SooJin and Hannah sit down with Margaret Gerstle (Hannah’s 63-year-old aunt!) for this brave episode. Margaret shares how her commitment to redistributing wealth has helped her to better understand the true needs of her community, to learn new tools for addressing racism, to expand her network of friends, and to strengthen her overall sense of self-confidence. We love her humility and courage as she pushes herself to gain awareness and leverage her white privilege to help realize an antiracist future.
Urban League in Louisville
“Konda Mason: Holding Love Capital Sacred” on Green Dreamer
“Edgar Villanueva: Money as Sacred Medicine” on Green Dreamer
The High Cost of Racism webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUvPl5j57wk
Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva
E25: What White People Are Doing (Part 3 of 4)
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Guest: Margaret Gerstle
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Welcome to episode 25. We are continuing our four-part series on what white people are doing to share the burden of eliminating racism and white supremacy in our society with Margaret Gerstle our third guest. But before we bring her in it's time for our accountability check-in so, Hannah, how are you doing on your commitments?
Hannah: So, it hasn't been that long since our last recording. However, I did make some progress. I had made two commitments. One is I'm working with my kids’ school on trying to figure out ways to be more involved in equity and racial justice and antiracist parenting like within the school realm. And I have been working with some of the leaders of the school to put together some ideas initially, and now we're kind of forming out what might be a kind of an event that would bring parents together to start a conversation around equity at the school. And up until this point, it's been primarily me as a white woman and several of the leaders that I'm meeting with also identify as white and - so wanting to make sure that even in this initial planning phase of what this might look like to have voices of families of color. And so we hadn't really gotten to a point where the school felt comfortable, like making a concerted effort to do that themselves. And so I've just been sort of reaching out to the families that I know just through my kids. And so I did make some of those connections. And the feedback is starting to come in and overall it's positive and that there's interest in potentially having this first conversation to kind of see, you know, who comes, what all happens and what we could build together beyond that.
So that's where that's at. And then I also had the goal of setting up some kind of learning app or something to start learning Spanish. And I have taken Spanish classes like in high school and college and stuff. And so it's not totally new to me, but I did download an app called Duolingo, which you can do for free at least initially. And I know there are others and I'll check those out too. But, I kinda like this one so far and they say, oh, you should do it for 10 minutes a day. And I did it for like over an hour yesterday. It was interesting because I haven't been in practice for so many years. And so it was interesting to see where I was making mistakes and where I just like could pick back up right away. So anyways, so it's underway. And so I feel good that I was accountable to that.
SooJin: That's great. Yeah. I heard good things about that app.
Hannah: Yeah. And the kids are really interested in it. And so eventually I think what you can do is do like a family plan. And so then they could have like, you know, their own, whatever on their tablet or something, so that it's their level. And then they can just log in and keep going. Cause it, it gets gradually harder and harder based on your progress. And so I think it would be good for them to start learning to.
SooJin: That's great. Okay, so for me, I made the commitment based on the conversation with Delia and our last episode, she had posed the question, what are educators doing in response to the pushback against critical race theory and in social studies curriculum regarding teaching the more true, honest version of our American history. And, so I've already started to come up with a list of potential guests to invite. And so that's something that I will eventually come to you with Hannah. Yeah. And kind of think through the sequence of that series. So yeah, that's it. So yeah, pretty short accountability check-in which is like rare for us. Um okay. But we're getting it done.
Hannah: Yeah. We're just getting quicker.
SooJin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So Hannah, do you mind setting the intention for today before I bring Margaret into our conversation?
Hannah: Sure. Yeah. I'm just gonna say our intention is to be present.
SooJin: Wonderful. I really appreciate that that’s the intention you set because my mind, like, honestly, like up until now, I've been thinking about all kinds of other things and you're saying be present. So that reminder is exactly what I need to just focus in on this conversation with the two of you. So thank you for that.
Hannah: Yeah, me too.
SooJin: Yeah. Sometimes like our intentions are things that we need for our own selves.
Hannah: Yeah, totally.
SooJin: Yeah. And then, and then you taking care of yourself, you also are helping me to take care of my own self. So I love how powerful self-care is in that way. Like it truly is collective care.
Okay. So welcome Margaret. Would you mind sharing with our listeners a little bit about who you are, where you come from, and what you do?
Margaret: I live in Louisville, Kentucky. I'm 63 years old. I'm married and for 40 years. I have two children. My son is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he and his wife have three adorable children. And then I have a daughter who lives here in Louisville and she is single and she lives just about a mile from me. My husband and I are both retired and we are about to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to be with our grandchildren.
SooJin: That sounds like a nice, wonderful way to spend your retirement.
Margaret: Yes. Yeah.
SooJin: So as you know, we had your older sister Delia on our show to address some of the questions that Marjorie Grevious posed regarding, you know, what are white people doing? And, I'll ask you what we asked her, which is, you know, so what have you been doing? What conversations have you been having? How are you sharing the load, sharing the burden so that the work of antiracism doesn't strictly fall on the shoulders of people of color?
Margaret: So, I began in earnest, I suppose my husband and I began, back in 2018. I was particularly spurred on after golly, all those high profile, awful deaths, Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland down in Texas. I had lived in Texas and had experienced people just saying things that were very odd to me. Our neighborhood had a chat room and people would post “there's a Black man walking down the street,” you know, that kind of thing. And we had come from Naperville (Chicago) and so it was odd. And so it kind of resounded with me, this young woman going down, I think to start a new job and through a silly traffic violation, ends up dead. That really freaked me out. And so I said to my husband, I would like to do something. I said, I don't think that the government is ever going to get to a place where there will be reparations, but you know what, we can do reparations ourselves. And so I got in touch with the Urban League here in Louisville, and I sent an email to them and it was an interesting reaction. They didn't get back with me. And so I tried again and I knew someone who was on the board of directors. And I talked to him about it. Long story short the woman did get in touch with me. But she thought I was pulling their leg because they'd never had anybody make that kind of an offer. You know, I said, we'd like to do our part in making reparations and they were just shocked. And so we started a partnership with them, basically it's a financial one. But, you know, I have been still missing the point sometimes. For example in 2020, when Breonna Taylor was murdered, I got in touch with them because I wanted to make more of an effort, but it was more based on the COVID. And the woman with whom I do the financial work, she asked, “how are you doing?” And I thought it had to do with COVID. I wasn't even picking up on the horrifying grief that the Black American community was feeling. I didn't even pick up on that. And I felt really ashamed about that. But I guess it was more yet again, another step in my own progression toward shouldering some of that burden. And, you know, I was invited to the McGrath Race Talks, which has been really great. In the space of the financial stuff I do here in Louisville, I started with the community foundation of Louisville and I spoke to them about how I wanted to contribute financially. And so they put me in touch with fund holders. And I guess a number of people were thinking in that space and two people - a Black man who has an amazing charity here, and a white woman - they started this fund holders impact group, and we do Zoom meetings every two weeks. And we bring in people from the community who may be running their own foundation, based on homelessness, mental health issues, and that's been an incredible resource for learning more and more about the truth and what the needs are really.
SooJin: Thank you for sharing that. I loved what you said about how we don't have to wait for the federal government to start the reparations process. We can do this ourselves. And I was literally just talking this week with the class that I teach at the University of Minnesota about the importance of redistribution and the work of racial equity that like we cannot achieve equity, we cannot achieve equality without redistribution. So for you to be sharing with us, you know, being a model of what that kind of redistribution could look like, is really great. So thank you for sharing that story. It also sounds like in you participating in this reparations process, you're also gaining relationships and in gaining those relationships with people who have different lived experiences with you, you're having a better sense of like, what are the needs of the community? Like that is the whole point of being in a relationship with others. Right. It's like the community knows best what they need, and so that's wonderful to hear that you're forging those types of relationships and following their lead as it relates to that. So beautiful, beautiful stuff. Thanks for that, Margaret.
So Delia had kind of talked about the genesis of the McGrath Race Talks. And so I was wondering if you could say a little bit more about kind of your role and what made you commit to participating in those talks and what things you're observing and witnessing, just in terms of like, you know, what are you talking about? How are the conversations going? Have you been seeing shifts in consciousness among the people that are attending? So, if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about those conversations that you're having within your family, through these McGrath Race Talks.
Margaret: sure. I wanted to join because things or so troubling. And I felt that it was a safe space to speak about and also learn from others. I know people know more than me. Hannah has been, she's just so good at facilitating. She's so even handed and unflappable. And I think one of the things that I felt like with most of the people in the group is that we wanted to develop tools for addressing racism when we see it in public. How to speak to someone who says a blatantly racist comment without getting angry and without being holier than thou. And it's hard to do. I think that it's a really long process because I, for one, am less assertive than I would like to be. And mostly I've been a stay-at-home mom. So even like in that fund holder group, I feel so - not really intimidated - but just wowed by how other people conduct themselves, because I am not in that space. I'm more timid, but the group gives you strength, you know, and I feel like I would probably be better now in a situation like that. I don't feel, I can make a comment about anybody else, but I feel like it has helped me in that regard.
SooJin: It sounds like maybe before these talks, you were, even more kind of timid and uncertain about like how to address things, but the talks have provided you with some more confidence and also some tools that you can draw on to be able to interrupt when you see something. Is that an accurate reflection?
Margaret: Yeah. It's actually helped me feel more confident all around, which is nice.
Hannah: I totally feel that too.
SooJin: That's wonderful. So what would you say has been kind of the hardest part of this process for you this journey?
Margaret: So in my fund holder impact group, I had introduced an idea and I spoke with the Black man who is one of the two founders about this idea. And he kind of shut me down on it. And I took it personally and didn't see his point. And he was absolutely correct. And when I got it, I went with the idea he had rather than the idea I had, and so I am constantly being humbled by my own white fragility and, so it was hard and it will continue to be hard, but it's helpful. One of the things that was helpful with the community foundation is that they did a program called trust in philanthropy. And it was really helpful because it helped me see, to build a relationship with - for me it's the urban league - and trust that they know what their needs are, as you were saying earlier, and just give them the money and let them do what they need to do with it instead of letting my ideas dominate. So that was a little bit hard at first, but then that's gotten easier because I totally get it.
SooJin: Yeah. Yeah. That's uh, one of the biggest kind of complaints of philanthropy is the money having strings attached. Yeah, there's definitely a shift in philanthropy that's taking place where now you see more and more, the sense of trust. I'm thinking of in particular the Million Artists Movement, they have a fund called Trust Black People, which is like, we give you this money no strings attached, because we trust that you're going to use it in the way that you say that you're going to use it and we also trust that, you know what you need best, you know, what your community needs best, not us outsiders. And so that's wonderful to hear that you're experiencing that shift. What would you say have been some of the gains?
Margaret: Well, one of the things that I've been really pleased about with our fund holders impact group is I don't get out much I have my family here and I have some friends and I'm not a joiner much. I'm kind of a homebody. But this group, there are, I would say 11 or 12 of us who meet, and connect and so kind of, um, maybe a seed of a friendship there. And that, makes me really happy.
SooJin: And then the last question is, do you have any advice for the white people who are tuning in and who find themselves in you? Like they're a little timid, they're kind of homebody-ish, they're shy. For those who are on the fence and who are hesitant to start this journey, what advice do you have for them? Or what would you say to them?
Margaret: If you're on the fence, I'd say, go for it because it has been really wonderful, and I'm kind of, hesitant to give advice and kind of believe everybody has to find their own way type thing. But there's a lot of need out there and a lot of work to be done. It's been, it's turned out to be far greater joy than you might think. I guess that's what I would say is a lot of joy and a lot of satisfaction in going down this road.
SooJin: Well, what was it that you told yourself to kind of get over that, hump or fear?
Margaret: I'm not over it, but, um, there was an incident within one of our fund holder meetings and I got rather riled up by the presenter who I felt like was espousing some unhelpful philosophies, maybe about women, especially poor women. And I kind of pressed this person on it and afterward I felt badly because he was a guest and I sent him an apology and I sent an apology out to the whole group saying, you know, I probably shouldn't have kind of come back on him. And I got three private emails from fellow fund holders, all women. And one said, I didn't see anything wrong with what you said at all, be your own true self. And that helped me so much, so much. So I felt, well maybe what I'm saying was okay. Maybe my little fiery self is okay.
SooJin: I love that because it's kind of a running theme of this podcast that antiracist work is humanizing, you know? And so to be able to get that validation and that confirmation that this side of who you are is okay and actually is necessary. Like we need that fire absolutely in this work. So yeah, that's beautiful that this work is bringing that part of you out. So. Great. Thank you for that.
Hannah: Before we do the lightning round questions, Margaret, is there anything that you would like to lift up or promote like an organization or a project initiative that you want our listeners to know about?
Margaret: Well, I I'm just really tied into the Urban League. The woman who is the director here in Louisville is an amazing person. She is just chock-full of ideas and she's inspirational. And, she's done so much in Louisville for the communities of color, and also for people who are under-resourced. She's just wonderful. So that's who I would promote.
Hannah: Thank you for that. Okay. So our lightning round is just kind of whatever first comes to mind. So antiracist parenting or caretaking is...
Hannah: What's one thing your kids or grandkids did to make you smile?
Margaret: When the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor incidents occurred, my son started with his group that he leads at his work every Friday - a check-in an hour or so of check-in with everybody. So I was proud of him and yes, it made me smile.
Hannah: What are you reading right now?
Margaret: The book that I'm supposed to lead for my book club, but I haven't finished. I read tons of news, but my actual book is called The Last Ridge and I need to get it done.
Hannah: I know that feeling. What are you doing to take care of yourself?
Margaret: That's a beauty. I started Tai Chi last May. And that has been such a saving grace. I get into that big old, dirty gym. It's held in a fairly old, horrible space, but it is so peaceful. And that's [inaudible]. It's again, a fairly small group of regulars and I kind of made a friend with one of the young men and that's been a really nice delight.
Hannah: Awesome. Last question. What question would you like Antiracist Parenting Podcast to explore in a future episode?
Margaret: I guess I would like the double burden of being a Black person in America and having mental health issues.
Hannah: Is there anything else that you would like to share before we say goodbye?
Margaret: I don't think so. I've talked a lot and I'm sorry. I blabbered.
Hannah: No, this is what it's all about. It's so, so wonderful to hear your stories. I feel like even though we meet monthly and you know, we are connected otherwise from that, I still feel like I've learned so many things from you just now. So thank you so much.
Margaret: Well, thank you all for having me and thank you all for doing this. I appreciate it very much.
SooJin: Thank you. Okay. Take care.
Hannah: Bye Margaret.
Hannah: Margaret's awesome. I actually didn't know parts of her story about like how she and her husband (my uncle) basically made that decision in 2018 to do reparations. So that's way cool. Like, so yeah, like needed and so interesting that the initial reaction from the Urban League was thinking that, it's like a joke or something. So yeah. Super interesting to hear all that. It definitely gave me lots to think about in terms of just the financial piece and how we every year, John and I decide on like an amount that's going to be this money and that, I mean, mostly I'm the one who makes sure it gets out to the world, but, um, that's kind of how we've done it, but it's, I think we could be more, I don't know, strategic or something thinking about it, maybe. I don't know. Um, so yeah, anyways some good things for me to think about.
SooJin: And more and more folks of color and Indigenous folks are getting into the philanthropic space. Um, so it's just been really wonderful to see the ways that they're rethinking money, rethinking capital, rethinking wealth in a way that is much more community, collective oriented. I'm thinking about Konda Mason who talks about love capital. I'm also thinking about Edgar Villanueva who talks about decolonizing wealth. So, um, both of them, like they are involved in establishing organizations and also uplifting organizations where the principle of trust, you know, being like a foundational aspect and that the community knows better like how that money should be spent, and what is needed. And so, I love their work and the ways that they are working to decolonize philanthropy and recenter the experiences and the needs of the communities who are most harmed.
Hannah: Yeah. And there's an interesting, um, webinar that Ibram X. Kendi’s center - I forget the title of it, but they just had a webinar that they had hosted about like the true cost of racism in the United States. And then they had a panel and it was, yeah, it was really fascinating. So I'll make sure to share that in the show notes because anyone can watch it now, the conversation, and it kind of aligns with what we're talking about here with like redistributing wealth and how we do that in ways that also interrupt the system rather than just like filling in kind of like the urgent need of right now, but not actually undoing the problem to begin with.
SooJin: Exactly. Yeah. So moving from band-aid solutions that philanthropy typically engages in, and instead getting at the root problems that create these kinds of inequities. Yeah and that is exactly the kind of philanthropy that Konda Mason and Edgar Villanueva and folks like them who are engaging in this work are doing. That’s awesome.
Hannah: I always just feel so humbled by both Delia and Margaret. And when they talk about me and the role that I've been playing with the McGrath Race Talks, because they've done a lot and all the people who come to the sessions each month are, I mean, they're just bringing so much to every single conversation. And so I just feel so much gratitude and I'm really honored to just be able to be in connection with them in this way.
SooJin: And I want to thank you, to you and also your family for engaging in this work. How many people generally show up at these meetings?
Hannah: I would say probably like 8-10 regularly. So the core sort of like organizing committee is maybe like eight people. And then we put it out to the 200 whatever family email list, and then we've just been collecting anyone who's shown interest. We just like add them to the list. And so then that's who gets like the monthly notices, like here's the agenda, you know, whatever. And then, you know, you come, if you can. So we have like a standing monthly meeting. That's like the third Saturday of every month. And now we've also in addition to that, we're introducing one weeknight a month. So that for people who like Saturday mornings, like will never work, that it gives another option. And it's also a different format. So like our Saturday morning ones are very, um, we have a very specific agenda and like, we go through the prompts and we go and we're doing a circle. And so, it's all very planned. Whereas this other one is more like a practitioners’ group where you come in, it's like you give people an update on like, here's a resource I found helpful, or here's a question like, can somebody help me figure this out? And it's more of like a working group feel to it. So we're kind of experimenting a little bit on what people want, what's working. And then also just making sure that like we, as the facilitators can manage it with our lives. Yeah. So anyways, it's really a group effort to get all that together.
SooJin: Yeah. I appreciate those kinds of details because again, thinking about our listeners, Like, if they want to replicate this, or if they want to take some components and elements of this, there are different ways to approach the work to get started. If you're interested in doing this work with your family, which is precisely what we are encouraging people to do, you know, is to reach out with your family members.
Hannah: Yeah. And I'll say one other thing is, you know, we really took the approach of kind of putting it together almost as if we were an organization. Like we have a mission, we have goals. We have like rules of engagement if you will, we call them touch stones, but basically like the agreements of like how we will be together and the expectations of being in the space and, you know, Margaret really validated it by saying that it is a safe space and safety cannot be guaranteed. I mean, that's just the fact of the world, but we can actually do things that help to make it as safe as possible for people to feel more comfortable opening up about really personal parts of themselves. And so, anyways, that's been our approach and, you know, I think some people can look at this group and say, this is “like-minded people” or something along those lines but I kind of push back on that. Like, I mean, I think everyone who comes like is eager to learn, but like we disagree amongst ourselves, you know, like within the group of the McGrath Race Talks. So it really is important to have those guidelines because, you know, we get into some gray areas where okay, well how do we want to address this particular conflict that has come up? And so we work together and we listen to each other and, you know, SooJin something you've taught me is moving at the speed of trust. And so we do that and we say, okay, if this isn't feeling comfortable for some of our members, like we're just gonna go at the pace so that we can make sure that we're helping all of us along and not just like, well, we're just going to go onto the next thing or whatever.
SooJin: Yeah. Yeah. And I learned that concept from Adrienne Maree Brown. So yeah. Okay. Well, great. Thanks so much for that.
Hannah: How do you feel about making our commitments now?
SooJin: Sure. Yeah, so I think the thing that is coming up for me is remember when I asked Margaret about the fear, like how she's able to overcome her timidness, her fears and stuff. And she's like, oh, I'm not over it. You know? Um, I'm really glad that she was genuinely honest in her response because it reminded me that this work isn't about eliminating fear. It's not about getting rid of it rather. It's about not letting fear hold us back. I mean, I know she wasn't trying to like send that message, but that's the message that I got from her response. And so she helped reframe for me that this work isn't about overcoming fear, but acknowledging our fears, And not letting our fears stop us from doing the right thing. And so in thinking about that, I'm thinking like, what are the ways in which my teaching practice, like how will that shift with that being the reorientation? Because so much of my work, like when I am in the classroom, it's like, okay, how do we get over our fears? But rather, I think I need to pivot away from instead of getting over, how do we recognize it, acknowledge it for real, but not let it stop us?
Hannah: Yeah. Kind of shifting the relationship to fear.
SooJin: Exactly. That's it. Yeah. So that's my commitment is shifting my relationship to fear.
Hannah: Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. I am going to have my commitment be around talking to John about the financial piece of like, this is something that year after year, we set our budget or whatever - this piece of making sure that we're redistributing the wealth that we have. And I also need to learn more, like you mentioned Konda Mason, I've read Edgar Villanueva, and I've read another book. I can't remember the title of it right at this moment, but, um, around kind of like how philanthropy is shifting and different ways to kind of think about money and visions of how we could operate where we're not so money focused. And so, yeah. Anyway, I mean, it's like a very huge and overwhelming thing that I'm talking about in terms of like societal change. But I really want to better understand like what are some of the steps that we could be doing more so than what we're doing to work towards some of these like visions that are out there and be more strategic about it?
SooJin: Yeah. Um, that's wonderful because I think so, you know, Konda, Mason, she blew my mind when she talked about love capital and Edgar Villanueva blew my mind when he talked about money as medicine, like, whoa, like really like to think about money as medicine that just like, wow, what would that look like? Because so much of our relationship to money has been very toxic. Right. And money has done a lot of harm, but money's not going away. So I love how he's turning money on its head and being like, well, we created money, the concept of money. And if we think about it, it's just literally a piece of paper. So, I mean, it's literally a piece of paper and it's people who assign all this value and meaning to this piece of paper. And what if we assigned the value of medicine to this piece of paper? Like what would that look like? So, yeah, love that that's your commitment.
Hannah: Yes. And I'm motivated and also I have a lot to learn in this area and kind of like what you were saying, like changing relationship to fear. Like I need to change my relationship to money.
SooJin: Beautiful, awesome. Well, great commitments. So thank you to Margaret for inspiring our commitments today.
Hannah: Yes. Thank you, Margaret. And yeah. And then our last episode will be with my cousin, Laura. So looking forward to that.
SooJin: Yeah, me too. Okay. Thanks so much, everybody for tuning in hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, week, month, depending on when you're listening to this. Okay. Take good care.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.