"Humanity for white folks is deeply tied up in this work as well, so it's impossible to live in a world with as much injustice and think that you will be unaffected by it" - Carla Beharry
In this episode, I speak with mixed race, writer, antiracism consultant, speaker, and mental health advocate Carla Beharry. This is a conversation about racism for white people. We talk about being white and the implicit and explicit harm it has caused for generations. We talk about racial justice. We talk about racial trauma. We talk about the various ways we can teach our children about racism and how to start the process of dismantling it.
This is an important conversation, friends. This is a conversation about uprooting racism that is so embedded in our culture that it's most of the time, invisible.
As Carla says in our conversation “it’s impossible to live in a world with as much injustice and think that you will be unaffected by it” For us to truly walk a life rich with meaning and purpose, we must look at the ugly parts of humanity in the eye, especially those we are blind to, and have a willingness to acknowledge it, to be with the uncomfortableness of it. Then we begin to disrupt it. Then healing can happen as the healing is a key piece to us ALL bringing our beauty and gifts to this world.
In this episode, we talk about:
Racism - what do we really mean when we say ‘all white skinned people are racist’.
Silence - how white progressives are causing the most harm to the racial justice movement by saying nothing at all.
Parenting - how can we as parents start teaching our children, even the youngest of them, about racism, and their role in it, in a healthy and non-demoralizing way.
Discomfort - how so many white people choose not to speak out in fear of making a mistake or saying the wrong thing. We talk about how to navigate this.
Being An Advocate - what does being an advocate for the racial justice movement look like and how to engage in it in the everyday.
and our own personal journey navigating racism.
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Asking ‘what is my purpose’ is one of the most frustrating questions you can ask yourself when you’re longing for a life rich with meaning, creativity and happiness.
The free meditation below is specifically designed for people who are unclear, spinning, and stuck by the question ‘what am I here to do?'.
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About Carla Beharry
Carla Beharry is a mixed-race, Guyanese-British-Canadian, and works as relationship coach for racialized individuals and intercultural and multi-ethnic families. She is an Antiracism Consultant, writer, speaker, and mental health advocate. She specializes in health & education equity and works with wellness professionals and educators to build antiracist and equitable healthcare practices and educational opportunities for under-served racialized individuals who have been historically excluded from health and wellness spaces.
Ami: Well, Carla, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate your time being here and having this conversation with me.
Carla: Thank you, thank you so much for having me.
Ami: I wanted to start off by asking you, where are you situated right now?
Carla: I am situated in Kitchener, Waterloo. So, Kitchener, Waterloo is located on the Haldeman track, so this is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee and the Neutral Peoples.
Ami: Awesome, we're closely related. I'm in Guelph on the traditional lands of the Attiwonderonk and The Treaty Lands of the Mississauga's of the New Credit. So in getting ready for this conversation, I really found that I wasn't exactly sure where to start because there was so much that I really wanted to talk to you about because the work that you're doing is such an amazing example of what disruption is and I'd like to start by talking about disrupting white supremacy or whiteness as a norm. Rachel Ricketts, who writes this amazing book called Do Better, says in her book, "All white people are racist, whether you like it or not, or intend to be or simply by belonging to whiteness. All white people perpetuate and benefit from the global system of white supremacy on an individual and collective level", so, can we talk a little bit about white supremacy or whiteness as a norm and how all white people are racist?
Carla: Absolutely. Well, it's great that you just brought up Rachel Rickets, because just a minute ago came from a talk that Rachel Rickets was giving, that Rachel Rickets is having. So, yes, absolutely. You know, the reality is that we live in a society where whiteness is considered to be the norm and anything outside of whiteness is considered to be, quote-unquote, "different". There is a system of white supremacy that we live within and, you know, I think it's really important to even begin to differentiate terminology and become very clear on terminology. A lot of white folks don't want to associate themselves with this idea of white supremacy. But, we need to talk about the idea that there are white supremacists, like the proud boys, like the KKK. Then there is also the system of white supremacy and that is a system that benefits those who are in white bodies. It benefits those who have closer proximity to whiteness. So even for myself, being in a mixed-race, brown-skinned racialized body, you know, my closer proximity to whiteness benefits me in the system more than it would someone who's in a black body. You know, we all have to take responsibility for the fact that systemically we go back to the sixteen hundred seventeen hundreds where the construct of race was created.
Carla: And, you know, the reality is that race was created to provide benefit to those in white skin bodies. It was put into law that if you are in a white body, you are able to own land, you're able to own individuals, you're able to be in positions of leadership. This is where the RCMP grew out. This is where policing grew out of, to ensure that whiteness stayed quote-unquote, "superior", and that those in brown and black bodies were deemed to be "inferior". Policing came out of, you know, policing folks who were enslaved, policing indigenous bodies. We are all responsible for the fact that we now live in a system where if you're born into the world in a white body, you will receive benefits. In systems of health care and systems of housing and systems of education, in the criminal justice system and the employment system in the financial world, that's just factual. So we really need to start from that place.
Ami: From the place of undoing that, in looking at our own whiteness, I find so much that, you know, it's my own fragility, I recognize that too. When I read all white people are racist, I just feel this intense, physical sensation in my body. That's like, "I'm not racist. Me? I am so progressive. I'm like a left-liberal. No!", and the more and more I learned about racism that's actually the problem, that like my whiteness and my beliefs are typically more left, I find I'm learning and understanding that that actually makes me not listen or white people specifically, like turn my ears off like it's not for me, that's for the other people. That is for the old boys like those are the ones we need to look at, we don't need to look at me. So, can you tell me a little bit more about like, I'd love to like unpack this notion that, white people are all racists, like it's in the whiteness, it's in the silence, it's in the not saying, it's in the looking away. I'd like to talk a little bit about that. We can get into it, right?
Carla: Absolutely. So Ibram X Kendi, also one of my favourite authors and writers and anti-racism educators. You know, he really says that white progressives do the most harm to.
Carla: To racial justice, white progressives do the most harm to racialized individuals, and that is for the exact reasons that you're saying, that when individuals believe themselves to be outside of the responsibility for the dismantling of white supremacy, you essentially take the side of the oppressor. So really, he says, there is no neutrality in racism. If you're not speaking up, if you're not taking action, you are actively then taking the side of the oppressor. So we're either working every day to undo racism, to dismantle racism, or we are complicit in allowing racism to continue. So this is, to be honest, in all of the different organizations, workplaces, school boards that I work with. You know, we all know and we all recognize explicit racism that's very clear to us, right? We understand racial slurs. We understand racial hate, racial violence, explicit hate. We are much less comfortable with recognizing that the silence, with recognizing the subtleties that really actually perpetuate racism on a regular basis. So all of the ways in which black and brown youth are basically pushed out of school spaces, out of education spaces, not recognized for where their greatness, right? Not chosen to be the kids who go on to this to the higher-level enrichment classes, not chosen to be the kids that get to go into the advanced programming and get to go on higher education, not chosen to be the kids end up in the science and math and technology programs, right? What are all of the ways that individuals who think, "I'm so kind", you know, "I'm a nice person". Like, individuals in that mindset are a barrier to this work moving forward.
Ami: You know, it makes me think of a story. I feel very vulnerable in telling this story but I used to live in Tennessee when I was younger, I moved there when I was 13 and I lived there until I was 17, and until that point, I had never gone to school with a person of colour. Especially in the school that I was going to in Tennessee, there were no people of colour at all in that school. I was in middle school and out of nowhere, the principal came on the announcement. We were having an emergency assembly. We need everyone to come to the gym. So we all go to the gym, we're all sitting there, we're all anticipating what he is going to say. And he just gets up and he says, "I need to let everybody know that there is going to be a black child that's going to be joining you at school and I'm going to talk to you about what it looks like to talk to black people. This is how we treat them, is how we interact with them", because the KKK was so alive in the lives of those children, unbeknownst to me. Like, I didn't know this until years later, you know, when I look back and I was more mature and able to actually have conversations about it.
Ami: And the brother and the sister of those children went to the high school and the children hung nooses in their lockers and burned crosses on the courtyard. The children were asked to leave the school for their own safety. And to me, it was just it was such a loud, awful example of racism and how I saw it being lived in my experience. I will never forget the way that that felt in my body. Yeah, it was a really awful experience. I mean just sorry, I guess the reason I was sharing that was a talk about like the implicit versus the explicit, you know, that was a very explicit example of racism versus like the smaller nuances that you're speaking to. I think. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, Carla, but the smaller nuances that we're talking about around looking away, but not using our white privilege to be able to help people or be able to speak to situations and is that what you mean by the implicit versus the explicit?
Carla: So, a lot of the work that I do is in racial trauma and in really looking at healing racial trauma in racialized individuals and black and brown bodied individuals, and then also educating health care practitioners, educating educators on recognizing racial trauma. Because, you know, I'll speak a little bit first to the idea of a bias, right? You know, I use this word cautiously because I don't want bias to come across, like, "Oh, that's accidental, it's not something I'm really responsible for", right? The reality though is that, you know, time and time again, as individuals go through tests on implicit bias, 90 percent of white-bodied individuals who believe themselves to not be biased will demonstrate bias on testing. What does that mean? It means that white folks who are far more often associate negative words with black and brown faces, associate positive words with those in white bodies. You know, if we put that into like a real-life experience, individuals who work in the community, who work in, I mean, you could be in any position really, who think, "Oh, I treat everyone the same", when we start to talk about the ways the bias comes up. You know, we start to look at the ways that our nervous systems interact with each other, right? And to go into that a little more deeply.
Carla: Like everyone understands you know, if you share deep love with somebody, you could be sitting beside that person and you don't have to say a word to each other, and you know that what happens between your two bodies, right? Like you can feel like either at very much at ease, you can feel like butterflies in your heart, you know, and we all know that feeling of like what we feel like in moments of deep fear, right? If you're walking down the street, if you're in a dark stairwell, we all know that feeling. What happens to your bodies at that moment is just like clenching a drawing in a, you know, heart racing, right? So we get the fact that our bodies are always in interaction with each other. I think what individuals forget is that when you go into spaces, the exact same thing happens. So if you are a therapist and you have a white body therapist and you have a black individual that comes into your practice. You know, that person can say the words, "I treat everyone the same in my practice", but if there is a bias and implicit bias, a discomfort, you know, someone who feels more comfortable with other white bodies.
Ami: Sorry, can I ask you a question? What did you mean by implicit bias?
Carla: So, it's like what's happening. So when we look at implicit bias, implicit bias takes place in a totally different part of the brain than explicit bias. So something like hate speech, somebody yelling out the N-word, you know, yelling out racial slurs. That takes place in a cognitive declarative part of your brain. You know, when we start to look at bias, the ways that statistically white individuals will slip further away from racialized folks, white individuals will make less eye contact from black and brown folks, white teachers, white therapists are less likely to touch black and brown clients than a confirming way, like a pat on the shoulder or, you know, just the same thing with like black and brown youth in a classroom, right? So when we talk about implicit bias, implicit bias happens below the level of your subconscious in the amygdala and the hippocampus. And, you know, the names are not as so important, but important to know that it happens in the same part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response in our bodies. So, you know, that fight or flight response that happens, like when you're in moments of fear, this is the same part of the brain where bias happens. So what happens in moments where you feel discomfort? Is, you know, can be very harmful behaviours, it can be a drawing in, a turning away of your body, it can be you know, those moments in elevators where quote-unquote, "progressive white folks" take their child and then just draw their children back away from those who are racialized. Right, so, each of these things, explicit bias, implicit bias, you know, I don't like the term microaggressions because it makes it seem like, "Oh, that's a mistake", that's you know, these are small things that happen. The reality, though, is that these things can have hugely traumatic results for individuals,
Ami: Like the turning away, like the white progress of bringing the children away has huge, huge heartbreak, actually. Like what you're describing to me, this deep trauma. That is.
Carla: Right. Right.
Ami: Okay, got it.
Carla: And so then we start to look at really what is racial trauma, right? And racial trauma shows up as not as PTSD, like post-traumatic stress, racial trauma is pervasive and it's persistent, meaning racial trauma can happen all the time, any time, any time of day and other characteristics of racial trauma. It's impossible to predict when the next blow is going to come, right? So if you're in a black or brown body, you could be walking down the street thinking that you're safe and you have no idea when you know you're going to get bullied on the corner. You have no idea when something violent can happen. You have no idea when you're going to go into a restaurant and be denied a table. No idea when you're going to go into a bank and be denied a loan or a mortgage. And so individuals who carry this trauma in their bodies, right, what do we end up seeing is like, individuals whose nervous systems get completely disregulated. Right? That can show up as a nervous system on overdrive, like, you know, anger, rage, anxiety, not being able to sleep, it can look like nervous systems that are suppressed.
Carla: So folks who have, you know, high levels of depression, of exhaustion, who are spiritually tapped out. And, you know, this is where healing, where we really, really focus on deep healing in black and brown communities, but also we need to remember that healing has to take place in white bodies and white communities as well. And I go back to the experience that you share in that, if we go back historically, violence started in white communities, if we go back to Britain, to England, white bodies against white bodies, those who are wealthy and elite, being violent to those who were in white bodies but were who were like a poor or a lower class, right? That trauma of violence is also passed generationally through white bodies. So I think that's one of the things that for me, really where this work is, is that like there's a lot of cognitive information out there right now. There's a lot of learning. There are documentaries, there's reading, there are courses, all of which are, yes, delve into as many of those as possible. But the work is really this has to be heart-centred work.
Ami: Experience in our bodies. It has to come from our bodies.
Carla: It has to come from bodies.
Ami: My understanding is that 99 percent of the work actually comes from our bodies, like so much of our therapy. And like what you said, the cognitive stuff comes from here, but the transfer down into the bodies doesn't happen the same way. It actually happens the other way around, that our bodies are actually storing the trauma and it is generational. It is being passed down generation to generation to generation. And I'm curious, I would love to talk to you a little bit about parenting. I'm not sure if you're a parent or not, you know. Okay, that's okay. I was I'm wondering, like, I have a four year old and a six year old, and I love to talk to you a little, how do we start teaching? You know, this is something that really got me so interested, talking about this trauma being passed down, my trauma that I experienced, you know, am I as a white person. But even, you know, as black people, it's being passed on to our children whether or not they are having a direct relationship or not to that experience. How do we start teaching our young children from the beginning about this work? Like what do you say to parents? How do we start, especially the young children that don't necessarily understand the language? Like when I say to them, "racism", they don't get that. They don't understand racism. How do we start changing the narrative? What work do we have to do for that?
Carla: It's so essential to start when children are young. By the age of three, children will be able to assign positive characteristics to white dolls and to assign negative characteristics to black and brown dolls, right? So by the age of three, children are able to to pick up on in groups and out groups. This individual looks like me, this individual doesn't look like me. So when we look at when we start to look at bias, when we start to look at explicit forms of hate and violence, the reality is that, we can it is possible. To change through neuroplasticity, it is possible to change what happens in our brains, right? But there has to be regular, consistent exposure for children. So, I always encourage whitebody parents with white children. You know, if you look around and start really asking questions. So the questions I would pose are, "if you look around how many of your close friends are racialized?", and you can answer or you don't have to answer.
Ami: I thought, oh yeah, yeah, like very few.
Carla: And then how many of your children's friends are racialize black, indigenous or racial?
Ami: Also very few.
Carla: So that's a common answer, you know. But the reality is that there is no way, your white children or any white children are going to understand racism or their role in it with little to no exposure to black and brown children, right? So when we go back to this idea of, you know, heart work, of understanding how our bodies work with each other and around each other, it is essential for parents to begin when kids are young to develop cross-cultural intercultural friendships, to expose your children your children to as many cultures, as many languages as you can. You know, I always encourage parents, like if you live in a fairly wealthy white neighborhood or even if you live in a white neighborhood, take your kids out of your neighborhood and sign them up for sports teams in an area of the city where there is more diversity. And so this is where, though it's really important to not be tokenistic, it's really important to not you know, the work isn't, "Oh, we went to a Jamaican restaurant", you know, we have to be really careful at the work, it isn't where were just taking some pieces of a culture that we want and then going back into our white comfy white neighborhood, right? We're talking like building real authentic relationships and not from a white savior perspective, not from a, "oh, I volunteered at an organization that's going to help poor, poor brown kids get meals", you know, because I think that that's often what ends up happening, is that a lot of times those kind of relationships still maintain this power imbalance.
Carla: Right? When we talk about like anti-oppression, it's really talking about imbalances in power, imbalances in power dynamics. If we want to build restorative relationships, restorative classroom, restorative health care spaces, we need to really look at all of the ways that we can start to shift these balance of power. And, you know, a lot of that has to do with from being very, very young, starting to build cross-cultural relationships. It's educating children, so if you look around, you know, I have a niece who is almost one and the very first things that I got for her are, you know, and she is she's mixed race as well and so the very first thing that I got for her are books with black characters and brown characters, black and brown dolls. I gave her two dolls, one is a brown doll, one's a black doll. Right? Because this is what I want her to see. We want to normalize. I mean, she's around our family, so she sees brown skinned people all the time. But like, you know, when I was growing up in my family in Kitchener, in Waterloo, Kitchener, Waterloo was very white, you know, in my school, like, I went through 13 years of education in Kitchener, Waterloo, up to grade 13 and I had one brown skinned teacher. But luckily for our family, you know, we had plenty of Guyanese family members. So we were always exposed to, you know, we have plenty of brown skinned family. We would spend our, when we had opportunity to take vacation, we would always be going back to the Caribbean.
Ami: You are really exposed, you're exposed.
Carla: Yeah, it was very normal and normalized for us. We had brown dolls, we had black dolls, we had books with like characters that looked like us. Right? So it's really, really essential that, you know, if you just take your children to volunteer, and I'll say something that stereotypically happens like quote- unquote, "raise money for children in enter the name of an African country that a lot of people think", you know, I need to go volunteer for. Right? You're maintaining this system of white supremacy because you're maintaining the power structure and power dynamics that white folks are saviors, this is your role. And, you know, black and brown folks are in need of help, so to speak, so what are all of the ways that you can begin to normalize these relationships for your children?
Ami: And also, I think what you're saying, also very interesting on how you're talking about affordable hollick where that white people are perpetuating racism, like that act is a very good act, we are good people, we are going out and do volunteer work. But it's the implicit, we white people are going to go out and save the the black skin, brown skinned people, and I think that's a great example of how we're perpetuating the racism, even for our children. I also think that, you know, in asking you the question and this before, I think a lot of the work also comes from us doing our own work as parents. I think it really has to start with us. And, you know, and I'll share this, when I was setting up this conversation with you, I shared with you like, "this conversation makes me uncomfortable", like I am afraid I'm going to say something that's going to offend somebody. I'm going to offend you, that's going to be offensive, I'm going to get in trouble, the community may yell at me, it's happened before. And I think, you know, what I love to hear your perspective on it, but I think that is a part of the process, you know, like that as a part of actually the undoing, you know, that's a part of our right fragility, it's like, "I'm not making a mistake". Robin D'Angelo wrote the book White Fragility, and she talked about that, we are so afraid, white people are so afraid of saying something that is going to make us look bad. I mean, that's a small example of what my experience, the white fragility is.
Ami: We have to be willing to be uncomfortable. And Jesse Lipscombe, he's an actor in Alberta, in Edmonton, and he's really taken up the hashtag #MakeItAwkward. He talks about how white people, you know, we can kind of think of ourselves as like think about lobster, you know, lobsters start off as small and they go and they start to grow their shell. And when they've grown their shell, there's a period of time, while their new shell is growing, that they're naked, they're completely naked, and they're really open to, you know, getting pecked on and getting bitten and in getting, you know, attacked. But it's, you know, it's comparative to our journey as white people that we have to be willing to lose our shell and step outside of the comfort and be willing to make the mistakes and be corrected and have to look at ourselves and sit a little bit in the shame and then go talk to our white friends about the shame that we're experiencing, so that we can actually start having deeper conversations about like, this is actually what it looks like to not look away. It's uncomfortable, uncomfortable conversation, and that's what it's going to take. And I think what we really have to be asking is, are we willing to be uncomfortable? You know, I don't know. I'm curious. What do you think?
Carla: I mean, I think the reality is that the discomfort that a white individual will feel, will be a small fraction of the pain and challenge and discomfort that black and brown folks feel every moment of every day being out in a, you know, dominant white society. So I think that, you know, there are some challenges, the challenges even with the term white fragility in that, you know, the reality is a lot of it is, you know, these things can be re-termed white violence because, you know, White Fragility, a book written by a white woman ends up being very palatable for white folks. Right? And you know, well, Robin D'Angelo makes some valid points in her book. You know, the reality is, is that she is a white woman, has learned all of that information from black and brown individuals, right? She's gotten and you know, I will say that in this in the talk I was just listening to with some depth in Rachel Rickard's, you know, this exact conversation was taking place of, the reality is like Robin D'Angelo is a millionaire from this white fragility book that she wrote. Meanwhile, like black and brown folks who are on the ground doing this work every day have a hard time paying the rent. So, you know, I think that when we really talk about this question about, you know, how do we begin to educate our children and educate ourselves? I mean, amazing that you have Rachael Rickett's book right there, you know, reading beyond like read the books from, like the black and brown authors.Carla: Right? Read through Angela Davis, you know, read books from like black and brown folks who have the lived experience of racism and being in a black and brown body, right? This is whose work that we need to be supporting. You know, when you look at like what are other ways we can teach our kids, like children need to see their parents advocating for things that are are wrong. So not just silently, like here's a couple of books, you know. Yes, books, everything. We need books. We need dolls. We need all those things. But, in Guelph, I think you're located, for example, you know, I did a talk for Hillside last year and I titled it "Where Are All The Black And Brown People In Downtown Guelph", because the reality is that it's very white in downtown. Well, right? But, you know, if you look at the population of Guelph as a whole, there's a number of individuals who are self-identified, I don't know the exact percentage, but just say there's somewhere between like fifteen to twenty five percent of the Guelph's population might self-identified as being racialized. Where are those individuals in that downtown core? Not represented. And, you know, white children need to see their white parents advocating for that change, right? It shouldn't just be black and brown folks saying, "hey, we need a couple more, you know, a black owned businesses down here", we need to see white folks out there saying, "hey, we need some more black or brown owned businesses". The same with like, you know, dismantling the S.R.O. program, like the Student Resource Officer Program, which is policing in schools.
Carla: Right? A large majority of that work that has been done to get police removed from schools and Kitchener, Waterloo and the Upper Grand District School Board has been done by racialized folks. On the outside, biracial students in these schools who are, you know, advocating over and over again, you know, to talk about the amount of harm that's done to to black youth, to indigenous youth, with police being present in schools. It would be very rare to see white parents also advocating for the removal of police in schools because white parents don't often need to advocate because their children are not impacted in a harmful way by having police at schools. So if you really want to be teaching your children, look for ways to advocate, right? Take your children to indigenous led events that are raising money for some of the indigenous land back camps, take your children to talks by indigenous speakers actively. You know, if you're in a restaurant or a cafe in downtown Guelph and you see either a violent act of racism or even you see something as subtle, like, you know, a brown skinned woman waiting at a cash register and the cashier, like kind of looking around them and serving somebody white. First, take that moment to vocally say, "Oh, sorry. I think this woman was waiting first", right? This is where, like, we need to and, you know, something like that, those are things that are often termed micro aggressions. But micro aggressions have macro consequences. Allow your children to see you actively advocating and using your voice.
Ami: That's so helpful.
Carla: Yes, yeah, mistakes will happen, that's just to guarantee. Mistakes happen for all of us. But again, those mistakes will be very minimal in comparison, like the discomfort from those mistakes be very minimal compared to what what racialized folks carry every day.
Ami: That's so, that was an aha moment for me there. I mean, yes, exactly. Like, I don't know what to say. Of course. Like come on, you know, like no big deal. Thank you for sharing that. That was so helpful.
Ami: And I'd like to know a little bit more about you, I'd love to hear your story on your personal journey, your personal story that brought you to this moment in time right now, to become an anti-racism and anti oppression consultant. Get a little bit of a background?
Carla: Sure, so I am mixed race, intercultural, multiethnic. I come from a Guyanese British family, my dad is from Guyana, my mom is from England. So for my whole life, you know, I've grown up with my brown skinned family and my white skin family. In observing the journeys of my Guyanese family and my British family, the journeys have been very, very different. You know, I look at, you know, my Guyanese family lived in subsidized housing in Toronto for their entire life, right? My Guyanese grandfather, who owned a pharmacy in Guyana, came to Canada, worked at Mount Sinai as a pharmacist and got paid like minimum wage, was never recognized for his skill set.
Ami: And sorry, this was your grandfather? That was your grandfather?
Carla: My grandfather, yeah. You know, my British family, although they came here earlier, were able to accumulate a lot of wealth here, right? To you know, they still lived modestly, modestly in a fairly small house in Montreal. But the reality is that, you know, at the end of my nana's life, my British nana's life, she was in like a fairly luxurious long-term care home surrounded by a whole bunch of other white individuals. If you look at her long-term care home, there wouldn't have been a single black or brown folks there, you know, maybe one or something. But the reality she lived, she had the ability to accumulate the wealth, to move forward and to move ahead, right? So growing up, you know, my experience is always looking around to see like where are the people who look like me? And I very rarely saw that in my schools, in my area, in restaurants, yoga studios, cafes, you know, you walk in and scanned the room and we're often in spaces that are so white, you know, we circle back to this idea that whiteness has become the norm. So I did my undergrad at the University of Guelph twenty one years ago, and at that time I did my I know crazy, I did my my undergrad thesis on race and facial recognition. So at that time, I was studying bias in that educational institution. And, you know, so that my work is really rooted in my personal experience, but academically started doing that work like at least 20 years ago, this work at least 20 years ago and spent much of the last 20 years living outside of Canada. So I spent quite a bit of time living and working in the Caribbean, in health and wellness equity, HIV education, really working in creating and when I say health equity, I mean health resources for those who are in black and brown bodies. So, a lot of the work I do now is in is in health equity and racial trauma, racial justice, anti-racism, anti-depression work.
Ami: And you do a lot of work in somatic experience. Do I understand that right? Also?
Carla: Yes, yeah. So I currently am training with Resmaa Menakem , who wrote the book, My Grandmother's Hands, which is a phenomenal book. So I'm currently training with him and a really, really incredible group of facilitating hands.
Ami: And Kristen Bell, too? Is she also a part of it? Yeah, okay, amazing. You have an amazing crew.
Carla: Yes, yeah. It's really, really incredible learning, and that's where, you know, when we talk about the idea of healing racial trauma, these are spaces where that healing takes place. And it's really about experiential learning, right? So we're trying to move out of this cognitive. It's not just about reading all the books, because, you know, I think, again, Ibrim X Kendi gives us great example of he said, you know, you can read 20 books on Rock-climbing and you can get out to the side of a mountain and have no idea what you're doing.
Ami: Yeah, exactly.
Ami: So, yeah,
Carla: How do we embody the work is really you know, my work is in exploring how we embody this work.
Ami: I'm wondering if there's anything else you'd like to add to the conversation, Carla, before we wrap up for today.
Carla: No, I think we've covered a lot. I appreciate you being here and asking these questions, and, you know, I encourage anyone who is listening to really start to think about, you know, go deeply into that self reflection. Like, where are the ways I am still holding trauma in my own bodies. Where are the ways that I'm benefiting from being in a white body? Where are the ways that I haven't advocated, where I could advocate a little bit more? And, you know, what is this journey that I'm on? Because I think that if this is, again, a really heart centered, spiritual journey, and it's it's essential work if we want to live in a world that is, you know, has justice and I think the thing for white folks, especially to understand is that, humanity for white folks is deeply tied up in this work as well. So it is impossible to live in a world with as much injustice and think that you will be unaffected by it. So the only path forward is really for every person to be doing this work.
Ami: Carla, thank you so much for the time. And it was so lovely to have a conversation with you today. Thank you.
Carla: Thank you so much for having me. Much appreciated.