FAQs (Frequent Ally Questions) w/ Jovian Zayne, Chia-Lin Simmons & Terri J Vaughn


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A black square on Instagram doesn’t make you an anti-racist, but there is a path to follow. Welcome to From Woke to Work, the Anti-Racist Journey, a podcast created and hosted by Kamala Avila-Salmon, with the mission to make an impactful dent in people’s understand of how to actually combat racism. Whether you’re an ally ready to take action or a black person with a bunch of ally-related questions, this podcast will draw a clear path for you to follow towards true anti-racism.

Our journey together, at least this portion of it, is coming to an end. Now that we have fully unpacked the anti-racist journey, we want to end with FAQs. If you’ve listened before, you know that our FAQs are not “frequently asked questions” (though they are) but instead stands for “frequent ally questions”, which are questions that Kamala has heard a lot in her time cultivating intentional conversations about race and racism. When you’re learning something new, it’s normal to have questions and I think having lots of questions CAN be a sign of high-engagement. Notice we said they CAN be- sometimes, they instead function as excuses to not take action, as reasons why it’s too hard, too complicated, or not practical. Examples of those include “I know we need to talk about Black issues but what about….(insert some other group here?” Or “Don’t you think White people face just as much racism as Black people now?”

In today’s episode, we will focus on genuinely offered, highly constructive FAQs. The ones that come from people who really want to do the work and I invited back a few of our amazing guests from past episodes to help me unpack the best ones. Welcome back Jovian Zayne, the powerhouse who kicked us off in the Awareness episode, Chia-Lin Simmons who helped us sort through the importance of empathy, and Terri J Vaughn, who joined us for a discussion on Allyship.

Jump straight into:

(02:15) - I said or did something perceived as racist, what should I do now? - “If you're more concerned about being right than getting it right, you will continue to make mistakes and sit in it in a way that doesn't move the work forward”

(11:36) - Strategies and tactics to increase commitment to hire diverse talent… or create one - “You're going to have to examine policies and procedures and examine the relationships you have that help to bring in exceptional people of color, and we're everywhere.”

(23:03) - Do we really need more data to know that diversity is good business? - “They already know the impact of our culture, of our voices, of our fashion, of our style… I think that it's just embedded in their culture to find ways to impact our influence by saying stuff like, well, they don't sell over the seas.”

(34:37) - Who should I be supporting? Vetted leads of organizations that are tackling racial equity issues - "One that comes to mind for me is the Equal Justice Institute. Changing systems, as opposed to solely focusing on individual cases or individual anecdotes. I think we have to really look at the root causes and the root systems."

(36:26) - Why it takes a lot more than just creating a Diversity Chief Officer, goals and metrics to educate inside an organization - "Empathy is so necessary for us to see each other. You've got to fund this work. You can't say, 'we want to allocate $10,000 for this work over the year, or even for a day of training'… that just doesn't work. D&I work helps people to be fundamentally better."

(43:46) - Stop clapping yourself because you marched. On diversity clauses in the VC world and other ways to give real crap about these issues - "When was the last time that you bought something from a black owned business? […] No more writing checks to VC's who don't have a black woman on staff. That's not an investment.”

(48:07) - How to acknowledge the inherent challenges my black teammates may face in a predominantly white company or team? - "With that same thinking, I invite the person to think 'How do I own the front-end to build relationships with people who have a different lived experience than I do? Think about how you build genuine connections with other human beings and seek to do that more often."

(53:49) - About the lack of intimacy when creating new connections and the importance of having reckless love for other humans - "Keep your heart centered and just know you've got to persist anyway."

(59:45) - The last one: How to navigate the seas of attacking racism as a non-black person and not ending up being a white savior? - "If you only want to help in the way only you think is helpful, and you're not open to feedback, there's a problem with the movement that you're building."

(01:04) - The cruciality of asking the RIGHT person if something you did or said is racist. If you ask your white friend and you both agree, then you better go back and ask again - "So you and your white friend decided that this wasn't racist and the opinion of the person of color was immediately de-legitimized."

(01:06) - How do you use your seat? Why this is not a one person mission - "Your skills, your resources, your lived experience, your voice, your perspective to move the work forward it's an invitation to step into the ring. We don't have space for ego when we're trying to corrupt a system that holds us oppressed."

(01:09) - Sharing is caring, and it's also uncomfortable if you're a white male eating all the pie - "We individuals have to collectively make changes that will shift this system, but there's gotta be some commitments that white folks had to be doing. And it starts with that stuff… It starts with the localized, immediate personal stuff that we forfeit."


Follow Jovian Zayne on Instagram

Follow Chia-Lin Simmons on Instagram

Follow Terri J Vaughn on Instagram

Equal Justice Initiative

Bryan Stevenson

Fair Fight

Thanks for tuning in! Don’t forget to follow Kamala on Instagram to learn more. Subscribe, rate and share this podcast so more people can find it, let’s spread the word!

From Woke to Work is a show produced and hosted by Kamala Avila-Salmon in partnership with Julian Lewis and TJ Bonaventura at StudioPod. Edited at Nodalab, art by Tommy Gomez, and music produced by davecantrap.

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