Pause On The Play Ep 6
Hello, hello and welcome back to Pause on the Play. This is Erica Courdae and as always, it is amazing to see you here, where you are challenged to examine your beliefs, question your predisposed notions and consider realities you are unfamiliar with in order to understand that they, too are real. I am your host and conversation emcee for the day, here to get the dialogue going. The episode that I'm bringing to you, today is actually again, part of an actual conversation that I had again with India, who I bring back very often. India Jackson of India Jackson Artistry and we actually brought a male friend of ours in, so that we can get a little bit of a different outlook, but we had a really good dialogue around the black experience and some of the things that maybe aren't always considered and some things around when sometimes people will inadvertently normalize situations that shouldn't be in order to get through and sometimes on the flip side, what can happen is someone can do something and somehow get an okay or a pass from someone and then it becomes, "Oh, this is fine. I can do this." They move through their world in a way that isn't necessarily beneficial.
We talk about what it looks like for someone to move through in a way that can be damaging and maybe really not understand, but they've never been told anything different and what it looks like when you are the person that internalizes things that you shouldn't internalize as acceptable, yet what other choices do you have when you simply just need to be whole in that moment? We talk about some of these things and as always, we diverge into some other things, which is one of the beautiful parts of conversation and why I love it so much. If you would like to join in these kinds of conversations or you're finding some challenges with having these conversations, I want you to go on over to the website and click the "Work with Me," link and book a Tea Time Chat. This is basically just a complimentary, kind of what you would call a discovery call. It's a chance for you to just talk to me for a second to see what it would look like for you to get support and see if that's best for you.
This is a good place to start when you are beginning your journey or you are new and really are just looking to figure out what does this look like and you have questions and want and need answers, but without further delay, I will allow you to hop in onto our conversation; myself, India and Jaleel.
EC: We are having a conversation, today. We've been talking about... India and I were having a conversation this morning, which we do very often. Somehow or another fell into this rabbit hole and we were talking about how there are times when someone can make something okay that isn't and we decided to actually bring a friend of ours, Jaleel in on this because I've had conversations as well with him about this and I think that it's pertinent to discuss and to dissect what does it look like to have someone do something and the person that is the offended, the person receiving, somehow justifies or okays something. Then, the person that is the offendee or the giver of this action somehow is in this place of, "Well, they're okay, so it wasn't that bad," or, "See? I told you it was fine." It can neutralize the true weight of something or it can make something seem less impactful than what it really is. What are your thoughts on that?
Jaleel: I don't mind jumping in. I'm no psychology major, but I think that people want to do things to where they don't want to offend others and no one wants to seem offensive, so they try to quell it by saying, "See? It's not that bad." It's like how if a child falls down, a parent will be like, "You're okay. Wipe it off. You're going to get up and be fine." That's the only way I can think about it right now, but that's so much different when you're dealing with adults and everybody has their own experiences and then you can possibly minimize somebody else's experience by saying, "See? It's not that bad." Well, it may not have been that bad for you, but with someone else and their experiences, it could have listed some past feelings that you are totally unaware of.
EC: I want to give a point of reference, if it helps and then to go with that. I had someone that I had known for a while and in regular conversation, this person thought that it was fine to then say the N word to me. This person was white. It was said in a very conversational way and I was like, "What? What do you mean?" It caught me off guard. I said, "You can't say that." The response that I got back was, "Well, my friend is black and they said it's fine." I said, "No. It's not fine. It's not fine for me. If that's how you choose to speak with them, that's up to you and them. It's not okay, though and I really don't suggest that you do it because everybody is not going to feel that way and you run the risk of seriously offending somebody and everybody isn't going to tell you. They're simply going to fly off the handle or worse case, you could put yourself in a place where somebody may even become physical because it's a hurtful and harmful thing."
EC: I encourage people to have dialogue with me, but that was a prime example of how it's like it was minimized to her the impact that she could have had. Somebody else said it was fine and she, then thought it was okay to go out into her world and continue that. I'm like, no. That's not okay. What happens when somebody gets this precedent that, "Oh, this is fine. I can do this," and then it's like, "Oh. Well, why do you feel a certain way about this?" The other person is looked at as sensitive.
Jaleel: I have a perfect example of that. It was in high school. We called him white boy Keith. He grew up around us, so he faced some of the same hardships that we did. He spoke the same way that we did, ate the same kind of food that we did and the way he spoke was in a much more comfortable manner than most people will understand. The said the N word all the time. We didn't think nothing of it. It wasn't said as a derogatory term. It was said the way that it just would be said in conversation among people that know each other well. We were in Tyrone's house. Tyrone's mother was born in the '50s, so she had to deal with some of the Jim Crow laws. We were in there talking trash, whatever. Cursing or whatever. Then, he said the N word. She was walking by. She was like, "What'd you just say?" We were like, "Oh." She expressed to him how she felt uncomfortable with us saying it, let alone somebody who wasn't the same race saying it. She was like, "Matter of fact, all of y'all need to get out of my house right now."
Jaleel: Us being kids, we didn't have that same personal experience with her. I ain't never seen no water fountain that said, "Whites Only." That's not my experience. That's not from my generation, but the feelings and emotions that she heard when she heard that word from that white dude, totally different from our experience and none of us there could say, "Oh, it's okay. He's one of us." We ain't say nothing foolish like that. We understood when she made that remark that, yeah, we probably should limit this and probably shouldn't say that word at all, now. Not just around us, but at all just to avoid situations like this. We didn't think anything less of him, but we definitely curtailed our behavior after that event.
IJ: I think it's interesting. Oh, sorry.
EC: No. It sometimes takes something like that to shift it.
IJ: Yeah and I think it's very interesting to see how something that's our generation might not even think twice about using that word looks very different to other people and also the fact that the very first situation was talked about with a female who was saying that her friend told her that it was okay or it wasn't that bad. She then overly generalized and said, "Well, if it's okay with this one black person, it must be okay with all black people." That's offense number one. Everybody is individual, so you should get to know who you're talking to to figure out how they feel about something before you just drop a bomb like that. I don't know.
EC: That's the thing. There are a lot of cases where people will assume that one person of whatever this group is speaks for the masses.
IJ: Yeah, I mean we're all different and I think that offense number one is, maybe for her she wants all black people to have the same opinion because it's one person's opinion who happened to be black who thought it was okay and it's not okay for everybody. Some people who are of color that will use the N word and use it comfortably as a term of endearment and there's others that completely avoid the word and find it offensive even using it with each other. If we're not having that conversation, then you really don't know.
EC: That's exactly where the dialogue is necessary because you can't assume that this is a blanket thing and this is how it just works and it works for everyone that way. You have to speak to people to have a wider breath of knowledge or to truly back up your why or your specific opinions around these things versus taking one person and one person's anecdote or take on something as the gospel truth.
IJ: Absolutely. I think it's interesting that Jaleel is also bringing up the older generation. I was having a conversation with a family member who happened to be in their 70s or late 70s at that and they went to segregated schools and they just had a totally different experience from their childhood and early teens than I could ever imagine for myself, and just realizing that my generation, being a millennial, was so far removed from that experience, but it's like this abstract thing you see in movies.
IJ: To actually, for the first time, be having conversations about that, it really hit home that in their mind they can think, "Well, I didn't really have any overt racism for people who don't look like me," but then you start really unpacking their experiences and realize that sometimes we ourselves can make okay with something that wasn't okay just to get through and talking with this person, realizing that they made okay with themselves having to do a lot of manual labor type things, basically child labor, and know that they were taking better care of the white people's possessions and needs for their household than they were allowed to do for their own or had time to do for their own, which also is taking time away from their education.
IJ: Yet, their knee jerk response when we were having a conversation about racism and experiences that they've never experienced overt racism or being mistreated and I'm like, "But you do realize it's not always somebody calling you the N word and saying, 'I hate black people.'" Sometimes it is the subtle things, like the bulk of your childhood taking care of adults that don't look like you's possessions and not being able to just be a child. That might actually have more impact than somebody calling you the N word.
EC: Because those actions change how you view yourself in reference to them. It changes how you view your wants or needs or actions in reference to them and that can, unfortunately, create a trickle down when it comes to what you pass on to the next generation or feeding into some of these mindsets that are very generational, yet very difficult to break when it comes time for you to become an adult and make your own decisions or to teach a child or someone that you have influence with to think and be and do differently because this is all you know. I can definitely speak for myself.
EC: I grew up with a mother that did grow up during that time frame and experienced racism then as well as even in her job and she couldn't really break that to give me anything that really was coming from a place of treat people as individuals or people are people. It was very much you need to know what you look like when you look in the mirror and that sometimes would come off as, I've used this story before, my posters on the wall of New Kids on the Block prompted her to say to me, "Don't you know what color you are? Why do you have all these white faces on your wall?" While it's not okay, you have to also understand what's the source? Where do these things come from? In order to try to change it, you have to know that they exist and that even though our generation we're all only a few years apart, it's still pieces of it that are there.
Jaleel: Just hearing what you said made me think about how growing up, there wasn't a lot of choices to play with different dolls. Not for myself, but for females. Barbie or Cabbage Patch Dolls, it was a lot of variety of white choices to choose from, but not so many of people of color to choose from and that's also another thing of how it can play into the psyche of people because you start seeing that, "Well, I see all this white stuff and white is beautiful and black isn't around, so maybe black isn't as beautiful. I can't identify with these black characters or dolls or toys because they're not available and I'm easily to identify with the white characters." MTV. When MTV came out, who was on there? I think it was Michael Jackson, probably was the only black person on MTV.
EC: Maybe Prince. Maybe.
Jaleel: It was mostly rock and pop, but when Yo! MTV Raps came out, that changed a whole demographic of who was watching MTV at that time.
Jaleel: Ratings went through the roof because you had a broader demographic of people that could identify what the music that's being played. If you look at some pictures of black girls in the '80s, they've got leg warmers. They've got their hair like punk rockers because that's what was on TV. That's what was cool. That's what was in, with the baggy sweater hanging off the shoulder. Lisa Turtle is a good example. What is that? Late '80s, early '90s on Saved by the Bell? She was a product of her environment. They didn't have anybody from a different area showing up. They were all people of the same pay bandwidth on that show, but just to be able to start putting stuff together to where you could understand how society plays a part on the way that the generations are going to see these things, that's very, very important when you said the source. It's very important to understand about the source and where the information is coming from.
EC: It's a huge thing and I remember, and I'm probably going to share it again on social media, but it was a post that I had seen and it was a young girl, maybe 10 or 11 talking to her mother about how in these cartoons, in these shows, she wasn't seeing a standard of beauty that looked like her. To see this little girl having this awareness and noticing this and then seeing her face fall when she's asking her mother for confirmation like, "Is this what this is?" Her mother had to come to her own realization about it and to see her face drop when she was like, "Oh, this is exactly what's happening. What looks like me isn't heralded as beauty." It's heartbreaking to watch that and the tough thing is that Saved by the Bell, you only had this, if I remember correctly, one person of color, which was Lisa's character and I'll go into this in another episode, but it's that concept of the magical negro being this person whose own story doesn't evolve. They're just there to be a support subject for the white characters around you.
EC: Part of it is trying to create this acclamation or immigration from a place that really is still very white washed and diluted, but then if you go back to the whole '80s thing again, what would come up for young black kids or some kids of color when it came to what you saw was Salt N Peppa and Kid and Play and Run DMC, so you've got this more hip hop side when it came to what you could look like or what you were listening to and what created you seeing beauty and maybe that was how you identified it. That was also back when, I mean this was prior to NWA and things like that, but culturally rap was still being put into this place of, "Oh, what is this? This is terrible. We can't do this." This was a lot of what was given as far as a our version, I'll call it, of the leg warmers. The Madonna's and things like that. That's what we had. Whitney Houston was a good example. They white washed her very highly, but there just wasn't much there.
EC: It's tough when you have this concept of how can you buy into or believe something that you don't see as being reality. If you don't see it, it's very challenging to think, "Oh, I am beautiful. My skin is beautiful. My hair is beautiful. The way that I speak is beautiful," and not having to feel as though respectability then come in where, if you don't speak completely proper in the perfect tone, in the perfect way, wearing the perfect clothes, then you're not okay. If your clothes are not fitting into the mold, if your tone does not fit into the mold, if your word choices don't fit into the mold, if your skin color, body type, hair texture and all these other things don't come together to fit into the mold, oh, well we have a problem.
IJ: That hit so many different notes for me. So many. I think it's not just that we have a problem, but it can also be a combination of having a problem with something and then the problem becoming the norm, so we accept the problem. Me being slightly younger than you guys and being born in the late '80s, I did have a black Barbie option, but I mean it was one skin tone of Barbie to choose from. It was like you took the white Barbie and you dipped her in black paint.
EC: There's not a lot to it. I didn't have a lot of options and the hair texture was definitely very different and I remember my mother being very adamant that she would not buy me Barbies that were not black because diversity was not there. It was black or white and even that was a stretch. She wouldn't buy that, so any dolls that I had that weren't black, they did not come from her because she was determined to not buy these other kind. That's just a prime example of what happens when I don't exist in all of these other aspects of my life.
IJ: Yeah, and then what happens when we adapt the mentality that, "But you have a black Barbie, now. It's not okay?" I mean, I know she was just dipped in darker paint and has the same bone straight hair and same nose and eyes and lips that white Barbie has, but you should be okay with that because we gave you one that has darker skin.
EC: That's the whole thing. That's when you get to that whole, "Oh, so that's supposed to be enough to appease me. That's supposed to be enough to somehow make me change how I am validating my beauty in the world that I see around me."
IJ: It's the mentality of, "It's not that bad." She's black, so it's not that bad. If you accept the it's not that bad, now you're giving the people who said it's not that bad permission to think it's not that bad either.
EC: Yes, and it's bandaid on a bullet hole. It doesn't work. It does not work and there's a lot of pieces than what we've talked about. This definitely is going to have to get broken down and brought back to at least one additional episode because of the fact that there's so many things that even you and I growing up didn't even realize. Even just in this conversation, you don't realize how many things you swallow as the norm. You know better. You are working to do better. It's just that when you realize how many things you brushed off as, "Well, that's just how it is," or, "Whatever. I'm just not going to pay it any attention," it's a slap in the face and it's a tough thing to acknowledge and that's why to me, it's so important for people to take that time to understand someone else's experience.
EC: If you never had to worry about turning on a television and seeing someone that looked like you, you don't understand us. If you never had to worry about buying toys or looking at cartoons or doing either of those things for your child and feeling as though they weren't reflected, you don't get it. That's why having that conversation to begin to get it is so important because when you don't understand it, how are you supposed to actually move forward? That being said, we're going to go ahead and pause here. Again, this is definitely going to come back because I think that it's important. We shall return.
EC: If you love this Pause on the Play, this is just one of the iterations of how I use conversation to create connection. The Conversation Workshop is another. This is a series where I talk with a guest, very similar to what I did today, about topics like diversity and inclusion within your marketing or even creating diversity within wellness spaces. The difference is we also give you space to have a live Q and A with us, so you can get support. These conversations are not complete without you. Hop on over to ericacourdae.com, check out the show notes for the information and links as well and register for the upcoming episode, so you can get personalized support to further your growth.
EC: The conversations we have here are to normalize the challenging things and make them a part of your normal exchanges. This is how we remove stigma and create real change and connection, cross lines and recreate boundaries to support, not separate. If you enjoyed this podcast, show me some love by subscribing, sharing it with a friend or leaving us a review. Reviews are the fuel to keep the podcast engine going. Let's get more people dropping the veil and challenging their thoughts, feelings and actions. Speaking of keeping it going, if you don't already follow and engage with us over at Instagram at @EricaCourdae, come on over there and do that. I really want to talk with you, so DM me and let's do this. I love being here and creating the bridge for you to walk over to become the change that you want to see. Join us next time and until then, keep the dialogue going. Bye.
Connect with Me
Connect with me on Facebook
Connect with me on Instagram