at me like they come at you in a Black school where you just goin’ tit for tat, not that fucking… Ain’t no way in hell a Black person gon’ say—gon’ start some shit first of all. That’s always how it happens. Start some shit first of all, sayin’ something and then blocks. What the fuck? You’ll get the fuck cussed out! What the… you would be the punk at the fuckin’ school. What the fuck? You gonna start some shit and then you gon’, you gon’ run? [Laughs]
Cher: Right. And the thing that I find so—interesting isn’t the right word because it’s more like… I’m like, “How can anyone be this ignorant to their own actions?” It’s like when people come into your thread—so you post something on your page, they don’t follow you—they come into your thread and they start arguing with you or, you know, sayin’ some bullshit, and then…
Kim: Let’s be clear, ’cause I’m not arguin’. [Laughs]
Cher: Well, that’s what I’m saying: they’re trying to argue with you. You’re not, you know, it’s from their end, they come to you, they’re in your space, you’re not in their space. And then if you quote-tweet them, they’re like, “Wow, I can’t believe you did that.” And it’s like, “I can’t believe you’re attacking me,” [Kim laughs] and it’s like, “Do you…” I just… I find it hard to believe that anybody is that dense, you know? [Laughs] Like, that you really can’t…
Kim: Well, whiteness is never examined, though. Whiteness is never examined. This is—yeah—see, this is why I need y’all to stop being in awe when y’all see this shit.
Cher: [Laughs] So I was like, “interesting” I know is the wrong word. But at the same time, I’m like, “How?” [Laughs]
Kim: Yeah. Yes! Yes! This is what we’ve had to deal with all our lives: white folx sayin’ shit and gettin’ fucking away wit’ it. And I’ve bit my tongue for years, bitten my tongue for years not saying shit to white people because I live in a place where it’s fucking dangerous for me to say, “Shut the fuck up talkin’ to me. I didn’t give you fucking permission to talk to me.”
Cher: And so, I wanted to touch on that. There was that thread—the woman who changed her Twitter handle so that none of us could see what she was saying—how she referred to you as her friend, and I was talking about how—and this is a recent revelation for me, which I think—I don’t know if you’ve watched the show “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu—and that show really brought this to light to me, and I think that—well, I don’t specifically recall doing this; I’m sure that I have—is that white women feel entitled to a personal relationship…
Kim: Black women’s bubbles, yup. Yup.
Cher: Yeah, you know, coming into their bubble. Whereas, you know, you could probably look at that woman and examine all of her tweets, all of her relationships, and she probably has had very high standards for letting people into her bubble or going into other white people’s bubbles; it’s not just like, “Oh, we spoke,” or “We follow each other on Twitter,” or “I follow you on Twitter and now we’re friends because I know all of these things about you.”
It’s very much about—to use “Little Fires Everywhere” as an example—it’s like she desperately wants to save this Black woman and to be the savior, right? So there’s the savior complex. And then on top of that, she wants to hire her as maid; again, more of the complex stuff. But then on top of that, she wants to be friends, you know? She wants to know all about her personal life, she wants to know this, that, and the other thing. And she just wants that label of “being friends”. And it’s like, to take that apart and really look at it, and be like, “Wait, but why?” Because does the character in that show do that with other women? No, it’s specifically a Black woman that she does that to. Savior, savior, savior, “Oh, now we’re best friends.”
Kim: Well, it’s always hero or victim. Never villain. But what you open up is so funny to me. So this is for Black folx who’re listening. We’ve all had an experience of, particularly white women—[whispers] particularly—where upon meeting you, you tell us your whole fuckin’ story, and we’re sitting around like, “What the fuck is this? Why are they spilling their fuckin’ guts?” And then you want it to be reciprocal. Bitch, I don’t know you. Why are you telling me? I’m not tellin’ you shit. But it’s the same thing. It’s that same of… I don’t have ownership of my person. People get to dictate who I’m friends with. People—I don’t have agency over my decisions or anything.
So for white women, when you come into white spaces and you don’t… and you start doing that regurgitating shit, this is exactly what you’re… you’re seeing us as your mammy, ’cause that’s what happened back in tha day. White women, if you watch—I mean, just watch the movies! They, people, white folx just sittin’ at the table just having a conversation about the most personal shit, while servants and shit are just around like they don’t even exist. And so it’s dumping your shit on us and we’re expected to carry that?
But the other thing is, very seldom do you say, “Hey, so how are you doing?” [Laughs] It’s all about takin’ on your shit, and I’m not doin’ that shit anymore. If you’re not a white person who is here to fill me up, I have nothing for you. And I tell people that, that I go out and do this work and get drained. If you cannot be a sounding board for me, if you cannot financially support the work I’m doing, if you can’t just shut the fuck up and let it be about me when I need it to be about me, I have absolutely no use for you. So yeah, we’re not fuckin’ friends, but just the fact that…
It’s no different—and I’m hesitant to say this because of anti-Black stereotypes and narratives—but it’s the same thing as with your dog right there. I’m just a dog. I’m there to keep you company [Cher inhales slowly] and to… Yup, uh-huh. Breathe deeply on that, because that’s what that is. It is—I’m there to serve a purpose to whiteness. I’m not there as a human being. So that also goes back to our beginning conversation: this is why all lives don’t matter. Because my life does not matter, my experiences do not matter. So when you say “all lives matter,” it’s not even just the lie. It’s disgusting.
And this is not even about how Black people and white people are differently engaging with COVID—which is very obvious—this is just how we live our… it doesn’t take—and it’s sad, but I’ve been sayin’ this for a while—it would take white people to be in some serious economic pain for them to start payin’ attention. Did not know a pandemic was comin’, but I knew I had to be somethin’, and even in that I said Black people would suffer the most, which we’re seeing. But I’m just talkin’ about everyday lives. When you engage with us—when whiteness engage wit’ Blackness—you treat us like a house pet.
Cher: That’s tough.
Kim: And how do white people treat their house pets? Oh, they give ’em the best food. They dress ’em up. They do all these things. They put ’em in purses. They brought ’em on planes. That dog or cat has no say in any of that; it’s all about—why do white people do that to their dogs? ‘Cause it makes them feel better. They didn’t ask the dog, “Does this make you feel better?”
Cher: [Sighs] It’s like they just want something to dress up and control.
Kim: Yep, and that’s what whiteness has been doing to Black people since they brought us over here. And this is why I have no patience for mediocre white dudes in tech. I don’t. I have no patience for Beckys and Karens—whatever the fuck you want to call them—I have no patience for it, because this is how our—just because you’re waking up?—this is how our lives have always been. We may… our parents… and on, all seriousness, and the majority of them have not articulated it as such, because I’m gonna be honest, most of them don’t understand it either, because we’ve been thriving and encouraged to assimilate for so long. You don’t understand that these systems of assimilation have been—again, just like civility—it’s just a pet. I’m just a pet. I need to—civility for white people is optional, and it’s the expected and mandated behavior of others. Which means civility is nothing but you teachin’ me tricks. Sit. Stay. Bark. Speak. Come, let’s walk. Poo. Pee.
Cher: “But don’t complain. Don’t complain. ‘Cause we’re giving you all of this.” And, you know, that stuff with Colin Kaepernick, that was so clear that it was like, “We let you do all of this stuff and you can’t even just stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance,” or you know, whatever—not the Pledge of Allegiance, that’s in school—but, you know, the other thing, the…
Kim: The national anthem.
Cher: Yeah, the national anthem. You know, and it was just like…
Kim: Mhm. And a lot of people showed their Black friends their true colors.
Cher: Oh, but then they wanted to use those same Black friends as their trophies to say, “I’m not racist. Look at all these Black friends I have.” It’s like, “What?”
Kim: And that’s why my default is: all white people are racist by design and can’t be trusted by default without consistent demonstrated antiracist behavior. And that’s why I don’t move. I don’t move. They can call me a bitch. They can ask you why you friends wit’ me. They can do whatever. I’m not moving. Because for me to move is dangerous.
Cher: I don’t even think that like—like I know that I practice antiracist behavior—but I wouldn’t even say that I’m not racist, because I am. I feel like I’m still unpacking the ways in which…
Kim: You’ll always be racist as long as whiteness has the power? You’re always racist. You’re raised—let’s be honest—and since you’re a white woman, white women are actually breeders of white supremacy. You breed the next generation. And because they’re your sons and daughters, particularly your sons—and this is just any maternal instinct—you do go out of your way to maintain and support the status quo.
Cher: The status quo.
Kim: Exactly. So I get it! I totally get it. I just no longer give a fuck, but I get it.
Cher: Right. [Laughs] Just ’cause you understand something doesn’t mean you have to like it. [Laughs] I wanted to touch on—specifically—we’re talking about the status quo, so that’s being the default. So I think that white men who come from a middle, upper middle class, etcetera background; they are the firmest default, right? They have the most access to opportunity, the least amount of consequences for their actions.
Kim: Oh, girl. If any.
Cher: Yeah, definitely got some stories, but…
Kim: OK. Uh-huh. [Both laugh]
Cher: But you know all this stuff. But, I wanted to start examining the ways that I was the default—and this kind of all started with the “all lives matter” stuff—truly examining the ways in which I was like, “But I suffered in all of these ways,” you know, like, “All this stuff happened to me and this is the way it affected me.” And it’s like “Me, me, me, me, me, me, me. I’m so traumatized and oppressed,” you know Like, “Make me part of your group!”
But examining—and there’s one in particular, and I don’t know if I want a trigger warning, but I’m gonna be talking about when I was a stripper, so if anybody doesn’t want to hear that, if it’s bothersome, just… I’m gonna talk about that.
So, when I was 18 and 19, I worked in several strip clubs and I—so in Missouri, stripping is illegal, so I was in Illinois, which is east of St. Louis. They call it the Metro East area. And so we’re talking about places like Roxana, Illinois; Centralia, Illinois; These are not—Saget, Illinois, which is like the nicest of the area—and these are not spaces where there’s people with money, you know?
Kim: This is fuckin’ country. Go ahead. [Laughs]
Cher: Yeah. I mean, it’s poor people and in Roxana particularly, it’s Black poor people. And one of the clubs I worked at was in Roxana; one of the clubs I worked at was in Centralia. And so in both of these clubs—and I was heavy into drugs. I’ve talked a little bit about where my mental state was at the time, and financially, where I came from and just like how I felt about myself. This is where I thought that I needed to be in order to succeed. And so I was doing this stuff and I felt really awful about myself all the time. So I was doing drugs, and the cops came into the club I worked at in Centralia, because they had gotten a tip that some of the women were using illegal drugs.
And so they were going through all of our lockers and everything, and there was a couple of other—I’ve never prostituted myself. But I did do some things that were not cool that would be legally called that because that’s the way our justice system works. Mmm. [Clears throat]
Kim: Take your time, take your time.
Cher: And the manager was talking to the cops and some of the other girls, and where I come from you don’t—I want to say you don’t snitch, but that sounds really shitty. [Laughs] But that’s really what it was you don’t rat someone out, you all stand there quietly, and no one’s saying anything. They’re not gonna find nothing. You’re all just quiet, or like, “Nobody’s going to jail today,” right? Well, not everybody that worked at that club… you know, ’cause some of them were white girls who were paying for college, you know?
So they come from a different world that maybe they don’t have all of the resources, but they’re coming from the other side of the river. They don’t live here, you know, they’re just from a different part of the world that—maybe some of them had issues, too—but just from a very different world where there would never be like, “No, none of these women can go to jail because it will be very bad,” like, “It’s not fair.” Like, “This is not fair. We shouldn’t be dealing with this,” right?
And so they were like, “Oh, Cher’s the one who brings it in.” And the manager starts laughing hysterically. And he’s like, “You don’t even need to check with her. She doesn’t know how to spell ecstasy or cocaine.” And, of course I’m not gonna say anything. And one of the other girls, she was like, “Well,” and she was Black—her stage name was New York; mine was London. We had this thing where we had city names. [Kim laughs] I don’t really know it was about, but that was our thing. And they were like, “Well, New York did it,” and I was like, “No, she didn’t!” And the manager was like, “Yeah, I’d believe that.”
And at the time, I was so mad that my friend, my girl was gonna get hauled off for this thing that I was part of. But I still did not also volunteer myself to go with her or be like, “No, no, no. She is not even the one that gets it; I’m the one who brings it in.” I let myself be that—take on that role of, oh, the innocent white girl. The innocent poor white girl like “she’s all fucked up. But she’s not doing drugs, you know. She’s not—there’s no way she’s bringing in drugs. She’s not doing any of this stuff.”
I let myself be that. And I let my Black friend take the fall, and she’s the one who got hauled off. And, you know, obviously I don’t know how to contact her now to express how sorry I am for what I did. But I recognize now that even though my goal was like, “I’m not gonna rat on anyone,” I still took that time to let myself have that privilege, even though I didn’t understand what that privilege was then.
Kim: Thank you! That’s my point. That’s my point. It is so indoctrinated, it is so a part of the default that you don’t ever examine it. And this is why I say even with the white folx that’re around me—I say I have five white friends and people think I’m joking. I have five white people that I would call friends and even they know that I know at some point they would prioritize whiteness over me. Think about how—what kind of friendship that requires, what kind of extra work I have to do on my part to stay connected to people I actively know will harm me. They will actively prioritize whiteness over me. I don’t give a damn how much money they give me, I don’t give a damn how much they amplify me, I don’t give a damn how they try to—how they check in on me. At some point, something will happen, and they will prioritize whiteness over me.
Cher: And I think that, you know, to go back to the thing with the police, ‘cause that’s—I mean, we know that the justice system is overwhelmingly unfair to Black people. But I think that’s a huge part of the problem, is that if you have a group of dudes and they’ve got some drug thing going on, or maybe they’re doing robberies and shit together with guns, whatever it is, and the cops will build this camaraderie with the white guys and they’ll rat on the Black dudes. Or the—and even before that, they’re like, “Oh, no, we know that that’s not you. We know it’s that guy.” Even if they don’t think they’re being racist, they are being racist. The person who rats on the Black guy is being racist because he’s like, “Oh well, they’re gonna believe that he’s the mastermind or he’s the ringleader or whatever,” that that’s the person he needs to rat on.
Kim: Because you’re building into the narrative of “Blackness is always the villain”. You know, just like Black going—you know, “blacklist.” Everything that’s negative has a—not everything, but all these things that—very seldom is “Black” used in a term that has a positive connotation. Very seldom. Always something deterrent, something you need to stay away from, it’s the danger zone. But I want to get back to when you said—this is a throwaway line, I’m sure you didn’t think, but this hit me—”Make me a part of your group.”
Cher: Oh yeah.
Kim: This is so… not just white feminism, but I’m seein’ it, and I’m gonna keep talking about it until my white trans women get it. You are causing harm in Black and brown spaces. When you bring your trauma into their spaces, they accept you and then you have a conniption—is that a Yiddish word? Where the fuck did that come from? That just popped out of my head.
Cher: I’ve heard it. Pretty sure it was from my grandparent; no offense.
Kim: I’m like, “Where did that come from?” Sheesh! And you come in and you shit on the camaraderie and the safe space that they created by saying that they can’t talk about things that—they can only talk about the things that you have the same as women. And when they want to talk about their wounds, pregnancies, their cycles, then they’re being anti-trans. And the next word out of your mouth is “TERF.” TERF coming from—going towards another marginalized person is trauma; the same thing as “antisemitic” going to another marginalized person that’s more marginalized than you is trauma. It shuts down the conversation immediately and centers whatever you are, your experiences, and it causes harm to Black and brown Jewish women, and it causes harm to Black and brown trans women, or whoever the more vulnerable person is in your community that you care so much about; you’re causing harm.
And I’m going to keep saying this: that white trans individuals, white-passing Jewish individuals, white disabled individuals, white anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum—or in that community—if you prioritize whiteness, you are causing harm in your communities. You are actively causing harm in your communities. Yes, just like we talked about before it’s this—oh my god, I can always bring it back together—because this is the same conversation as “all lives matter” in these spaces, and it is not. It is not. Because overwhelmingly, we see that, unfortunately, Black and Brown trans women aren’t able to get the jobs that a lot of white trans women are able to get or non-binary women or individuals are able to get—excuse me for saying women—non-binary individuals are able to get, in particular if they can work in the spaces of tech and what not.
And overwhelmingly, Black and brown trans women are in sex trade; and you’re causing harm to those people who society—let me get this right. I want to make sure I get this right. What you’re doing is setting up circumstances where a society that hates, that denies your humanity, can access the most vulnerable of you. And cause them harm. Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack with this, and this is where I need people ta… [Cher sighs heavily] Yes. Exactly.
Cher: It’s… it’s so heavy.
Kim: And yet I’m still not depressed. I’m still optimistic because, just like your journey, it’s people—I mean, yes. I’ll always consider you a racist. I’d never not consider you a racist, but I have a level of trust with you that you’ve built, that you work with. And it hasn’t come from you being “woke.” That level of trust has come from every time you’ve been corrected, you’ve accepted and moved forward. That’s where the trust comes from. It’s not being perfect. There is no perfect here.
But if you can’t take—if you want to be in solidarity with, and you cannot take criticism that your actions and behaviors and words are causing harm, then I have absolutely no use for you because you are gonna be terrorizing, you’re… Yeah, and you’re gonna be a terrorist; and I’m not dealing with that, you not welcome in my communities, or any of that. And that’s for anybody. That’s for me as a Black woman. If I did not make space for trans Black women. What? And this is, this hits right here.
Also, Blackness is used to community because we’ve had to have communities to survive. Whiteness is all about the individual. And we’re seeing that with how people are acting with the COVID. I only see white folx, particularly the white men, offering up their elderly as sacrifices for this shit, for the economy. There’s a lot of sadistic, deplorable behavior in whiteness that our community sits back and looks at you, and I’m gonna be honest, we’re like, “You’re animals. You think we’re animals?” We look at you and we’re like… that is some, that is some… mm, some shit we can’t even think about. I don’t give a damn how old my grandparents ever go, or my mom. I want them here as long as possible. I’m not gonna sacrifice my Black elderly for the fucking economy, are you outta your mind?
But that also speaks to—what I’ve been talkin’ about is, why there’s a lot of wisdom in Blackness; because we respect our elders, we listen to, we’ve had to learn from them to survive. And for whiteness, you see all these white, you know, woke progressive folx and all they wanna do is flip the tables. What your whiteness is used to is flippin’ the tables and walking away and never dealing with the consequences of where that damn table lands.
Cher: Yeah, totally. And yeah, totally. You know, it’s interesting. Obviously, I didn’t grow up with a lot of education about Black communities other than you know, what you typically learn in school from history. But in the Seattle area where I lived, there was a very large Japanese community that actually had all of their land stripped from them during Pearl Harbor. And then when they got put into the concentration camps and everything. And so they have—a lot of their culture is about community and especially respecting your elders and everything. And then also my stepfather, his family’s Native American and my step-sibling’s stepfather also, he was fully Native American. So learning a lot about the Native American culture. And, again, it’s about community and when I started, I learned about that stuff and I was—really respected it and I loved learning about those cultures. And part of me is like, “Oh, I wish that our culture was like that.” But I never really examined why it wasn’t. And so, these conversations are so much about the same thing. These Japanese cultures, where I grew up, they were oppressed by white people. Then the Native Americans, also, oppressed by white people. Both of these groups had their land and resources taken from them involuntarily.
Cher: …resources taken from them involuntarily. So to apply that to an even worse—not only having your land taken from you, but being removed from your family, stolen from your home is like a whole other, you know, levels and levels above that and…
Kim: That not only just stolen, but now considered property.
Kim: You know? I mean, that’s in the Constitution, sayin’ we’re all created equal, as humans we have an inalienable right. But to get around that, we’re gonna make you not human, cause we don’t wanna include you. You’re not human. We’re gonna, we gotta do something with legislators. So even from the very beginning, there have been legislation about managing our bodies and who are—no, defining who we are. And this is where the pushback is coming from now because we’re no longer allowing whiteness to define who we are. One of the things I wanted to ask you about—we’ve talked about a lot. Can you talk to the audience, when I have a sponsor on here, I want to—could you talk to why you sponsor #CauseAScene? Why do you sponsor me, particularly?
Cher: So, it was sort of a process of where I was thinking about it but—I know I work in tech, so I make a lot of money, and this is something I’ve been sharing recently—is that in my 20s I created a lot of debt for myself trying to make ends meet, even went into—when I got to USA Today—I was so underwater that I was still on food stamps during that time. So, I’m still paying off those debts, I feel—I could file for bankruptcy, but I don’t want to, I want to take care of my responsibilities and the things that I did. And so I don’t have a lot of extra money to give every month, and mostly I give to causes that are really important to me.
And I recognized, I think it must have been around the time, maybe was this stuff with Tatiana when I started to do that, to sponsor your podcasts and your work. It was because I felt really like, OK, I’m donating money to all these causes, which are super important, and I know they’re doing something. But also here is this—and I started sponsoring Tatiana as well—here are these two women and specifically, you know, to speak to you, that are doing so much work that, just because of the way the world works, I’m still benefiting from it. And so I felt a responsibility to start, I guess, compensating you for that work and the longer time has gone on, I just felt like, that you are like an employee of the community, right? And you’re doing all of this work, and I think you deserve to be paid for it.
And so that’s something that I made room in my budget for, because I think it’s very important, and I want you to be able to continue to do that work, and I want you to feel like your work is—I know internally you know your work is valid and everything. But I wanna be a part of letting other people know that that work is valid because there’s certainly a lot of very loud voices saying that it’s not, and I don’t want to be aligned with that. I wanna really do something within what I can do to be supportive of that work and kind of be the other side of you know, people invalidating you. I want to validate you and not with just words.
Kim: That’s so funny. Not what you just said, but just the fact that there are people who are in, and if these people knew that I could give a fuck about them, they would just… I swear when I change the settings on my Twitter so that I don’t see a lot of comments? That was, going to that echo chamber was just like the best because I realized that I don’t owe anybody education. I do this work because I find value in it, because if I didn’t find value when I wouldn’t be doing it. And it’s so funny how people— it reminds me of… I get it, people don’t like my style. I get that. But, fuck it. I’ve been this way my whole life and why would I change? And also, I’ve learned that being any other way with whiteness does not work. Just does not work effectively.
Cher: Right. It’s true. And maybe you’re not gonna get everybody.
Kim: I don’t want everybody.
Cher: Right. It worked with me. I assume, you know, Kristen, I’m sure that there’s some similar story there that it worked with her, and I’m sure it’s worked with other people too, just to—and I mean, for me, that is such an important part of my personal history for me because I knew who I wanted to be. I just needed somebody to tell me I wasn’t fucking being that person.
Kim: Yes! And that’s the thing, it’s like, you want someone to say, “Hey, your breath stinks, did you check that out? You know? Are you meaning to offend like that?”
Cher: Exactly. Like, I thought I was using the best toothpaste, but as it turns out, I’m not! I’m glad someone told me. [Laughs]
Kim: You’re brushing your teeth with shit! What the fuck! [Both laugh] Can I see that tube? What the fuck is in that? [Laughter]
Kim: And thank you for that, because I just wanted people, ’cause… And it’s been interesting because I’ve only lost—even through the pandemic—three sponsors and gained two more. So, and people when I first started, said, “Why you making it $100? And why are you sticking—” Because this community has the money, we waste it on a night of sushi, we do that often. And for those who have it, you need to be supporting the work so I can share it with other people. Those who can, that’s the least you can do, is financially support because just like you have bills everybody else has bills. And if you have a product, you have a product or service, you have a SaaS that you’re selling, you wanna get paid for that. I don’t understand why this work is considered community free, but that’s because whiteness is used to getting shit for free.
Cher: [Laughs] Yep, or they’ll take it. They’ll find a way to get it for free.
Kim: Thank you, baby. It’s always—and this is why I continue to say it’s mediocre—because it’s always it’s either co-opting, stealing, it’s always something. And it’s never about sitting down and being creative on its own, unless it’s in service to white supremacy, which is chaos. Y’all can come up with some real, ooh, some real foul shit to do to cause harm. Goddamn.
Cher: And you know it’s interesting because, where I come from—and I’ve talked a little bit about this, I have said, “I haven’t done everything always above the board.” But I mean, really, what that means is I’ve stolen to make ends meet. And I never, I never really took anything that was to indulge. It was always like, there were times I had no food on the table, my electricity was about to get shut off, I was getting evicted. These are big things and I had a baby, you know? I’m like, trying to figure out how all this stuff works together, and so a lot of the people that I knew during these times, you know, they were doing the same thing. However, in the same world—because I worked in, getting into tech and everything—I knew people who were white, who were middle class. I mean, even just like restaurant business owners that I knew, who were stealing from the company not because they needed it, but because they wanted it, you know?
Kim: And they could do it.
Cher: Exactly. They had the means and the opportunity. And who are the people who get chastised, and criminalized, and harshly penalized for stealing food or money to get their rent paid? You know in a world where you’re paying people—I was making $7 an hour, that was not enough money to pay for child care and rent, it just wasn’t. So I had to figure out how to make myself be able to survive and my daughter to survive. And that was the only thing I could come up with because I was already working three jobs. Like, what more do you want from me like? And it’s like, “Oh, you just need to work harder, you need to work harder.” And it’s like, and what, and then die? [Laughter]
I don’t understand, what do you want from me? And then there’s these people who spend just oodles and oodles and oodles of excess money, and they’re stealing to make more money. And that’s not even, to go on the Jeff Bezos’s of the world, who are—really, to me, they’re stealing by not paying, not compensating laborers and everybody who’s in the, I would say, like less than $25-an hour-range—they’re doing that on purpose. They’re calculating that “these people are literally, I find their life’s worth less,” and it’s like a scale, right? It starts with Black people, and it goes up to poor people of other color, and then poor white people, and then, step up, step up, step up.
And I think that what’s really jarring for people with me coming out about things that I’ve been through and the fact that I grew up poor, and that I was poor in my twenties, and that I have all these mental health problems, and that I was traumatized and assaulted, all of this stuff is like… Suddenly all of these people who were like, “Oh, yeah, she belongs here,” maybe not consciously they’re thinking that, but obviously, subconsciously, they’re thinking that, now they’re like, “Oh, wow, she dropped out of high school? She doesn’t belong here.” But that doesn’t compute in their minds because they’ve already accepted that I belong here. So to really recognize that I’m like, “You know what, I hid all of the stuff so that I could belong.” And I was able to do that because I’m white and I sound college-educated, and I’m attractive. I’m not gonna, that’s definitely a part of it, right?
Kim: Yeah, you’re a cute little white girl.
Cher: And I look innocent because I’m white. Like, “Oh, Cher could never do this, Cher could never do that.”
Kim: And that’s also why I say bullshit to the people who are like, “Oh, assume positive intent, or benefit of the doubt.” Because you omitted information and no one questioned. I have to come in the door with every fucking credential god made, just to get in the door.
Cher: And that to me is the key that I hope any white people that are listening can understand. That recognizing that I can go into a space, as long as I’m dressed halfway decent and have my hair done and, you know, don’t look like I just rolled off the street, no one’s gonna question me. At all. There’s the thing about in the hotel, when I got the job at USA Today, and I couldn’t—they were like, “You need a credit card or debit card.” Like all this stuff, first of all they assumed that I had those things, why did they assume I had those things? Because I was white and I was dressed OK. And then I’m like, “Oh, I don’t even have any money.” Now suddenly the trust is eroding, eroding, eroding, eroding and now they’re like, “OK, well…” And I’m like, “I’m staying at this hotel, I’m making it happen.” So they’re like, “Oh, well, we don’t want to steal anything.” Literally, when I’m like, I have an interview as an engineer right next door to their building and I’m not the one even paying for the hotel, they’re paying from the hotel. But still, you know, that trust was eroded. So just imagine if I was Black when walking in the first place.
Kim: Oh, it happens. I remember when I first got into this space and started speaking at conferences. This is why this is a pet peeve for me with a conference. If you’re organizing a conference when we get back to regular, you need to remove all, any way that the hotel or whatever is gonna ask for your speakers to share their card, or particularly if you doing scholarships for people who already are coming at your, you’re paying for. Because I’ve had several times when I was just starting out, struggling, and I go to another country or wherever and they’re asking me for a credit card. I only have a—I don’t have a credit card. I just have a debit card with only enough money to get me through what I’m here for, and yet now this hotel or whatever wants to take $50 a day, $100 a day off and hold it so that I can be in a hotel that I’m not even fucking paying for? Are you out yo mind?
Kim: But if you don’t have that experience, if you don’t know about that, you don’t think about that. And that’s why we have to prioritize the most vulnerable.
Cher: Yeah, and so I want to bring up something else. There was this, a mutual of ours, she’s Black, and she was really upset at this conference, the organizers. And the organizers—I had said something about the organizers, that they needed to pay attention and ask their speakers—all of their speakers—what they need, just because everybody has different experiences. So they DMed me and they were like, “I know exactly who you’re talking about. She’s crazy and we paid her, blah blah blah.”
And I was just like, “You gave her a hand-written check.” And they were like, “So? We gave everybody else a handwritten check.” And it’s like, OK, I understand that maybe you don’t have this experience, but for me, when I got a handwritten check, that means I have no money. That is no longer income for me because I didn’t have a bank account for a very long time… [inaudible] my past and my mom stole my identity when I was young. So when I went to get a bank account when I was 16, I couldn’t because I had a bunch of overdrawn bank accounts in her name.
And so I had to take care of that. So I didn’t have a bank account, and then I made my own mistakes, still didn’t have a bank account. So if somebody gave me a handwritten check, I can’t take that Walmart. I can’t take that to a check cashing place, I can’t take that anywhere. That’s useless to me. I have to go to the bank it’s drawn on and cash it there. Which is, sometimes they—I mean, it’s a traumatic experience. It’s not as traumatic as some of the other things that’ve happened, but people don’t understand the anxiety of—especially because some of the stuff that I did was check fraud
Kim: Having to go into a fucking bank.
Cher: Exactly. The anxiety of even though I know that this check is definitely probably legit, imagining myself going into a bank to cash this check and imagining leaving my ID there and running from the police again. That’s what pops into my head. So if somebody sends me a handwritten check… I mean now, I still get anxiety about it, but I have a bank account, so I can handle it. But I’m going to speak on the fact that you should not do that because you don’t know what people have access to. And again, I understand that people don’t have that experience to understand that, but asking. Ask!
Kim: Exactly, especially and with that, even if you didn’t have… what if you are from a state that doesn’t have that bank? So now, I mean, even if I can go to a check cashing place to get it, now I’m paying a fee for money that I…? Yeah, it’s a lot of things that people…
Cher: And they’re big fees. People don’t realize like those places are vultures.
Kim: Oh, hell yeah.
Cher: They take so—I had, there was this one that I lived by. 25% fee.
Cher: 25%, which, mind you, I’m not getting enormous checks. They’re like 100 bucks, 200 bucks. So people are like, “What’s the big deal, it’s not very much.” And it’s like, “Do you understand that I’m living…”
Kim: 25% of 100 is $25, shit!
Cher: Right, it’s just $25. I’m like, “What if my electric bill is $75? Then I have $25 for food. Now I have literally nothing.” Like, I’m going to the gas station and literally paying with change, hoping that somebody feels fucking sorry for me and is like, “I’ll fill up your tank.” That’s the life I was living. So don’t write me a fucking hand-written check.
Kim: But you just said, oh my god. And this is where, we gotta talk about this before we go, because you just hit on it. There’s no way in fuck I could go to the gas station and think that I’m cute enough that somebody would fill up my tank, and not do, and not want to do something to harm me in return.
Kim: Damn, that right there just put a pin in our lived experience. That is not something that would even cross my fuckin’ mind. I wouldn’t even thought of that.
Cher: And see, that right there is like, I was going through a horrible time. I didn’t have many privileges, but I still had the privilege that sometimes when I was in that situation, which was literally every week, somebody would fill up my tank with gas. Or they would give me, like, one time I got given a gift card to the grocery store. Or if I’m walking down the street with a gas can because I ran out of gas on the way to use the change, somebody will pick me up. And I mean, I won’t get in a car with, like, some random dude, because obvious reasons. But like if a woman, a white woman stops and is like, “Hey, do you need a ride?” which happened—not all the time, but sometimes—I know that she’ll take me to the gas station and maybe even fill up my gas can. Like, that might actually happen.
Kim: And then on top of all of that, not only will I not—just listening to the story—not only will I not get picked up for gas and somebody fill my tank, I would get blamed for the situation that I’m in.
Cher: People would feel sorry for me, they’ll blame you.
Kim: Yep. Exactly.
Cher: Just to touch on this topic in the terms of Twitter, is that I actively, when I talk about something that has happened to me but I share in the responsibility for either being reckless and putting myself in that situation or even… especially the stuff with Tatiana, right? I’m like “I take responsibility for this.” Please do not try to undermine that I’m trying to take responsibility for this, you know? Because if I don’t add that disclaimer, my entire thread will be white people being like, “This isn’t your fault, she’s too sensitive, blah blah blah.” You know, [inaudible] against Black women, Black women, Black women.
Kim: And also, “Thank you for this, it’s great to see you, you’re such a stand up person for apologizing.” Da da da da da. Yep.
Cher: And it’s like all you’re trying to do is publicly say, “See, this behavior that I did?” Exactly.
Kim: You tryin’ to model behavior.
Cher: And they’re trying to undermine me because they’re not comfortable with their own behavior.
Kim: Yep. ‘Cause they know they’ve done this shit.
Cher: And they see themselves in me.
Kim: Yes, yes yes. This has been great. What would you like to—it’s been heavy, but it’s been good. It’s been necessary. What would you like to say in your closing statements? Oh, my god. This has been amazing.
Cher: I mean, I definitely think that that last little bit where even I wouldn’t have thought somebody’s not gonna feel sorry for you when you’re putting change in your gas. That right there, I’m still learning. It’s hard. And maybe it’s not hard in the same way it was when I say something like, “all lives matter.” It’s still hard for me to recognize that even in my some of my worst moments, I had a privilege of having white skin and I need for other people and even other light skin people, to understand that it’s like a spectrum of… we see those those memes of oh, you know the skin color, the Simpson’s one where they hold it up to him and it’s like, OK, you’re good to go or you’re a terrorist.
Kim: One’s a protest and one’s a riot.
Cher: Exactly. And recognizing there is a scale of that that exists and the only way that we are ever going to come close to seeing equities in jails or anywhere, anywhere for that matter, is if people—white people, specifically—start examining the ways that they are the default, that they have more access to opportunities, and even in their fuckin’ worst moments, that they get the benefit of the doubt to be innocent, poor Cher versus angry, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps…
Kim: Angry. Lazy. Yup.
Cher: —nobody gets handed anything, lazy, et cetera, et cetera. That those two experiences, we just went through that. So if you’re listening to this, this is reality.
Kim: Yeah, we just broke it down.
Cher: The way that we live is so differently, and I mean, there’s books and everything you could read. I know that Chad Loder had responded that, “You need to do the work.” I don’t think that you should start doing the work until you have at least this epiphany that you are like, “OK, I’m gonna look at some part of my life that is super—that I’m not privileged, this is not a privilege I have.” So, you know, whether that’s that you’re disabled, like, for me, it’s like I grew up poor. I was a sex worker. I was sexually assaulted many, many, many times in many situations. I was sexually assaulted on video camera and it was distributed as porn like these things are not privileges for me. I don’t have that privilege. I don’t have a uterus, but I still fight for women to have rights. You have to continue to examine those things. And I want people to really examine like “in what ways would I have not been given the benefit of the doubt or an opportunity if I was Black?”
Kim: And it speaks to now in this with a tweet that I just did. It says—it was one of my “this is what white supremacy looks like”—I said. “And this is what trips so many of you up. Y’all. This is how you define some—” ’cause it’s talkin’ ’bout how the media is talking differently about how owners who are breaking curfew lockdowns, how the language they’re using for white people right now is totally different than if this was Black folx moving. I say, “Y’all (this is what you all say): ‘There’s no white laws or Black laws, they’re laws.’ Me: ‘WRONG. I can say “I’m happy” multiple ways and it have different meaning. How the LAW is communicated and who it prioritizes matters.”
Thank you so much for being on the show and for being so candid and honest, ’cause I know you said you had some things that you wanted to talk about. So thank you so much for joining us.
Cher: Yeah. Thank you for having me. I, again, just really honored that you invited me here to be in the space with you and to talk. And I’m really glad that I’m doing much, much better than I have in the past. And I feel really confident that, I hope other people will look at me and do the work too, and that I’ll continue to be held accountable when I fall down.
Kim: And I want to make sure that—thank you for saying that—but I need to say, because the classroom teacher in me has to say, Cher’s not saying this to get “ally cookies,” ’cause I don’t give those out. So if she was looking for praise, it wouldn’t happen. It is because she has done the work and I see that she, like all of us, is making this shit up as we go, and is willing to take ownership of the mistakes that she makes. Please do not take this as some way of white folx gettin’ a pass from me because whiteness does not get a pass until white supremacy is fundamentally dismantled. So thank you for joining us and have a wonderful day.
Cher: You too.
Kim: Bye. Bye.