Courtney D. Cogburn

Podcast Description

“There’s a disconnect between beliefs and behavior. And there’s an investment in the symbolism of one’s beliefs and translating that as if it represents behavior when it doesn’t.”

Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn is an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and faculty of the Columbia Population Research Center. She employs a transdisciplinary research strategy to improve the characterization and measurement of racism and in examining the role of racism in the production of racial inequities in health. Dr. Cogburn’s work also explores the potential of media and technology in eradicating racism and eliminating racial inequities in health. She is the lead creator of 1000 Cut Journey, an immersive virtual reality experience of racism that premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival developed in collaboration with Jeremy Bailenson at Stanford University.

Dr. Cogburn is developing additional projects attempting to leverage emerging technologies to tackle issues of structural and cultural racism. Dr. Cogburn completed postdoctoral training at Harvard University in the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar Program and at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in Education and Psychology, and MSW from the University of Michigan and her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia.

Transcription

00:30

Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone. And welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene Podcast. I have someone on that I do not know. I actually saw some tweets about a talk they did at All Tech is Human, and I immediately reached out to Dr. Courtney Cogburn to come on the show and talk about what she was disrupting that audience with. So, Dr. Cogburn could you please introduce yourself to the audience?

Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn: Hi, I’m Dr. Courtney Cockburn. I’m an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

KC: We always start with two questions: Why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene?

01:16

CDC: I think it’s important to cause a scene, because it suggests that you’re awake and paying attention and that there’s meaning to your voice and presence in the world. So, are you paying attention? Do you see any of the problems before our eyes? And do you find value in yourself enough to do something about it? And so I think inherently bad intersection results in causing a scene.

How am I causing a scene? You know, I’m a little bit irreverent in general. I do what I want to do. And that’s not common for a tenure-track professor at, you know, an elite white institution. But it’s absolutely the way that I approach my work. A phrase I’ve been using more and more lately that I like—because I got it from Game of Thrones—there’s a line—I don’t know if you watch Game of Thrones—but there’s a line where one of the characters says, “We don’t have time for this. The world is ending and we need to make some choices or some decisions.”

And so I used it a lot lately because we don’t have time for pontificating and dancing around issues, or really even selfishly focusing only on our own careers and whether we get tenure or not, or whether we get promoted or not. And while those things are important, I think what we’re doing for the world and for people and communities around us and how we’re leaving the world, given these really existential pressing issues is part of what’s important to me. So, for me specifically, that focuses on issues of racism and the various spaces in which racism shows up, which is every space.

03:13

KC: All right, So, can you tell us…let’s just start where I started. What was your talk at All Tech is Human about?

CDC: So in that talk—it was a lightning talk—I had five minutes to make a point.

KC: Wow! OK, so… wow!

CDC: And I’m thinking, just like, we don’t have time for this.

KC: Exactly!

03:37

CDC: And so my talk was about being antiracist in tech. And part of what I argued in that talk is often people—particularly white liberals—get very consumed with whether they are racist or not. And you know what? I kind of make this argument like, if I were handing out stickers that said “not racist”, what would that do for anybody else other than you? Like, that’s narcissistic. That’s about you. That’s not about what are you doing for the world? And one… first of all, you probably are; second—you know, so the sticker wouldn’t actually be accurate—second, that’s not the same thing as acting and engaging issues of racism and doing something about it. And so making this argument that more people need to be engaged. 

And racism is not a problem that Black people should be taking on, other people of color should be taking on. Racism is fundamentally grounded in whiteness, and thus becomes a white responsibility. And people should be accountable, right, for their role in how they benefit from these systems, how they contribute to these systems; they should be thinking more actively about what they should be doing about it. And it’s not something that should just be regulated over to the people of color over here.

And then I think another piece that is getting people to apply this antiracist analysis to what it is that they’re doing. So I and others would make the argument that racism is so pervasive in our society, so kind of fundamental to our country, that if it’s not antiracist, it’s probably racist, So the default is probably racist. The default is probably going to disadvantage Black and brown people if you aren’t actively considering how to not disadvantage Black and brown people.

And so, in my five minutes, that is the point I was making: that your individual designation as racist or not is actually not that important and critical. What’s more important is what are you doing for the public good? What are your services, your acts, your behaviors? And that this lens of antiracism really needs to be a part of everything that you do. And that applies to everyone.

05:50

KC: That’s interesting. So I just… on a number of reasons. Well, first of all, I’m just going to say in this community, there is no “probably”. There is “definitely”. There is… that the default is it’s racist or it’s antiracist. I don’t even get into the “probables”. 

CDC: The “probables”. Yeah.

KC: Yeah, because that leaves the gate open for people to try to have conversations and debates, and I don’t have time for that. That’s how they wear us down. And they wanna have the edge cases.

CDC: Tryin’ to prove stuff.

KC: Oh girl, they come out with all kinds of bullshit! And I’m just like, “No, no.” In my classroom, you see the…

CDC: “Yes” and “no”.

KC: And I say my boundaries are all whiteness is racist by design can’t be trusted by default, unless it’s consistently demonstrating antiracist behavior. So, if you’ve got a problem with that, then you at least know up front where I’m coming from.

CDC: Where I’m coming from. Yup.

06:41

KC: And something else you hit on that… is the individual versus community. It was interesting. I had a conversation—I was being interviewed today—and one of the interviewers asked me at the end—they had asked me a question in my DMs, and I didn’t answer for whatever reasons—but they asked me—this is a white individual—and they’re saying, “Do you, Kim, ever get… I keep…” They—the white person—gets people saying, “You don’t… basically, you are not good at coalition building. It’s all about you. You’re doing this work, this advocacy work, and you’re not…”

CDC: They’re saying you’re not good at it?

KC: No, no, no, no. Them themselves. But people are telling them, people are telling this white person this stuff, “You’re not good at it.” Yes, and they asked, “Are you… do you ever get that?” And I was like kinda befuddled. No, I’m a Black woman. We have learned that the individual is not going to get us there. It has to be community work. But that’s fundamental to whiteness, though, because whiteness is always individual where everybody else is a group; that’s one thing. But also, whiteness has been told that its individual efforts, got it where it is.

And so this is a lot of the pushback we get with the antiracist work or just plain—hell, talking about our lived experiences are so much different from whiteness—is because they don’t understand that whiteness has never been evaluated and such that these individuals believe that their one plus one equals two, when they don’t understand that they’re one plus one is rooted in white supremacy, it’s rooted in systems that benefit them, it’s rooted in all these other things. So, no, you’re one plus one does not equal two, your one plus one actually equals 50.

08:28

CDC: And I think that’s… right, that’s the “beauty”—in quotes—of whiteness is that it avoids groups. It avoids being grouped. It exists as invisibly—often, until they’re in the presence of non-whiteness, which is a whole ‘nother discussion—and gets treated as… and it’s the nature of white supremacy is that it gets treated as the default, the norm, the baseline. And so why would I think about myself as a collective or connected to a group or have some responsibility? I’m not grouped. I just get to be a person. Whereas the rest of us are very actively, consciously, visibly grouped in ways that force us to be aware of the other people who look like us and we are targeted as a group, whereas whiteness is not targeted as a group. It exists invisibly. And so just that nature and function of whiteness sort of changes people’s association with it. Which is part of why it can be so difficult to get white people to see whiteness, and see themselves as white, as a meaningful designation because it exists invisibly.

KC: Yeah, and that’s the very reason if there is a Blackness, then for me, there’s a subsequent whiteness, and that’s what we’re gonna talk about. We’re gonna, I’m gonna juxtapose those. You don’t ask me what kind of Black I am, I’m not gonna ask you what kind of white you are. It is just white. Now, if you have a problem with that, that’s fine. But this is how we rollin’ because we need to get some kind of where there’s some kind of—it’s not even gonna be even playing field—but I’m using language that I can include the things so we could make some comparisons. And it’s quite interesting to have these conversations, ’cause it also speaks to when you talked about the group, and you’re saying that, “Oh, I need to… am I antiracist?” The same language that people, “I’m an ally.” And… you don’t get to claim allyhood, allyship. What is this? This is…

10:31

CDC: That’s like calling yourself cool; you don’t get to call yourself cool!

KC: Oh my god! Well, I’m sure many of them think they’re cool. And it’s so funny because it’s like I think about people, and I did not… it’s like such an awakening once you start diving into this because everyone—we’re talking tech here—all the great “tech leaders”—quotes—are white, and we have studied their stories of how they started and how they struggled. Yeah, yeah, they’ve been in garages and they’ve done this and they’ve done that and then… and it’s always about that individual. You look at, you can look at Thomas Edison, you can look at Henry Ford, you can look at Elon Musk, you can look at [Steve] Jobs. Everybody is—they just, you know, persevere through these long hours—and I look now when you really dig into the history of what they had, that one plus one equals 50. It’s like, yeah, no. If I had your resources and networks, I think I’d be a little further than you; just by the how we’ve had—just for us to be in the room what we’ve had to do!

11:39

CDC: And to talk about that explicitly is being grounded in whiteness, not class. Right? So our tendency, when we talk about racism is again making it a problem of Blackness and brownness. And we spend a lot of time talking about—and this is a white liberal approach as well, right? We focus a lot on, “That feels so bad. This is so terrible that this has happened to you. I’m so…” [laughs] Like, one of the things I say is, “I don’t need you to like me; I need you to hate racism.”

KC: Ah! Thank you! Oh my god! ‘Cause you don’t like me anyway.

CDC: Let’s just move on. I don’t need you to like me. We don’t have to hang out. But I need you to focus, I need you to focus.

[Kim laughs and claps]

12:23

KC: Girl! Who you tellin’ because I’m like, “Okay, this my classroom up in here. I’m Teacher, I draw hard boundaries. You da student. You ain’t got to like it.” You know, but these are rules that I have to do to keep the community of my class safe. And so you can hate me—I had students who hated me—but you need to graduate. So I need you to do what you need to do.

CDC: And know what I mean? Like, I started one class—I have a class I teach in the fall. It’s like a first semester course, and I’m a little bit easier in terms of easing them into this.

KC: Oh, the babies.

CDC: I know, but it is. The second semester, I started with a slide that says, “These things are accepted as truth and fact in this class.” So if you cannot agree with this, take somebody else’s class because I’m not explaining this, I’m not going back to make—have this make sense for you. We are moving on. So if you can’t agree, take somebody else’s class.

13:16

KC: And I would think it would be—as a student—I would appreciate that because at least I know where the lines are. You know, it’s not like gettin’—middle of the semester—somethin’ pops up, and you like, “Where did that come from?” Oh, yeah.

CDC: I also tell my students, ‘cause you know, we run into this pattern where you know, people will be upset or uncomfortable and they kind of go off in their little groups and little corners whispering, talking an’ other, you know. So I put a slide up one day, I was like, “Say it with your chest.” Bring it in here. Don’t be whispering in corners. Come in here and say it.

KC: Oh my god, that is such a Negro term! “Say it with your chest. A’ight muthafucka, say it wit ya chest!” 

13:54

CDC: “Say it wit ya chest!” Say it in here. Don’t go whispering in corners. I expect you to be articulate and educated. You don’t have to agree with me, but I expect you to know why you believe what you believe.

KC: And not some bullshit about…

CDC: And I expect you to be articulate about it, and it’s not your gut instincts or your feelings or this osmosis.

KC: This… child, if your feelings come in, I need y’all to get therapy because I’m no longer responsible for white—I’m no longer…

CDC: It’s not about that. So I expect you to have an opinion. I expect you to be able to launch an argument why you think this doesn’t matter. Or why you don’t think this is a fact [inaudible] Have that make sense for me.

KC: Otherwise it don’t count.

CDC: Otherwise it don’t count. Say it in class, say it wit ya chest to my face. Into your peer’s face. Right? Right. But otherwise, it’s sort of, this back corner stuff, you know, doesn’t really work.

14:36

KC: So the… analogous of that is the Twitter handles with the anonymous…

CDC: Oh yeah. Oh they get blocked immediately.

KC: …images. Oh god, oh, yeah.

CDC: You can’t follow me.

KC: Oh, no. And also the block… I block also—I soft block—the people come in with private accounts. Oh, no, I need to be able to see what the fuck you talkin’ about back there. I can’t…

CDC: Yeah, what you sayin’?

KC: Nuh uh. Yeah. You ain’t gonna be… exactly! Say it witcha chest. Don’t be saying shit and talking of a screen shot my shit and be talkin’ about me behind my back!

[Laughter]

15:03

KC: Oh, my. That is just so—ugh—the nature of whiteness. And it does this, and this is what gets us—gets Black folx—caught off guard. Because, I tell people in a minute, I got five white folx that I consider that they my friend, and I still know they dangerous. And they know that they dangerous, that they can hurt me, that at any moment they can center whiteness and cause me pain and harm. And I need to keep articulating that to them so as you said, so they are actively doing the work. I don’t need you to get comfortable in our friendship thinking…

CDC: That you get a pass.

KC: No! Me and Dr. Courtney thing ain’t the same. We got some history here. I knew what she said by, “say it witcha chest.”

CDC: I don’t have to explain.

KC: Ain’t got to explain shit to you…

CDC: And put up a video…

KC: Ain’t got to… [laughs]

CDC: …instructional video. [laughs]

KC: And that’s what I love about Toni Morrison. She’s like, “I’m not writing for the white gaze.” Uh-uh, ain’t doin’ it for the white gaze.

15:56

CDC: You know what? That’s a good point. That’s something that comes up for me in my work because—and something that’s been a tension—an ongoing tension for me. So for the first part of my career—and Toni Morrison has been at the center of this for me—so the beginning of my career, I studied Black people. I focused on Black people, helping take care of Black people, how the Black people thrive. And that’s what I was focused on. And increasingly reached this point where I wanted to hold whiteness accountable for its role, and their role in my need to try and thrive and overcome.

So that requires me to think about white people. Right? That requires me to think about whiteness in a way that has produced attention for me. So when the virtual reality piece that my team and I created—that I was presenting on at this Tech for All event—directly targets white liberals and engages white liberals. But that requires me to center a white gaze. It requires me to engage whiteness in a way that’s just an ongoing tension about how I’m using my time, my resources, my energy talking and thinking about white people.

17:02

KC: Well, I’m gonna tell ya, sister, to do this, you have to have—intention without strategy is chaos. You have to have a strategy behind it because it…

CDC: Oh, I absolutely do. Yeah.

KC: I knew early on that me holding… I couldn’t hold space for my own trauma and Black folx trauma. I can’t, I don’t have time for that, I don’t have the energy for that. So I knew early on when I started going down this rabbit hole that—it’s unfortunate but true—that the power dynamics is changes of whiteness. So, I was gonna treat it like a classroom, and this is gonna be… this is who my target audience is, is whiteness. And yet I’m very clear that, yes, there’s a white gaze, but it is not… you ain’t gonna like this what I’m doing with this white gaze. It’s gonna cause you a lot of pain.

CDC: You know, you ain’t gonna like this prescription.

17:53

KC: You ain’t gonna be able to take that little bit of medicine, little bit of sun ain’t gonna make this medicine go down easy at all. Because what this requires is not only—’cause I’ve seen that whiteness—because I used to say, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I’ve seen that whiteness can take a lot of discomfort before they move. So I need you to be in pain. So I’m gonna do some things and say some things that I’m gonna cause you to really uproot or really… I want to, I want to… it’s the psyche. I want to break, I really want to break your psyche. I really want to break that. I mean, I need to take a sledgehammer to all you think you are and who you, and how you function, and the fact that you take no responsibility for anything, it’s just bestowed on you. I need you to start questioning everything because you know why? Everybody else does on a daily, moment by moment basis.

CDC: Daily basis.

KC: I bring this up—and I’m gonna keep bringing this up—how much energy it takes a Black woman to write an email to a white person is ridiculous. Because we got to say all we need to say up front, then we got to take out all this other shit. We got a code switch it so it don’t hurt yo’ feelin’s, but you still gonna get your feelings hurt. And now we ain’t talking about what’s in the damn email; now everybody wanna talk about why Becky and John’s feelings hurt. So I want you to put in that much effort, that I had to do to get through my matriculation, me building a business. All that shit that I had to do to get that; I need you to be doing that same thing.

19:27

CDC: And I think, you know, Black women are the perfect group to consider for this; because of our intersections of race and gender, how actively self aware we have to be to function, let alone survive. Right?

KC: Let alone—I mean, you said function, survive—thrive!

CDC: Thrive! We aiming for that? I’m just tryna you know…

KC: Fuck you, yes! I’m aimin’ for thrive!

CDC: I’m tryna thrive! Okay, I’m out here tryna thrive. But I feel like the things we have to calculate and consider for that to even be a possibility.

KC: Yeah, the mental…

CDC: Not just of ourselves; I have to calculate: How do you see me? What are you processing about me? What do I see in you? What’s the intersection between those two things? What does it mean for me to be here in relation to this other body that’s in the room? And how does that change the chemistry?

20:17

Interlude

21:24

CDC: [What does it mean for me to be] …here in relation to this other body that’s in the room? And how does that change the chemistry way? We calculate…

KC: Uh-uh! I don’t want you to say nothin’ because you just talking about the moment. Then we have to calculate “if I do this, will this stop me from getting a raise next year? Will this stop me from the promotion track” da da? So we’re doing… y’all playin’ checkers, we playin’ three dimensional chess because I’m thinking 10 years down the line—particularly someone like you who are on the tenure track—you had to be doin’ all those kind of calculations, and they just want to say, “Oh, my feelings hurt.” Fuck yo’ feelings!

CDC: Fuck your feelings. Not here for your feelings.

22:04

KC: So we have a T-shirt in the #CauseAScene community that says, “Fuck Civility.” And I say this, and they know it, because civility is optional for whiteness, but it’s expected behaviour of everyone else, because it allows white supremacy to ingrain in us internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness so that we manage our own behavior. And we’re doing those calculations.

CDC: For you.

KC: Yes, all for your comfort—for whiteness’s comfort. All day long. I’m done with it. I’m so over it. I’m so done. I had this—there was this quote unquote “altercation” back in October—this shit lasted about a month. I wasn’t even the initiator of it. But I just got targeted—which is fine—because I said I wanted more power and influence, and that’s what the fuck they—they think—and see, there’s nothing—like you said, you have a strategy. Whiteness underestimates us often that they… Girl! They look up and we’re here and they like, “What the fuck? Where that nigga come from?”

CDC: Nigga, where’d they come from?

23:05

KC: I’m like, don’t worry about it. Exactly, exactly!

CDC: Document, women; document!

KC: Don’t worry about it. That’s how Omarosa got into the Situation Room with audio and video equipment, got damn it. You can say what you want to about that Black woman, but her ass had receipts because you underestimated her. You didn’t see her as a threat. And Black women document every goddamn thang, so that was on y’all.

So, some stuff was happenin’, it was going on and everything. And I’m like, and so I’m just so… a dude asks “Kim and friends”. Bitch! We ain’t friends! And girl—and I stopped doing tweets in all caps because I was told about people with dyslexia have issues with that—but on this tweet, oh, we was going all caps and I used “fuck”, I don’t know how many times. “Fuck you!” “Fuck you we ain’t friends!” “Fuck you! Leave me alone!” Blah, blah, blah. And it was so funny because that was what the white liberals, the progressives, hung on. Not the fact of what the conversation…

CDC: Why you were upset.

24:04

KC: YEEEES! Nobody wants to talk about that.

CDC: Oh noooo.

KC: Nobody wants to talk about that. And this is what I go, if someone thinks the response should be a two, I’m going for a 20. I’m going for—I’m intentionally going for a 20. Because what I need whiteness to see, we ain’t havin’ the same lived experience, and I need you to be as uncomfortable about this…

CDC: And aware of it.

KC: Yes. Yeah, I was screenshot, people coming to my DMs with some bullshit. Um-mmm, no, we ain’t takin’ it—like you said, say it witcha chest. Don’t come in my DMs for, with no… we had a public conversation. Don’t come in my DMs with no private bullshit with that white, tryna… Mmm-mmm, mmm-mmm; ‘Cause that’s, now you’re trying to use my labor, use my emotional… nuh-uh, we ain’t doin’ that. We gonna move this shit right on out here, and I’ma embarrass the hell out of you as I move this out here so you won’t do that again. And it’s a lesson for everybody else: don’t fuck with her if she talkin’ about shit in public. That just don’t make no sense.

24:59

CDC: And you know, I think collectively we all are giving fewer fucks in general. And so like, and it’s a beautiful thing…

KC: Ooh-wee!

CDC: …’cause this sort of—you know, the code switching, the adjusting—so many of us are like, “Not doin’ that. It’s not; y’all not gonna kill me.” Right?

KC: Thank you! Thank you!

CDC: These calculations, these adjustments…

KC: I’m exhausted having heart attacks at 40 and shit.

CDC: Exactly! And I study stress and health in addition to doing tech work; like, y’all not gonna kill me. So I was—and I had a very similar in this meeting—got into it with someone very senior to me in this meeting, and I, you know, was—they was probably expecting a 2 and I was a 20—and they were so confused, so confused. And I end up leaving the meeting like, kind of storming out. Packed up my stuff and started leaving. It was like, “And I’m done with you, so-and-so.” As I left the meeting. So this for them, that’s 20.

KC: Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!

CDC: Y’all don’t even know what 20 is!

KC: First of all, you not backing down? Whoa! Whoa, whoa!

25:58

CDC: Yeah, whoa whoa whoa. I’m like, this is a 5. Y’all think it’s 20? It’s actually a 5. But there was another Black woman who wasn’t directly involved—who I adore—but was so gracious in her ability to kind of unpack what was happening. And every… then we went around at the end—because I came back to the meeting—we went around to the end, and people were saying what they were… their last thoughts about the meeting. Everyone pointed to her as being grateful to her.

KC: Yes!

CDC: And I said, “Y’all are most comfortable with grace.” And I was like, “You don’t get it. You didn’t get it from me today; you’re not gonna get it from her every time; and it’s what you’re most comfortable with.” And everybody wanted to focus on my being upset instead of what I actually said. I want to note that we still haven’t talked about what I actually said.

KC: Exactly! And how much energy we use going back and forth, and we still ain’t dealt with the damn problem.

CDC: But the thing you’re so grateful for was this Black woman who was being gracious with you, and I’m like, “You get grace from me 90% of the time, and you didn’t get that today. And you have to unpack why and what sacrifices I make; what sacrifices she’s making to maintain grace in this moment.”

27:01

KC: Child… so this happens a lot on Twitter, so it’s so funny. So I’ll say—because I rarely speak directly to these individuals—’cause you’re just, again, this is a classroom. You’re part of the lesson plan. I don’t speak to the lesson plan. That don’t make no damn sense. So I comment, retweet so the community knows, hey, we about to engage here. It’s a lesson about to come on. And so, somebody—they’ll get so pissed at me—and then some white person will come in, and they will, and they’ll say something like, “Oh, thank you. Thank you, thank you.” And then the white person will say, “You welcome,” and I go straight to they ass first. “Why are you welcoming them? You just said what the fuck I just said. I need you to watch that, because what you’re doing is setting up that you’re the expert.” So that’s one incident—one way. And they’re like, “Damn, I did it.” You know, darlin’.

Another way is, I will be engaged with this individual in their DMs. “Say this now. Now say that. Now say this.” And they just like… I’m like, they are parroting exactly what the hell I’m telling them. And you givin’ them all… And so, it helps me teach whiteness what this is. ‘Cause you gonna actively participate—I’ma make you actively participate in this. There is no… all this voyeurism and parasitic behavior y’all have by just talkin’ some, “Listen to Black women,” “Vote like Black women.” Stop being parasites! You don’t give us shit. No. You need to actively participate in all of this. You need to be beyond uncomfortable. Because I used to say this; I used to call them “power allies”. A “power ally” is someone who is willing to make themselves uncomfortable so I could be comfortable. If you ain’t willing to do that, I have absolutely no use for you.

28:43

CDC: And the motivation is, finding having not be uncomfortable. Right? So in moments where you experience discomfort—I’m thinking of a white liberal in particular. You’re in a situation where you experience discomfort. Your goal is to not be uncomfortable. So you figure out what you need to say and do and how you need to be in order to be as comfortable as possible in that situation. So if that means not saying that thing again, “Not gonna say that! Clearly, that’s the wrong thing that produces discomfort for me.” If I need to say, “vote for Black women,” “support Black women,” that’s the thing that creates comfort for me…

KC: And then we get what we got at 45, ’cause y’all go in the booth and…

CDC: ‘Cause you haven’t actually done the work. You haven’t actually done the work. You haven’t stayed and sustained discomfort. You figured out behaviors that make you feel comfortable.

KC: And this is where I have a problem with Robin D’Angelo’s “White Fragility.” It’s a great kindergarten book; it’s a great book to get white folx with some language. Too many of you think that’s the be-all and end-all. If you’re not doing work that’s made—written by Black women, you ain’t doing the real work.

29:45

CDC: Well, this is a thing, right? This is where—and this is part of the motivation for our virtual reality project—which is too many of you have a disconnect between what you think your beliefs are and your behavior, right? You’re more invested in the symbolism of your beliefs, and think that’s behavior, and it is not. And so…

KC: Ooh! Okay, that’s… say that again, ’cause that’s it right there!

CDC: So there’s a disconnect between beliefs and behavior, right? And there’s an investment in the symbolism of one’s beliefs and translating that as if it represents behavior when it doesn’t.

KC: And that’s why intention to them is so more important than impact!

CDC: So much more important! Right, so you know, so when you start unpacking that and you try—you make that visible, psychologically, our tendency is to want to reconcile that. Either you change your beliefs or you change your behavior. But sitting in a place where it’s very clear that you’re not doing what you say you believe; to me, I think this is a key bridge: one to make that disconnect visible; and then figure out how to make that bridge. And that’s where I think the language of antiracism is so important because that is behavior, that is action. That is not a belief, that is not a sticker, that is not a symbol, that is action.

31:06

KC: And this is what I find… and so I’ll have people in the community, if I—you know, they’ve learned something, or they’ve heard something on the podcast; they’re like, “Kim, can I say this?” I’m like, “If you don’t sit up there and tell your white person what you done learned from this thing so that they understand from this white perspective, I did this thing,” like today—I don’t know when this is gonna air—but I have someone in the community who actually wrote, “I did this racist thing and Kim called me out on it, and this is what I said, this is what she said, and this is what I learned.” This is what—this is the work of…

CDC: It’s critical.

KC: This is the work you need to be doin’. And this is why I tell folx, if you—it’s so funny that my work has shifted in that—because I am not a inclusion and diversity specialist, I’m a business strategist. And this is like—but like you said—every rock you turn over, there’s racism. It’s like it’s everywhere.

CDC: Oh it’s everywhere, yeah.

32:02

KC: And so the book that I’ll be working on next year is, “Redefining Capitalism without White Supremacy: the Economics of being Antiracist.” And that is because people want to talk about, “Oh, capitalism’s evil. We need socialism.” All capitalism, socialism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism, any other -isms are only theories, and all are rooted in white supremacy. So until we redefine what—how we gonna do this—nothing changes. So you could swap out capitalism all you want to, because Canada, England, they have a somewhat socialist kinds of—they’re capitalist countries—but they have socialist tendencies with the health care and everything. And it’s still rooted in white supremacy.

CDC: Yup.

KC: So until you can show me where there isn’t, it all is trash. Communism is rooted in white supremacy. Fascism was rooted in white supremacy. It’s all rooted in a place of putting whiteness above everything, and we’ve imported, exported that shit all over the world.

33:07

CDC: And we’ve spent so much time trying to prove that racism exists that we haven’t—any of us—had enough time to really process who do we actually want to be and how do we actually get there? And I think that that’s grounded in the point that you’re making that throwing capitalism out the window; have we actually had a—have we had a sit-down and thought that through in terms of whether that’s the right move and whether that’s actually—have we really grappled with the problems?

KC: And that’s what—you’re speaking on that’s the thing—it’s like, again, it goes back to what you just said, though. That saying—If I’m saying capitalism is racist—oh, let’s throw that out the window, ’cause that I… that don’t make me comfortable. ‘Cause doing the work of examining, “could it be antiracist?” I can’t do that because that’s gonna cause me tension and upset. So we gonna just throw that thing out and try the next thing, and we gonna keep throwing shit out because we don’t want to do the work.

CDC: Are non-racist systems and structures are even possible, right? Maybe it’s not. So now what do we do? Now what?

KC: Yes! Yes! Exactly!

CDC: But we haven’t—and I’m not pretending I have answers about that, I’m saying none of us…

KC: That’s my whole point. To me, it’s a hypothesis. 

CDC: We haven’t had time! It’s a hypothesis. We haven’t—let’s sit down and think about it.

34:17

KC: It’s a hypothesis, so I want to examine that. And so, because I know—we’re reading as a community Ibram Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist”—and he talks about antiracist anticapitalism. And my question is, what about a antiracist capitalism? We haven’t examined that.

CDC: Let’s think that through.

KC: Yeah, let’s think that through.

CDC: And we really, we have to get to a point—and this is what’s so frustrating I’m sure for you as a teacher as well—where we keep having the kindergarten conversation, right?

KC: Well, no, no, no, no. No no no. It’s not frustrating for me ’cause I don’t have them anymore.

CDC: You don’t do it?

KC: You know, that’s what the white folx in my community is for. You take your folx and…

CDC: Go have that kindergarten conversation.

34:55

KC: Oh, yeah. I’m on a doctorate level. If you can’t have a conversation with me, I’m not—and it’s so funny ‘cause I can see it in the first two or three tweets that you send, whatever—and I’m like, “Yeah, mmm-mmm, I’m not doing this.” I actually created a podcast episode about how to engage as an antiracist, how to identify who to engage—how to identify the persona. Is this a segregationist? Is this an assimilationist? Or is this an antiracist? And based on each one of those, like I’m not engagin’ with segregationists. They don’t believe I have inherent value. Why am I gonna have a conversation?

CDC: Why am I talkin’… people like, people tell me like, “Why don’t you engage the far right?” Why?

KC: Why? I’m puttin’ myself in danger!

CDC: “Why don’t you work with the police?” Why would I do that?

KC: Exactly.

CDC: Is it important? Yes. Somebody should do it.

35:38

KC: Yeah, exactly! That’s somebody else’s work. I’m not here to convince or convert. So then I need to say, “Ah, they’re assimilationist.” And then I have a way of engaging them in a way that makes sense for me. And so there again, intention without strategy is chaos. So that we’re not getting into chaos, ’cause I’m not gonna be going back forth, I’m not gonna be… so I have very clear definitions. I start everything with definitions. Okay, these are the definitions we gonna use. You ain’t gotta agree with them, but this is what we usin’ in this community. So, if you have a problem with that, like you said, then you can go to another Twitter freak.

CDC: Go somewhere else.

KC: Go somewhere else. And so one of the things that I am starting is called “The Alliance: the Antiracist Tech Agenda,” because it’s hard for me to get my hands around the community on public platforms. We need to be… have a safe, closed environment to have these conversations, so that we can develop strategies for how to engage in the public. Because we’re trying to do that on Twitter, when every Tom, Dick, and Harry can come and disrupt and then they go off like chasing a ball. No, get yo ass back here! Why you talkin’ to them? We’re doing something here.

36:52

CDC: You know, Maria Rodriguez, she is at—I wanna say CUNY—and I was having a conversation with her in a group, and she was talking about the very deliberate strategy for what social media is good for, what it is not good for and how certain that… what did she say? That organization happens best offline, the communication and getting the movement going happens best on social media. But the planning, the strategy, et cetera—for many reasons. One, just in terms of dynamics and how that happens, how your data gets used and saved. You know, what should be public versus private. What should be clandestine versus not.

KC: And how do you keep folx safe.

CDC: How do you keep folx safe, right. And so I think, you know, there has to be an offline component to really be effective because…

KC: Because the alt-right and all these other folx they have, they’ve been—like you said, this is new to us—but they’ve been gathering with they little meetings and coming up with they strategy, because when somebody says some shit…

CDC: They good at meetings.

KC: …and you in a different part of the country and the world, and you sayin’, you toutin’ the same goddamn language, y’all got a handbook somewhere. There is something going on, and we don’t have that. You hit it right on there.

CDC: And even online!

38:09

KC: This is so new that we don’t have—we’re still developing the language for this, and that has to be done offline. So that’s one of things that I am—that I will be building, we will be building out. And I will be bringing on people like you as guest lecturers.

CDC: Yeah!

KC: To have some…

CDC: I think that space is critical, right? Just where, you know, more spaces where we’re having the real conversations. And this tech component is critical for imagining Black futures. And I mean minimizing modern forms of Black and racist oppression, but also for imagining Black futures. And who do we want to be, what kind of world do we want to live in? And we have to create spaces, to organize and have those meaningful conversations where we’re not starting at, you know, elementary level.

KC: Every single time. Eeeevry single time! I mean it’s—again, you’re an educator, you’re in a system that has been around for hundreds of—hundreds, if not thousands… a thousand years—you know, some kind of form of you know, this whole academia thing. And there’s a reason there’s 100-level classes and you don’t put 100-level folx in 400 and 500-level classes. There’s a reason. And that’s why you scaffold. And I can’t—we can’t continue to reinvent this wheel every single time. Every conversation we have, we gotta start from…

CDC: Every conversation.

39:34

KC: We never get anywhere. And that is the aim—even if white progressives and liberals don’t want to talk about it—that’s the aim of whiteness, though. That’s the aim of white supremacy, is to distract and deflate.

CDC: Yeah, and it also—I mean, it kind of goes back to that point about the white gaze—is it centers whiteness, right? Explaining basic shit centers whiteness. Right?

KC: This is why the book—I already made a decision and communicated it clearly. If you have not heard people, the book club would never have a white author. I’m never, never, y’all need to hear some hard truth from some people of color. I’m never…

CDC: Yeah, yeah. I mean, we just—we don’t… because we can—and I think this is something I’m still actively grappling with—is that we can still process Black pain and trauma and oppression without centering whiteness. We can also—we certainly can imagine Black futures—without centering whiteness. But I really struggle with this idea. I wrote a paper with some colleagues of mine around appropriated racial oppression, and it aligns with this concept of internalized racism, because [inaudible] becomes much more problem—much broader. And so internalized racism kind of centers self hate, and part of the way we talk about it and others talk about it in this space is: is there a version of Blackness—particularly for people born and raised in the US—that gets processed without whiteness? That doesn’t have to be filtered through whiteness? Because even notions like Black girl magic… I wouldn’t have to say that if it wasn’t for whiteness, right? So even if it’s an act of self-love and embracing Blackness and loving all that it is about that, would I have to even actively do that and claim that in such a public way without whiteness?

Interlude

41:51

CDC: Would I have to even actively do that and claim that in such a public way without whiteness? Right? So it kind of expands this notion of…

KC: It’s so interesting that you talk about this because this is—because I say—I tell people I go to Twitter for information, to be informed. I go to IG—Instagram—to be inspired.

CDC: Inspired!

KC: I find so many—I follow so many Black women of just different body shapes, jobs, professions—and that’s where I go to get my mental health because, to do this work—and this is why I don’t… people of color, in particular Black people are not my audience. I recognize—and I want my… the folx who follow me—to understand: I am educating the oppressor while trying to process my own oppression. And, I don’t have the patience…

CDC: Figure out that dance.

KC: [Laughs] And it takes a whole bunch of skills. And being a—I never thought I’d appreciate having a classroom; I was a high school teacher and I was Special Needs certified—I never thought I’d appreciate that as much as I do right now dealing with these folx.

42:52

CDC: Listen, we have to grapple with the toll that it takes on us and make conscious decisions about it. To some degree, there’s no way around it if you’re doin’ the work—you’re doing this work—but we need to make conscious decisions about what are the pros and cons of the choices I’m making and be deliberate about those. Those choices are being held—I have one colleague here at Columbia who’s like, “I don’t have boundaries. I’m going hard until I burn out,” and that’s how he’s approaching it. Right? He’s very conscious about that choice, though. Right? I’m not. I’m like, “I have a son. I want to be around. I want to live as long as I can.”

KC: And that’s why I tell people, “I’m not a martyr. I’m not tryna to be Martin Luther King. I need to get paid. That’s why I gotta—this is a business for me. And yet, I can’t help you build a business—I can’t help—I’m not a inclusion and diversity specialist, but hell, we can’t get to anything about building a business because you have nothing there. There’s nothing—inclusion and diversity is the problem. We’re in an information knowledge economy. And you have absolutely nothing that benefits you in that way, because know: if you bring in a person of color, they don’t feel safe. If you bring in a person from the LGBTQ community, they don’t feel safe. So you’re not benefiting from their information—their tacit knowledge—because they’re not sharing it because every time they open they damn mouth, you got something smart to say. So they’re like, “Fuck it. I’m just going to sit here. Let the shit burn down!”

CDC: And you think my feeling safe or not is about me!

KC: Yes, yes!

CDC: Because you’re not processing what’s causing the lack of safety!

44:21

KC: And so, you just hit on something that I say often: “White supremacy is the parasite that’s now eatin’ on its host.” This is why some many white folx are in pain right now. They’ve never had—they’ve never experienced that. So by focusing on the most marginalized, by focusing and prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable, everybody feels safe. White folx still just haven’t gotten that they—again, just like we’re new to this—they’re still new this as well. And they don’t yet see that they’re not benefiting from white supremacy either.

44:50

CDC: They’re absolutely not. And again, that requires us—and them—making whiteness visible, right? That race is not just something that happened to other people, race happened to you too; constricts you too. You have appropriated oppression just like we have.

KC: And that’s why I say Blackness equals whiteness. I put it right up there.

CDC: They’re not separate, they’re not separate.

And this is what pisses me off with these current—now that Kamala is out of the race—this current slate of candidates. I’m not voting for a candidate who’s not antiracist. I’m just not doing it. So y’all need to get y’allself together, get these old motherfuckers out the way because they say some racist shit on the daily and everybody’s like, “Oh, but Uncle Sanders and…” Uh-uh! No! And then when you hear Elizabeth Warren talk, they do what you just said. She can talk about policies, she can talk about all of this; it’s in one bucket. Then she’ll say something about Blacks and blah blah in another bucket. They go together! Stop separating these damn buckets!

CDC: They’re the same thing.

45:56

KC: They’re the same damn thing. So until we can call a thing a thing, until we could say that Black women—no matter the education or the money they make—are dying in childbirth and their babies are dying in childbirth is rooted in white supremacy and racism, I don’t want to hear your health care plan. Because your health care plan is rooted in white supremacy.

CDC: And it’s certainly not acknowledging racism.

KC: So this is gonna be interesting. Well, first of all, I’m inclined—and I’m letting white folx know this—y’all ain’t in enough pain yet. And this president, don’t be surprised if he gets another four years.

CDC: Yeah, I’m not gonna be.

KC: And it’s gonna be unfortunate that Black and Brown people have to deal with that, because the shit always rolls downhill. The caveat to that is: we’re used to it. We’re gonna to do whatever we can—because we’re community—to protect ourselves and to do our best to protect the most vulnerable in those communities. Because we’re gonna put a cover over them and we’re going to do what we can. Four more years for white folx with this man? Y’all ain’t gonna—y’all gonna lose y’all goddamn minds. Y’all gonna lose y’all damn minds because he is the walking, talking everything that has been—since the beginning of the first slave that came over here—that folx have been hiding in the corner. He is the…

CDC: Embodiment of it.

47:11

KC: Girl, he is the P. T. Barnum of this shit. And he does not care. And that shit is gonna start hitting y’all left and right. And it’s like, “Mmm, okay. Oops. Told you you weren’t in enough pain.” When you’re in enough pain—like you just said—it takes action. You’re not doing, you’re not acting. You’re still—I wrote a piece called “Dismantling White Supremacy and the Five Stages of Grief” because I need you to get out of guilt and anger. Y’all spending too much time there.

CDC: Because that’s they own personal—it’s still narcissistic. You focused on yo’ feelings.

KC: Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm!

CDC: I tell my students, I’m describing someone on the ground with a boot on their neck, and you’re focused on how you feel looking at someone on the ground with the boot on their neck, rather than dealing with the person who’s on the ground with a boot on their neck!

48:01

KC: And they’ll say, “Well, stop movin’.” What the… what? Oh now I got ta change my behavior because the boot’s on my neck? And you’re speaking exactly to the—it’s not—it is still always… So someone recently was telling me another person was talking about something and he was like, “He doesn’t like—he feels bad because he’s not—no, he says he’s less racist.” And I was like, “There’s no such thing.” I said, “I need you not to use that language in the community, because there’s no such thing.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I just don’t like feeling that I’m—can be…” You know, he was talking about somebody in Florida. “That people see me as that…”, Okay, get over that.

CDC: Again, you worried about the…

KC: And that’s what I said. I was like, “You care more about… Who gives a shit about what people…” Look: and this is why my default is the hard line. We ain’t gonna have this discussion, you are. Now deal with it!

48:56

CDC: And you get invested. It’s kind of like the difference between people telling you pretty versus believing you pretty, right? You get invested in this external validation and then you do everything you need to do—no matter what it is—to keep getting that external validation. Oh, I need bigger boobs now. I need bigger lips. I need smaller lips now. I need bigger ass now. And so you just keep adjusting. White liberals just keep, “What I gotta say? What I gotta do? What language is…”

KC: They read this book and they go that way. They read that book and they go that way.

CDC: That is on the train like, “Tell me I’m pretty. Tell me I’m not racist.” ‘Cause that’s really the only thing…

KC: Yes!

CDC: Not actually not—or being…

49:30

KC: And so, I’m happy we’re having this conversation, because this is why my default is: all whiteness is racist. And I’m not… and I put it at that high level: all whiteness is racist by design. Can’t be trusted by default ’cause it always gets the benefit of the doubt—and I’m not doing that shit—unless it’s demonstrating consistent antiracist behavior. Which means—I’ve added in there—there’s some action you can take.

CDC: And racism is not individual.

KC: Yes!

CDC: It is, right? But the scope of racism is so much broader and so much more complicated than that. And I say even if we did fix you, no we can’t, no!

KC: Exactly!

CDC: And yes, ya racist and white. Don’t attach goodness to whiteness because that’s problematic.

KC: Yeeees.

CDC: But even if we did do that, even if that were possible—which it is not—and how do we undo legacies of oppression? How do we change systems and policies? It’s not possible! If I…

KC: Stop talking apples and oranges! We’re talking oranges and…

50:29

CDC: Yeah, the hierarchy of needs. The things that we should be thinking about are not you and whether your score on a bias scale and your feelings.

KC: Oh, my god!

CDC: Whether you are a 5 racist or a 2 racist.

KC: Ha ha haaah! [Laughs]

CDC: What is that doin’ for anybody?

KC: Yeah! A little bit racist. What the hell is “a little bit racist”?

CDC: “Everybody, I’m scared.” Just ’cause you don’t go to meetings, just ’cause don’t go to meetings and put on hoods. “I would never go to a meeting!”

50:53

KC: And that’s the thing. They—and this is an instance of a conversation I’ve had to have with them—y’all wanna sit back and act like swastikas and hoods are the only thing. So I will point out what is racist—I’ll do it in a minute. This is what white supremacy looks like based on some stuff I’ve seen, this is what white supremacy… ’cause I need them to see beyond this. But I also need you to understand: a MAGA hat to me is the same as a swastika. I’m not… you are unsafe to me.

CDC: It is the same thing.

KC: I don’t care if that’s what yo’ community—you’re just trying to get along wit’ yo’ community—again, like you said, “Am I pretty?” You trying to do whatever you can to fit in wit’ yo’ community. You come around me… you need to get the hell away from me, because—and I say this often—1 to 2 degrees away from you, yo’ friend could cause me intentional harm. I’m not playing that game.

51:41

CDC: And I said this in the same meeting where I walked out and I said, “I’m not dealing with you so-and-so.” I told him, I was like, “I grew up in Oklahoma. I went to college at the University of Virginia.” And I said, “I have experienced more racial trauma in this space than either those two places.” And they were just taken aback. They couldn’t understand. “We’re not KKK. We’re not hoods and meetings. That’s Oklahoma, Virginia. What could we possibly be doin’ that’s so bad?”

And just—I didn’t unpack this—that’s one of the things I didn’t get to unpack. But now they have to sit with that.

KC: Mmm-hmm.

CDC: Why is this such a traumatic—racially traumatic place?

KC: Hell, King told them that shit! Hell, in the South, we know what this shit look like. 

CDC: We know what it is!

KC: Up North? Oh lord!

CDC: It’s real… it’s simple racism. We know exactly what it is.

52:26

KC: Thank you! They got it on they trucks. They got them flags on their… they flags… we got this. It’s the ones that’s hiding, that wanna to be yo’ friend. And the first thing you say somethin’ or they say somethin’, you at the job and they done threw you under the bus and you sittin’ there like what the hell? What the hell just happened?

‘Cause I done told too many my young… Baby, my friend, mmm-mmm. You can… I need you to play nice, because what you gonna see is very soon, Becky gonna start advancing, and you’ve got more than her, and you’re not gonna understand why. Or Becky gonna start them tears and you—and the next thing you know, you gonna be villainized.

CDC: She’ll be in charge of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion…

53:10

KC: Girl, shut up! Lemme tell you this. Somebody sent me on LinkedIn—this is why I think LinkedIn is worthless—they sent me on LinkedIn—they weren’t even a connection. And they sent me a message saying, “Hey, I just want to reach out. I have…” and they’re at some hiring company. “I asked one of my coworkers who would they want to meet? And they said they want to meet you. She’s, you know, diversity, inclusion, blah, blah, blah. And is it possible for—I know this is weird—but I would love to introduce y’all and and send y’all to lunch.”

And I said—what I sent in that response was, “Thank you for reaching out. And yes, I’d love to do this once you pay my $500/hour consulting fee.”

CDC: You gonna pick my brain.

KC: And then, I screenshotted that and brought that over to Twitter. And folx went and asked—because I didn’t even look—’cause the person’s name was in the thing. Becky. Girl, she in her twenties. What the hell is she doing with a…

CDC: What work have you possibly done?

KC: Yeah, you think I’m ‘bout ta—you about to get free consulting from me over a lunch? And you about to pick my brain over lunch? Are you out yo’ mind?

54:24

CDC: I just had a meeting with somebody else—and I’m getting better at this and saying it in the moments when people’s like “I would love to have you join us and talk about blah, blah, blah”—and in a meeting just recently I said, “You know I’ve become… it’s become clear to me that people like to, you know, pick my brain and use my expertise without actually paying me or crediting me. So if you wanna have a concrete conversation about how to proceed with that, you know we can do that. But me just sitting down, and you wanna… no.”

KC: Mmm-mmm, no. Girl, and people keep saying, “Did he come back?” And I was like, “Hell no! I knew he wasn’t comin’ back.”

CDC: Why would he do that?

54:57

KC: Because if he was interested in paying me, he would have said, “Hey, how much is your time to sit down with her for an hour?” That’s what he would have started with all this. So no, I knew he wasn’t. But this is how I get—I know my clients are going to do the work even though it’s hard and they get frustrated and I go off on them—because I put them through so much shit before we even get… because I’m not… you’re not wasting my time.

I start with the email asking questions. Once they answer those questions, then I go to a survey that they gotta answer questions. And then once that survey is complete, then you gotta pay my invoice. And then once that invoice’s complete, to get the appointment scheduled, I gotta give you some more homework. ‘Cause by the time we get to this meeting, you gonna have—there’s so much going on. You would have had to think deeply about some of this stuff. I don’t need you comin’ to—again having kindergarten—so now they understand that they harming; there’s some things and language we need to talk about, but I need you to examine your space. I need to do all you to do some of that before we even get started.

56:01

CDC: And otherwise I’m not the one to invite, right? And so I think that’s been most of the things I get hired for, consulted for, brought in for are based on talks that I’ve given; and given how I present my work and my ideas, you already know who I am, coming in the door. So don’t invite me…

KC: People expect me to cause a scene when I walk in the door. So that’s just it.

CDC: I’m not here to tap dance; I’m not here to sugarcoat this for you; we don’t have time for this. Whether you’re—you’re really interested in doing the work or not.

KC: And I’m gonna call you out when you make a mistake, and we gonna work through it together.

CDC: And let’s work through that. But, you know, I’m not your token. I’m not your box that you gonna tick.

KC: Mmm-mmm, I am not. Yes! I am not. So yeah, I perfected this. I’m just like “Mmm, no.”

CDC: I love the stages of introduction. [Laughs]

56:53

KC: Oh, girl. Oh, yeah. And I tell people! I just like, “I need y’all to understand.” And it’s so funny, because when I speak at conferences, it’s inevitable—I’ll say eight out of 10 times—somebody in the audience will report me for code of conduct [violation]. And when they ask them why, “Well, I don’t think this was appropriate for this,” or it was—or basically made them uncomfortable. And I sit back and I think these are people who’re working in the field—do you not think—do you think I just walked in off the street? Do you not think that these people paid me, flew me over, paid for my accommodations, and they didn’t know what the hell I was gonna talk about? Is that what you thought?

CDC: Probably, ’cause they underestimated you.

KC: And also, my third slide—my first slide is the name of the talk; my second slide is “Hey, here’s my socials. Follow me.” You know, tweet whatever—my third slide is a content one, that I am here to make white folx uncomfortable. And I told you up front.

57:50

CDC: I have a picture of a KKK member on one big slide. And I’m like, “Just because you don’t go to meetings, does not mean you’re not racist.”

KC: Oooooh, girl! Girl!

CDC: So now let’s unpack what racism actually is. Next slide.

KC: Haaaaaaah!!! Next slide! [Laughs uncontrollably]

CDC: [Laughs, finally catches her breath] And then one time I had—I have two more examples—that one time I was watching Beyoncé “Homecoming” over and over. Until they finally…

KC: [Laughing]

CDC: And my first slide was Beyoncé. And I was like, “I just want to give you some context that I’m in a very particular mood,” and it was Beyoncém was the first slide. This is on campus, at Columbia, right?

And another one I got—because our VR piece targets white liberals—and I’m very explicit about this. And then, you know, some of the people are like, “Aren’t you preaching to the choir?” Dah dah dah dah. So then I started putting a picture of an all-white choir; one big slide. Like, “Hello. Yes, I’m talking to you. Welcome to the conversation.”

[Much laughter]

CDC: We don’t have time for this!

59:06

KC: Wooo! Oh my god! On that note, what would you like to end this conversation with?

CDC: I would like to end the conversation with, you know, being our authentic, open, honest selves as much as possible, because that is—Black women doing that in particular—is what’s gonna move us forward.

KC: Girl, I say this almost on a daily basis. Black women are the moral compass of this country.

CDC: Canaries in the coal mine.

KC: Thank you so much.

CDC: This is awesome.

KC: Thank you so much. And you have a wonderful day!

CDC: Okay, you too.

Epilogue

59:49

KC: Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the #CauseAScene Podcast. And I’d like to thank all our current sponsors of the podcast and the #CauseAScene movement. Of course we strongly encourage everyone to become an individual sponsor of the #CauseAScene community. Just visit the website at hashtagcauseascene.com to sign up today. On behalf of everyone here at #CauseAScene, we’d like to thank you again for listening to today’s show and have a wonderful day.

Courtney D. Cogburn

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