Dr. Angela "Doc" Courage is a faculty member at John Brown University and CEO of “Courage! Communication 4 Change”. In this episode, Doc Courage breaks down White Privilege and Cultural Fluency — what they are, common misconceptions, and how they come into play both in and out of the workplace. She details how growing up abroad, living in the South, and her Faith have come together to shape her unique perspective on DEIB.
More about Doc Courage:
Her personal life of cultural bridge-crossing overflowed and became her professional work after she returned to college and earned her bachelor’s degree and a master’s focused on intercultural/ethnic communication. She later returned for a Doctorate in Higher Education & Leadership, after which she started “Courage Communication 4 Change” where she works as a community change agent through events and consulting services to businesses and faith-based organizations.
She uses her foundations of academic scholarship in communication, scripture, her life experiences, and deep friendships across cultural boundaries to inform her work. Her new book, “5 Blinders to Seeing Color” (co-authored by Dr. LaTonya Jackson) is available now, and her guidebook, “Loving Our Neighbors” will release this summer.
Mike Cole 0:00
Hello all! Are you ready to hear candid conversations with key industry leaders and experts about workplace culture? Do you want to learn more about what you can do to become an ally and an advocate? We'll explore this and much more. This is Peoplecast
Welcome to season one of Peoplecast. Peoplecast is a production of Media Partners Corporation providing the best in class training content, technology, tools, and services. Media Partners will help your organization elevate workplace behavior and culture. I'm your host, Mike Cole. And with me today is our co-host and producer extraordinaire, Jerrin Padre.
Jerrin Padre 0:41
Mike Cole 0:42
How are you today, Jerrin?
Jerrin Padre 0:44
I'm doing well. It's actually cloudy here in Los Angeles, so... I like to talk about the weather when I don't know what else to talk about.
Mike Cole 0:51
Well, it is, as do I. It's sunny here in Northwest Arkansas. So definitely a far cry from what we had just a few months ago with ice and snow. You guys don't experience that out in LA?
Jerrin Padre 1:04
Unfortunately not. You're both in Arkansas, right?
Mike Cole 1:07
Doc Courage 1:08
Yeah, we are.
Mike Cole 1:09
Oh, there is a third person on the episode today. So look at that. I do want to ask a question, though. A couple of questions before we get started. And this is not necessarily to you guys that are on the broadcast. This is also to our listeners. But my question is—and this really delves into the episode we're going to talk about today—so what do you think of when you hear the term white privilege? For some of us, it's a new term. But I did a little research and did you know that that term, or the idea, or the thought around white privilege has been around since the early 18th and 19th centuries? And the dynamics and the definition of white privilege, they were discussed in a Wellesley College paper back in 1988. I think the reason it's probably a new term for some of us is that it's really been brought to the forefront by recent events and some movements. And then the other term we're going to talk about today is cultural fluency. Is it truly possible to be fluent in another culture? And so with us today is our guest, Dr. Angela Courage. She is a consultant, motivational speaker, author, educator, wife, and a mom. She holds a Master of Arts and Communication with an emphasis in Intercultural and Interracial Communication, and she holds a Doctorate of Higher Education in College Teaching and Leadership. Welcome, Dr. Courage. Well, I say Dr. Courage, how would you like to be referred to on this episode?
Doc Courage 2:24
Thanks so much for having me. I like Doc Courage. Most people who didn't know me from birth call me Doc Courage, and some of those people even call me Doc Courage. So I prefer that.
Mike Cole 2:35
Okay, Doc Courage it is. Before we get started—look, I just laid out some heavy topics right there, and you're certainly an expert in those fields. Before we get into that, though, I do want to play a little game. Are you up for that?
Doc Courage 2:45
Sure. That sounds like a fun way to start a podcast.
Mike Cole 2:46
Okay. So what I'm going to do—this is Rapid Fire. I'm going to ask very simple, quickly worded questions and you'll have an opportunity to respond. Your response is one word, no time to think. First thing that comes to your mind. Are you ready?
Doc Courage 3:08
Ready. Let's go.
Mike Cole 3:10
Okay, here we go. Texting or talking?
Doc Courage 3:13
Mike Cole 3:14
Facebook or Instagram?
Doc Courage 3:15
Mike Cole 3:16
Ariel or Jasmine?
Doc Courage 3:18
Mike Cole 3:19
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Doc Courage 3:21
Jerrin Padre 3:23
There goes half our listeners.
Doc Courage 3:25
Mike Cole 3:25
You could have just offended an entire audience right there. But that's fine. Cake or pie?
Doc Courage 3:31
Mike Cole 3:33
Okay, I'm right there with you on that one. Favorite day of the week?
Doc Courage 3:37
Mike Cole 3:39
Favorite city in the US besides the one you live in?
Doc Courage 3:43
Mike Cole 3:47
Last song you played air guitar to?
Doc Courage 3:51
I have never played air guitar.
Mike Cole 3:54
Okay, how about sung at the top of your lungs while in traffic in the car?
Doc Courage 3:59
"I Believe I Can Fly."
Mike Cole 4:01
Oh, the Seal version?
Doc Courage 4:03
Uh, no, actually, the one that my kids used to listen to on the—wherever that video was.
Mike Cole 4:09
If you say Space Jam soundtrack I'm gonna...
Doc Courage 4:11
Yep! On Space Jam.
Mike Cole 4:12
Doc Courage 4:13
I know. That's the one that goes through my head. *laughing*
Mike Cole 4:16
All right, good answer.
Doc Courage 4:18
Mike Cole 4:18
Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world, or be able to talk to animals?
Doc Courage 4:23
Every language in the world.
Mike Cole 4:26
Doc Courage 4:27
Mike Cole 4:29
Scale of 1 to 10, how good of a driver are you?
Doc Courage 4:32
10. I'm amazing. My kids would say that's a lie, but...
Mike Cole 4:37
Oh, okay. All right. Kids if you're listening.
Invisibility or super strength?
Doc Courage 4:43
Mike Cole 4:44
Last question. Is it wrong for a vegetarian to eat animal crackers?
Doc Courage 4:49
Only if they have animal fat in the content.
Mike Cole 4:56
Oh, Doc Courage drilling deep into the answer. Look at that. All right. Well, we—I think we learned a bit about you. And hopefully, I share some of the same things. I think, Jerrin, you probably share some of the same answers as well, possibly. I don't know, Jerrin, Star Trek or Star Wars? Would you like to go ahead and weigh in on that?
Jerrin Padre 5:12
Mike Cole 5:14
Jerrin Padre 5:14
Mike Cole 5:15
There you go. Sorry. I don't agree with Doc Courage on that one. I am Star Wars all the way. But that's—you know, we have our own preferences. We have our own biases toward what we like. So there you go. And that's not much of what we're going to talk about today, we're going to dive a little deeper into our conversation about humanizing DEIB. Did you like the way I jumped right into the content and just get away from the fun stuff?
Jerrin Padre 5:38
It was smooth.
Mike Cole 5:39
Well, thank you, I appreciate that. This is going to be—I think it's going to be a very needed conversation with a lot of the events that we're dealing with as a nation—as a world—right now. And I think we have—no, I know we have a person on the line right now who's really going to be able to answer those questions, I think, fluently, and give us a lot of insight as those of us who are on our DEIB journeys, and those of us who are just looking for answers as to what we can do. So I think, Doc Courage, you're definitely going to be a huge voice on today's podcast. So first question I have for you, and it's pretty easy one, so where where did you grow up? Tell us about your your upbringing.
Doc Courage 6:20
I grew up a little bit of everywhere. I think of myself as a child of the world. I mean, that's kind of my cultural identity. I was born in Massachusetts, but I have never been there where I could remember being there. So shortly after then, I moved to Naples, Italy, and then to Berlin, Germany. And all of that happened before the wall came down, so.
Mike Cole 6:46
So what took you there? I mean, you said you were born in Massachusetts. But what took you to Italy in Germany,
Doc Courage 6:52
I was the child of a military family. So I was one of five children. My father was in the army.
Jerrin Padre 7:00
Were you—where were you? Of all the siblings, were you the oldest, a middle child, the youngest?
Doc Courage 7:06
I was the second oldest of five. And you know, the second child is known to be the rebellious one. I don't know if it was rebellious. But I was definitely different. I was less compliant than my older sister. Let's put it that way. *laughing*
Mike Cole 7:20
Was there one thing you can remember that showed that middle childness?
Doc Courage 7:25
I just wasn't as good at doing what I was told. I always needed to know why. And so I would always ask why. It was a military family, so you didn't defy orders in our military family. But if I wasn't asking it out loud, I was asking it in my head. And I was not very cooperative if I couldn't figure out why. And if the "why" didn't make sense. I was never good at being cooperative for a bad why.
Jerrin Padre 7:54
What would you do in those moments?
Doc Courage 7:56
Well, having a military father who was a Master Sergeant, the penalties could be severe for lack of cooperation. So I generally did what I was told to do, even if I didn't accept the reasoning, or understand it. I'll just be frank with you. It was a very abusive family. So I complied with the things that kept me safe, and questioned the things that I didn't understand. And I think that that's a big part of why I am here today. But anyway, that's a little deeper than we needed to go probably.
Jerrin Padre 8:31
No, that's just as deep as we wanted to go. Because all of that's good context for, I think, the work that you do today.
Mike Cole 8:40
Yeah, I want to shift a little bit. I want to talk—so you mentioned upbringing. And you mentioned environment that you were in being kind of part of why you're here today and why you're doing what you do. So what about where you grew up? Are there any childhood memories that kind of gave you a bit more "oomph," I guess, to go into what you're doing now?
Doc Courage 8:59
Well, my earliest childhood memory is in Naples, Italy. And, in Naples, the military families don't have a military base to live on. So they find an apartment on the Economy is what it's called. And so we were in an apartment building that had marble floors and even columns. But we had a balcony out our back window. And when I say balcony, I mean it, it was probably only three feet wide, and maybe six feet long. And so we would go out on that balcony, and every time we went out, the neighbors on the balcony next door would go out as well. But the neighbors in the same size apartment, they had eight children, two grandparents, and a mom and dad. And they would all come on the balcony to see the Americans. And so one of my first memories was the neighbor lady reaching over her balcony onto my balcony to pinch my cheeks. And she would call me Angelina, or she would say *melodically* "Angelina." You know. And so that's one of my first memories. And, you know, obviously, I didn't know anything about cultures or anything like that, but I was observing a difference in the way their family lived, and the way they even communicated and expressed affection than our family. So that's one of my most formative memories. And my reaction to—even at the time—was happiness. You know, it was just they were so joyful and happy and welcoming, too. And so I think that that was a real foundational experience for me, and I couldn't have been more than three years old at that point.
Jerrin Padre 10:41
Obviously, you were very self aware when you were younger to notice that you were noticing culture. You also had this really special experience of being an "other." Did you find that the curiosity was reciprocated?
Doc Courage 10:54
I think I never noticed if it was or not. Granted, we're on a military base, and white privilege, and American privilege still exists even overseas, right? So we were considered the norm, other than the way we looked physically. My parents were originally from Arkansas. I had never lived in Arkansas. But Arkansas was a curiosity to people, because at the time there was this sitcom show called Beverly Hillbillies. And even though that didn't take place in Arkansas, that was people's idea of not just Arkansas, but Americans. And so, I think, yeah, there was some reciprocal curiosity.
Mike Cole 11:37
So your journey and my wife's journey seem very similar. She was a military brat—Air Force—and spent many of her years and as a child in Aviano, Italy, on the Air Force Base there. And one of her earliest memories was she got locked out of their apartment once at, I think, she was about eight years old. And, you know, you had to ring the buzzer or the button to get back in. She couldn't remember the apartment number. And so she ended up pushing all of the buttons. And then all she remembers is all of the neighbors coming out, and looking down into the street, and yelling at her for pushing all the buttons. So her memories are probably not as fond of Italy as yours. But yeah, and she had the same picture of Arkansas. She was born in California. And then—honestly, I don't mean to make this about my wife. But I can relate because these are stories that we've told each other over our marriage, you know, throughout the years. But that was her first thought too. They moved from Italy to northern Minnesota. And then they came to Mississippi because that's where dad was originally from. And her thought of coming to Mississippi was people were barefoot, wore rope belts, overalls. And you know, that's the depiction of typical Mississippi. So very similar story. Sorry, I digress.
Doc Courage 12:57
That's the power of media, though.
Mike Cole 12:59
It is, it is! It truly is. Because, in Italy, they didn't have access to the TV shows—to the media—that we had here in the States, I'll mentioned shows, and she's like, "No, I've never seen that."
Doc Courage 13:08
Mike Cole 13:09
And it's—you know, it's a pop culture phenomenon here in the States. But over there, they didn't see that. So definitely media shapes shapes your thoughts and your perceptions. And it does certainly shape your biases. So you lived overseas a lot. Coming back into the States, were there any events that happened that really kind of helped shape your perspective on DEIB?
Doc Courage 13:33
Yeah, so living overseas, my experience was all kinds of people and languages, and even multicultural families all the time. All around me. There were a lot of Vietnamese wives, and a lot of German wives. So, when we came back to the United States, I was almost 12. And we moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is Fayetteville, North Carolina. And it is south of the Mason-Dixon line. And it's pretty Southern. And so I had not been exposed to Southern American culture. And one of the first and most shocking things that I discovered was what the n-word meant, I had never heard it before in my life. And I actually heard it, unfortunately, at church. The way that it was said told me it was something really bad and something mean, and so I asked my dad about what it meant. And of course, he wasn't prone to answering my questions anyway. And his response was, "Oh, they're just ignorant." And it was just a really strange contrast, because being at church in the United States and hearing that word, and then knowing what it meant and remembering my experiences and my friends, not only in school, but overseas and Italy and in Germany was like, "What Bible are they reading?" And, you know, I have a very strong faith-based history despite, you know, the abusiveness in my family. I was still raised in church, and our prime document that we rely on as evidence is the Bible, right? And so I was like, "How can they act this way? How can they believe this way when the Bible is clear that God made all of humanity, and that none are better?" And so I just didn't understand the contradiction of this being the attitudes of people in our church in the United States, having already known and met and loved and had dinners with people of color from all over the world. So that was pretty formative. And probably within six months of coming to the United States, the conclusion I drew was Americans are mean.
Mike Cole 15:52
So that was your first experience into American bullying?
Doc Courage 15:57
I think so. Definitely. Other than my dad's. Yeah.
Mike Cole 16:02
Doc Courage 16:02
That was my first experience of bullying outside of my home. Yeah.
Jerrin Padre 16:07
How old were you?
Doc Courage 16:08
I was close to 12, I probably hadn't turned 12 yet.
Jerrin Padre 16:12
Doc Courage 16:13
I was close to 12. And, you know, they say that we're socialized. How we believe things should be in the world should be in, you know, 0 to 12, and mostly 0 to 7 years old. And so—though I might have been an American—I just didn't see that way of being, that I was encountering in North Carolina, as the way that we should be.
Mike Cole 16:36
So I want to go a little further. You talk about—you know, you're certainly faith-based. You're deeply rooted in your belief. Have you... I guess the question's not "have you." It's—the question is "how?" How do you position yourself being an ally and an advocate in the DEIB space? Compared to religion? I think you answered it some, but I want you to go a little deeper in that thought about how you uphold the scriptural beliefs of the Bible versus the beliefs of, let's say, the LGBTQ+ community? How do you put those together?
Doc Courage 17:18
There are two prime directives in the Bible, and everything else rests on these two things. The first one is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And the second one is to love your neighbor as yourself. And so somebody doesn't have to share my same beliefs, or my culture, or my feelings about a thing for me to still be required and excellent at loving everyone. So you know, part of the problem here in the United States, and probably everywhere, is that we don't recognize our own cultures, right? So we're swimming in it. And we don't notice it until we're out of it. So I was swimming in different cultures overseas. And when I came to the United States, I was experiencing American culture that, you know, my friends didn't see as out of the ordinary or strange or even wrong. But I was seeing things that, if what I had learned in the Bible was true, we shouldn't be doing this. And so I don't have any issue with the LGBT community. I think there are also even scriptures that have been twisted and taken out of context. And part of that is the same reason that I was hearing the n-word, right? For the same reasons. It's to make somebody else the "other;" to make somebody else the outsider; to make somebody else the bad person. So that we, whoever was saying that—obviously, it was a white person—can feel justified or superior in whatever bad behaviors we choose.
Mike Cole 18:48
Thank you for that. Definitely a clear answer to that question. I do want to go into a bit more about DEIB. And you certainly have experience with your degree and intercultural relationships and communications. And you've written books. I mean, that's certainly an opportunity for you to use your voice. So based on that, and based on some of the events that have happened recently, and just a climate that we have in the world, what is what's your perspective on DEIB right now? Maybe at an individual level, and then you know, community even all the way up to an educational level?
Doc Courage 19:24
So we hear a lot of talk and conversation in this space about needing to address racism, and oppression, from a systemic perspective. And I completely agree with that. But I start more at the beginning, because systems are made of people who make decisions. And those people are in organizations or institutions, and those people have biases. And those people have experiences, which they take into their decision making, their policymaking, and their lawmaking. So if those individuals at the individual level have biases, misinformation, lies, and conspiracies, then they take all of those into the organizations we work in, into the systems they work in—like health care—and it goes all the way up the line. So you can't separate the individual from systemic oppression or racism.
I think, if we're going to make a change, we have to make the change in individuals first, and it will affect everything else up the line. My focus is let's recognize all of those things. And let's deal with individuals where they are right here, and right now as humans who are frail. And we have our fragilities. I mean, there's white fragility, right? But there's fragility just from being a human. And let's deal with where we are without demeaning or doing harm to each other. Because if we do harm by demeaning people, and people groups, as a result of trying to break down oppressive systems, then we're just creating another kind of oppressive system. And if we can come to understand that about ourselves as both individuals, but individuals that are part of groups, you know. I'm part of cultural groups, you know. One of the cultures that I navigate in is Christianity, right? It's one. Another culture that I navigate in is femaleness, right. And another culture is academia. And so all of those things make up part of who I am. And if any of those things are not understood or embraced, then I will probably be mistreated by the person who misunderstands. Not just me as an individual, but my whole cultural context. And so my efforts are often focused on helping people to understand the cultural contexts of people who are not the same as them, and to appreciate it. And to understand the strengths and values not only that the other person brings, but that I bring, too.
Jerrin Padre 22:02
Definitely. I'm wondering—just for our listeners' sake, too—because you were talking about a culture that you identify as is Christian. And so I'm wondering if you can define for our listeners what culture is, because I think, frequently, people assume that it's someone's ethnic background and relates to race, but I would like to get a definition.
Doc Courage 22:24
That is a great question. Thanks for asking. Because a lot of times people don't understand the meaning of culture. So a very simplified definition of culture is "the way we do things around here." For instance, I've talked to you—I had a family culture. The way we do things around here was not ask questions, don't sass. You know, and you might get smacked if you do it. *laughing* So that was our family culture, right? The way we did things. But our family came from a larger culture, which was Arkansas. And so there are certain beliefs, and ways we do things in the south, that they may have learned and assumed were just the way it should be done everywhere.
In our workplaces, the organizations that we work in, they have a culture. You know, it might be a very open-door policy place, a very friendly creative place, or it might be a very rigid, hierarchical place where we have certain rules, more like the military, like my family. And we do not break these rules, we do not question these rules. And if you have a problem, it must go up the chain of command. That's a culture too, right? So if we're talking about national cultures, then there are certain things that are common to the United States that are not the same as Vietnam, or Korea, or even Germany. We tend to get our cultures from our ancestors. So a lot of people in—a lot of white people—European Americans in the United States, our ancestry comes from Germany, and the UK.
Jerrin Padre 23:53
Doc Courage 23:54
You know. Western Europe. And so we get those traditions from the people that we come after. And we often don't even realize that, and unless we become aware and educated, we believe that those ways are sacred, even, when often they're not sacred. They could be flexible. You know, there are things that we can learn from other cultures that will help us be better and do better. And things that we can retain from our own, that are also valuable. So culture, in essence, is the way we do things around here and note that it can be represented in a family. But then there's larger cultures, like a community, a state, a nation, we can even think about politics. There's one culture in the Democratic Party, there's another culture in the Republican Party, and there's another culture in the Green Party. So whatever is the normal way we do things around here is the culture of that entity.
Jerrin Padre 24:51
I feel like that's a really important distinction to make as we're going to move forward into this discussion about white privilege, because white culture—there are so many misconceptions around the definition of privilege itself.
Doc Courage 25:04
Jerrin Padre 25:05
So I didn't mean to hijack that part of the session. But I guess since we're talking about definitions, I'm wondering if you could define for our listeners what white privilege is.
Doc Courage 25:17
Okay, I don't have the academic definition in front of me. But white privilege is—first of all, it's a term that came out of sociological research and data. Often the term is misunderstood outside of academic conversations and misused. So if you don't understand white privilege academically, and according to the data, then you think that it's not a thing. So white privilege is, in essence, the fact that you have an advantage in the United States, and in most places of the world, if you're white, or pass for white. The lighter your skin, the more social equity you're likely to have; the more economic equity you're likely to have; the more political equity you're likely to have; probably the more healthcare advantages you're likely to have. And it's not an accusation, it's just, by the data, white people all over the world have advantages that people of color have less of.
Mike Cole 26:17
So I remember the first time I heard that term, and my poor white mind, I thought, "No, I'm not. I'm not privileged. My parents, they worked hard for what they got." So it was this internal conversation that I had with myself. But it was a very defiant, "No, I'm not."
Doc Courage 26:36
Mike Cole 26:36
So until I started looking at it, to your point, more of a perspective of there's nothing disparaging about it. But yet it is. It's a triggering phrase. Why do you think that is?
Doc Courage 26:50
Well I think it's because it's misused and misunderstood. That phrase is often used as a weapon. And anytime we're bludgeoning someone with anything, then what we're going to get out of that is defensiveness. Right? So remembering that the term is a general construct of culture. And so probably the first time anyone hears that term, if they're a white person, it's triggering, because they're not thinking about it in terms of group contexts, right? Another reason is because I've had hardships in my life. And our first response of being privileged is, "Oh, no, I haven't been privileged." Well, what if all the hardships you had came with another layer of being a black person in America, or an immigrant in America? It's a relative term. So white privilege relative to brown privilege, or black privilege. But people often think of it because white people—European Americans—we brought with us a very individualistic culture. And in that culture, we believe that we received the credit and the blame for however our life is. And it's me as an individual, it's not all of the shoulders I stand upon. And so when we're looking at data, it's almost while it's always on groups, rather than individuals. So although I may be an exception to the privilege in terms of having very low socio-economic privilege, having been oppressed as a woman, I don't experience that parallel to other people. I just experienced it in my own bubble. So I don't know that I have more privilege. But that's part of the problem, too. Until we're really exposed outside of our own cultural groups, and have really deep meaningful conversations, then we don't understand how much privilege we do have, even in whatever oppressions and struggles we've had.
Mike Cole 28:41
So I have another question for you, Doc Courage. Being a Christian, I want to ask you your thoughts around the attack on the capital, and maybe even the use of some Christian symbols being taken out of context and being used for other things. What are your thoughts around that?
Doc Courage 29:00
Well, our country was really built on a system of white supremacy. Only white males had the rights that were given in the Constitution. And that was understood, even though Thomas Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal." But we didn't mean all men, because we literally didn't think of people we were kidnapping from Africa as being fully human at the time, right? So often, in the name of Jesus, we have colonized and exploited other people groups. Jesus was trying to get us to be more inclusive, not exclusive, and having a club of just our kind of people. And obviously, He wasn't even talking to Europeans at the time. He was in the Middle East, a Middle Eastern man who have lived a lot of His life as a refugee, and saying, "No, we need to reach all of the people." And then even after He passed, there was a debate between the apostles about, "Well, should we include the Gentiles?" Which were the "out" group, right? They were the non-Jewish people. So now we see, currently, that a lot of European Americans are afraid of the demographic shifts, and afraid of losing political power. And I think that that's part of white privilege and white fragility. And, really, it's a play for power. Well, that's not a Christian thing at all. That is something that is a cultural norm in the United States—that the most powerful person takes over, and wins the election, and whatever. But if we think about it in terms of true Christianity, and what Jesus instructed us to do, He called us to lay down our lives, not to strive for more power, and particularly not to believe that political power was the way to salvation. So I think that a lot of white Christians have it convoluted, and even elevated white culture above what Jesus said. And so that's my challenge to Christians. If you are actually a true believer, then that is opposite than white nationalism and hoarding power, keeping others out. But what we know, demographically, is a huge demographic in the United States identify as Christians, but they don't really have a personal understanding of that their culture often means excluding other people.
Mike Cole 31:19
Yeah, I think that's the response, a lot of times, when people are called racist. They're like, "I'm not racist. I'm a good person. I do good things."
Doc Courage 31:26
Mike Cole 31:27
"I have a lot of black friends."
Doc Courage 31:29
Mike Cole 31:29
That's the wrote response, you know.
Doc Courage 31:32
I don't know one person—even the most racist people I know—who think they're racist.
Mike Cole 31:36
Doc Courage 31:37
And I think that there's a misunderstanding of what racism is. Racism isn't just me having a direct action that I can see hurts you right now, because of your ethnicity, or your religious practices or whatever. If I can't be nailed for it, with enough visual evidence, then I can't be called racist, right? But we don't think about the impact of behaviors and attitudes, even ones that we're not necessarily aware of. Like, we don't interview the person with the name that sounds Middle Eastern. And we don't recognize that that's a racist behavior. And I'm really grateful that I did not grow up in Arkansas, and growing up mostly overseas, and then coming here kind of gave me the outsider's perspective, even though it's not the same as what true immigrants experienced. Nowhere like that. But it helped me not to see it as normal to be what we are in white nationalist circles.
Mike Cole 32:35
See, I had the opposite experience, I grew up in South Mississippi. I didn't move out of there until I was 28, I think. And so my upbringing was at the end of the Civil Rights Movement. And in—I wouldn't say the aftermath—but the rebuilding back from a lot of events, political or otherwise, that took place. I was in the environment that it was the norm. I wouldn't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I heard the n-word in a week's time.
Doc Courage 33:04
Mike Cole 33:05
Because that was a normal thing. And I took the stance, when I moved out and started getting experience with other cultures and peers that have different views, I would always position myself as, "Well, my—you know, my parents raised me to not be like that. My parents raised me to see that, you know, we're all the same, and that I don't see color." Right?
Doc Courage 33:05
Mike Cole 33:05
That was my standard response. And what I didn't realize was that takes discussion off the table. That—what that's saying is, "I'm okay with you, as long as you're like me."
Doc Courage 33:39
Mike Cole 33:39
And so I had to realize—and it was much later in life that I really realized I had work to do. I had to really start taking steps to getting away from that thought process. I had an experience in church that shaped my views early on, and I was a young kid, I was probably 12 years old. It was a Sunday night, and there was an interracial couple that came into the church. They came in and sat down toward the back. And I just I turned around and looked and I thought, "Oh, this is not normal. This is not usual." And it wasn't long before two of the deacons got up. And they leaned down, and talked to the young man that was with his bride, and they ushered him outside. And then two ladies went to the back and took the young lady to the back of the church. And me, being in the curious young man that I was, I got up and went around to the front of the church to see what was going on. I've never heard language used like that ever, much less on church grounds. And they were threatening this young man saying, "You don't dare do this." And there were many other certain words that were thrown in there. And that was my first real experience with racism and with privilege in general.
Doc Courage 34:47
Definitely. And you know, so much of racism is subtle. Like it's in us. It's internalized. It's what we heard at the dinner table, by our relatives talking about the new people that moved in town. And often it happens before we have critical thinking abilities developed.
Mike Cole 35:06
I could talk all day long about this.
Doc Courage 35:08
I could too! That's why I do this.
Mike Cole 35:10
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So, Doc Courage, thank you for being on the show today. Specifically, thank you for the work that you are doing. It's extremely important to the understanding of our listeners, and to the understanding of just people knowing that one thing, that one step they can take in order to start those conversations. In order to understand some of the phrases and terms that are being used, and not misunderstand them. So thank you for being on the show today. We have thoroughly enjoyed it, and our listeners got a lot out of it. So thank you folks for listening. And until next time, this is Peoplecast.
Jerrin Padre 35:45
Doc Courage 35:47
Thank you. It's been an honor to be here.
Mike Cole 35:58
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