“America is a melting pot” gets said a lot. But that implies that we’re all melting down our differences and becoming the same thing. Instead, we might think of America as a salad: many different cultures, all existing together in the same bowl. Our diversity is our strength, and that’s what we’re celebrating today.
Our Troublemaker of the day is Erika Marquardt, a high school student in Ohio who helped plan her school’s diversity event called “Many Cultures, One Bison.” Erika shares why it was important to her to celebrate diversity, what the response was like from the adults in her community, and why it’s important to start these discussions at home. Just like adults taking DEI trainings at their workplaces, the work doesn’t begin and end on one day; it’s a mindset and a lifetime of learning.
After that, Rachel sits down with Liz Sohyeon Kleinrock, an anti-racism and anti-bias educator. She and Rachel chat about some misconceptions about DEI trainings, what it really means to be an ally, and how her own personal experiences and identities have shaped her work. They also talk about AAPI Heritage Month and celebrate some amazing Asian-American women in history. To learn more about Liz’s work, you can visit her website at teachandtransform.org.
Finally, Amanda, Rachel and Jasmine raise a glass to community events, Sherrod Brown, and The Renew Democracy Initiative in this episode’s “Toast to Joy.”
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve recorded almost 100 episodes of The Suburban Women Problem. So to celebrate, we’re hosting a live virtual event with our very first guest, rockstar historian Heather Cox Richardson! The event will be happening on Monday May 15th and you can purchase tickets here.
For a transcript of this episode, please email email@example.com.
You can learn more about us at www.redwine.blue or follow us on social media!
Twitter: @TheSWPpod and @RedWineBlueUSA
The Suburban Women Problem Season 3 Episode 16
Rachel Vindman: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Rachel Vindman.
Jasmine Clark: I'm Jasmine Clark.
Amanda Weinstein: I'm Amanda Weinstein.
Rachel: And you're listening to the Suburban Women Problem. Across the country, we've seen lawmakers silenced - first with the three representatives in Tennessee and now in Montana with representative Zooey Zephyr. It's like Republicans want to silence anyone who isn't a straight, white, cisgender Christian.
But you know, the diversity of this country is what makes us strong. So this week I talked to Liz Soheyon Kleinrock about her work in anti-bias and DEI education. Liz also shared some things about the Asian American community as we go into May, which is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. And before Liz, we'll hear from Amanda about her chat with Erika Marquardt, a high school student who helped plan a diversity event in her school. Erika's still in school, so she couldn't join us at our normal recording time, but Amanda met with her on Zoom a few days ago and I can't wait to hear their conversation.
So let's get into it. Should we start with what happened in Montana? Did they learn nothing from Tennessee? I mean, I think they're sort of incapable of learning anything. I mean, and I mean that, that's…
Amanda: Accurate? True?
Rachel: Yeah. I mean, I think they're incapable of learning because it's a performance for a very limited number of people.
Jasmine: Yeah. No, I, I get what you're saying. I think that you don't really care what everyone else thinks, as long as the people that they do care what they think are cheering them on. And even though that's a very small amount of people, that's who they're catering to right now, while everyone else is looking at them in horror, like, “what are you doing?”
But in this case, it's actually very interesting because in Tennessee they voted to expel the three– or two of the three, eventually. That's what happened based on a very flimsy argument that rules were broken and there was like a quote, “insurrection worse than January 6th,” which we all know is ridiculous. But what happened in Montana wasn't even that.
Rachel: No, they just don't like her.
Jasmine: It literally was just like, “We don't like what she said. And so we're going to censor her, make it to where she cannot speak for the remainder of the year and make it to where her constituents no longer have full representation.” I don't understand how this is not a violation of her first amendment rights. I mean this, this is literally what the First Amendment is all about. You cannot use the full force of the government to punish me because I said something you don't like. Like that's what the First Amendment is about.
Amanda: But in Montana, they were really blatant about banning Rep Zooey Zephyr from the Montana Chamber, not only for what she said, but also they kind of made it a little more clear that they did it for who she is. And so she's the first openly trans state rep in Montana and they don't want to hear her opinion… because she's the first openly trans rep in the state of Montana. And they don't wanna hear what she has to say about being trans. Not that her experience would have anything to bring to the table that they maybe can't bring to the table. I mean, but it was clear in Tennessee they also expelled two of the reps for who they are. They just did it in a less obvious way.
Rachel: No, I, I mean, absolutely. I think in Montana there was, there was not even like the pretense of trying to… so, I have a very lovely daughter and I mean, everything is fine. She is very, very wonderful. But sometimes, you know, we have some impulse control issues because she's 12.
Amanda: I mean, don't we all. I mean some more than others.
Rachel: Haha. So sometimes she will say or do things, and then she tries to walk it back with an excuse that, yeah, doesn't really hold water, because when you make the explanation or the excuse afterwards, it's a little hard just to like, you know, reverse engineer that. That's what I feel like was absolutely done in Tennessee. But in Montana, I don't even think they're trying. And this is a place where, you know, I've heard people say, “I don't wanna get caught up in this. This is ridiculous.” I mean, that's the same as people who say, “I don't get involved in politics. I don't care about politics.” Oh, but politics cares about you. This stuff cares about you. This is going to come and affect you. And I mean, I think that's what the reason why we do this podcast is to show you why and how it matters on, you know, on an everyday basis for all Americans.
Jasmine: So she's suing now.
Amanda: I’m glad she’s suing them. Yeah, I was gonna say, yeah. So she's suing them, but do you know who else should be suing? It's the people she represents. Like, wasn't representation or taxation without representation… wasn't that kind of a bad thing that we learned about in school?
Jasmine: Like a whole thing.
Amanda: Yes. Not only are we taxing people without allowing them to be represented, we aren't getting voices from Americans. So there's a lot of Americans who aren't being represented, and trans youth are absolutely not being represented. And so what that means is that they can't get the healthcare that they need, and there's a lot of information about the healthcare that they need. It has been so blown out of proportion that a lot of the healthcare that they need is just mental healthcare and mental healthcare for the things that they specifically are facing, dealing with being trans youth. And we have politicians taking that away from them. And we have them along with, you know, Moms for Liberty, claiming that any type of healthcare for someone who is trans is gonna be cutting their genitals off when that's just not true.
Jasmine: It's like they're ignorant on purpose. I want to believe that they're ignorant and that they don't know that that's not true. But I really believe that they know that's not true, but they know that's what will, you know, get people riled up.
Rachel: Yep, absolutely. I mean, I think, yeah, that's, that's the playbook. Yeah.
Jasmine: Because I mean, the overwhelming majority of transgender youth do not get things such as surgery. They just don't.
Amanda: No. I saw an estimate that it was like 200 in the nation that got surgery. In the whole country. And even then, the surgery could involve breast implants, which we apparently have no problem for minors as long as they’re cisgender.
Jasmine: Yeah, cisgender is fine, yes.
Amanda: But we do have a problem if they're trans.
Rachel: I'm just gonna take a moment here to define cisgender, because for a long time I didn't know what it meant. So no shame if you don't, but it just means that you identify as the gender to which you were born. So my nephew kept talking about it and I thought it was like some word that he learned on TikTok that wasn't really a word. So I kind of thought that for a year, just to be totally honest with you, until I realized I heard someone else say it, and then I was like, “oh, he's not making that up.”
Amanda: I have had trolls on Twitter say that it is a made up word, and I was like, “all words are made up.” All words are actually made up. Like a tree is only a tree because I call it, call it that, but like, you know, in other countries they call it something else. Like all words are made up. And this is the word we have made up to define this thing so that we can communicate with each other.
Jasmine: Yes. And it's a scientific term. Like I can, I can say with certainty that cis and trans are very scientific terms. We use it in organic chemistry, we use it in molecular biology. We use it in cell biology.
Rachel: Ah, that's why I didn't know what it was!
Jasmine: We use the prefixes cis and trans for lots of different things. And so no, it is not just something that someone randomly made up. It does follow an actual like, there is a basis for this in science. So just wanna throw that out there for those people who don’t know.
Rachel: Wow, you just threw down some knowledge. I did not know that. I learned something right now. That, that's very powerful. I mean, it's obviously a scientific term in the, you know, biological world. I wonder why that's necessary…
Jasmine: Because it exists!
Rachel: Yes! Because even though we don't talk about things, they exist! And that's, in this moment, you have this generation that's pushing us, pushing our boundaries to talk about things we don't, we haven't experienced. We might not understand. They're teaching us. And for some people that's just like a bridge too far. They can't handle the idea that their children are teaching them something new.
That reminds me, before we were talking, before we got on, we were talking about book bans and my friend Brad Meltzer made a really powerful video. I don't, I saw it on Instagram. I guess Amanda apparently doesn't understand Instagram, speaking of not understanding things, different things.
Amanda: Haha yeah.
Jasmine: I love Instagram!
Rachel: He, you know, he made this very powerful video, but the gist of it was, book bans throughout history are always about people trying to stay in power and they don't want you to have information. And the first was Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Becher Stowe, the first book to be banned in the first book to, you know, to come across this. In the United States, I assume there are other books banned in other countries, but you know. But, you know, think about that. Just on a very basic level, that is where we are. All of these measures are really meant to not, you know, foster communication and talking and learning, but just to keep people in the dark.
Jasmine: I think that Gen Z and just the younger, you know, generations, are scaring the pants off of older people. They feel like they can't keep up. I keep seeing these like proposals of how we can stop Gen Z from participating in our elections and you know, they're things like, “oh, we need to raise the voting age to 21 and reinstitute the draft.”
Jasmine: I'm seeing things like, “hey, let's you know, ban children from being able to use social media.” And while I understand the gist of that, I think the underlying motive is this is how they are getting their messages out. And they are so effective at it, so we need to slow this down. And I think that they just underestimate just how driven younger people are to get their message out and to get things done. And the more you try to stop them, the more you try to ban things, the more you try to undermine them… not only do you lose them as far as them now seeing you as being on the opposite side of, you know, the things that they care about, you also lose them because they're leaving you in the dust because they're going to figure it out on their own.
Amanda: A hundred percent. And there's like a constant strategy from the right to co-parent with everyone. Like if they don't want their kid on social media, you don't have to buy your kid a phone. And you don't have to buy them an iPad. You don't even have to give them internet. Like this is quite easy if you don't want your own child not on social media. But I kind of think it should be my choice as a parent whether or not my child is on social media, and if that's healthy for my child.
And there are a lot, there are some bad things about social media, we know this. There are also some great things. It's a great way for trans youth to find other kids who are trans because if you're the only trans kid in your school, you can't connect with someone else at school about being trans. You need social media or another way to connect with other kids, and they're taking that away from a lot of kids.
Jasmine: Along with the books. So you don't have the books, you don't have a way to connect…
Amanda: Like books, like social media, whether or not you can seek out mental healthcare if your kid is trans. All of this has gone so far, and I hope we can see it as extreme, but as an example of how far it's gone in Ohio, they were debating about whether or not trans kids should be, get this, should even get gender affirming care, which includes things like mental healthcare and they went up there to say that all of the non-Christian Reps, like my husband, had “demons.” They actually said, “if you support this type of gender affirming care for parents who want to choose us for their children with their doctors, then it must be that you have a demon spirit guiding you to this decision.” Demons.
Rachel: Okay boomer.
Jasmine: People are weird. I swear.
Amanda: Very weird.
Jasmine: Like that's not, that is weaponizing Christianity, number one. And I cannot stand when people do that because as a Christian I just find it so unnerving that people use it to do the exact opposite of what it is meant to do. Like it is not supposed to be a religion of hate, but that is how they use it, and so that is what has become. And I hear so many people now just associating Christianity with hate and with hate groups and it really does bother me, but I completely understand where they're coming from because I cannot deny that that's how it is being used in the mainstream. Or I, I will not say mainstream, but the extremists who have a platform and are able to get their message out to a large swath of people. It gets under my skin so much because it's not what Christianity is supposed to be about. We cannot go around calling everyone who doesn't agree with us demons. I do think there's some evil people out there, but trust me, they're not the people who are trying to make sure that children are cared for however they need to be cared for.
Rachel: You know, there are times when this, throughout our history, that this has been used. You know, like burning witches, and, you know, other, other times.
Jasmine: We're getting there. I feel like we're close.
Amanda: Oh! Oh yeah, we also had a, we also had someone talk about witches in our state house too.
Rachel: Are you guys all right?
Amanda: We’re not! Send help!
Rachel: Well, the governor of Oklahoma– again, I live in Florida, not Oklahoma, which I don't know if it's better– but the Governor of Oklahoma vetoed a funding bill for OETA, which is the local PBS station. Because it overly sexualizes content for children.
Jasmine: PBS. Y'all, PBS. I mean, are people even watching? What is the sexual content? Are people asking for this? I'm just, I'm just trying to figure it out.
Rachel: Absolutely. And I think now is a good time for Amanda to, for us to listen to your conversation with Erika about her school's diversity program. Like I mentioned earlier, she couldn't join us at her normal recording time cause she needs to be in school. She's a high school student and all of us moms really appreciate her commitment to attending class. But I am excited to hear about her school's DEI program and why that was so important to Erika and her classmates.
Amanda: Our Troublemaker today is a high school student who helped create and run an event at our school called The Many Cultures One Bison Unity Summit. Erika Marquardt, thanks for joining me today.
Erika: Thank you! I'm excited to join you too!
Amanda: This is so fun. So we love having our young people on and we love hearing what you have to say and we know you guys have so much to say. So I'd love to hear more about Many Cultures, One Bison. What is that event all about?
Erika: It's a program that promotes diversity and inclusivity at Beachwood High School, and it was brought back, actually we had it back in 2017, I think, when there were some conflicts at our school. And we brought it back recently to like reboost the school morale and it's been working really well, I thought.
In the assembly we had a bunch of different speakers who would talk about topics like, you know, diversity. There was one, a neurodiversity speaker, Asian American diversity too. There was also self humility. There were a lot of different speakers with a variety of topics. We talked a lot about problems at our school, personal stuff. It was really interesting because you got to talk to a lot of people that you wouldn't normally talk to, and the rooms were randomly assigned.
Amanda: That's awesome. So I love that it was organized by students like yourself. And why was it important to plan a diversity event and why is it important for students to help with the planning?
Erika: So it's important for students to help with the planning because otherwise the teachers might not know… like they know a lot, obviously, but they don't have like sort of the inside scoop that a lot of students do, so it's really great that the students can fill in the nuances that teachers can't.
Amanda: That's great. I think that's such an important point that many of us older people, we went to high school one time, but you know, we might not know exactly what it's like being in high school now. Being in high school now I think is, you know, different than when I was in high school. So it's important for students to shed light on that. So what has been the response from the adults in the community? And have you felt support from parents and teachers, or did you get any pushback from anyone?
Erika: I did get a couple of comments from teachers about how we're “taking another day to like miss learning” or miss like content that, you know, we should be learning for the AP test. A lot of the parents were calling their kids out of school saying that they didn't have to come that day because it wasn't “learning.” But other than that, like the teachers who were a part of the program were really, really encouraging and inspiring and they were all great.
Amanda: Wow. So they didn't think this was learning. So why do you think, why do you think that this is learning and could be part of their learning?
Erika: I think it should be part of everybody's learning as we are all humans and we all live on this planet together and we should all know about each other and we should all be taught about diversity cause we're all so different and diverse human beings.
Amanda: Yeah, that's a good point. And it probably makes it a lot easier just to be at school and be in the classrooms when you can find more commonality with people around you and kind of respect the diversity that is in that classroom.
Erika: Exactly. Yeah.
Amanda: So there's an analogy I've read about America being a salad bowl as opposed to a melting pot, where a melting pot implies that we're all kind of assimilating and becoming the same whereas with a salad bowl, we can celebrate our differences and how we all bring something special to the table. So what are your thoughts about how schools can celebrate differences while still feeling united?
Erika: I think it's really easy to talk about diversity and to want diversity to become a part of your school district and your community, but it's really hard to put that thought into action and that talk into action. We have a lot of different groups at Beachwood High School, like we have the Asian Affinity Group, we have the GSA…
Amanda: What's the GSA?
Erika: So the GSA is the Gender Sexuality Alliance. I think we have, for African Americans, we have an affinity group. They're about educating people who aren't a part of those groups, how they would like us to like address a lot of like taboo topics.
Amanda: Yeah, I think that's important. I think a lot of adults think you guys can't talk about these issues, but it seems like you're telling us that you can.
Erika: Yeah, we can. And also it brings a sense of belonging amongst these groups, that they're not alone. That, you know, there's people like them out there. And I think that's really important.
Amanda: That's important. Nobody wants to feel alone. So most of our listeners are suburban women, so a lot of moms of students just like you. So how can all of us moms and parents support diversity in our kids' schools?
Erika: So I think maybe like at home, I think education is the most important part. Cause I go to school every day and so I see a lot of kids who are really ignorant, and I think I'm like thinking, “where are these kids' parents and why aren't, why weren't they told this? Like what are they doing?”
Amanda: Yeah, that's a good point. We should be having these conversations at home, not just at school.
Erika: Exactly. And I think that's very important because then if you have these, if you start these conversations at home with people that your kids know and trust, then it's really, it's a lot easier for us to have them in school.
Amanda: I agree. Well, Erika, thank you so much for joining us today.
Erika: Oh my God. Thank you. I had so much fun.
Amanda: Thank you, Erika! You were great.
Jasmine: I think my favorite part was the part where she was like, “why is the only time you're having this conversation at school?” Like I, that just like really stood out to me. I'm like, “Yeah, come on, parents. These kids not only should be having these conversations at home, but they want to have these conversations at home.”
Rachel: Yes. I think that's the important thing. It's, it's cheesy to say in the United States that we're, we're stronger because of our differences, but the reality is anywhere that I have been, that's something that people do talk about, about the United States. When I lived in Israel, particularly when I worked in the Palestinian Territories, there were so many people who maybe didn't agree with us politically, let me say that delicately, but they all wanted to come to the United States. Which really boggled my mind. Like, why do you wanna go there if you don't like us? But it was the opportunity. It was also that they wouldn't be so different because there were people from all over.
My husband is… my daughter's a first generation American in his family to be born in the United States. He's a naturalized citizen. His father sacrificed a great deal to bring his family here, so that, that kind of like… people sacrifice to come to the United States. Of course they're gonna do everything to work, to make it work, to work hard, to be here, to stay here, because it was worth that for them. And I think that's something we should celebrate in terms of like, “Hey, let's listen to the stories. Let's see why it's special to them.”
And “Hey, and here's me who, my family's lived in the United States for many different generations. Here’s why it's special to me also, right?” Because it's special to me in a different way. But that's the diversity. That's what we need to talk about and we need to talk about how it can be more equal to everyone.
Jasmine: And so the diversity side says, yes, we do have differences. And it's okay to have differences and that's what makes America, America, as you said. Other people look at our country and they're like, “Wow, that's amazing. They have all these people and they live amongst each other. Like, that's a really cool thing that they're able to do.” That's diversity. But I think what's just as important, if not more important, is the inclusion. The inclusion is this idea that when you have a salad… no one just wants to eat the lettuce and then eat the tomatoes and then eat the cheese and then eat the cucumbers like in separate bowls.
Amanda: Haha. That's true.
Jasmine: We put it all together and we include everyone because we realize that all of those different flavors together is what makes the salad amazing. And so the diversity is, we have all these different ingredients. Inclusion is, they're all in the same bowl. And they're all doing their part in the bowl. And we accept and love each part of the salad in the bowl together.
Amanda: Oh, that's such a good point.
Rachel: Love it.
Amanda: Going with the food topic, I took my students on a walking tour of Akron and one of the things that they said that they wished Akron had more of is, and this is coming from a white student saying, “I wish we had more ethnic grocery stores and more ethnic restaurants, and we had more diversity in downtown so that we had all of these different things to do.” And you know, hamburgers might be your favorite food, but you probably aren't gonna eat them every day. And so it was interesting to hear students be like–
Rachel: No, no, don't do that.
Amanda: Ha, no don’t do that. But to hear students say, “I like the diversity. It makes your city more interesting and cool and we want that and we want more of that.”
Jasmine: I love that.
Rachel: Okay, well now we're gonna take a quick break and when we come back we'll have my interview with Liz Sohyeon Kleinrock.
Rachel: Our guest today is an anti-bias, an anti-racism educator. She's the author of Start Here. Start now, A Guide to Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist Work in your school community. Liz Sohan Kleinrock. Thank you so much for joining me on the Suburban Women Problem.
Liz Sohyeon Kleinrock: Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be here.
Rachel: Well, I've had fun going through your book. And I've, I've learned so much. You teach about anti-bias and anti-racism, and you're also at the center of several identities yourself, which I find fascinating. You're Korean-American, Jewish, bisexual, and you are adopted as a child. How have the intersections of your identities guided you in your work?
Liz: I would say that the intersections of who I am, it's almost like comical, when I introduce myself, like when I do workshops and I go through like listing all of them, I’m like, “Wow, this is a really long sentence!” But truthfully, the intersections of who I am mean everything to this work. I don't think that I would be so passionate or care so deeply about this, especially when it comes to working with children.
Growing up it was, you know, in retrospect, interesting to be Asian-American raised in a white presenting family in a very white quadrant of DC, which is a historically Black city. There was not a lot of representation of Asian Americans, particularly of Korean-Americans. The only Korean people in our neighborhood ran the dry cleaners like a couple blocks away. And thinking about my experiences in school, you know, in the media that I consumed as a kid, there was really nothing that really spoke to who I was, who I am, my family's history, my own experiences being adopted, any representation of queer people. And I think because of that erasure I've cared a lot about making sure that students of all identities are not just seen, but they're also affirmed for who they are.
Rachel: I think that's, that's interesting, the point that you brought up. Because DC is actually a diverse city, but it's in pockets. So it is very possible to live in a bubble, and I think most people probably do, unfortunately. But not just in DC, in a lot of places.
You recently had a really thoughtful post on Instagram about DEI and anti-bias trainings. They can be helpful tools, but if they're not done right, they can sometimes do more harm than good. What does a good DEI training look like and where can that go wrong?
Liz: It's a really good question. And I really appreciate, you know, you highlighting that post because I feel like I was hanging on to a lot of those feelings and opinions for quite some time, and it was, it felt very cathartic to get it all out.
I had just seen that there were, I felt like an increasing number of op-eds being run in very mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and they’ve had these pieces from guest authors who are extremely critical of implicit bias training of anything that's labeled anti-racism. And unfortunately it sounds to me like a lot of folks have had maybe one or two negative experiences and have decided that those experiences, those workshops, therefore speak to all DEI trainings.
And honestly, I think a really big issue is that DEI and anti-racism work has existed for a very long time, but just not in mainstream spaces. And so looking at the protest that came out of the spring and summer of 2020, and then schools and companies and organizations doing this mad dash to try to change their systems and to get people educated and expecting that in two years, we're supposed to undo literally hundreds if not thousands of years of colorism, anti-blackness, anti-Semitism, like all of these different forms of oppression. We have to be realistic first, I think, first.
Rachel: Haha. Yeah, I don’t mean to laugh, but I mean, it's the idea that it's possible, it's preposterous.
Liz: Right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, and literally, I've gotten feedback after, like let's say I get hired by a school or a company to do a one hour session. One-offs are never my favorite. So I'd say like, first of all, that's one red flag that we can look out for if we are dedicating 60 minutes to this enormous topic and expecting to see these really large cultural shifts. And I've gotten feedback from folks after, let's say I do a 60 minute session and people actually say things like, “Well, I was expecting to get farther along in dismantling racism after this.” So now as a disclaimer, I have to actually say that at the beginning, you know, we're here to really only scratch the tip of the iceberg. That for some people, we're along different places in their own journeys, this work is gonna look really different for everybody. But I think people often really want fast fixes to problems that really require a lot of intention and a lot of thought.
And you know, there's the personal interrogation piece. We look at the larger systems that we're in. We examine our roles, the way we communicate, the relationships we hold with other people. That takes a lot of time. I think good DEI trainings are effective. DEI trainings allow people to really investigate who they are, their own identities, their own upbringings. And to understand that biases are, interestingly, like one of our common denominators. People, it doesn't matter your race, gender, how much money you have, like we all hold biases about certain people, communities, and ideas. And what's really important is that we can start to identify the harmful biases that show up in the way that we interact with people. And if we can start to identify what those are and begin to push back against them, that to me is how we begin to actually make progress.
But there's a lot of discomfort that certainly comes up in that. I do think that some people, and rightfully so, like I very much used to be in a space where my main dominating emotion was rage when it came to this work. And it's very easy to understand why a lot of people operate from that place. I've also found that when I'm just operating from a place of anger that I'm not being as mindful when it comes to potentially shaming people. If you are really trying to build capacity for this movement to ensure that it's not just a one-off, to ensure that we're not just solo people in our communities, but we're just trying to bring as many folks along with us as possible, that does require delivering information in a certain kind of way. And I understand tone policing, I understand gaslighting, of course. And it's also a decision that I'm going to make that maybe some of my colleagues don't agree with. But if I am intentionally causing feelings of shame in people who are participating, I don't really know what kind of outcome that's gonna have. I can definitely predict that there would be a lot more resistance. That when people hear fixed statements like, “well, if people are just inherently racist, then why am I even gonna bother doing any of this work? Or there's nothing that I can do about it?” There are always things that we can do about it.
I also think that using myself as an example, really modeling what that whole learning and unlearning process looks like, the mistakes that I've made and what I've been able to learn and do better from them. When we use the term “expert,” there is some sort of like fixedness in that. That if you are an expert in something, then you don't have this additional space to make mistakes. You just know everything that's out there. And that's really not the case at all. I'm constantly being, you know, educated by friends, from colleagues, even people I don't know, through different forms of media and the way that I might intellectualize different types of information. But it's very much a lifelong journey. Nothing that you're going to be able to completely eradicate in 60 minutes or, you know, two or three hours.
Rachel: I mean, because there's a lot of homework that needs to take place with us as individuals and, and it's not quick homework. I think it takes time to sort out your feelings and then go forward from there. So it's definitely, you know, a long process.
Well, May is AAPI Heritage month. AAPI means Asian American and Pacific Islander. And although holidays like AAPI Month, Black History Month, or Women's History Month can feel performative or inadequate– like, shouldn't we be celebrating women and people of color, you know, all the time?–it's a good opportunity to pause and listen to those voices. So what are some biases that the Asian-American community has to deal with that we should all be more aware of?
Liz: You know, when I talk to students, one thing that tends to come up is them observing that a lot of the work around anti-racism and racial justice exists along this black/white binary, especially in the United States. That people who are Asian or indigenous or Latinx tend to get overlooked. Racism just seems like it's something that happens between the Black community and the white community. And there's so many nuances. It's very much just this spectrum and we have to make sure that we are being actually inclusive when we're talking about anti-racist work.
You know, there are a lot of different biases and stereotypes of the Asian-American community. One I think is viewing all of us as this monolithic group when there are almost 50 different countries within Asia, which means that there are almost 50 countries from people within the Asian diaspora living in the United States. On top of that, Pacific Islander history, heritage, experiences are very different than those of people from different regions of Asia. So I think first it's unfair that they get lumped in, like they deserve their own platform. They deserve their own recognition because they often get overshadowed.
Another thing that we see a lot here in the States is that whole model minority myth. This idea was actually coined by a white sociologist out of Berkeley who said that “Asians are the ideal immigrant or minority group. Look how hardworking, look how industrious they are.” And unfortunately this myth, while it seems to be positive, is actually incredibly hurtful in so many ways. One, it absolutely creates a wedge between the Asian and the Black communities in the United States. It's definitely used to be weaponized against Black folks, holding their experiences up against those of Asian Americans and saying, “why can't you succeed in the way that this other ethnic or racial subgroup has?”
We also see the complete erasure of the challenges of the discrimination that Asians and Asian Americans have faced. Looking at how the first people to be considered, quote unquote, “illegal immigrants” were Asians in the United States. It ignores the fact that Asian-Americans have long been denied civil rights, that we gained the right to vote after Black Americans, after women in the United States. And a lot of that history tends to get looked past because of this assumption that Asians are just inherently successful, hardworking, that we just keep our heads down, that we don't cause a fuss. It's really dehumanizing. But I think that sometimes these stereotypes are leveraged in ways that seem like compliments, but are very backhanded compliments. We have to also zoom out and take a look at what those stereotypes do to our relationships with other people in other communities in this country.
Rachel: Yeah. So on that note, actually, there are many, I'm sure, but could you share one amazing AAPI historical figure that we all should know more about?
Liz: Sure. I know Yuri Kochiyama gets a lot more recognition these days, which is amazing. I would also wanna highlight Grace Lee Boggs, who is another Asian American activist who did most of her work in Detroit. And she was absolutely incredible at combining forces like with her husband, who was an African American man. And I believe that the two of them really created some incredible community partnerships, really trying to bridge gaps between the Asian American and the Black community in their city. And I think that kind of just goes to show also that when we learn about activism in different civil rights movements, it's still very much presented like communities existed in isolation and really only went hard for themselves. But in actuality, there have been so many people who have had really amazing legacies in their activism that highlighted intersectionality and trying to bridge, you know, these connections between groups instead of just viewing people as existing in silos.
Rachel: Yeah, definitely. You've written a lot about allies, advocates and bystanders, which I love. Could you tell our listeners more about those concepts and how they can become agents of change in their communities?
Liz: That's a great question and I love talking about this, especially with students. Cuz I think that sometimes when we imagine being a good ally, we almost get this image of like the superhero cape you put on. And I tell students that like, it doesn't require you throwing your body in front of a moving train to save somebody. In fact, saving somebody is really against what being an ally, being an advocate is really supposed to be about.
To be an effective ally, you have to have some awareness of who you are, going back to that identity piece. What are the intersections that make up who you are? What are the parts of, you know, the pieces that you hold that allow you more privilege, and I know that again, people have big, strong feelings when they hear the word privilege.
Rachel: Oh yes, they do. So many feelings.
Liz: They do! And I tell students that when I describe privilege, it just means that there are parts of who we are that allow us to navigate the world with more ease and comfort compared to other people. Doesn't mean that we have to feel shame or embarrassment or guilt about this, but when you realize that you have this access or these resources, what's really important is what you do with them. How do you actually spend them?
One of the most impactful stories that I have of somebody being a good ally to me is I found myself at this Jewish celebration knowing that, as a Korean person, that I do not look like what a lot of people imagine when I think about Jewish people. And I was on the receiving end of some very uncomfortable questions from another guest there and a friend of mine who was standing nearby at some point in the conversation just leaned over and said like, “Hey, are you good?” It took two seconds for her to say that, but in that moment I knew she was aware of the situation. She was aware of the privileges that she held, that she was ready to interrupt and tap in so I could tap out if I wanted, and that she was still giving me the opportunity to make my own decision. She wasn't gonna make that decision for me.
And that one has really always stuck with me. And that's the example that I always talk about in workshops or, you know, when I'm teaching kids. That it doesn't have to be this really big, grand, dramatic gesture. It's about having awareness and how you show up in those moments. That you're not here to exercise like your belief that you know better, that you're here to save anybody, but it's really how can we support in solidarity, what are we willing to risk? How are we willing to work in partnership, not for people, but with other people?
Rachel: I love it. And what about advocates and bystanders? Could you explain this a little bit?
Liz: Sure. So when I think about advocacy, it's people who are using their voices or acting in a particular way to advocate for the maximization of benefit for other people and to minimize harm. And that can be applied across any identity, any topic, but something that's very deeply rooted in action.
And when it comes to bystanders, you know, we can look at historical examples. We can look at the things that happen day to day in our social circles or you know, online or in our schools. But when you witness harm happening, what do you do? It's so easy to do or say the right thing when cued to do it, but when those moments come up when you're not expecting it, how do we show up? And often that's a lot of the practice that I like to do when I facilitate workshops. Sometimes I'll say like, you know, running scenarios or running through, you know, sentence starters feels kind of cheesy or unnatural to people, but it's still developing that muscle memory. Cause I think we've all had these moments when maybe we witnessed something said or done, we knew it wasn't okay, but we didn't do anything. And then you end up lying in bed at night for the next week staring at the ceiling, wishing that you had said something different. Like rerunning that scenario in your head over and over. So how can we avoid ending up in situations like that?
Rachel: I love it. And I would guess that students, with this kind of presentation, are much more receptive because it's, it's giving them agency and giving them the tools to figure out what's best for them. Not saying “you have to do this” and there has to be some kind of quota. And that's just not what DEI training is. And I completely agree that it's been mischaracterized in so many ways by people either with bad experience or people with no experience. But you know, we've all been in trainings that were kind of dreadful. So, I mean, I think it's just kind of surmising what it's like, but that's not necessarily the case.
Well, this has been a lovely conversation. You've, I think, informed us so well, but now we like to do our rapid fire questions that have nothing to do with everything we've talked about. Are you ready?
Liz: I'm ready. Yeah, let's do it.
Rachel: Okay. Well, it's only April, but what has been your favorite pop culture moment so far this year?
Liz: Oh my God. This is the most timely question, cause I would absolutely say the terrible Love is Blind live reunion that was supposed to air at 8:00 PM last night. It was on two hours late and then was just such a train wreck. I cannot stop looking at articles, tweets about it. I can't look away. I wish I could.
Rachel: I mean, the great thing about that is just learning the number of people who watch Love is Blind.
Liz: So many people.
Rachel: Such a great, like, subset of the pop culture moment that happened. So what is your favorite place to travel?
Liz: I would say Korea. I'm obviously very biased. I love Korea and outside of that, I would say Iceland. I've been there twice. My partner and I got engaged there. It will just always be very near and dear to my heart. It's also beautiful. Like shockingly beautiful.
Rachel: I’ve heard! Yeah. Do you have any pets?
Liz: I do, I have two bunnies. Their names are Epiphany and Blue. I've had them for a couple years. And we recently took in an alley cat that we had been kind of informally feeding for a couple months and now he lives with us.
Rachel: What's the best thing about being a teacher?
Liz: Kids are wonderful. They are so funny and curious and they are draining and yet still energy giving at the same time. They're more excited, they're more willing to be wrong, which I really appreciate. And they're just more thoughtful. Like when I have conversations with kids about all the things happening in the world, I feel hopeful. I feel like they're, things are gonna get better. I hope. Fingers crossed.
Rachel: I, I completely agree with you. I feel the same. Well, that's the end of our rapid fire questions, but first, can you let people know where to find out, where to find you and to find out more about your work?
Liz: Sure. My website is teachandtransform.org. Teach and Transform is also my Instagram handle, where I share a lot of work online. And I also have a Patreon account too if people are looking for more one-on-one or like curated support or services.
Rachel: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Liz. It was really great to talk to you, and I think our listeners are really gonna learn a lot from this conversation.
Liz: Thank you so much, Rachel. It's been lovely talking to you. Thanks for having me.
Jasmine: Welcome back everyone. So Rachel, I really enjoyed listening to your interview with Liz. I think that this whole topic of DEI is just like rising to the top in our country as a whole, even here in Georgia where they're trying to take it out of our colleges and trying to take a page out of DeSantis' crazy book.
I just thought it was interesting about how you know, companies are like, “Oh, if you're gonna teach this DEI, then you are going to be able to completely dismantle all of the racism that ever existed in this one hour training.” Like, you know, cause that's what you're able to do, right? And I think that's actually indicative of a larger symptom of our country, that we think that there's just this snap of a finger fix to something that has been rooted and embedded in our society since its birth.
Rachel: We don't wanna talk about that part, so that's why it's a little hard.
Amanda: We wanna cover that up. Yeah.
Rachel: That, that's very uncomfortable, Jasmine, I'm sorry. If we could just move on to the Toast to Joy now and not talk about this, that'd be great. Haha. I'm just kidding. No, but you're right that that's the point, it takes work and I mean, that might be an initial step, and I can say as someone who kind of went through that on my own without a training. It was a different something, a different spark, a different thing that motivated me to kind of go down that road. It was, it was several things, but sometimes you need those moments from all different places. But a specific DEI training can be very effective and very helpful to kind of start that journey. And I was glad that she talked about that because I think that's something to recognize even if, if our companies or our employers kind of have these moments, we need to be realistic with our colleagues and everyone else. Like this is not a one and done type situation. You don't go to therapy like one time and you're all fixed.
Amanda: No, it's a continued conversation and like inclusion means it's not just you go through the training and you go on with your day. It means when you know there might be something that’s happening, and you get someone's input and you listen and… is there someone's input I'm not getting right now? It means asking more questions, I think, than it does anything else.
Jasmine: And I also think it's important to recognize that DEI training isn't just about Black people and white people. I think that our, our country really does have a hard time recognizing that like, we're like this, you know, beautiful mosaic of all these different types of people, but when we start talking about race and diversity, equity, and inclusion, somehow we get really myopic and we only see like Black and white. It is about inclusion of everyone, all the ingredients in the salad, we are including everyone.
Amanda: So that we get a better salad! Yes!
Jasmine: Like, come on. You know how like little kids when they, like when you first go to like a sub place and they're just like, “I just want meat and cheese,” and you're like, “We literally could have made that at home.” Like, come on guys. We could do so much more with this. And I think that that's where we are as a society, we need to understand just how much better it is when we include everyone.
Rachel: Yeah, definitely. But the great thing about Liz is she was born in Korea. She was raised Jewish. I mean, you know, like when someone sees her, they're not, it's not just a black and white, if you will, issue. You know, she's kind of introducing something different and from her perspective as an educator, I think that gives another kind of level and layer to her understanding of, you know, what, what we're all capable of at different ages and, and how effective this can be if we have the conversations early and, you know, we have these conversations at home, like Erika said. We can't just have them at school. We can't just have them at work. It has to be more of who we are all the time, and then accepting it and then you know, it'll be commonplace. And I truly believe that it will be one day that we will get to that point, but we're at this inflection point right now that's pretty hard and painful.
Rachel: And it's okay to admit that it's hard right now, but I think we, we keep going for the greater good and, and it will pay off.
Jasmine: But we have to fight to be able to keep going because right now the fight is, should we even talk about diversity, equity, or inclusion at all?
Rachel: Yeah, no, you’re right.
Jasmine: And your funding is dependent on if you're willing to give up talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion. So I do think that as a country we have to be very mindful that we can't stop talking about it and we can't let these threats take us to the, to the point where… you know, I use my ball analogy. We gotta keep pushing the ball up the hill. We cannot take our hands off the ball or it's gonna roll back on us.
Rachel: Yep. Yeah, we’re all Sisyphus. Well, on that note of that, we're all gonna be doing the same thing every day for the rest of our lives, we would like to end on something happy. So Amanda, what is your Toast to Joy this week?
Amanda: So my Toast to Joy is we had Connie Schultz over at our house, who's been on the podcast before. But we had her over to our house because we had a big fundraiser for Sherrod Brown, who is running for reelection for the Senate. And I know I have given some points to Michigan lately on the podcast. And I'm here to give some points to Ohio because when we look at the model that Michigan is doing right now, when they're looking at how do we protect workers' rights and civil rights, and those two things are actually not at odds, those two things go together very well. To me, Sherrod Brown is like the original “workers' rights and civil rights” and they go together and he has been fighting for this for decades, for Ohioans. So it's just really impressive to get to hear him and invite him to our house. He's amazing. And just to hear how we've had this model all along, and I don't know what happened, but I'm glad to see Michigan and other places starting to see like, “Hey, we can fight for workers and we can fight for civil rights and we can be true progressives and fight for our economy at the same time. They aren't in opposition.” And so my Toast to Joy is to Sherrod and his reelection to the Senate.
Rachel: Here here.
Amanda: Jasmine, what is your Toast to Joy?
Jasmine: So I was trying to decide what my Toast to Joy was gonna be. And I think I am going to toast to being out in the community. And finally some good weather so that I could do that. And so this weekend I had the opportunity to first lead our Lilburn Democrats meeting that we have on the last Saturday of every month. But then after that I went to a plant sale. And then we had this cool event called The Taste of Lilburn, which was like all the little restaurants in, you know, in our community. And it was the first one and they actually held it at my church, on the grounds of my church. But it was really cool. So many people came, so much good food to choose from and like some restaurants that I'm like, “oh, I didn't even know we had this in our area.” It was just a great weekend and, and just honestly it's been raining so much that the fact that we got a day where like the sun was shining, it wasn't super hot and there was stuff to do… everything just kind of worked out perfect. Cause you know, in the famous words of Outkast, you can plan a pretty picnic but you can't predict the weather. This actually worked out very well.
Amanda: That is so fun. We have a similar, like, Taste of Hudson. We haven't done it for a couple years. I guess, since before the pandemic. And it is so great cause the whole community comes out and you never know who you're gonna see. And it's like those unplanned meetings that I love. So fun.
Jasmine: I know, Jada was like, “mom, walk faster so people can stop calling your name.” I was like, “But this is good. I'm, you know, people are seeing me out in the community.” She's like, “I know, but I'm ready to go home.”
Rachel: Haha. Okay. Kind of fair, but also, yeah.
Jasmine: All right, Rachel, what's your Toast to Joy this week?
Rachel: My Toast to Joy is we attended the first gala of Renew Democracy Initiative in New York on Thursday, and it was just a really lovely evening. So one of my favorite people that I work with at RDI is Evan Mawarire. He is a pastor from Zimbabwe and really went through so much, he was just treated horrifically. Buthe gave an opening speech that was so powerful to me. He talked about the importance of protecting democracy everywhere, because it's much harder when you have to regain your rights than if you keep your rights. And that's been kind of echoing in my head ever since ever since he said it.
So sometimes I get very focused on electoral type work or really like the horse race of it, of all the specific races and how are they going and how could I make a difference in this specific race? But in not taking like, you know, the 35,000 foot view of like, this is all for one purpose and that's so that we have democracy. So it is very important that we all support efforts and we all, you know, are supportive of people in other countries. Even though we feel very weighed down by the work that we have to do in our country and what we have to do, that we recognize other people are really struggling also. And we have to make sure that we are protecting democracy both here and abroad. Cause it's a lot of work to do and as we can see, the forces against it… it can turn pretty quickly, even in the United States. So you can imagine how quickly it can turn in places that don't have such a strong democracy and a longstanding democracy. You know, we're just a generation away from losing so many things, so we have to keep working at it.
So that's my Toast to Joy, and we really appreciate all of you joining us today. If you haven't bought your ticket yet for our hundredth episode event, be sure to do so soon. We are so excited to meet our listeners and celebrate 100 episodes with our special guest Heather Cox Richardson. The link to purchase tickets is in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you again next week on another episode of The Suburban Women Problem.