Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Podcast Description

“Up until this point I had been like the model minority….And then all of a sudden THIS model minority turns around and she thinks Islam is feminist? That she’s proud of this? That she doesn’t think that we need to change ourselves to live in this society? No no, this was unacceptable. All of a sudden I had become the controversial pariah.”

Yassmin Abdel-Magied started Youth Without Borders when she was 16, which she ran for 9 years. She then founded Mumtaza, an organisation dedicated to the normalisation of the representation of women of colour in positions of power and influence. She’s been fortunate enough to win numerous awards for her advocacy, but that isn’t why she do this work. She now travel the world talking to governments, NGO’s and multinational companies in over 20 countries on how to lead inclusively, challenge their structural and systemic biases and develop resilience in this world. Her TED talk, What does my headscarf mean to you, has been viewed over two million times and was chosen as one of TED’s top ten ideas of 2015.

She started writing social and political commentary as a teen, which led to publishing her debut memoir, Yassmin’s Story, with Penguin Random House at age 24. She followed up with her first fiction book for younger readers, You Must Be Layla, in 2019. Her essays have been published in numerous anthologies, including the Griffith Review, the best-selling It’s Not About The Burqa and The New Daughters of Africa. You can also find her in The Guardian, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, The Independent and Glamour.

She’s also done a bit of broadcasting: she presented the national TV show Australia Wide, a podcast on becoming an F1 driver and created Hijabistas, a series looking at the modest fashion scene in Australia. She’s also a regular contributor to the BBC, Monocle 24 radio and as a co-host of The Guilty Feminist.

Oh yeah – she ran a racecar team at university and worked as a driller on oil and gas rigs for four years, but that’s a whole other story

Transcription

00:30 

Kim Crayton: Hello everyone, and welcome to the #CauseAScene Podcast for today. My guest is Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Did I get that right?

Dr. Yassmin Abdel-Magied: You did. You did.

Kim: Yeeess! [Dr. Abdel-Magied laughs] Please introduce yourself.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Hi, everyone.

Kim: Oh, stop. Hold up. Sorry, I am trying to get in the habit—their pronouns are she/her—I’m trying to make sure we get into the habit of asking, not assuming people’s pronouns, and so as we move forward, I will be adding those to the podcast. So, Yassmin, would you please introduce yourself to the audience?

01:05 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Thank you, and thank you also for asking for my pronouns. It’s definitely something that I too am trying to do a bit more of. And also, I think even those people who have sort of been in the inclusion and challenging structures space for a long time; it’s important for us I think to also introduce new habits into our lives. So thank you for that. Thank you for modeling that.

My name is Yassmin. And what I also wanted to add actually was that for a long time I used to introduce myself as Yasmin. So most people will have heard my name as Yasmin. But that’s an anglicized version of my name, which, you know, I grew up with my parents calling me Yassmin, and so I’ve been slowly trying to sort of decolonize my own name. And even though it’s not that big of a difference, right, it actually…

Kim: But it is a big difference. It’s like it’s not a big difference but it is a big difference. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Exactly! And it’s so interesting because I have to do this work internally. Whenever somebody says, “How do I pronounce your name?” I’m like, “Oh, which version of my name am I gonna give?” I’ve been giving a different version for years, and so it’s been a really interesting… it’s… yeah! [Laughter]

02:16

Kim: It is so funny that you say that—’cause I want to get into this—but I want to bring this up since you’re bringin’ it up right now. I tell my audience all the time—because my audience is mainly white folx all over the world—and I have to tell them that I am an educator. But I have to remind myself that I am educating the oppressor while I’m also processing my own oppression. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: 100%. We’ve grown up in the same environment, right?

Kim: So, we’ll talk about that. But go ahead with your introduction. Yes! [Laughs]

02:40

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah yeah yeah. OK. So I’m Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and my pronouns are she/her. And I guess people often ask me what I do. And I don’t have an answer to that in the same way that maybe I did a few years ago. But, what I say to people is, I do a lot of things, but really, the thing that connects it all is the “why”. I do work that is about trying to build a fairer and safer world for everyone. 

I try to do work that’s about transformative justice, and that turns up in all sorts of different ways. I was trained as a mechanical engineer, so I did mechanical engineering at university. Loved it, really wanted to be in motorsports, and that was kind of my professional passion was race cars, and race cars, and driving them, and designing them, and being around them, and everything. So that’s kind of—that’s how I started out in the world professionally. 

And I got into a Masters in Motorsports program, but I needed to save up money for that—it was quite expensive. And so I got a job on an oil and gas rig. And so I worked as a driller on oil and gas rigs for about four years. And then my life shifted. But before I get into that, the other thing I will say at the same time—so simultaneously while I was doing my engineering work—when I was young, when I was 16, I started an organization called Youth Without Borders. And that was all about getting young people to work together to positively change their communities. And so I was sort of doing organizing work from a very young age, and it wasn’t until my mid twenties that these sort of paths came together.

04:23

But for context, I was born in Sudan. I was born in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. And my family moved to Australia when I was about a year and a half—almost 2. And we moved to Brisbane, Australia. And Brisbane at the time… we were like the second Sudanese family to move to Brisbane and the next family didn’t come until 10 years later. 

So I grew up in a society that didn’t have any understanding of difference. And also being Muslim, that was an additional sort of difference. But I also was a first generation migrant and I did have the privilege of having parents who were very highly educated, and so they did a number of things that I think gave me the foundation to do the work that I do today. And that I feel very fortunate for. Because yes, on one hand, I grew up in a society where my difference was my biggest marker. But on the other hand, my parents always gave me a sense of belonging in our home, and that is very important, I think, for like a sense of security in terms of who you are in the value that you have in the world. Should I continue and kind of give you a little bit…

05:36

Kim: OK, let’s stop there because I want you to answer the two questions that we always start with. And it’s: why is it important to cause a scene? And then specifically how are you causing a scene? So this is part two of what you were just sayin’. So first, why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene? 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: I think if you care about the world changing, that answers the question for why it’s important to cause a scene, because changes never happen without some sort of a scene. A scene ultimately is about change happening. And I think we are all—so many of us, if you’re listening to this podcast—are quite aware of the fact that there… you know, yes, there’s a little of good work that has happened. But there’s also still quite a lot of work that needs to happen. 

And every time there has been a shift, it has come with a scene. You know, whatever revolution it is, whatever protest, whatever transition; it always comes with—because ultimately changing the status quo is about saying, “We need to make some sort of a difference.” And people generally, you know, society’s instructors are resistant to change. And so I think whether it’s sort of at the higher macro level or whether it’s just causing a scene at your dinner table, because somebody has said something or somebody’s perspective perhaps requires a little bit of adjustment to be more inclusive or whatever, in whatever way we’re causing a scene, I think that disruption ultimately is where there is growth.

Kim: And so now there’s part two.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: The second question. [Laughter]

07:08

Kim: Before you answer that, I want to… I have a fascination with race cars, so we’re really going to get into this! That is one of my bucket list things. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Oh! OK. Yeah great!

Kim: I looove Aston Martin. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: It’s so good, right? [Laughter]

Kim: Yes! And I’ve loved them for years! And that is like my bucket list, get on an open highway and just…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: There’s nothing like it.

Kim: Oh man! My uncle had a Corvette, and my family’s from the—he’s from the country. And so I got on the main road and I just opened that bitch up and just went whoo! [Yassmin laughs] Oh, my God, that is the best—it’s so exhilarating! 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: It is, right?

Kim: But it’s so scary! [Laughs]

Dr. Abdel-Magied: I was telling my my partner the other day about how—and funnily enough, also in a Corvette—I hit some 200 miles an hour somewhere, where I’m not going to say because I don’t want to get into trouble, and it just like… time slows down but speeds up, you know, it’s  just the wildest, most amazing feeling.

08:25

Kim: I bought a Groupon to do a race car thing with… I can’t think of the exact… it’s the Audi eight-something series? The sports car. Yes, oh ho ho ho! [Laughter] Yes! Get back to your story. But yes, we are kindred spirits on that. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: We are, um-hm. And I think more people need to get involved in it, you know, like it’s just… it is a pretty unique feeling. But anyway, coming back to that. But I mean, like, to your point though, people don’t expect to see Black Muslim women on a racecourse, you know? It’s just when they think of “race car driver”, Yassmin Abdel-Magied does not pop to mind. And so I think from my very early days of wanting to be in different spaces, I was causing a scene. 

And so I think some of the ways that I have caused scenes in the past have been unintentional, right? Simply because I wanted to be my whole self and do what I wanted to do, so I would turn up in spaces where people didn’t expect me to be. But I thought, “well, why shouldn’t I be here?” Whether it was on an oil rig or whether it was on a racetrack or, you know, whether it was leading an organization.

You know, when I was 16 and I started Youths Without Borders, people said to me quite explicitly, “Do you know what you’re doing? Do you know how hard this is?” And I was like, “No, but that’s not gonna stop me,” right? So from the get go—and I’ll tell you a quick anecdote before I move on—when I was 13, I got involved in Fair Go For Palestine and lots of pro-Palestinian advocacy stuff. And it was, you know, I’m 13 so I don’t really necessarily understand geopolitics in detail. But I’m also a young Muslim woman—or young Muslim girl—growing up in a post-9/11 environment. And so I am politicized—wearing a headscarf—so I am politicized from a very very early age.

10:18 

So I start going out to protests, and I ended up on the evening news one afternoon ’cause I was at the front of the protests and so on. And my principal—I had gotten a scholarship to a fancy private school—and my principal approached me a couple of days later and he was like, “Look, some of the parents…” You know, these are all—it’s mostly white kids—I was the first girl to wear a headscarf at this school, two and a half thousand students. 

He was like, “Some of the parents have seen you on the news,” and he said to me, “Look, I’ve gotten a call from someone who said that if there are students like you at this school, they don’t want their kids attending.” So they’re essentially saying it’s either these Muslim kids or my kids and I’m thinking, “Oh my God,” like I immediately—my stomach dropped out—and I was like, “I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean to… what do you want me to do?” And he looked at me and he was like, “No, I said to them that if they had a problem with having students like you at the school that they could find somewhere else for their kids to go.” 

And I remember that and I always tell that story because I think I did not expect for my expression, my freedom of expression to be supported. And I was very ready to sort of—as a scared 13 year old with my headmaster—to be like, “Oh my God… let me do the right thing here,” and the right thing is to silence myself. But the support—because we’re taught that, right? We’re taught that the way to move through the world… right, you immediately change.

11:51 

Kim: Because we’re taught that.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And how early did I learn that lesson? You know?

Kim: Yes, and so my question was, how do you move in the world where your very existence is political? 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that that’s the bit that—and I know your listeners are probably curious as to what I’m doing right now, which I’ll get to—but I think this is a really important point to emphasize, right? And it also was something that I took time to be able to unpick and understand for myself, that I wished that I could go into a room and just be an engineer. I wished that I could go into a space and just be the thing that I wanted to present as.

Kim: It’s so funny ’cause Black women are saying we just want to be the mediocre white dude.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Right! Literally, right?

12:39

Kim: If we could just be the mediocre white… yes! And then I wrote a note, “freedom of expression,” because you said you unpacked your freedom. But is it really… that just hit me in a visceral way because it’s our existence. And so we keep having to bounce between what people consider freedom of expression… white folx can decide—make a decision, and that’s their privilege—whether they will engage in freedom of expression.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah.

Kim: For us to open our mouths, to say “I want”—or even worse—to say “no” as a complete statement is a freedom of expression that is challenged so freakin’ often. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. And that, I think, leads us to where I am today. So, I was working away as an engineer doing my drilling work. And I was really good at what I did, right? Yes, I was doing all of this stuff on the side, but I was like the top ranked drilling graduate in my entire region. I’d done an accreditation that usually takes five years; I did it in 18 months. I was like, I was really good at what I was doing.

Kim: You was kicking butt. [Laughs]

14:02 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Right! But at the same time, I was writing my memoir, right? Because I’d been approached by Penguin—Random House at the time—I’m at the biggest publisher in the world, and they had said, “Hey, you know, you’ve got a really interesting story. Would you like to write a book?” And at the time I was like, “No, that’s ridiculous. Why would anyone want to listen to my story?” And my mom sat me down and was like “Write the damn book!” Right? So she was like, “Do you realize how rare this is? Take the opportunity.” I’m like, “OK, Mom.” 

So, I write the book in my time off. The book is about to be published, and I say to my—and I’d like organize everything—and when I’d gotten hired by this company, I’d let them know. Like, I was the first female—when I got hired for my first job, I was the first female they’d hired in my department in Australia. They didn’t have any other female field engineers. And then I moved to another company, got a higher ranking job, and at that company I had said to them, “Look, I’m publishing a book and it doesn’t mention the company, but it’s fine.” The book—just before it’s published—the company gets wind of it. 

And they cannot handle the idea that I might have an outside life, or I might, you know, say something that they’re upset with, that they turn around and they say, “Publishing this book is… you’re demonstrating a pattern of behavior of non-compliance.” They issued a disciplinary warning. I’d just been given a double promotion; they docked my promotion. They docked my pay. They docked my bonus. They docked my ranking. And they said, “You’re just gonna have to sit in the office for the next year,” essentially benched, because you dared to—essentially voice your story that actually doesn’t have any impact on the company—I had not even mentioned the city I was in or the name of the company, and yet I was being severely punished. 

15:52

Kim: And wasn’t this book being written in the agreement before you even got to the job?

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah!

Kim: I think this conversation’s gonna be interesting, because a lot of what you’re talking about—and it’s gonna be helpful for me to unpack—is this freedom of expression, and who gets the privilege of the freedom of expression. There’s so much… and so this conversation… oh, I love when I have these. Mmm! I learn so much ’cause I just… Ah, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing, because it speaks to why tech is fucking up right now. Because when you say that all speech is equal, you say that we need to have a conversation with the alt right because everything is fair. When you say these things, but in reality a person cannot even write a memoir of their lived experience? Without being punished for that? There is no such thing as freedom of expression for everyone. So there’s no such thing as equality—y’all need to cut that equality crap out—and we are going for equity because… ah, yes…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: The world is not equal. Yeah, And so it gets better/worse, right?

Kim: [Laughs] Of course it does! Of course!

17:11 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Of course it does, right, right, right. This is how it goes. So I’m sort of like—at this point, I’m 24 or 25—I’ve just published my memoir and been essentially squeezed out of my organization. I take a year leave without pay, and I’m like, “Let me just try to sort my life out.” Right? In this year off I get a job—like a casual job as a broadcaster—hosting a television show. And I go with my book on tour…

Kim: OK, stop right there. Something tells me this company ain’t gon’ be happy that they gave you a year off to get yo’ shit together and you become a broadcaster. Yeah. OK. [Laughs]

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. So I start broadcasting. I start touring the world, really, with my book. Just casually. And then… [Laughter]

Kim: Yassmin, nothing you’re doing is casual. [Laughs]

Dr. Abdel-Magied: You know, we out here. We out here. [Laughs]

Kim: Yeah, we out here! [Laughter]

18:06 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: So! And then what happens is I start forgetting my place in the world, right? I start forgetting that I’m not a mediocre white man who can say what they want to say, right? And I get a bit complacent. So the first thing that happens is that there’s this writer’s festival in my hometown, Brisbane. And this author—this international author—is giving the opening speech, right? And the theme of the festival is like community and belonging or something. She gets up and she’s like, “Cultural appropriation is a fad, a myth. I should be able to say whatever I want. I should be able to wear a Mexican sombrero if I feel like it.” She puts on a sombrero.

Kim: From Brisbane, Australia. She puts on a sombrero. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yes, I think she’s English or American, I can’t…

Kim: But I’m sayin’, she’s in Brisbane.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, she’s in Brisbane. And I’m like sitting there in the front row with my mom and I’m like, “this woman is outrageous,” like what is happening? And I’m also one of the few writers of color in the audience. And so I say to my mom, “we have to leave,” because everybody’s laughing at these jokes in the audience. I cannot co-sign this. I cannot sit here and allow it to happen around me. And so I walk out.

[Interlude]

20:22

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And so I walk out. I walk out, and then the next day I come to the event and people are like, “Oh, I don’t really understand why you walked out. It wasn’t that bad a speech.” And I was like, “OK, some educating needs to happen here,” so I write a blog post about it. It gets picked up and re-posted by The Guardian, and this is like 2016. And like on a Sunday, it gets something like 250 million views. Oh sorry, 250,000 views in like the space of 12 hours or something. It goes viral. 

And then all of a sudden, there’s this tiny 25 year old who’s attacking—in the eyes of the media—a famous author, her name was Lionel Shriver, who’d won awards and so on. I didn’t know. I was like, she’s just some random white lady. [Kim laughs] But like she’s apparently famous. 

21:11 

Kim: You’re so funny! OK, stop, stop stop! ‘Cause we need to tease that out. Because this is my thing with many of you. You are random white people to us. You know, just like you say we all look alike? I’m gonna tell you many of you look alike to us. And I know there’s a scientific reason for that because culturally, blah, blah, blah, but we really don’t know what the hell you are. 

And so you come into our spaces and you expect some accolades. And we’re like, “and you are who?” I get this all the time, particularly when I see someone on Twitter or sayin’ something just stupid in the tech space. And I amplify the stupidity. And then people are like “well you’re attacking…”, Well, who the hell is this? Well if they’re so famous they should understand their platform, and take it seriously and not propagate and promote bullshit so that I wouldn’t… because most of the time I’m not even looking! People sendin’ it to me.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, they’re coming your way. They’re coming into your house. Coming into your space.

Kim: People will say “Kim, did you see this? Hey, Kim did you…” I mean, I’m not even following these people! So I don’t know who they are but some of those followers they’re like, “OK, we need to cause a scene about this. So Kim did you see this thing?” and it again, it goes back to—oh, my—thank you! I just need people to understand, just like you don’t know me and don’t care about me is the same way I feel about many of you. 

22:40 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: The irony! Right! And the irony was that she then wrote a piece in The New York Times attacking me being like, “People like Yassmin are the problem. Millennials like her are the problem. She is silencing me. She’s saying that I should have no voice.” I’m like, “Woman, you keynoted the Brisbane Writers Festival—my hometown’s festival. And you’re writing a piece attacking me in the New York Times.” Like if that is silencing, I want some of that. 

Kim: Exactly, can I have that platform?

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Can I have that silence? Right, because like, I really don’t think it’s the same.

Kim: How do you go from there to “you’re attacked” or “you’re silenced” but you have contacts to do an editorial in the New York Times? Yeah. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And so, OK, so this happens, and then it kind of blows up, and I’m like, “wow, OK. I didn’t realize…” and then, two other things happen that changed my life, really. So I’m kind of approaching the end of my year off, and I’m like, thinking about going back into engineering, right? And then I get into… there’s a television show in Australia called “Q&A”, which is kind of like a current affairs panel program. And there’s a politician on this show that—I’m on with her—and she starts going on about how we should ban the burka and we should ban Muslims and anyone that follows Sharia law and blah, blah, blah.

Kim: Wow, you were on the panel? 

24:00 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, I’m on the panel and I’m like, at this point, firstly, I have been—and I say this kind of facetiously, but not—I’ve been on my period for like, two weeks at this point. And I was tired. I was tired of seeing and hearing this… bullshit essentially. And I’d been hearin’ it for years, since I was 10 years old, you know? And so I’m sitting faced with this rhetoric and I’m like, “Stop.” I was like, “Do you even know what you’re talking about?” I was like, “You literally do not know what you’re talking about. These are the rights that are under the faith. This is the way that I see the faith.” I was like, “To me, Islam is the most feminist religion because that’s the way that I interpret it. And that is what I believe in. And you like honestly…”

So firstly, nothing happens a lot one or two days, right? And then I hit the front pages of the papers because all of a sudden—the other thing I should mention, Kim, is that up until this point, I had been like the model minority. I had been given Young Australian of the Year for my state, I had gotten all sorts of awards and accolades ’cause I had like… my memoir was about how I had succeeded in Australia, ultimately, because I was still young and fresh and thought I was doing things the right way. 

And then all of a sudden, this model minority turns around and says she thinks that Islam is feminist? That she’s proud of this? That she doesn’t think that, you know, we need to change ourselves in order to live in a society? No, no, no this was unacceptable. And all of a sudden I had become… yeah, the “controversial”, the “pariah”.

25:30 

Kim: Yes, so let’s unpack two things. Ooh, I’m loving this. OK, let me tell you why I’m loving this because every show is different. And so I’m loving that we can—this whole show is about you telling your story—but we can pop in and out these lessons. So I’m loving all of this. So at this point—and I want to get to the end of this story, which will lead us to today—but I want to talk about feminism and Muslims, ’cause no one’s ever brought that up. I want to have that perspective, but also… shit, you just said something. You said, right before I stopped you…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Oh, becoming the “controversial”…

Kim: No, model minority myth. I want you to unpack that, because there is so… OK, so I’m gonna let you dig, and then we’ll… So, again everybody, you know me. Fuck you. I’m going to do this the way I want to. [Dr. Abdel-Magied laughs] We’re gonna take a pause from the story—we’re gonna get back to the full story, but I wanna unpack—because I have issues. I seriously have issues with feminism the way it is currently promoted, which is basically white feminism. 

And so I want to… ’cause you just said something that I know people are gonna have a problem with: that the Muslim faith is feminist. When what we see is burkas and this and that and they can’t drive and all that. So I want you to talk about that. And then I want to talk to you as someone who was a member of the model minority myth. What that was like and what that really meant. So, go ahead.

27:07 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, so I think that a lot of Muslims do have a problem with the term “feminism”. And it’s not necessarily the most accurate one to use. I would say that Islam has a gender equality baked into it. And that’s why it’s a faith that I subscribe to. And it’s actually… quite a lot of Muslim women will fight for gender equality through the lens of their faith. They will go back to the book, to the Qur’an, and say, “our God gave us equal rights,” or “Our God gave us equitable rights. How can you take that away from us? How can you as men take that away from us?”

And so I think it’s, you know, there’s lots of things that I can point to. I can point to the fact that, for example, Muslim women never take their husband’s names because the idea of marriage is not that you’re your husband’s property, but that you are two people coming together. So, I’m getting married soon, and my partner and I have written a contract together. And that contract is our relationship contract. And that’s what we sign. There are no vows. There are no “till death do you part.” There is: “you fulfil the rights and responsibilities of this contract,” and that’s what marriage is. You know?

Muslim women were given the rights to own land 1500 years ago. Like, there are all sorts of things that—quite strangely—that was the way that women earned wealth and kept wealth in their family because their money and their wealth didn’t go to their partners. It went to them and they could choose how they spent it.

28:30 

And I think, sadly, what we see at the moment in many Muslim majority countries is two things. One, it’s the impact of the patriarchy, and the patriarchy exists everywhere and provides the same challenges for Muslim women that it does for women of every other faith, or people who don’t have faith but still exist in patriarchal societies. And I think it’s really important for us to realize that patriarchy isn’t something that just stops because people are speaking a different language or following a different faith. Patriarchal societies are incredibly, I suppose, like…

  1. The way to frame it is that Islam came to very patriarchal societies. And so, when it was introduced, it really challenged those patriarchal values and rules in a really radical way at the time. The fact that women, girls were—at the time—of such little value that if you had a baby girl, sometimes they would bury them alive; they were… And then all of a sudden you turn around and say no, these people can actually own their own land and they’re not your property. It was incredibly radical.

So from the very beginning, there was a radical feminist—or women’s equality—spirit in the faith. Over time, that was eroded, and was also eroded during colonization. So during colonization, what happened is colonizers came in and said, “No, no, no. The women can’t be as powerful.” So we’re actually gonna take away these rights from these communities, and then once you lose—the process of colonisation is a process of loss—and once you lose your connection to what you had before, all of a sudden when you’ve become independent, which wasn’t that long ago, you don’t actually go back to what you were like pre-colonization. You’ve got to do all that work again.

30:26 

So we’re in this really tricky process, I think. Muslim majority countries are in a really tricky process of not only trying to put their identities together, but trying to reclaim who they were before the colonizers came. And so it’s complex, and it’s tragic, and it’s really sad. And let us not forget that women are always used as tools in the wars of men to achieve whatever aims that they… For example, the war in Afghanistan was often talked about as a war to free women from the burqa. But no one ever asked if that was what the women wanted. Or if that was the way that the woman wanted to quote unquote “be freed.”

You know, there is never a conversation that centers Muslim women. And this is a real challenge, and I actually contributed to an anthology called “It’s Not About the Burqa”. 17 Muslim women, we wrote essays. And it’s funny, my essay was called “Life Was Easier Before I Was Woke,” actually. And we’ll come back to that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, right, right, right, right. [Laughs] You know. But I think once you know you can’t unsee it, you can’t unknow it. Exactly. Exactly.

A good friend of mine is this lovely white guy who’s gone on this journey of decolonizing. And he said to me the other day, he was like, “Racism really is everywhere, isn’t it?” And I was like, “Yes.”

Kim: Woo, girl! Girl!

31:49 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: “You’ve taken the red pill. Now you see it.” He’s like, “I can’t unsee it.” I was like, “Yeah, welcome. Welcome, darling.”

Kim: Because once you know, once you know, you can’t unknow. You see it every-fucking-where. Yes.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. So that kind of—that’s how I sort of engaged with the women’s equality or the, you know, the feminist conversation in Islam. And ultimately, what I also say to people is, “Look, the very cool thing is you have to realize that what equality or freedom a liberation looks like for you is not what it looks like for everybody else. And that’s what you need to understand.”

Kim: Oh, yeah, I have that pushback because people’re like, “Well, this is just a US issue.” Oh, come on now. Come on now.

32:31 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Exactly! Cultures are different. They have different values. And what freedom and liberation looks like in their society may be different. But you have to accept that. You have to accept that, and not think that they’re so brainwashed that they don’t even know what liberation looks like. Because, that’s what frustrates me. People say to me, “No, you’re just so brainwashed you don’t realize that the headscarf is oppressive.” I’m like, “No, you’re so brainwashed that you don’t realize that there can be a different version of liberation.”

Because for me, this is my version of it. I’m not gonna have an issue with yours, but do not impose yours on me. And ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. It needs to come down to a plurality of liberations.

Kim: Yes. And that… oh! That… mmm, girl. Damn! This conversation… [Dr. Abdel-Magied laughs] A plurality of liberations. Lord have mercy. Never heard of that, but yes!

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Does it make sense?

33:21 

Kim: Definitely. Because that is the issue with feminism. That is my issue with it. When you have white women coming into spaces and saying, “Oh, we can only deal with what we all have the same; it’s gender.” But gender is not my issue. Like gender is not your… you being a Muslim is the biggest thing that you’re going to be attacked for. Me being a Black… And then, you are Black Muslim. So it’s like, I have more privilege than you. I realize I have more privilege than you, so because I’m just a Black woman, you’re a Black Muslim woman. So it is, so I have to understand that you’re—and I’m not even gonna say desire—your whatever it is, the plurality of liberation to wear whatever the hell you want to wear.

And as long as you can articulate to me—well, you know what? I take that back—because I don’t need to understand for me to come in solidarity with you. I don’t need to understand that. And that’s another problem. I don’t need to, if I know that my actions or the people’s actions around me have the potential to cause harm to somebody else, that should stop me in my tracks. So I don’t need to know why Yassmin wants to wear her scarf, I just need to know that Yassmin is saying that this is what she wants, and this will bring her freedom, and this is her expression of freedom. And I can say, “You know what? Sister, I got you. I stand with you.”

34:45 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yes. I stand with you. Right. And that’s what respect is. That’s what mutual respect is, ultimately. That is about us saying, “You know what? That is your choice. And I respect that choice. And ultimately, it is not a choice that impinges on my freedom.”

Now, if you’re in a situation where, you know, my choice is to do X Y Z, and that does harm others. That’s a different conversation.

Kim: Yes, that’s a difference, because you wearin’ the headscarf or whatever—I’m gonna go with as far as the burqa—I am a naked baby; that does not work for me. I want to be nude on every beach I can. As long as I can do that, and you can do you? I am happy.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: That’s fine. Right. And that’s just that’s the society we want, right? Like, ultimately that is the society we’re trying to build.

35:31 

Kim: Ah-ah, ah-ah, nope, nope! I’m going to stop you, because that is not the society we want. Because if that’s the society we want, that will be the society we’re working for. What we want, what people in privilege want, is to stay comfortable. They want just enough wokeness so that they can—this is why I do not, no longer, will not, ever again, promote or recommend “White Fragility.”

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Really?

Kim: Because, oh! It goes just far enough for woke folx to get a vocabulary…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Interesting.

Kim: …but not far enough for them to do the work that makes them uncomfortable. And they…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And that’s the most dangerous spot, right?

36:13 

Kim: Yes! Because—and this is why I’m gonna talk about this—when Robin DiAngelo talks about white fragility, she’s talking about it in an academic sense. That does not—and this is why a PhD is different—because it’s a theory, rather than a DBA [Doctor of Business Administration], which I’m getting, which is about applied theory. And when you apply white fragility as an economic—excuse me—as an academic term, as a theory, a whiteness theory in the real world, it becomes a tool of oppression, because what it becomes—and not just oppression, it becomes a tool of harm—because what people in the wilds use it to do is excuse their shitty behavior.

Their shitty behavior has a cause and effect, and so it only talks about the cause. It does not talk about the harm and toxicity that comes from someone who is now fragile, because now you’re protecting yourself and whiteness would do anything to protect itself. Which means including harming me.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. Sadly. And that’s what’s made it so—that’s how it’s lived for so long.

Kim: Yes, exactly. So now you’re just making people aware of their issue. And so now they’re developing more strategic and effective strategies for protecting their white fragility, not stepping outside of their white fragility.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, and that, I think, that’s what you need to push people to, right?

37:38 

Kim: Oh, my thing is, I wanna view as… First of all, I just realized that whiteness can take a lot of discomfort. [Dr. Abdel-Magied laughs] So I’m no longer saying I need them to be uncomfortable; I need them to be in pain.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: That’s so interesting.

Kim: Yes. I need you to be in pain because this is how—if you want an equitable society—we’re in pain every single day, and so unless… so to me—that’s why I don’t talk about equality. This is until you can have—and I’m not interested in your empathy, your compassion or anything—I need you to understand that nothing, nothing you’ve ever experienced equals what we experience on an everyday in-and-out basis. The psychological harm that we have to do. And I’m gonna I’m gonna lean on you because in this conversation you’re the most vulnerable. The fact that you have to be in a world where someone sees your headscarf and sees you as an enemy makes you a target.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. And it’s exhausting. And I’m sure… yeah.

Kim: Oh, my god, I’m at a point right now where I’m no longer applying to conferences. If you want me to, I’m only going if I’m an invited guest and you have to have security measures in place for me to go. I will not speak in a state in the US that is open carry, which means that you have the right to carry a weapon into any… nope, I’m not doin’ that. Because white fragility…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Well, it’s dangerous.

39:08 

Kim: …is so… what? Again, cause and effect. I say my job is to make white people uncomfortable so we can get through this. There could be someone, and because of white fragility, you know, all it does is explain why you were to act that way. It does not give you pause, it does not hold you accountable for anything. I’m on the stage, I say something to trigger your ass, you got a gun, I’m shot. I’m not doing that. And that’s the thing. White fragility does not hold you accountable for anything. It just says what the thing is.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, yeah. It just names it.

Kim: Yes, exactly. There is no step two to this, and that causes us harm. So… ooh, lord, this has been great. So now let’s talk about this model minority. Yes.

40:05 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Model minority, yeah. So, for those who don’t know, the concept of the model minority is essentially the construct where you as a minority or a person from a marginalized background feel like you must earn your place, earn your equality, right? And so you work really hard. You perform, you outperform. You do it with a smile. You know, you never complain. You’re really grateful. All these things make people empowered to turn around and be like, “Look here is someone that you should all be like. You should all be like this person. She does all the right things. He/she/they do all the right things. They don’t complain. They’re grateful for being here.”

But we forget that the model minority is based on an assumption that we must earn our right to be treated as human. And once we step out of that line, once we get comfortable with our place, and then we start to speak our minds and speak what we think is true, speak out truth…

Kim: You exercise your freedom of expression.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Right, right, right. But somehow challenges and threatens the status quo that is in power, people like… and I’ll give you an example of how it was destroyed. So, yes, I had this altercation with this politician. It goes viral, and it gets bad. I’m you know, essentially I’m on the front page of the national papers for days and days and days. They start calling everyone I’ve ever worked with, they try to dig up dirt. They try to say that I’m like a Muslim activist that’s associating with terrorists, whatever. But after about a month, it dies down.

And then we have a day in Australia called Anzac Day, which is kind of like Remembrance Day. And on Anzac Day, I wake up and on my Facebook page, I post “Lest. We. Forget.” And then in brackets, I post “Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine,” because I believe that there are other places that we shouldn’t forget on a day of remembrance. And Manus and Nauru are these detention—prison camps, essentially—where Australians hold people in indefinite detention for trying to get to the country. So if you’re trying to get to Australia seeking asylum because you’re being persecuted in your country of origin, you don’t get to make it to Australia. You get put on a camp that’s essentially, I think Amnesty [International] has called it a manmade humanitarian crisis.

Interlude

43:48

Dr. Abdel-Magied: I think Amnesty has called it a man-made humanitarian crisis.

Kim: OK, I’m gonna stop you right there, oh my god. Because this is why I love history, and this is why so many damn people are ignorant; does that sound like something that we’re doing in our south border in the United States? And now all the woke white folx were like, “People in cages, people in cages.” This shit has been going on for centuries.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: It’s not new.

Kim: Yeah, yeah, this is not new. It’s new to you, because you’re just—particularly in the United States, 2016 was your great awakening to what racism is and the horrors and atrocities the US has has has done to other countries—but I want to again draw the parallels that it’s not just the US. So Australia also, and we’re not even gonna talk about what they did to their indigenous people, that parallels what the US has done to our indigenous people. But you’re saying in 2020 this is going on, but whenever you wrote this… so there is no—come on, people, I need you to… I’m doing this so you can draw the parallels—this is a global issue.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: It definitely is.

Kim: Internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness is a global issue.

44:58 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Let’s also—I’m gonna take a moment here. People don’t realize that Australia had something called the “White Australia policy” until the mid-seventies. You could not migrate to Australia unless you were a white European until the mid-seventies. It is a country based and steeped in whiteness.

Kim: And then on top of that, you also had—so you could only migrate if you’re white—but you also had apartheid for the Black people who were already there.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Exactly.

Kim: No, that was South Africa. Sorry. Sorry.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: No, no, no. South Africa modeled their policies on Australian policies. It’s all connected.

Kim: Yes!

Dr. Abdel-Magied: It’s all connected. 100%.

Kim: Well also, that was a English colony? [Laughs]

45:39 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. Surprise surprise. People forget I now live in London, the heart of the empire. People forget that Americans didn’t invent slavery. It was actually the English who started the whole thing. And so, like, yes, you know, the American story is one that we pay quite a lot of attention to because of its tragedy. But it is a global phenomenon. 

Kim: Thank you. And I’m gonna correct you here, in saying, I do not like when people say American, because that right there is privilege. There is a North, South, Central America.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Fact.

Kim: We are the United States. Because when we say that, right there is showing our global ignorance and how we as the United States are the default. So anybody else—which mostly brown folx—are less than. So they—the people coming from south of the border—now mind you, Mexico was part of the United States before… [correction: much of the United States was part of Mexico]. So we make excuses and say—not even excuses—we say that they’re less than, they don’t belong here because they’re not American. Yes, they are Americans.

46:45 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. No, definitely. I’ll take that, and thank you. So I post this, and a friend of mine about an hour later says to me, “Hey, did you mean to be offensive?” And I was like, “No, absolutely not. I don’t think there’s anything offensive about what I said. I was just saying that there were other people that we should also not forget.” And he was like, “No, no, no. I think people are gonna take quite a lot of offense.” I was like, “Are you offended?” And he was like, “Yeah, kind of.” And I was like, “Look, fine. I’ll take it down.” But like, you know…

Kim: Oh, I love how he deflected. I love how he deflected, “other people,” until you asked a direct question.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. “Are you the one?” And so, I take the post down. And then I say, “I’m sorry for any offense caused, because that was not my intention.”

Kim: Argh!

Dr. Abdel-Magied: I know, but wait for it. Two things: one is I…

Kim: That’s your default.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, it’s my default.

Kim: Your default is to censor yourself—and not only censor yourself—but to apologize for this.

47:39 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: To apologize, right. Regardless, Kim…

Kim: Yes, that’s what we do.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: It was like I killed the pope. The amount of vitriol that was directed at me—not just on social media, not just on mainstream media—but by members of Parliament. I was debated in government, for months. I was on the front page of every paper. The prime minister commented on it. The immigration minister—when I lost my job on the broadcaster—he said, “One down, many to go.” People called me a bitch on television. They literally, when I wrote an article about the number of death threats I get, one of the commentators on radio said, “Fair enough. I would run her over if I saw her.”

This happened. This went on for an entire year. It was in 2017 in Australia. I was 25 when it kicked off. And, the thing that blew me away was that all of those organizations that had supported me, that had given me awards, that had wanted to be associated with me when I was the model minority; where were they? Where were they? They were nowhere to be seen.

48:43 

Kim: Whoa, girl, you just you just hit—OK, I’m gonna give you an illustration of what she’s talking about—because what you’re saying, are people gonna say, “Oh, that’s a one-off.” Because that’s just the—I mean, that’s a big story—that’s… no. I’m going to give you an example of—I read on Twitter—there is a young lady who was at the airport, and she was on the moving sidewalk at the airport, and a white dude—she’s standing because the etiquette is if you’re gonna stand, stand to the right so people can go on the left—this white dude has bags, and so she’s standing there, you know, just chilling. And she feels this knocking into the back of her leg and he’s basically, “Get the hell out of my way.” She’s like, “But you can go around.” And so, he literally is calling her a bitch and everything, he is—mind you—there’re white people standing all around her, looking in horror, but not saying a damn word to protect this woman. She thought her life was in danger because he then takes off running at the end.

So this is how it looks in everyday life. Every time you see something, you white folx who want to be liberals and progressives keep your damn mouth closed. And this is how you’re complicit in our harm, but yet you want to be in vigils, you want to light candles, you want to do all this bullshit after the fact.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: After the fact. Yeah. I said to my mom, I was like, “If I had been killed, people would have turned up to my funeral in droves.” But none of these people were there when I was walking through the war zone on my own.

50:22

Kim: Exactly. And this is why I don’t trust anybody but Black women. Because if I would’ve known you during that time, we would have been in solidarity. I would have been contacting you constantly. “How you doing?” Da da da.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And the people who did were Black women.

Kim: Exactly. Because no one understands our struggle but us. Our intersectionality is the only thing. We have the race and we have the gender issue. And we understand. And I don’t understand because I’m not on your platform. Your platform is way bigger than mine. But I understand what it’s like—just like I told that story—because it happens to me. It doesn’t happen often anymore, because I’m calling that shit out. But I’m gonna tell you, even as loud and as bitchy as people think I am, I still have to make a calculated effort in my head: will speaking out to protect myself in this moment cause me further harm?

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And it’s a real calculation.

Kim: It’s a real calculation. So sometimes I have to bite my fucking tongue and it makes me so damn angry.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, I completely empathize because it is so much work.

51:27 

Kim: And I’m gonna stop you right there. And she can use the word empathize because she’s been in similar situations, people. [Dr. Abdel-Magied laughs] This is what empathy is. Yeah. Don’t come to me as a white person talking about you empathize. There’s no way in hell you could understand, have been in this situation; and I’m stopping you there just because the lessons—because everybody in tech wants to talk about empathy and compassion right now is bullshit. That stuff causes harm. All you can do is guess or try to imagine. No, no, no, no. Yassmin understands what I’m saying, and although I have not been in her situation—and god knows I haven’t because I tell you, I am not trying to be a martyr for this work—but I can definitely see myself being in that situation. That shit scares the hell out of me every single day.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And it’s… yeah. I mean, I ultimately left Australia because of it. I left Australia because for me I was like, “You know what? There is no way for me to win this.” And I’m not interested in being a martyr to this. And you know what the irony is? People—as soon as I left—people were like, “We need your voice back.” I was like, “Excuse me. Excuse me. When my voice was there, you were happy for it to be drowned out by the catcalls of people who wanted me dead. Right? And now you want me to come back? So what? You can publicly execute me again?” No! For me leaving was drawing my boundaries. [Kim applauds] For me, leaving was me saying I am making a decision for myself and my safety, because I need to protect myself at the end of the day.

Kim: Girl! Baby! And this is why I say you have to be to have a strategy doing this work. You cannot just be out here willy-nilly because that’s how we get harmed. That’s why—and because it’s never about if the harm will come, it’s only about when the harm will come—and so this is why, the year when I first saw this path that I was going down, people in the security part of the #CauseAScene community made sure I had DeleteMe so all my shit can come off the Internet. They made sure I was doing two step authentication. One of the members in the community actually gave me a laptop that has all these security features that he added…

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Aw, how great!

53:35 

Kim: Yeah, that he added it to the—and he’s just a white dude, he’s a white dude tryin’—he fucks up all the time. But you know what? When he does, he’s like, “I’m learning.” But he’s taking action. He’s not sittin’ back like, “Oh my god, I don’t know what to do!”

And so, when it—I had it on a small scale—what I was getting emails on my website that I had to take my contact form down. I had people DMing me, so I had to shut my DMs down. So if you’re not following me, you cannot send me DMs. But I also make sure that every time I get a follower—I look at my followers; I vet my followers—I have to have that. I’m an educator, so I thought, “Hey, you know, I need to be open to everybody.” That caused me harm. I am in a bubble and I’m loving my bubble.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yes! I say this to people all the time. I’m like, “I have carefully designed my echo chamber, thank you very much.” Because I know that it’s bad out there!

Kim: Yes, yes! I love my echo chambers! Yes, yes. 

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Exactly. Like beyond the wall, is danger. You know, I do not want to go out beyond the wall. [Kim laughs]

Kim: And if it ain’t a whole bunch of white folx protectin’ me on my left, my right, my front, and my back? I’m not going out there!

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, exactly.

54:43 

Kim: And so that’s why I have—like I said—the rule of when you—and it’s not just for me—I’m in a particular situation where I can have conversations with conference organizers say, if you want me at your event, have you thought about my—because you might have your code of conduct and you might have your little thing—but have you thought about my physical safety? And it’s not just for me. It is for those people who are more vulnerable than me who you want now because it’s cool to bring that trans and non-binary narrow people. There are people in your audience who do not think they exist. So have you thought about their physical safety?

So I’m forcing these conversations so that people can start thinking about this shit when you bring these people in. We need these voices. But again, we don’t need to be martyrs for this shit, just so whiteness can learn? Come on now.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Exactly. You can’t hire me—a Black Muslim woman—without getting Black Muslim women problems. You need to be able to handle that.

55:38 

Kim: Yes. Yes! And that’s what’s so funny. So every time—so I could say when I’m speaking—it oftentimes—it doesn’t happen as much now because I don’t speak as much; I’m very selective now—but in 2018, you would get conference organizers who were getting people reporting me for code of conduct violations. And they were like, “What’s the problem?” “She made me uncomfortable. This was inappropriate.” My third slide is always my content warning: “My job is to make white people uncomfortable.”

So, these are the things that—this is no different from you being at your work—again people, I want to draw it back to you: when Black women are at their jobs, doing their jobs, and we we say something—we could be a manager—how long it takes us to write an email. You get your feelings hurt, you report us to HR, and then that impacts my money because I can’t get a promotion, I can’t get a raise, because you can’t handle—again, your white fragility has consequences that you’re not dealing with, but I have to deal with.

And so, the conference organizers were like, “No, that’s not a violation.” It is it beyond me that you get to report or criticize or just… the level of, “I don’t like this. So I’m gonna report this.” There’s a lot of shit in my life that I don’t like and I don’t—and again, I’m going to draw those lines—”I don’t like this, so I’m going to call the police on you.” What? What I’m doing, I’m just being my Black self.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah, but that’s a threat, right? To them.

57:20 

Kim: Yes! Because you escalated something that has nothin’ even to do with you, and brought in an entity, a system, that history of killing and abusing us. Because you were uncomfortable? Because you couldn’t mind your own damn business?

Dr. Abdel-Magied: And I think that, that constant threat that Black people and people that live at the margins and in the intersections, the constant threat that our very existence is seen as to others. And, as you say, the psychological toll that takes on us as individuals and us as communities, every single day we wake up and we have to make calculations about how we’re going to turn up, for our own safety.

Kim: Yes, yes.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: That, I think—I mean, I’m not gonna necessarily live and see a world where that doesn’t exist. But I definitely—I’m creating those spaces where I can just relax and I can be my full, whole self.

Kim: Yes. And then people get pissed when we do all Black this, and we do all women that—or Black women, I was gonna say. I can’t have my… so, the BIPOC space at last year’s JSConf was constantly about us defending the space for us, for people of color just to be in, and white people like, “Why can’t I go in?” Every damn part of this fuckin’… we were in a fuckin’ hanger.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: This world, yeah?

58:50 

Kim: It was a fuckin’ warehouse setting. The whole damn thing is yours. We have this little bitty space, and you just have to, you demand to be pushed in. And we were so comfortable. It was the one space in the whole thing where there were—first of all, any time we havin’ a conversation, there is one of us and 20 of y’all. This is the one place we could go and relax and just chill. And you want, you’re offended and want to invade. That’s the word, it was an invasion. You were tryin’ to force an invasion on us. That takes a toll.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. That invasion is part of their culture. White people have categorically gone and created empires like that. That’s how they see the world.

Kim: And then, that takes us all back to the freedom of expression. Who actually has freedom of expression?

59:42

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Right. And when people talk to me about freedom of speech, I have to remind them that not everybody has that freedom. And actually, sometimes what I think the reason that white people fight for freedom of speech more than anything else is because it’s the only freedom that they don’t have. Whereas the rest of us, we have to fight for freedom to exist, you know? At the very basic level.

Kim: Well and also, we’re—because the more we talk—it challenges the narrative that they’ve been able to propagate around the world forever. They’re no longer the experts of our experience. They never were, but they were the only ones who had the mic and the power to cast themselves—I’ll say this all the time—whiteness is always cast as hero or victim; it’s never the villain. And so now we’re telling stories of white villains, and they are pissed.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Don’t like it.

1:00:34 

Kim: They cannot shut us down. And so, the only video I ever had taken down from Periscope was the title that “White men in tech ain’t shit”. [Dr. Abdel-Magied laughs] And I’m gonna tell you who actively took it down: the model minority. South Asian men. Indian men were the ones with the most vitriol, the ones—that’s why I wanted you to talk abou, that’s what I really wanted you to talk about—the model minority; because in tech South Asian men, Indian men, are not a minority. Not in tech, and they are the ones who I get the most attack from, as they protect their proximity to whiteness and their privilege. And they are the biggest challengers.

And that’s another thing about the model minority. It is… it’s the same thing is colorism. It is a strategy that’s distanced whiteness from Blackness, and puts in between a group of people who are given just enough privilege so that they’re willing to fight for it on behalf of white supremacy, so white supremacy doesn’t have to do it.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the sidekick, right?

1:01:50 

Kim: Yeah. So how would you like to—what’re the last things you’d like to say to leave the audience with?

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Firstly, I would like to say that this journey that all of us are on is one that you never stop learning. So we talked earlier about folx who stress out that they’re not doing the right things and so they just stay silent or they don’t know if they’re going to say the right thing, so they just stay silent or whatever. Your silence is your complicity. We need you to keep learning. We need you to keep making mistakes. That’s fine. Apologise, move on, build your resilience when it comes to this work. Because all of us need to be part of this work, right?

And also for those who are at the intersections and the margins doing this work, you do not have to be a martyr. That is not what we’re asking you to do. You need to protect yourself first. Put your oxygen mask on first. I continue to do that because I am not interested in dying for this cause. And also, find your echo chamber. If your echo chamber, if your bubble keeps you safe, then that is totally OK, because the world is hostile. You know, the world is not a kind, compassionate place to those who are not in positions of structural power. So find where you are safe and make the absolute most of that. And turn up for each other. Because solidarity is the only way that we’re gonna win.

Kim: We get there together or not at all.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Exactly.

Kim: Thank you so much. This has been a wonderful conversation.

Dr. Abdel-Magied: Thank you so much for having me!

Kim: Alright, bye-bye.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

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