Antiracism Activism with Mayuri Govender

I chat to Mayuri about her work as activist and educator in the antiracism space. We define antiracism, explain the difference between equity and equality, and offer insight for white people who are keen to do antiracist work. We also discuss self care and how BIPOC are feeling exhausted and need a break.

TRANSCRIPT:

Transcript:

You’re listening to On The Couch With Carly. Carly’s Couch is a safe space to talk. I’m a psychologist, but I’m not your pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing stereotype.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of On the Couch with Carly. Today I have a very exciting guest with me. I have Mayuri Govender from @breakingbrownsilence. And for those of you who don’t know her and her account on Instagram, Mayuri has been inspiring me for months as I have been on my own antiracist journey. And her posts have been the most informative and ground-breaking that I’ve experienced in the South African context. She really is up there for me it with the Rachel Cargles of the world. So welcome Mayuri. How are you?

Mayuri Govender 

Ah, thanks for having me, Carly. That’s such a cool introduction. But yeah, I’m good. I’m good. Thank you for having me.

Carly Abramovitz 

Yeah, you are so welcome. So Mayuri and I just spent a really interesting few Saturdays together, because I took part in one of Mayuri’s workshops/webinars that she does with her new consulting company. What I’m really excited about talking to you today is that I have been on my antiracist journey myself, and I actually sort of made a confession and the last podcast that I recorded, because I spent, like half an hour recording a podcast that I now have basically binned because I felt so uncomfortable with it. And since then have realized that I’m, I’m, I’m sort of aware of my own kind of limitations into talking about, and taking up space in the antiracist field, you know, like, it’s, I just feel like I don’t, I don’t have to, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. And I need to sit down and shut up. That’s kind of the feeling I’m giving myself at the moment. So I’m really happy to have you here to take up space and, and, and be loud and proud and tell me all about where you’re at. So can we start with like, what is antiracist work? And yeah, what is your day to day life doing this work look like?

MG:

Well, the day to day of being an antiracism educator, and I would say I’m more of an advocate now than I am an activist, I used to be more of an activist. It’s kind of new, this full time work is kind of new to me. Because I was juggling before, but now it’s very much thinking a lot, introspecting, looking at current affairs, and what’s sort of happening in the world and what, what’s relevant to be spoken about right now. So my days are very much. I’m juggling the consultancy business that I’ve just launched BBS consulting, and appointments through there and that but on top of that, it’s a lot of writing and research, which I was already doing in my spare time, but now it’s being able to take it to an entirely new level. Like, it’s, it’s entirely what’s the word? It’s all encompassing, it’s now giving it the full energy. I think that it needs if that makes sense. Yeah, like, yeah, doing research. It’s a lot of reading research.

CA:

Yeah. And I think that that really, you can tell, I mean, just from being on your Instagram, like, it does feel like every post, and even just your sort of personal thoughts that you put on your stories sometimes, you know, are formed by so much that I think you’re immersed in and understand that. And in a way, I guess, I know this has been a critique of the antiracist movement or of like, black lives matter that it can be a bit academic, or it can be a bit, you know, intellectual in a way like there’s there can be a bit of a divide in terms of who thinks about these things and who’s able to even access this because of the language used or whatever. So, I can also do this sometimes. I get lost in the jargon or you know, and I think if you very well researched if you yourself have immersed in the literature and you are fluent in a way and in, in discussions and, and discourse around these concepts, it can sometimes feel like it’s a bit far away for the average person to sort of jump in and work out. Okay, well, how does this affect me? What is this about? How should my life change in terms of learning this or unlearning? So in a clear, kind of like elevator pitch slash explain it to your grandmother kind of way, how do you explain what antiracism is and why people should do it? Why should people do anti racist work?

MG:

Well, I think that the first thing I would want people to understand about antiracism work is that it shouldn’t feel daunting. And I think that’s what I try to purport it’s in the inverse of it being a very academic space and a very jargon, heavy space, I, and I’m sure you sometimes see this in my own posts in that. But for me, it’s about breaking down that jargon and making it easily accessible, making it easy to understand, but like, and that is the thing I want people to take away from the movement that it can be everyone’s movement. And it can be everyone’s mindset shift and communication with families can become easier through it, if you understand the terminology behind it, because it can feel very daunting to people. But I really want to try and break down that barrier, if that makes sense.

CA:

Yeah, I love that. That’s exactly why I’m having you on because I want that to come across like, let’s let’s say this plainly, like what is this about? What is it really about?

MG:

Well, antiracism work is taking our identities as human beings, and understanding that we have like an action based responsibility towards each other in a humanity perspective, in my opinion, so any person who hears about antiracist work is really about introspecting, on your mindset, your biases, and all of the things that you you know, the word racism, and anything associated with that word can be like, an immediate cutoff for people. And the thing about antiracism work is it is it is deeply based in decolonized language. So in order to embrace it in your life, you kind of have to be less afraid of the words, right? And knowing that, like we are all born, we all have biases, we’re all born with them. We all want different environments, and they develop, we can develop prejudices from them. And racism is part of that prejudice, right? So it’s important that when people take on antiracist work, or wanting to know more about it, they realize that it’s, it’s just a, it’s just a part of evolving your mind as you would with any sort of current affair or kind of conversation politically or otherwise, in your life. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s what it is really, like, people should be able to look at it from an identity point point of view, and then see where all our shortcomings are as a society. And as a society, if we then look at where the shortcomings are in socio economic privilege, white privilege, gender privilege, we look at all of those things, and then apply them to our structures and our systems, which are sometimes used. So those words are used so loosely these days. But it’s, it’s about looking at the structures and seeing who embodies those structures, what color they are, whether it’s been like that forever. With us, the structures are willing to change how you operate within them, and everyone operates within them. It’s very complicated.

CA:

I love that. No, I love that. I love that answer. Thank you. That’s, you know, what comes up for me around that is I love the idea that it’s about introspection and thinking about your own identity within the greater kind of society. Because, you know, when I think about my work that I do, you know, it’s it is a lot about introspection and about kind of connecting with your identity and also with understanding and finding your place in the world and all of us want to understand, you know, and, and so what happens if, once you’ve got some further understanding, you actually start to see that you are part of a system and that the system is unjust. You know? And I think for sure, for me, what drives my motivation to do this work is that I can’t live with it, you know, it’s like, once I’ve established that, that sense of, you know, it being unjust, and that I’m part of it. It’s like, I feel it’s like cognitive dissonance, right? You feel uncomfortable, I can’t, I can’t stay here, I’ve got to do something. And I guess that’s what’s quite exciting about antiracist work is it feels like there is this opportunity to do something, there’s action at once that one can take.

MG:

Yeah, and it’s completely action based. And I mean, centering a podcast surround it is an action, it’s already operating within an antiracist movement, by doing something to amplify the idea of ideology, right. And, and not just the ideology, but the feelings and motivations behind that ideology, which is systemic and structural racism. And the only way we can do that is through action. And I know I spoke about this in our webinar this past weekend, but  talking as an action. And it’s the first action. Then it’s about familiarizing yourself not just with the terminology but with the lived experiences of black and brown communities are going through. It’s about sort of immersing yourself in the lived experiences of people who are different from you, beyond just race even, like if we think about black trans people, black, non binary people, brown non binary people like it’s, it’s about immersing yourself in the world of others, and then taking action to amplify that, so that the structures can bring more equity, as opposed to simply being about equality on paper.

CA:

That’s a lovely segue to have those two definitions provided, please tell me and my listeners, what is the difference between equality and equity?

MG:

Okay, so the difference between equality and equity, equity is that, although they both promote fairness, it’s about the treatment. And it’s about the difference in opportunity, right? So equality is about teaching everyone the same regardless of their needs. So our Constitution protects all of us in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc, etc. And that means that we’re all equal, but all of our needs are different. And that will bring in all socio economic status, our backgrounds, our access, our historical access, spatial apartheid, and how that’s affected us, things like that. And it, it doesn’t put us on the same playing field. So although we’re equal on paper, equity is there to amplify people who have the necessary not just historically disadvantaged, but currently marginalized and disadvantaged, so that they can be equal and their needs are met in the same way.

CA:

Okay, got you. Yeah, so it’s kind of like that experiment they do with college students, when they, when they, whenever you put them all in a line, and then they say, Okay, if you’re, if your parents own their house take one step forward. And if your parents paid for your college tuition, take one step forward, and then you kind of eventually see how there’s these disparities and in what people kind of start out with and so yes, you can all start the race at the same time, but some people are going to be advantaged and that’s your privilege and equity would be to try and even that out, so that the people who are already disadvantaged, move up more. So like BEE, affirmative action, those sort of things.

MG:

Yeah. So I mean, our system at the moment, makes provision for our employment equity, right. But unfortunately, I think that what’s happened is that while we are implementing BEE, we’re not doing the true work behind BEE. The sense of it’s okay to amplify and diversify. That’s the word diversify workforces company’s corporate structures, it’s fine to diversify. But diversity can simply geometric. And the reason the reason racism still exists in those structures. Yes, those policies are there to bring equity to people, but they don’t often, as much as they bring equity. Sometimes from a financial point of view, it doesn’t bring equality then when they reach that space, in the sense in the space of race sometimes because culture, institutional cultures haven’t changed. And that’s why diversity work can’t be done without inclusion, work, equity work and equality work. And right, they all they have to all work together in that sense, because a metric is not a true measurement of the treatment of people, which is what equity is really about. It’s not just about the metric.

CA:

Yeah, while are you talking, I was just thinking about how I imagine, like any of this to work, and I’m reminded of one of the core tenants that you brought up on Saturday. And that is this idea that, you know, to have empathy is quite a prerequisite for this. And it’s quite a thing, if you think about that, that example of those college students, and let’s say, for example, the one white kid is right at the front, you know, he’s, he’s got the biggest advantage, and he looks back and behind him are black and brown kids, Asian kids, Native American kids, whatever it may be. And probably, and probably some white kids, as well as poor white kids, or kids that have got immigrant families or whatever, you know, there’s that hierarchy that kind of exists. Yeah. And, and, and what is it? What does it take for someone to look behind them and realize they’re closest to the finish line, they could get there fastest, they’ve got all these advantages. And yet, they are now I mean, antiracist work, I, I feel requires you to stop to pause to stop rushing to get ahead and to turn back and look at your fellow man, you know, your fellow citizen and say, okay, but what can I do to, to bring you closer to me, you know, what can I do to, to leverage what I’ve got here? To get you closer to the finish line? And I imagine that, that, that takes quite a lot of empathy. It takes quite a lot of community mindedness in a way, and I yeah, I wonder about that. Do you? Do you see people according like, Do you find it difficult to teach this to people who struggle with empathy? Or do you sort of see, when you do this sort of work? Do you kind of see it showing up where there’s like just certain people that are just never going to get it? Because they don’t want to think about other people? Or they can’t think about other people?

MG:

I know exactly what you mean. Empathy, I’m actually struggling a little with, with whether it actually can be taught. I’m, I’m really struggling with that. And I say that, from my experience working in the school racism space. So prior to launching this consultancy, I was part of the antiracism in private schools movement. And, you know, these are like really old colonial structures that have been around for like, as long as Indian South Africans have been here or longer. You know, so these schools are like 160 170 years old already. And they keep falling back on the fact that they, a lot of them, because they were independent schools, for example, like this is just an example. But the fact that in the late 80s or early 90s, they started including people of color in their schools. And that to them is like, a moment to celebrate, right. But when you talk to them about the culture that’s being perpetuated, and they’re having to look back and go like, okay, there’s a lot of kids who are different. Yeah. Regardless of I mean, I know in the private school space, is socio economic privilege and financial privileges is a different kind of playing field there. But there’s also the fact that you’re going to get scholarship children and you’re also going to get children whose parents are first generation, I mean, going to a private school. You know, there’s there are layers, there’s still layers there. They’re still hierarchies. Yeah. And when you out to people that you know, the structures allowing bias and racism to thrive, not just within students, but with teachers. You get a lot of pushback, a lot of defensiveness and you try to explain your feelings to the struggle. When you’re engaging with them sometimes, and they simply do not get it. So I don’t actually know if empathy can be taught. I’m really at that point where I’m really starting to wonder, because in the work that I do with the consultancy, I don’t often find people who are coming for help who don’t already have an empathetic streak within them, or are compassionate, where they wanted to do and to know more where they’re already curious where they’re already listening. And going, Okay, I want to know a little bit more, I don’t actually often encounter clients who know nothing. But I have in the schools space, where this feels sometimes like a PR stunt. That, you know, people just want to get it right for the cameras, or for the press or for their image or for their reputation. And then those situations, I don’t think that you can do it because the fragility is there. That’s why the antiracism work is so deeply rooted in introspection and personal work, and looking at yourself, and how you have benefited because nobody’s going to be able to look back and see the various steps that’s taking back I mean, we just leave alone. All of the various access based things we can go even a step further and go like, did you have two parents raising you, you know, like, there really goes down to like, the nitty gritty of it. And some people just don’t, I don’t know that you can, you can build it in someone, this as much as you can, like, tell them what you’re feeling and what the lived experiences are. Sometimes people just don’t want to accept that.

CA:

Exactly. And especially if what you’re saying will entail them having to lose something that they’ve, that they’re holding on to, right, some idea of themselves, or of the way the world works, or their value, or, you know, their inherent goodness, that I think I mean, that’s the whole concept, that’s why I think we get it so wrong. And why we are fragile is that we think that, you know, if we admit these things, then somehow we’re not good. We’re not, you know, we have to sort of it’s one or the other. And I actually, I can’t remember who it was. I’ve been racking my brains to remember who it was, but someone last week, or maybe it was on the news, I heard someone in the government, in a government department was accused of racism, and I can’t remember who it was. But I remember thinking when I heard it, like, why would anyone deny being accused of racism in this day and age? Like, I feel like I’m, I’m at the point of my journey, where if someone accused me of racism, I would be like, I would literally go on air and say, yes I am racist, we are all racist. We live in a racist world, we have, you know, imbued this racism from the air we breathe, it is in our society, let’s face the fact that we are racist and start the work, you know, but I think we were still so afraid to even just admit that there’s racism in us, you know, to even admit that maybe we, but it’s, but it’s obvious to me that we’re going to kind of, it’s going to it’s going to come out, right, it’s going to. And so I think that’s, that’s a good place for you actually, to just maybe give another definition is how do you how do you understand white fragility or fragility in these spaces? Like what what does that really mean?

MG:

What I wanted to say to you while you were speaking, I had a thought about it. And it is a good segue into talking about white fragility is it’s all ego driven. Actually. It’s very, it’s a very human aspect. We all have an ego. I’m part of it. But so much of this journey is based in like, human psychology. So much of it is based in behavior studies and environmental studies and the human experience the social experience, right? And I feel like white fragility as definition is, is really centering the feelings of white people, based on the ego of white people, really challenging something that’s so normalized, that the white is right thing, you know, I’m one challenge that it’s, it’s sort of like, how can you challenge my existence? How can you challenge what is right, what is norm? What is what our society has been seized upon? You know, and it’s really for me, that’s exactly what it’s based in. It’s based in in the fragility of the evil.

CA:

Yeah. And I think that you know, in my Work, that’s something I deal with all the time. I mean, that’s a lot of what therapy is about is kind of navigating that. I mean, you know, navigating the defense mechanisms and try to work out why they show up. And you know, the rule of thumb when you’re dealing with it in a therapeutic context is, you never analyze the defense, you analyze the anxiety, like you, you never leave people without their defenses unless you can hold space for their anxiety. And so I always try not to go to that point like, but why are you protecting this? Why are you guarding this? Why is this? Why do you need to? Because we’re not when I see people get aggressive, or if I see them needing to get bigger and show that they’re powerful, which is often what happens with fragility, it looks it actually often looks like aggression. And I always think to myself, like, you’re on the attack, but but really, you’re on the defensive, why, why do you need to attack right now? Why do you feel so unsafe? What is threatening you? And I think if and that’s kind of what my my most recent episode was about was like, trying to just at least start with connecting in yourself, Why? Why you get defensive, why you feel like you under threat and what that’s about what is that telling you about? What’s what you’re protecting?

MG:

What I think it is, is that the black and brown people in the antiracism movement are requiring white people to self sooth. And for an everyday individual who’s like, attacked in a personal way, right, it’s already hard sometimes to self soothe, when, when it’s something to do with what you base yourself on, which is like your outside appearance. And what you’re made of. It can be exceedingly challenging, but we’re basically saying like, it’s not up to us to tell you how to deal with your feelings based on how history and the system protects you. And I think that can be like really jarring for any human to sort of confront. And this time around, we’re asking you to confront it with yourself and with your peers, as opposed to burdening us with it. Because that is where the prejudicial harmfulness exists in the real world. It’s, it’s Sharon Osborne telling a black woman on the talk this week. Don’t you dare cry? Because if there’s anyone who should be crying, it’s it should be me. Yeah. Um, that’s, that’s exactly what she did. By the way, gosh, um, when they were talking about Harry and Megan, who’s sent the world into a spin, so. So it’s that and it’s, it’s kind of telling somebody to sit with something and not be violent in the space of people who have already been harmed. Um, and, and it’s asking someone to introspect by themselves, and not asking someone to, for that education for free. Because that’s been the experience of black and brown people generally.

CA:

Beautiful, thank you so much for saying that. Absolutely. If you would see me now you’re just me like nodding like I’m in church. And I’ve never nodded in church as a non church going Jewish person. But, but yes, I love that word that that phrase, self soothing, I think that is so important. And really what you’re asking is a maturity, you know, an emotional maturity that unfortunately, many people don’t possess. And I think when we’re talking about race, that, you know, that white people are, in particular infantile in their understandings of race because of how they’ve, that’s their privilege, right, is that they have, you know, as white people we’ve gotten away with not having to learn about race because it hasn’t affected our lived experience, the way it affects people of color.

MG:

You get to learn about it neutrally. That’s sort of how I see it. It’s that there’s a difference because when I walked through the world as a child, I was told by my parents as I was starting school in the New South Africa, like in the New Democracy. So I started grade one in 1984. But um, I was told Mayuri your skin colour is brown, and it’s going to, your experience is going to be different. So I’m already walking into the world knowing that something that I would maybe be treated differently. And so I’m not walking into it with a sense of neutrality or the sense of a default setting. I’m already told I’m not the default setting. You know, yeah. And, like why children have the privilege of not being told that. And, absolutely, that goes into the country’s whole conversation of like representation. And you know, all of that. But just as we talk about it from like a child perspective, like white children don’t really need to be told that they need to be careful, just as like, if you compare it, or can’t even compare, but if you speak about the conversation that’s been happening in the US a lot about how black children, and specifically black male children who are growing up are told by a specific age, at a specific age that they need to be careful if they are confronted by the cops, there is

this checklist you need to go through. Like, it’s that it’s that priming, that already makes us the non default.

CA:

Absolutely, and, and it’s a kind of emotional resilience that you learn as well. But it’s a resilience that I feel, we, we have expected of you, that I personally want to no longer expect of you if you know what I’m saying. Like, it’s almost like when clients come to me and they’ve survived so much. And what I really want is for them to sit in my in my room and be a mess, I want them to feel it all I want them to come into contact with their vulnerability, I want them to feel absolutely, almost the opposite of resilient, you know, totally, totally exposed. It sounds it sounds worse than it is. But I mean, it doesn’t just start like that, you know, it gets to that point after you’ve built a relationship. But the point is, because in those moments, when you can feel that way, when you can let someone else hold space for you and, and hold all of those emotions for you, then you’re not holding on to it. And I think people who have spent their lives being resilient and being, you know, coping with all of these feelings all the time. It’s exhausting, and it’s draining. And it’s and it’s using energy that could be spent on something else, right. And so that’s kind of, if I think about what, like being an ally might look like, I think, okay, I’m a mental health provider or carer, if I can create a space where I’m helping regulate white people’s feelings, at the very least, you know, so that they can learn to self-regulate so that they can become better at self-soothing, so that they’re not taking that to a person of color, so that they’re even creating a safe space for a person of color to be able to express their feelings without having anything more than that, you know, without being a competition of whose feelings matter without it being a need to explain those feelings. But for someone to just hear them to listen to say it’s okay, I get it. I’m here.

MG:

Yeah, I think that is really what’s the most pertinant way to dismantle ego, and teach people to self soothe, and it may breed empathy, maybe that is maybe that in your mind, you’re the professional here. And maybe that would maybe that is maybe that is how it happens. Because I can tell you is really differentiating as a woman of color to when you know, you you’re not getting through to someone. And it really what you said really resonated with me in terms of like a mental health perspective, in that in the sense of, and of course, every person of color deals with their racial trauma differently. I mean, some children are overtly told that dealt with or maybe treated differently, like I was and some children may not and then speak to their families about it or whatever. And some people internalize it, and some people externalize it and you know, there’s various ways that people deal with these things. But if I have to think about myself, that resilience for sure is a thing that’s really hard to dismantle in the world because you’re so used to living with our guards up and that fighting spirit almost, that for me, therapy, like learning to be vulnerable learning to live in my feelings, words and stuff. It’s a very scary space, right. It’s taken a lot of like, emotional dismantling and dealing with traumas I didn’t know I even had, and I can, I’m probably I’m probably certain This is from speaking to peers and friends. They’ve, it’s sometimes been quite similar for them and it makes sense You’re saying about, like moving through a world where like, you have to be resilient. Because it is there’s this added layer of like, super exhaustion. Just an average work day that you don’t. Most of us don’t even talk about anymore. Like if I have to think about an average workday like there is at least one person speaking to me about curry. Goodness, no. And it sounds ridiculous. But it’s so real. It’s so real. Like, they will be someone who raises it somehow or something to do with exterior typical bias Indianness that comes up. And like I become so accustomed to hearing it like that. Now, I’m just like, oh, sigh I’m over it, and move on with my day. But then I’m not talking about it later, but it has actually impacted me in some way. You know? Yes. It’s Firstly, exactly. exhaustion, much like you said, exactly.

CA:

And then, I mean, on top of that, you’re putting yourself out there and doing this work. And, you know, I know you through Instagram, and I know that you are very visible on Instagram, you know, you post a lot, you share a lot, you’re very, you’re very vulnerable on Instagram. But that also comes with, you know, as I said, the risk of exposure and on Instagram, it’s not like in your therapist office where it’s a safe space, there are not so safe people out there. So tell me what, what is. What has that been like for you being out in that kind of public forum doing this work? Has? Has it been difficult at times?

MG:

Absolutely. It’s actually why at first I didn’t want to put my face on the profile, and why I just wanted it to be purely educational. And I felt that that that could have been a way to protect the space. In fact, I do still have little things like with comments and things like you can’t comment on my posts, unless you’re a follower, you know, like, and I’ve taken measures, you know, but it doesn’t mean that’s stopped people from invading the space. And that sometimes it is your, your actual following, sometimes that can be a little bit harmful without them knowing. So yeah, it’s been really, it actually is really terrifying. When it happens, to be honest, it makes me want to retreat, it makes me want to stop what I’m doing, I feel incredibly traumatized. Because it feels very violent. It’s almost as if we forget that there’s a human behind the profile. And I feel like that’s, that’s the case in general, sometimes with Instagram, which is why people get a bit out of control, and we have trolls and, but in the racial space, when somebody comes for you in your DMS, sort of attacking you on your, on a personal level. And then they really attack you. And honestly, it’s terrifying. And it makes you feel scared. Not just like in an online space where you can just like dismissive or go like, Okay, I’m going to block this person. For me, and I don’t know, if other people feel this way. But for me personally, as a woman, as well. I feel for my like, self, I feel like somebody is going to find me, you know? And like, really, I know, the things I talk about are confrontational. And they are, I don’t hold back from the explanation of things, even if even the perception of my tone is a completely different thing. Like that’s not up to me. And that comes up to other people’s biases in terms of like, angry black woman trope. But the content itself is disruptive. I understand that. But in that disruption, like, is it fair to like, invade someone’s space on a personal level? Like this is a whole conversation I’ve been dissecting with friends about internet etiquette, and would we barge into someone’s life in real life, you know, and say the things we say online, but it can be debilitating at times really.

CA

I can’t imagine. And that it’s not. It’s the history, you know, it’s the history of it as well, you know, that it’s not an isolated incident. It comes with a whole whole structure behind it, right, especially if it’s a white thing that violence. It’s such a repeat.

MG:

because, you know, real life that’s the thing. Like for me personally, it’s because you know how I know how it feels in real life. And I know Know what people can look like. And I know how angry can be people can get to your face. If you’re out at a protest, or you’re arguing on our anti racism movement meeting of some sort, this is the school sector or otherwise, like, you can see what that aggression looks like in real life. So that fear feels very tangible.

CA:

Yeah, the image that comes into my mind is, you know, when there was those fees must fall protests, and the white students formed like a barricade in front of the black protesters so that the police wouldn’t use excessive force. And it just honestly, I feel like I would love to just create a barricade around you, always so that the sort of thing doesn’t happen to you. And I don’t know how that’s actually possible. But I want to invite you to, to show me, you know, or show your followers, maybe, I don’t know, is this even helpful to show your followers where there’s instances of violence that are being committed to you so that we can in some way, step in? Take? You know, take it up with that person? I don’t know if that would be helpful, but what do you think would be helpful for people who want to help protect the space that you have created?

MG:

I think any person who posts lived experiences or anything that’s based in race and antiracist work, it’s opening themselves up to that sort of violence. I saw it on a lot of posts that happened even with like, last year with black lives matter. And, you know, infringements with like Paul’s homemade ice cream last year and things. But, um, I think that if it’s public, like if it’s a comment, knowing you have allies that don’t need prompting, that can see something and step in immediately without being asked. That means everything, it’s being able to take action without prompting. Even when you’re dealing with racist environments, there’s a movement or there’s been a lot of people online, I’m speaking to it in terms of like, coconspiratorship. Like, that’s what it takes being an ally, from somebody who’s actioning something, they will be a co conspirator. If it’s happening in your DMS, like, honestly, like, Who’s gonna know, all you’re gonna do, all I could possibly do is screenshot the DM and post it, you know, and be like, this person’s being violent? And do I really want to do that, like, that’s personally not me. But I know people who do do that, and then somebody knows to watch out for that person, you know? Yeah. But then that also for me, like, it comes down to that bit of like, cancel culture and like, personal targeting, which I don’t really like. Unless this is when it’s a human rights violation. I said this lots of times, like, that’s the only exception for cancel culture I personally hold. But I’m the one to do the act, you know, I really would like people to just be blocked and blessed.

CA:

I guess it also, that sort of makes me think about, like, Is there a limit to this question of like, calling out versus calling in like, so we, I’m just a bit wary of going over time, like we don’t have that much time left. But the idea of, you know, if someone’s not getting it, that instead of calling them out and shaming them for, for their kind of, I don’t know, internalized racism, or whatever, to rather call them in to see, what can you understand more about what they’re, what they’re thinking, you know, to really get them to explore their own inner worlds, so that they can maybe come up with their own conclusions. But at which point, do you kind of just stop calling people and I’m not talking about you personally, because if I completely understand that, if anyone attacks you, you don’t have any, absolutely no reason to want to call those people and I’m talking about someone like myself, who that’s kind of where I’m at with my journey is that it’s it’s my responsibility to call in as many white people as I can to take that burden off people of color. But so even for myself, like or, you know, someone who’s listening now, like at which point do you give up on calling someone in and you actually just say to yourself, okay, no, this person is “a write off”. I just can’t with them. I don’t know.

MG:

Do you mean it in the sense of like, instead of calling in like, opting into calling out just like that?

CA:

Yeah, just straight up blocking them. I have actually myself been you Guilty of like calling people out before and that wasn’t that helpful. But I do, I do sometimes think some people need maybe even like a restraining order or you know, something real for them to see that this is unacceptable. But just in terms of like, just like a debate with your elderly family member or something, and you’ve had the same debate every time you see them, and they just aren’t getting it. And you’ve tried to call them in as much as possible and try to explore with them and they are just stubbornly not getting it. When do you kind of give up? When do you say, Actually, I need to move on, I need to find someone else to do this with me.

MG:

I think it’s about like, yeah, sure having that conversation until you’re blue in the face. But if they’re truly just not going to get it, like it’s about you putting up a boundary about what your value systems are, and what you deem acceptable and what you as a white person, find, personally offensive, and not worthy of your personal company. And it’s about showing someone what their actions demonstrate to you and then putting up a boundary going, look, I’m obviously not going to get through to you. Obviously, this is falling on deaf ears. So know that I don’t approve of it, first of all, and second of all, know that I will not accept this rhetoric and my company. I mean, you, because everyone knows a person like that, let’s be real. Yeah, every single person knows a person like that. And that goes beyond the racial space. Like that could be politics, gender identity, it could be homophobia, it can be anything. So everyone knows a person like that, where you can argue with them about something. And they wouldn’t, they would flat out refuse based on ego, or lack of respect, whatever. Or racism and homophobia who simply just don’t want to get it and it’s about you then putting up that boundary and going like Okay, cool. The next time you do this, you’re actually infringing my personal boundary.

CA:

I love that and it’s brilliant. Boundaries are my absolute best intervention. It’s like I wish boundaries was my middle name. But I don’t think I can claim it just yet. But I definitely like to preach boundaries. And that also kind of brings me to the last question that I have for you, which is, how do you take care of yourself? What if there’s a person of color listening to this podcast, and they have been feeling and resonating with what you’ve been speaking about in terms of the trauma you’ve experienced and the difficulties you have with people violently interrupting your space? Or the microaggressions you experienced at work or wherever else? What advice do you have? How do you manage that on a personal level? How do you take care of yourself?

MG:

I’ve really been leaning into resting. And anyone who has been following me will probably see me on this new I don’t want to say new but like radical self love journey, in the sense of I realized that my racial trauma can only be fought with me loving myself and not letting the structures get to me, or the people get to me. And surrounding myself with other women of color. So in terms of taking care of myself, I very much lean into things that bring me joy, like drawing or painting and gardening and cooking, being outdoors as much as I can be and literally resting because I truly believe that our ancestors as black and brown communities, like they have like carried things on their back for us to be able to be here. And we need to have our voice but that voicing is our prerogative. I’m really in that space right now where my voice is going to be a luxury to people, because I know how hard my ancestors have worked, like coming from an indentured labor background and history. And now I have the luxury to rest if I feel like it. And it’s really hard to dismantle that

From an emotional level because we’ve been taught to grind so hard. It’s exceedingly hard for black and brown people to stop working and to stop moving and to stop taking on. It’s very, it’s very internalized, and that impostor syndrome feeling is really real. So I’d really encourage black and brown people to lean into things they love, like fully, not as like an escape, but like as a, like almost a spiritual choice for themselves to like re-center, re-ground and protect themselves from sometimes a world that doesn’t really want to interact with their experiences.

CA:

That is so beautiful. Preach. Love that. You’re amazing. Thank you so much for coming on here and talking to me today. I actually just feel like I want to book you for the next session. Like, when are we going to do another session? So everybody, if you love this conversation, please write to me. And tell me what else do you want me to talk to Mayuri about? Let’s get stuck in and let’s get even deeper into this. It’s so thrilling and exciting to talk to you and to think about how this resonates in my life and for the people that I work with. And I really appreciate your time. Thank you so so much.

MG:

This has been absolutely wonderful. And I hope it’s really like fruitful and enlightening to your listeners.

CA:

Absolutely. And I just want to say having done workshops now with Mayuri that really it is money well spent. It is seriously affordable. And so please do look up her new consulting business, she’s got amazing packages that you can do individually, seminars, you can do group seminars, you can bring her into your work. I’ll put all of this up when I do the blog post that links to this podcast. And yeah, you can get hold of her through her Instagram as well @breakingbrownsilence. Thank you so much. And yeah, I hope it’s a restful rest of your day.

MG:

You too, Carly. Thank you. Okay, take care. Cheers. Bye. This podcast is recorded at edible audio in Cape Town, South Africa, edited by edible audio. Original Music by Alex smiley.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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